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Saturday, August 20, 2016

More exposures....moving along

     Well, school started this last week and that means my summer of downtime and some heavier exposures is now finished.  I have to say that I have done pretty well this summer.  Almost everything on my list of exposures to accomplish I did, minus 2 or 3 things.  As always, there are frustrating things that happen every week, but there are also areas that I push myself and find success.  It seems I am continuing to follow a pattern of improvement, so I am pleased about that.  This is by far the best I have functioned in the last 3 years. 
     It seems my post are following a pattern of talking about my steps forward and my steps back. so I will stick with that for now.  It helps me to be able to document my progress and at the same time my thoughts on frustrating events that did happen or things I am anticipating (as those can cause a lot of anxiety).  Last week, I had a pretty big day on Tuesday.  I had to make a trip to the DMV to renew my drivers license in the morning.  That was pretty uneventful.  Then my daughter and I went to the dentist for our 6 month check ups.  Dental visits have created an issue for me in the last several years for two main reasons:  first of all, the spit factor and worrying that the instruments are not clean enough.  Secondly, the hygienist always takes chemical disinfectant wipes and cleans the entire chair right before we sit down.  Now sometimes it is still even pretty wet from the wipes as we sit down.  The feeling of chemicals on my clothes is very bothersome to me.  I always feel icky after we leave there, and of course wash those clothes separately and wipe the carseats down.  There has been times in the past where I've stretched my dental visits out to closer to a year between (simply to avoid dealing with this more often than I need to), but I've really been trying to get there every 6 months now.  Things didn't go too bad though.  She did drop the mirror instrument on the chair as she was cleaning my teeth, so of course I was concerned about that going back in my mouth especially since it was on a surface just wiped with chemicals.  I wanted to go home and use mouthwash immediately following the visit, but by the end of the appointment I wasn't as concerned about it anymore, so we went to out.  The next exposure of the day.  Since I already felt the clothes were contaminated, I thought it might be helpful to sit with that anxiety for several more hours, so we headed out to one of my favorite restaurants, one which I hadn't been to for several years.  This is an Italian restaurant where they serve unlimited bread and salad with your entrĂ©e, so that has always made me nervous too.  How do you know that this is really done sanitary?  Also another weird thought I've had with the breadsticks is worried that somehow they brought someone elses unused bread to our table (like someone else didn't eat all the breadsticks, so they "recycled them" in a sense for the next customer.  I really hope things like that don't happen, but those are my thoughts.  I still haven't managed to eat with the restaurant silverware yet this summer, so I did bring my own.  But it was swapped out easily and things went well.  It was a nice meal, I enjoyed it, and ate a ton of bread and salad. 
     I also celebrated my birthday this past weekend.  We ended up getting take out from the same restaurant again, it was just so good!  I was a little more nervous about this time though, because my husband ordered seafood which really concerned me because that is an allergy trigger concern.  I opted to get take out this time, because eating out with my husband means added stress during the meal.  I know he does not like the thought of me swapping out my silverware (even though it really doesn't affect him and no one else even sees it), but in order to avoid the argument, eye rolls, etc. I thought it would just be easier to get take out.  Before we ate, all three of us went out driving through car lots, in preparation for the new car I will be getting very soon (more to come on this later).  This bothered me immensely because I am really bothered when sitting that close to my husband.  I am very concerned that he is going to bump his arm into mine or touch my seat somehow and I feel like I am constantly watching him out of the corner of my eye while I am driving.  It is very stressful being in the car with him, and I need to try to push myself to ride together more as a family, but that is hard...
     A few nights ago, my parents took our family out to dinner for a late birthday celebration.  I have avoided going out to eat with my parents for years, for many reasons.  Usually my sister and niece would come along and that concerns me as they are more highly contaminated in my mind too.  Also just the thought of contaminating myself unnecessarily in a public seat has made me avoid this in the past.  Also wanting to avoid the hugs, etc.  Also the fear of someone coughing across the table without them covering their mough while I am eating and then feeling trapped, like I can't finish my food.  These are still thoughts that go through my head, but I decided to go ahead and accept the invititation.  I know in the past few years my parents have gotten increasingly frustrated with my behavior (beause they don't know about my OCD) and things have been going better with my parents  recently since I've been to many more family events over the last year, so I decided to give this a go this time.  No hugs involved thankfully (my parents aren't really the touchy-feely type anyway), so that part went okay.  The one snag I did run into is instead of a table as I was hoping for, we got seated in a tight booth.  My husband sat down on the end of the booth and slid down to the other side, which meant I had no choice but to sit where he just sat.  I actually sat down where my husband sat.  And it didn't bother me as much as I thought it would (although I have no idea where he pulled his clothes from in his room, but at least they didn't appear visibly dirty), but it still bothered me enough obviously to want to get rid of that contamination.  When we got home, I showered (as I would anyway at night normally), and cleaned my car out.  I also was able to rewash those clothes, which surprised me because husband contamination is at the top of my hierarchy.  These ones still feel dirty to me though, and I'm not sure if I will move forward treating them as such or not.  This will be the first time that I have sat somewhere he has sat knowingly, and rewashed that outfit and reworn it.  I think this is easier because the contamination occurred in a dirty zone anyway.  This does NOT mean by any means that I could have him contaminate something inside my house, in my safe zones and feel okay with it.  But this leads me into the next situation, which I am going to have to force myself into fairly soon.
     This is the anxiety provoker for me and this is the situation that has been weighing heavily on my mind the last few weeks.  If you've read my last couple of posts, you'll remember that a new car was on the horizon soon.  Well, that time is here.  We did get a vehicle purchased, and will be picking that up in a few days.  Here is the strange thing which will show that I did not always have contamination issues:  the car that I am currently driving is 10 years old.  It was bought used when we got it several years ago and I was okay with that at that time.  We actually purchased that vehicle from a dealer several hours away from us and my husband went and picked up the car himself and drove it home.  I got in the car immediately and started driving.  No cleaning out process of the car, and no concerns that it had been used.  Also no concerns that he had been in it.  I drove that car for several years like that, until one day something clicked in me and the contamination grew worse and before I knew it I was cleaning off the seat and becoming more concerned about keeping it "perfectly clean".  In a sense this vehicle has become comfortable to me now through the years.  It has become one of my safe spots and I am very particular about keeping it contamination free.  I really don't want to let this car go, because transitions are difficult with OCD.  It has had several things need to be fixed over the last few years and my husband is growing tired of fixing it, thus wanting to get a new vehicle.  I know that he has had his eye on a certain vehicle (that I think he really likes the make/model, as he is really into cars) and I've been telling him numerous times over the last few weeks that we need to sit down and have a talk about this.  I needed to explain my concerns about having a new car, having him sit in the passenger seat, the level of contamination concerns I have with him, and all that entails (see previous posts for further details).  He texted me the other night and basically said they were finishing up a deal and if the dealer took his offer we had just purchased the vehicle.  I was very upset at first, thankfully this was over text.  I couldn't believe that he would just decide to do this without having this conversation yet, especially when I've tried on my end to have this conversation multiple times.  I was fairly certain that when we had this difficult conversation about my car concerns, that he would never expect me to say "you can't sit in the passenger seat".  Now I'll be very honest (I hope that he will never sit in my passenger seat), but I knew I needed to make some kind of bargain so that this didn't sound so terrible and offensive to him.  If you are new to my blog, I have a zillion issues with my husband.  One of the things that I would really wish he would do is to clean up his room and sort through his clothes.  Because all of his clothes are laying around on the floor, clean mixed with dirty.  Nice professional work clothes mixed together with dirty stained farm clothes.  Nothing feels clean to me anymore.  It all gets washed together, it all goes in dirty and it comes out feeling dirty.  I have a HUGE problem with his clothes (thus why I basically can't sit anywhere he does meaning we have our own couches, kitchen chairs, clothes put in separate bedrooms, and I have my own bedroom) and I was really concerned how this would affect a different vehicle, one in which I would ultimately be riding in the passenger seat when my daughter learns how to drive in a couple of years.  I ended up calling him after I got the text, so that we could have this.  I knew we needed to have this talk beforehand, because I absolutely wanted to make sure this was agreed upon before the car came home so that it would not cause any future arguments.  I basically tried to explain where I was at with my OCD, how much trouble this would cause me if I were to try to jump into this right now, and reminded him of how hard I have worked and how far I have come and hoped he could have some compassion and understanding with all of this.  I tried to explain that it is not him that I feel is contaminated persay, it is more his clothes and that being spread to different areas.  I reminded him that this is not directed solely at him, as I have my own issues spreading contamination and won't even sit on my own couch after I have sat in a public seat, necessitating washing/cleaning of my safe zones.  I explained that until he cleans up his room/clothes situation I did not want him riding in the passenger seat.  That he would either need to sit in the back seat or we could all take his vehicle when we go somewhere as a family (which would still cause me immense problems, but it would be easier than having him contaminate my car).  I don't want to sit in his car, but this is something I am going to have to force myself to do coming up very soon.  I thought we had a fairly productive conversation on the phone and I thought all was well.  I made sure he agreed to this if he was going to go through with the purchase, and he did.  I said I didn't want to have any future arguments about it and he said that was fine.  We agreed that whether he cleaned up his room/clothes this weekend or 3 months from now (and I was able to feel that he had clean clothes that could be worn in my car), that would be the clicker for when he could sit in the passenger seat.  But...then he came home, and boy were things different.  He walked in the house and declared a magic solution to the problem--a car seat cover!  As if ar seat cover is not something I'd ever thought of before.  I explained that a car seat cover takes care of the car seat, but it does not however solve the problem of the seat belt being contaminated.  And wow...that set him off.  He told me I was "changing my story" and had not mentioned anything about a seat belt before, only the seat.  I tried to explain that it is all one and the same to me.  Everything about the seat needs to be clean, that includes the seat belt.  I understand he doesn't get this, because people without OCD just don't think about these things.  And unfortunately this is a really gray area, as is everything with OCD.  I really don't have a clue how to navigate this.  But I am really hoping this is not going to turn into a problem.  I know he is upset because as I stated earlier he is "car person" and I think he is irritated to think can't ride in the passenger seat in a vehicle that he wanted very badly.  To be fair about it, I did not push for this vehicle.  I was very happy to settle for something different, something less expensive, something that he would not think as so "cool" to get into.  I understand that the OCD is my problem.  But I am really not there with my OCD as to contaminate my car.  Am I wrong to expect that from him?  I have been willing to give in other areas and I do believe that my OCD affects him much less than it used to, because of all of my hard work.  But I feel guilty, as I typically do when my OCD butts in.  I just wish that he could understand not take it personally.  Honestly we don't ride often in the car together anyway, maybe twice per month tops.  But I can already envision him scowling in the backseat when we go places.  I can see myself being panicked to ride in his car.  I am very afraid of feeling so contaminated after being in his car, that I am worried about starting to throw my clothes away again because I may feel they aren't clean enough.  I am worried about this situation potentially making things worse.  I am very anxious.  We will be getting this vehicle in a few days.  But the good news, that I will keep remembering and focusing on, is that I am stronger now.  I can push back against my OCD, I've proved that in other ways.   This will be another challenge to get through.  I will update soon.  Hope you all are doing well. 

Sunday, August 7, 2016

An eventful week, some triggers, some triumphs!

     I've had a pretty eventful week, but some good things have come out of it too.  At the end of last week, I started off with a pretty bad OCD day, and I don't have those too often anymore thankfully. So it was a fork in the road, but I got through it.  If you've followed my blog before you probably remember my indoor plumbing issues.  We've had some issues in our house with 2 out of the 3 of our toilets, but thankfully never the one that I consistently use.  That day, I was working out in my living room and I heard my bathroom toilet flush by itself in the bathroom, which created quite a situation for me.  The toilet seat had been up, and after I heard it flush I went in there to find some urine splats all over the toilet seat.   I'm not sure what happened exactly, but something must have been backed up and it flushed by itself (very powerfully) as the whole bathroom smelled like sewage for awhile.  The urine splatters all over the seat made me question where it else it had went--shower?  shower curtain?  all of my soap and toiletries lined up on the counter?  My OCD convinced me that everything in the bathroom was contaminated--after all this is sewage we are talking about-- and I had to throw everything away in the bathroom.  And I mean everything pretty much.  I emptied the shower and my countertop of my products (including my hair dryer).  I cleaned the entire bathroom and scrubbed it down and then replaced everything at the store later that day.  I was feeling very stressed and on edge already because of that, then later that day husband put his hand on the back of my seat cushion on the couch when our dog went back there with something she wasn't supposed to have. This is an invasion of my safe space and I felt very panicked.  I felt stuck in that situation again.  I had to clean it off multiple times before I even felt remotely that it was safe to lean back against.  This resulted in a huge argument between us, namely him not understanding my OCD again.  These are the times when I debate what is the best way to handle these situations?  Do I say "please don't touch my couch" when I see he is coming over and possibly going to touch it, so as to hopefully avoid the problem?  Or do I just let the problem play out and not say anything, and then go clean it up when he is not around.  I don't the latter is the solution, because it forces me to hide the OCD which in turn just kind of makes it worse.  Hiding it makes me feel ashamed and obviously like I can't talk about the situation.  But if I forewarn him to not touch the couch, it just triggers his anger. So it seems there is no way to win in these situations.  I feel like communication is the key, otherwise it just keeps going in circles and the more we don't talk about it, the more I will hide it and the worse it will get.  But he will not communicate about it, so what am I to do?  I'm feeling very much frustrated toward my husband in general still, and his general attitude toward my OCD.  So last weekend was tough to get through too.  Every time these things happen, he just shuts down completely, gives me the silent treatment for a few days and it is very frustrating.  Anymore I just try to keep my distance too.  The problem there seems worse a lot of times.
     After the weekend, last Monday was my father in laws retirement celebration.  We went out to dinner that night with his whole family, including some aunts/uncles/cousins.  There was about 17 people there total.  Of course there was hugs (which I don't like, I'm not sure I ever will), but I was able to hug people and pretend it didn't bother me (it still does, but not quite as much which I guess is good).  I was able to eat the food there with my hands (I won't use the restaurant silverware still, so I need to order finger foods).  I also ate French fries at the restaurant, which was a food exposure.  Normally I will not eat anything fried at a restaurant.  It goes back to my food allergy problems several years ago, being concerned that if I eat fried foods, that they may have been cooked with certain types of fish and I worry I will have an anaphylactic allergic reaction.  I ate the fries (even though there was a good chance they had been fried with some fish, as my  husband ordered fish tacos), and it was okay.  I did not have a reaction.
     On Tuesday I had a hair appointment with a different stylist than I typically go to. This makes me nervous in some ways.  After my daughter had headlice earlier this summer I started having some worries and thoughts about hair salons and if I could potentially get lice there.  She also, I believe, is a smoker because I could smell the smoke on her clothes and that bothered me that she could have chemicals from the cigarette in her fingernails working with my hair.  Of course the chemicals from the highlights are an exposure too.  Then she kept drinking from her straw and putting her fingertips on the tip of the straw ,kind of playing with the straw, pulling it in and out of the cup and all I could think about in that moment was her spit on her fingers and that eventually being in my hair.  Yes, the thought was in my mind, but I tried not to dwell on it.  And it actually didn't bother me really at all after I had put it out of my mind. 
     On Wednesday my daughter had an animal encounter at the Childrens zoo in our city.  I wasn't quite sure what this was going to entail beforehand, so I was a little nervous as I did wear my regular clothes to this event.  I did know that there wouldn't be any handling or holding of the animal from what the zoo had told me beforehand.  It was a behind the scenes experience, so we actually got to back where the zookeeper goes, on the opposite side of the display.   There were tons of trees and tall grasses, as we had to make our way through a pretty wooded area. Tons of large ants, one was actually crawling on my phone at one point.  Then the zookeeper handed my daughter 2 large bowls of apple chunks and asked her if she wanted to feed the red pandas through the fence.  Actually, she said we both could feed them.  I would have liked to try it as an exposure, but I declined and opted to take pictures of my daughter instead.  In hindsight I wished I would have fed them, but I'm not sure how I would have dealt with them eating from my  hand and then feeling like our phones weren't contaminated afterward.  So, I just let have the experience.  We did end up going back to meet another older red panda that was "retired" and not currently on display.  We actually went partway into her cage, then took a tour of their kitchen area in the back.  After the tour/meeting we did find a bathroom so she could wash her hands.  But that is normal, right?  When we went in to the bathroom a little boy and his grandma were going in right before us.  The little boy used the toilet and then just ran straight out of the bathroom.  His grandma went in after him and flushed the toilet for him then walked right out too without washing her hands.  I don't know why, but seeing this really bothered me for quite some time afterward.  They weren't touching me or anything, but its just that the OCD mind still absorbs these things and can't filter them out.  I start questioning other people's hygiene habits and episodes like these are why I don't want other people touching me.  I don't know where their hands have been.  Watching this situation play out made me think of a toilet exposure and how touching my own toilet at home and not washing my hands and carrying on with my business for the day would be super anxiety provoking, and this woman did this probably without even worrying about it and she would likely not think about it the entire rest of the day,  maybe even stopping to eat or something afterward (as it was getting very close to lunchtime).  Most of the population as non OCD sufferers wouldn't even give thought to these types of things, but we with OCD focus on them. 
    For the end of the week, we had a family wedding to attend out of town.  The day started off challenging due to an incident I had at the gas station that morning as I was filling my car up for the long drive we would be taking.  As I was filling up my tank, the pump shut off by  itself--way before the tank was actually full.  So I started it up again and got back in my car.  Then the pump somehow didn't realize when the tank did get full, as I started to hear a weird spraying nose and looked over at the nozzle, and gas was literally spraying out everywhere from all sides of the nozzle, making a huge puddle of gasoline all over the parking lot.  I went into panic mode, because I have huge issues with gasoline.  In fact I had an incident a few years ago when my OCD was starting to get pretty bad where gasoline became a huge trigger for me and in turn caused all kinds of issues with me using my hands, showering, eating.  Things that I have been working really hard to get out of these last couple of years.  The only way to shut this thing off was to go unhinge the nozzle from my tank.  Of course as soon as I get close to it, the OCD fears that gasoline has sprayed on me, my clothing, mjy shoes everywhere.  I don't know if I did, but that is what was going through my mind.  My car reeked of gasoline, because it had sprayed all over the side of it.  This happened about 2 hours before we were set to leave.  If this had happened in the past it would have been enough to throw the entire day off, meaning we didn't make it to the wedding.  But, I came home, cleaned up my carseat (because of course if it had possibly gotten on my clothes, then that was possibly transferred to my carseat now), took a shower (even though I normally only shower at night), threw my outfit into the washing machine (I would have thrown it away in the psat), but I did pitch my shoes.  The whole situation definitely threw me off, but I knew that I needed to attend this weekend, so I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and did what I needed to do, so that I could decontaminate everything and it wouldn't upset the wedding plans.   This wedding was a huge improvement from the last wedding we attended, meaning my OCD is getting somewhat better.  Flashback:  to 2 years ago when I was in the deepest throes of my OCD.  I remember that year going to the wedding, and purposely driving separately from my husband, so that my daughter and I could immediately come home from the ceremony.   I couldn't have even fathomed at that point letting myself sit contaminated after people's hugs.  After that event we went immediately home, I cleaned our car seats up, and showered right away.  I had no motivation at all to go to the reception.  I just felt downright dirty and disgusting the moment someone touched or hugged us, and I just wanted to get out of those clothes as soon as possible and scrub the contamination away from everything.  Fast forward to last night.  This wedding was a 4 hour round trip.  In my mind, I am worried about sitting in public seating and being hugged by all kinds of people.  Those things I've done better with over the past several months, so this wasn't as tricky as I thought it would be.  I knew I would still wash my car seat off, because I'm not to the point yet where I have been able to cut that out.  It's not a painstaking process, just one I wish I wouldn't have to do anymore.  I logically understand it is not necessary, but my OCD convinces me otherwise still.  I did fairly well at the wedding, we even sat in the third row from the front (and I always, always sit in the back whenever I go anywhere).  I think partly it didn't bother me as much because its summertime and we are not into cold/flu season yet.   Also this wasn't a huge crowd, although there was probably 300 people there.  The ceremony itself went fine and then we headed over to the reception.  A few hugs were shared here, but that is okay.  Now, the issue I have with the reception is the eating.  I do not eat at social gatherings, I do not do buffet style meals, I do not use silverware at restaurants (or gatherings such as this).  If it has not been washed by myself, I don't trust it to be clean.  I had no idea what to expect with this reception.  I was hoping they would have a sit down meal where each plate was served individually.  I know that was a stretch, but that would have been best case scenario.  I brought my own silverware, planned out beforehand) and promised myself that if they brought each plate out (and it was not buffet style), that I would use my own silverware, discretely swap it out and eat the food. ended up being buffet style.  As soon as I saw that, I felt discouraged and started feeling self-conscious right away because I didn't want to field the usual questions I get such as "Why are you not eating?",  and it just feels plain awkward and I feel so ashamed of myself during these times.  My daughter was telling me she was hungry and I was very hungry as well.  I kept looking around me looking at everyone eating, and everyone seemed healthy and normal, and I thought about all of these people that were looking forward to their meal and not anxious about like I was.  I also worried about people's reactions if we didn't eat.  I also was worried about all of the hands on the serving utensils and what if someone coughed or sneezed into the food?  What if children were walking by it and did something to it?  All of these thoughts were swarming in my head, and suddenly I just grabbed the plate (before I could change my mind) and I said to my daughter--we are going to go ahead and eat.  This was something I had absolutely not planned on at all.  But I ate buffet style--and I filled my plate well.  I still swapped out my silverware (and no one knew the difference) and I did it.  I am actually really proud of myself for this.  Sometimes I push myself, other times are more difficult though.  The rest of the evening was fairly uneventful except for a situation that occurred right before we left.  I had not seen the groom's mother (my husband's aunt) the entire course of the day yet.  When I used the restroom before the ride home, I was standing in line for the next open stall.  Who should come out, but her?  She had just used the toilet and was exiting the stall, hadn't even stopped to wash her hands yet.  I was walking toward the stall, she was walking out.  She walked directly to me and wrapped me in a huge bear hug, and I felt mortified right on the spot. I felt so contaminated and I still had to drive 2 hours home before I could do anything.  There was pee on my clothes.  That's all I could think about. I had no choice but to sit with that anxiety, to get in my car like that, wearing my seatbelt and feeling grossed out by everything.  I found this hard to get out of my head the whole way home.  I wasn't incapacitated or anything by it, but my brain just had a hard time letting that go.  I am always worried to hug people, thinking through all the "what ifs". What if they went to the bathroom before they hugged me?  What if they did this or that?  So it really raises my anxiety when I know that she has just used the bathroom and not had a chance to wash her hands.  When I came out of the stall,  she was washing her hands, so I don't know if she just felt awkward and felt she needed to hug me or if she thought she would be rude to wait to wash her hands first or if non-OCD suffers even think about these things.  It was a very eventful day, all in all.  After the way that my day started out (with the gasoline incident) and feeling like I wasn't even going to go to the wedding, ending with being able to go after all and eat at the buffet and withstand toilet contamination.  I call the day a success.  You win some OCD battles, you lose some.  I will keep trucking along.  Hope everyone is doing well.