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Friday, October 14, 2016

Medication and OCD--is it worth a try?

     I want to talk about medication today and it's use in OCD and depression in particular.  I have been opposed to medication for quite some time...but the tables seem to be turning, and I think I am reconsidering my view on this topic for some very important reasons.  There was a time when OCD completely consumed me.  It was all I did, it was all that I was for awhile.  It was during that time that depression reared its ugly head, and I believe was probably the downward spiral that sent me into such a deep dark place I never thought I could recover from.  I knew I was in a deep depression, I knew I was not functioning.  I knew I did not want to live that way, but I could not pull myself out.  In all honestly I was not capable of thinking clearly at that time.  OCD was a way of life for me, and I was stuck.  It was just the way I resigned myself to living for quite some time...ruled by obsessions and compulsions, and avoiding everything that I could.  This only deepened my condition.  I didn't really have a support system at that time (as far as someone I could talk to safely about my OCD).  After all, the only people that had a name to what I suffered from was my husband, my daughter and my doctor.  My marriage has been extremely dysfunctional, and highly toxic at times.  We have had our share of marriage issues that alone would be difficult for a marriage to endure, but once OCD was thrown in the mix, it became a whole other type of nightmare.  It brought about issues in our relationship that most people could never even fathom.  You can visit previous posts or search my blog for "husband contamination" if you want more details on all of that.  But in addition to the stress that OCD brought into the marriage, and the toll it has taken, one thing stands out to me that I never in my wildest dreams anticipated would be a problem.  My husband's anger at my OCD.  His daily anger at me for having this condition.  I've often questioned whether or not I can stay in this marriage.  I love my husband, but I hate what this is doing to us.  We don't have much of a relationship at all anymore.  And I am certain that OCD is not the only path that has led to that.  I never imagined that a spouse would check out when their partner became ill.  And yes, OCD is an illness.  It is a chronic, day to day struggle.  I needed someone there for me in my darkest days, and he failed to show up.  In fact he became more angry at me, which I believe further worsened the cycle.  I don't know how to get out of the mess with him.  For religious reasons, I don't believe in divorce.  Yet I also struggle with "Does God really want me to live like this?" 
     I have worked so incredibly hard over the past 2 years to reclaim my life back from OCD.  This was with a lot of hard work with ERP self treatment.  And I have a long ways to go, but I am definitely getting there.  That is something I truly believe he will never understand.  But it is something I am so proud of for myself for doing.  I have pushed myself and fought against this, in the midst of a highly toxic environment.  Without professional help.  Maybe I'm just stubborn, but I was bound and determined that I was going to do it that way.  Maybe I didn't want a professional pushing me when I wasn't ready for certain things.  But for awhile, I've felt at a standstill.  I feel like for some reason I'm not making huge jumps of progress anymore.  In reality, I think its just because I have the "big stuff" left on my list to do.  No more baby steps.  At this point, its jumping in and ridding myself of my safe zones.  I will never fully overcome OCD if I don't make that step.  Although I'm trying to get better sleep and exercise more, I just feel that I'm not getting anywhere.  In fact I went to my doctor yesterday and discussed all of my symptoms again (fatigue, irritability, low mood, low energy) and she feels I do have Seasonal Affective Disorder (which I mentioned in my previous post), and she wanted to see me feel better this winter.  I'm already dreading winter and already feeling blah.  I am so tired of feeling like this.  I want to live life again and feel like myself again.  OCD has already taken so much life from me, and my family.  It has taken away experiences I can never get back.  And it has created situations that I'm not sure can be repaired.  So, I think I have made a big decision....
     As I stated earlier, I have always been opposed to medication.  I took an antidepressant for a few days in my early 20's, and experienced such terrible hallucinations on it at night I thought I was going crazy.  I have never wanted to take anything similar to that again.  Another problem is that my OCD, believe it or not, has also not "allowed" me to take medications as my OCD fears I will have an allergic reaction to the medication or something bad will happen.
     What I do know, is that I can not continue to live like this.  I fear for my health--physically,  mentally and emotionally.  I looked at the Serenity Prayer again recently,
and in relation to my OCD and marriage, this is what I know.  I can not change the fact that I have OCD.  I have accepted that.  My husband has not.  I can not change his attitude or reaction to my OCD, and I have a hard time accepting that, but I need to learn how.  All I can do at this point is to keep changing the things I can.  Keep myself healthier.  That means working even harder at eating better, and exercising more.  One key component I have really been considering lately is my depression and feeling down about the way he treats me.  Feeling hopeless in the marriage.  This is an even bigger problem than the OCD at the current point.  For awhile I didn't think there was anything I could do about that.  But after talking more to my physician yesterday, she believes that medication could be a useful tool for me and she urged me to give it a try.  I'm not excited about taking the medication, but I'm considering giving it a try.  Because ultimately I want to feel my best.  I owe that to myself, and I owe that to my family.  I want to know that I'm making the best decisions for myself to improve my health, even if my husband's attitude never changes.  And the bonus part of the medication is that it is not only an antidepressant, but it has been shown useful in OCD specifically, to help filter those intrusive thoughts out of your head faster, so you're not getting so "stuck" on certain things. 
    I know that medication is a very personal choice for each person with OCD.  I've heard from quite a few people over the years from writing this blog, that it has truly helped them.  So, I'm thinking it may be worth a shot.  I still believe that ERP therapy is the gold standard, but I am hopeful that maybe this medication could be a useful tool in helping me do the rest of the work that needs to be done, and just to feel better in general.  Part of me feels frustrated that I have to take medication.  Part of me is so frustrated at my husband, and feeling like I shouldn't have to take meds just to deal with a marriage.  I'm torn between the "what if this doesn't work?  what if I have a reaction?  what if something really bad happens because of this medication", and the other side of the coin, "what if this can really  help?  what if I feel a lot better on this and can start living life more fully again?"  I am concerned about the black box warning on the medication, I won't lie about that.  That terrifies me. 
     I'm picking up my medication today, and I haven't made a set decision yet, but I know I'm  more apt to try it once it's purchased and sitting in my medicine cabinet, so I will definitely keep you all posted on how things are going.  If you are reading this, I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject!   


Saturday, October 1, 2016

One step at a time


     Wow--I can't believe it's been about a month and a half since I last posted.  When I first started this blog, I remember posting all the time.  Probably because OCD was completely consuming my life at that point, and it was a means of journaling and trying to process this disorder.  I don't post quite as much anymore.  In some ways I guess that is good, because it means OCD is not in the front seat anymore....but it is still definitely there, more than I would like it to be. 
     I forged ahead pretty well over the summer, and a lot of that had to do with my motivation and feeling better physically during that time.  Now that we are in October already (what?!), I feel the change in seasons wreaking havoc mentally.  I don't need to be diagnosed, I know that I deal with Seasonal Affective Disorder.  It is a real thing.  As summer starts winding down, and we are back to school for several weeks, and especially when the days start getting shorter, and that much needed sun isn't showing itself as far into the day anymore, I can feel myself mentally slipping into this.  I am aware of what I'm facing, so I just need to stay one step ahead of it.  I must keep exposing myself and working on all things OCD, at least doing something day to day so that I keep making progress. 
     So the whole car thing so far has not been an issue.  My husband hasn't needed to ride in the car yet, so that is good.  That was one of my primary OCD stressors over the past month.  I think I have figured out a way to deal with this when the need arises, so now I just wait for the time he needs to ride in the car, and go from there. 
     I've been doing exceptionally well with laundry.  I'm down to about only 6 loads of laundry per week now (excluding my  husbands stuff which is easy to do in a half day), which has given me back loads of time--pun intended!  It is so nice to be able to run some errands, or whatever I should be doing, without worrying about my laundry lurking in the background.  Now, if I could just figure out a good detergent balance we would be good to go there!  I still feel like the clothes don't rinse out well, and I'm down to not using much detergent at all, so I don't know what else I can do there, but those few extra rinses per load do take some extra time that I wish they didn't need to do.  I am able to do laundry now while my husband is home.  I still prefer not to, because it brings about way too many obsessions if he could somehow open the door when I wasn't looking and "contaminate" the laundry.....but if I absolutely need to do a load while he is here (which isn't very often), I can do it.  All of my toilets can flush now while I'm doing laundry (that has sure come a long way since 3 years ago).  If things get contaminated, I am able to throw them in a wash cycle by themselves.  I rarely throw clothing away anymore (but if I'm being totally honest, I have on occasion). 
     Things still aren't going great with my husband either.  I told him that he needed to clean up his room/clothes situation before he could even get in my car and he agreed to this.  He wasn't doing anything about it, so I actually cleaned up his room for him about a week ago. Sorted through everything and vacuumed that room for probably the first time in 2 years.  Then I told him he needed to go through all of the clothes so that he could toss/donate what he doesn't use anymore and I could get everything else washed and back into his drawers and at least feel some semblance of normalcy in his room.  He still hasn't done this.  I just don't honestly know what to do about this situation anymore.  I bring up things that bother me about the OCD in relation to him and living together in the same house,  and he just still doesn't want to hear any of it.  I have thought about going to see a therapist again strictly for this see if I can get some guidance on how to deal with this, because I just don't know how we are going to continue to do this.  But then I get frustrated, because why should I go spend $200/month on a therapist, when I feel that my husband could just easily listen to me and we could work on a plan together.  After all, he knows that I've been able to self treat most of the rest of my OCD, so I'm not sure why he feels it would be different with him.  Basically I have always been willing to do the work, but I don't feel he is willing to listen/work together.  And there is a lot of resentment on both ends, and it is just big mess.  To add to this,  he has also been sick with a cold for over a week now and this really has me on edge.  I'm worried to leave the room because I want to make sure he covers when he coughs...the other day he didn't.  Coughed completely open mouthed right onto me and our daughter.  That turned into quite the argument, and I will leave those details to your imagination.  Sigh.
     Onto other neighbors had a block party last week where they welcomed some new neighbors that just moved in.  It was a fairly good sized gathering with lots of kids there.  I went!  It was a fun time too!  Not too many problems, other than one of my neighbors touched my sleeve (why oh why do people feel the need to touch others?  I know it is human and all of that, I just don't ever remember doing that to people even when I did not have OCD), but fortunately I was able to just wash that the next day and it was fine. 
     I've continued trying to "resist" OCD thoughts, meaning if my OCD is telling me to do something, I am trying really hard to just let that pass.  Such as when it tells me to wipe the couch down, or go wipe my car down.  I don't always win, but I am getting better so that is good.
    And that is the essence of the image at the top....Two steps forward, one step back still gets you ahead.  Please always remember that in your fight against OCD.  OCD can consume us, it has taken away so much from us.  We can't let it win.  We must fight, and that means constantly moving forward.  It is hard, hard work.  Don't let the days that OCD wins (and we all know there will be those days) defeat you.  As long as you keep pushing yourself (even despite the inevitable setbacks), you will be staying in the race.  You will eventually get ahead of this monster, which is what we all want.  A life that is not consumed by OCD.  And that is what we need to keep fighting for.