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Friday, November 10, 2017

My biggest exposures yet... intimacy again

**I am really sorry for the length of this post, I haven't posted for awhile, and had a ton to update!  So bear with me until the end!  :)

     Well, if you've followed my blog for any period of time, you will know that my husband is one of my biggest triggers.  It's mostly because, I think, when you have OCD, it's hard to live with anyone that doesn't follow your rules or more accurately the rules OCD sets for us.  When you try to maintain your clean zones in a house and another person is constantly coming along contaminating gets really hard.  Now I think it would even be rough for someone with OCD to live with someone with normal hygiene.  But what happens if your spouse actually veers toward the complete other end of the spectrum, and is completely unhygienic in a lot of aspects.  Then what?  That is where I've found myself for so many years.  I've stated lots of things about hubby in previous posts--he just seems to have no care at all if he lives in complete filth and disorder.  I would think that most adults would at least have a clothing system for clean vs dirty clothes, would shower on a daily basis for the most part, and would prefer to have a clean bathroom in which to shower.  This does not seem to be the case with my husband.  I have documented photos of his bedroom and bathrooms through the last couple of years, that someday I feel I may need to show a psychologist.  I need to know if there is really a way that this can work with us? 
     These pictures show clear cut evidence of the filth he is willing to live in.  Now, because I keep to my own rooms in the house and he keeps to his, (other than sharing the living room and kitchen area), there was a period of time where I never even stepped foot into his rooms, other than to gather his laundry for the week.  His rooms became so overwhelmingly disgusting to me, I couldn't even bring myself to go in there and clean them.  So they kept getting worse and worse.  And he didn't take measures to clean them.  Until they got horrendously bad, and I made him.  He at one point had black mold growing up the entire length of his shower curtain.  Black mold growing on the walls of the shower, and I'm not talking about a few spots.  I'm talking about 25% of the shower wall covered in black mold, spanning a matter of a couple of feet.  He will pick up anything in his room and heed no attention to when it was last worn.  He has no clothing system.  His clothes are not in dresser drawers.  They are just all over his room on the floor, for the most part.  Clean clothes on top of visibly filthy clothes (from painting, farm work, etc.), to the point one would never know what was clean or dirty anymore.  He wears a mouth guard at night, which is covered in a thick white film, with black mold spots and some orangeish discoloration (more to come on this later, as this has been a crucial turning point).  He sleeps on a mattress that has been stained with some type of orange fluid , soda??, I'm not sure?).  He sleeps with pillows that are truly so old and filthy they are uniformly dark brown now (as opposed to a nice white that you would expect your typical pillow to be).  One outside of our home would never know hubby was like this.  When he goes to work, his clothes appear clean.  He does typically wear things I've washed and tried to hang up for him, to work.  He showers before work, and appears professional.  He's not a bad person.  He is actually highly educated, with 2 Masters Degrees.  He is a very smart person.  But for some reason, he's never been hygienic or cared.
     For all of the reasons above, plus a lot of the hobbies he has been into (painting, farming, car/tractor restoration, odd jobs, handyman things), I have had an increasingly difficult time with him through the years.  So much that we went a period of 5 years without any intimacy between us.  No sex for 5 years.  No kissing for 7-8 years.  Maybe 2-3 hugs total during that time.  Separate couches.  Need I go on?  Our relationship has been suffering more and more these past few months, and in a true effort to expose myself to him and start working on my OCD with him, I decided it would be worth it for our relationship to resume physical relations with him.  I wasn't sure how this would go.   Here's how it all went down:  When you haven't had sex with your spouse for that many years, there is a fear that things are going to be super awkward.  I'm pleased to report that the first time we had sex it went very well.  So well in fact that we decided it was something we both missed a lot, and we ended up doing a repeat just a few days later.  Now, a few weeks after the original time, we have made love 4 times again and have the 5th time planned on the agenda for this weekend.  Of course there is a lot of things that go into this when you have OCD, in order to control the situation a bit.  I made him shower (and of course I did too beforehand, because eww--that is just gross otherwise), and I laid out a clean towel, boxers and clothing for him after the shower.  He was instructed to brush his teeth, use mouthwash and wash his hands very well before coming into the bedroom.  Then the compromise was that I would have no rules (other than no kissing on the mouth) when it came to sex.  If he could follow through on those rules for me, then I would not push him away, or ask him any reassurance questions when he came into bed.  And the system worked great.   The second time things went even better.  In fact even though I had told myself I wouldn't kiss hubby that time (because the kissing part is still bothersome to me),  I ended up lightly kissing him a few times during sex.  And it was wonderful.  It was so great to be with him that way again, and I felt so much more connected to him.  I was amazed that after all the issues we'd had for so long, that we could come together that way and it felt so right.  This is proof that we can be stronger than our minds, even though OCD seems to have a ridiculously hard grip on us oftentimes.  My fear is getting germs/sick from kissing him, but even in the moment those fears went out the door. Even afterward I felt a little nervous about the kissing, but it truly wasn't anything overwhelming/paralyzing.  It was pretty mild anxiety truthfully.  After these first couple of times reconnecting, I had motivation and hopes that maybe we could try to discuss some of the aspects of his clothes/rooms that bothered me.  That we might work together on cleaning some of that up, with the hope of it bringing us closer together and allowing more intimacy.  We talked about it and we seemed on the same page, and I was so hopeful and happier than I've been in a long time.  I literally started thinking about hubby all of the time and now it was in a positive light.  I found myself being more attracted to him, and desiring to spend time with him.  I wanted to push myself and I knew this could all work out after all. 
     So, I set forth a plan.  I spent a lot of time, money and energy over a period of a couple of weeks.  I figured out how I could temporarily spend time in his bedroom, so that I could sleep in his bed and not have to shower immediately afterward.  I purchased some separate clothing (underwear and PJ's) that I could wear solely in his room when I was with him.  I even bought some different sheets so that those could easily be swapped out on nights I wanted to spend in there.  We set the date for the next intimate night, and I was so looking forward to it. I promised myself that this time it was going to be the best yet--that I was going to kiss him fully no matter what.  Fully kiss and be in the moment.  And I was so ready for it. is where we go back to the earlier reference to the mouth guard.  When all of my disappointment set in.  I remembered the mouth guard.  And I wasn't even sure that hubby still actually used it.  When I have seen it in his room (during various times I just go in there to collect his laundry), it is usually just sitting in random places around his room--sometimes on his dresser or nightstand.  I started to get a strange feeling today--what if he actually still uses that thing?  And I'm supposed to kiss him?  I can't emphasize enough how truly horrifying it looks.  This is not just an OCD thing.  I promise you.  This is a very unhealthy situation.  I asked him about it, and he says he still uses it sometimes.  He said--in fact, I just used it last night.  And right at that moment, my heart fell.  Because I know there is truly no way I can kiss my husband when he puts that thing in his mouth every night.  I've googled articles tonight on the dangers of dental devices, and this is a real thing.  Yeast, bacteria grow on these things (especially when not cleaned properly) and they can actually cause life threatening illnesses, not to mention just your normal growth of strep, staph, and fungus.  Is it wrong for me to not want to kiss him when he's basically sucking on a moldy piece of plastic for 8 hours every night?  Is it wrong of him and he is being unfair to me, by allowing this to continue and not acknowledge this is wrong and unhealthy?  I do know the difference between OCD concerns and real concerns--and this is one of them!   I told him at that time that I was not going to kiss him, and that in fact I was very upset that he knowingly let me kiss him last time despite that.  How is his mouth even supposed to be anywhere on my body during sex?  I feel I was so emotionally invested into wanting this to work and I was truly devastated after seeing that.  At least when I was disconnected from him, it didn't hurt so bad.  Now we've been intimate after 5 years and I've opened my heart up to him and allowed myself a glimpse of what our relationship could be like....and this mouthpiece has devastated me.  At first I thought he at least might acknowledge it was unsanitary and do something about it.  And at first that didn't appear to be the case.  He said he needs it at night, because his teeth would be ruined without it.  I asked him if it would be possible to buy a new one.  Even though they are costly, I feel it is something worth the money in order to re-establish intimacy between us.  I feel like if I'm going to dive in with the exposures with my husband, I need to do it 100%.  There is no in-between here and picking out certain bits and pieces to work on.  Also I feel very awkward in the sense that why I am I trying to work on this marriage, when he clearly doesn't respect my health?  Truth be told, I am highly allergic to mold. I have recent allergy testing to prove that.  I had a mouthguard once, and actually am doing Invisalign currently.  I've taken care of all of my dental devices and mine have never looked like that.  So even if he gets a new one, he's still going to have to take care of it...and what are the chances of that?  Slim, I'm afraid.
     I tried to clean his mouthguard, and it did not work.  I soaked it in vinegar, Listerine and washed it with antibacterial soap and water.  There is still a horrible layer of film all over it that will not come off, and definite black/orange mold spots.  I was very direct with him and told him if he continued to use that, that we would not be able to kiss.  I have to draw the line somewhere.  I really do.  So...he hasn't used it for 2 weeks now.  We have been intimate twice since then, and the second time (after that mouthpiece had not seen his mouth for a solid 10 days) I actually did fully kiss my husband.  I was a little worried about this, but...I figured if I was going to set parameters, then I had better be following through on my end of the deal.  I still don't know where this will go in the future.  At some point again will he find the mouthpiece and wear it?  Will he get a new one and take care of it? 
     I have also spent a considerable amount of time over the past 2 weeks deep cleaning our house. When my OCD was at it's worst, I couldn't even clean certain areas because they felt so dirty.  I could keep up on my areas of the house, but as I mentioned above with my husbands things it became so overwhelming to me.  He didn't pick or clean up and it just grew worse and worse over the months.  I spent a good chunk of a day cleaning his bedroom, organizing his closet and washing everything on the floor and putting it away. He finally has clothes hanging up again, clothes in dresser drawers, and clothes in the hamper.  If I can go in there every couple of days and take 2-3 minutes to clean up, I can really easily stay on top of it.  Same with his bathrooms.  They got deep scrubbing that they haven't seen in a long time.  I can honestly say that if I had to use one of his bathrooms at this point, I could.  I can walk in his room and it feels "normal" to me, which is good.  There are still a lot of things I have concerns with, and I realize that it will take a long time to navigate through all of this.  It will be a constant work in progress.  If we come to a standstill and can't progress anymore on our own or communicate about how to get through this, then I would consider talking to a psychologist.  Just to question how we deal with these things that come up?  How does hubby try to "meet me halfway" for awhile so that I can keep increasing my exposures with him?  I know a lot of it is little stupid stuff, but it still stands out in my OCD brain and screams "contaminated" to me.  Like when he handles our dogs slobbery rawhide bones then eats without washing his hands.  When he grabs some random glass off the bartop counter that has probably been used several times without being washed, and uses it to drink out of.  When he uses the same exact coffee cup at work every day and it never gets washed.  When his idea of finally washing out that cup, means just swishing some water around in the bottom and calling it clean.  When he might not even brush his teeth twice daily.  I could go on and on here.  This is really a separate post, but does intertwine with everything I've been talking about thus far.
    But, the bottom line here is I did a big exposure. One I really never thought I would be able to do again.  I re-established intimacy with my  husband.  Kissed my husband.  And I promise you, if I can do can YOU!  I have talked to a few of you outside of this blog with similar intimacy issues with your significant others.  Not knowing how to navigate the contamination and everything the OCD throws at you.  So you just start avoiding, and your spouse becomes more and more contaminated to you through the years.  But I absolute promise you, it is worth it.  I feel this is a huge step in repairing our relationship.  Right now everything has to be "controlled" so to speak, with the showers, clean clothes, clean sheets, etc.  But I do keep adding things in everytime, to show my husband that I really am working at this.   I feel in my heart he will never understand how hard this is, and how much I pushed myself to do this.  But that's okay.  Those without OCD simply will never understand what we go through.  Their brains do not work the same way as ours. But I HAVE been on the other side of the fence.  I have lived a life (for almost 25 years) that did not include OCD.  And I am certain that when hubby and I were first intimate (and I didn't have OCD), that I didn't think about these things either.  OCD makes things really hard sometimes.  But it doesn't make them impossible.  Push yourself to do something today.  I promise you it will be worth the effort.  It is the most liberating, freeing feeling to gain your life back from this disease.

Monday, July 24, 2017

A new app to help treat OCD!


     When I first started this blog in 2013, OCD was starting to become a huge presence in my life.  I was at that time seeing a therapist who did "talk therapy" with me, and honestly seemed more intrigued by my symptoms rather than trying to help me navigate through them.  I never once heard the terms Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) from him.  Needless to say I spent quite a bit of money there and didn't get any better while I was seeing him.  I was frustrated with the system, and the lack of knowledge even from psychologists who claimed they could help treat my OCD.  So I ditched the therapist, and I decided to educate myself as much as possible about OCD.  I read countless books on OCD, developed this blog to begin connecting with others with the disorder, and began to formulate my own ERP program.

     I believe that unfortunately many other OCD sufferers meet the same barriers that I did, when looking for treatment.  The cost itself is very prohibitive.  Many people have high deductible health insurance, and in that mental health coverage is completely separate from medical coverage.  That's the way it is for me too.  Also finding a good quality OCD therapist proves more difficult than one might think.    You can click the link here  on the International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) website, to enter your zip code and find a list of providers trained in treating OCD.  I tried this one time and found one single provider in my entire city who "specialized" in OCD.  I called her and left a message on her voice mail (private practice) and never even received a return phone call.  While I'm certain that there are great mental health care providers out there, I just know that a lot of them really don't even understand OCD fully.  Even my own primary care physician is very misunderstood about OCD, as I've come out with more bits and pieces to my personal struggle through the years with her, and it is obvious by comments that she makes that she is very uneducated about the disorder.  Many people are simply embarrassed and ashamed by their symptoms, as there is a horrible stigma associated with mental disease in general.  Many sufferers hide their illness because of this.  Yet sadly it is estimated that 1 in 40 people struggle with OCD.  And that it takes 14-17 years....yes you read that right, on average for them to find help.  That is truly mind blowing.  I will be 40 years old in a few weeks, which means I've spent almost one-third of my life thus far dealing with OCD.  I'm learning to manage the disorder, but it still has a lot of control over my life.  A lot.  And I'm guessing for a lot of you, this is also the case.  It wasn't until I started doing self guided ERP therapy that I truly started making some progress with this disorder.  There is good news though!  We can begin to claim our lives back from this disorder.  Even if we are not in a position to get professional help (or simply don't have the access to it), we have the power to start treating this beast on our own.  ERP therapy does work!  If you're not familiar with what ERP is, you can read about it here.  ERP has proven to be highly successful in treating OCD, and most patients who go through ERP therapy will have a significant reduction in their symptoms.     

     A week ago I was contacted by an organization that has developed a new app called nOCD.  Stephen Smith is the founder of this app and you can read more about his personal story with OCD here.  They wanted to find a way to help bring good quality help to people, with this proven method of treatment.  The developers have requested collaboration from writers and bloggers in helping to get out the word about this app.  I've already downloaded it, and plan to incorporate it into my own self guided treatment.  This app is fully customizable, and basically helps you to set up your very own unique ERP program based on YOUR specific obsessions, compulsions, and triggers.  Because even though we all fall under the same umbrella diagnosis of OCD, the truth is that many of our symptoms differ from each other.  So the only way to treat each particular case is to design a unique program for each individual.  All based on the same concepts, but tweaked for each patient.  You can download this app, for absolutely free RIGHT HERE!!!!  Currently it is available for iOS devices, but I am told they are working an app for android devices as well which will be available this fall.  But if you are on a desktop or Android device, you should be able to still click the link and it will take you to a different screen where you enter your phone # and a download will be sent to you.  Just  enter in your triggers, obsessions and compulsions, and it designs it for you.  The more specific you can get, the better.  I've found personally, rather than enter in each item all at once, it was easier for me to get on the app each time I was "triggered" as I would come up that way with many patterns of my triggers that I didn't think about initially when making a list.  Again the more detailed you are, the more you will get out of this!  It  provides real time tracking of several factors:  time spent doing ERP exercises/exposures, anxiety levels during exercises and during general use of the app, location/time of day of OCD episodes, and many more things!  All or your personal information will also be stored on a HIPPA compliant secure server.  You have the ability to track your progress and see that you are improving!  It can be used solely on your own, or in conjunction with therapy that you are already receiving.  The data can also be directly exported to your health provider.  There is also an added SOS help feature which offers you help in those high anxiety moments when OCD suddenly strikes. 

     181 million people world-wide suffer from this disorder.  We are not alone by any means.  But I know that it feels like we are.  We do have the power to do something about it.  Please, please download this app today if you are able.  It will definitely be one more stepping stone to help in your fight against this disorder.  You have nothing to lose by fighting back against your OCD.  In fact, you have quite the opposite--very much to gain!  If you try out this app, I would love to hear your thoughts on it.  Please, give it a try!! 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Overactive Bladder, Funeral, and a future hamster?!?!...

     Wow, it's been a long time since I've posted--too long.  Do you like the title of this blog post?  Yeah, I didn't know what to call it.  I wanted to post about these things in particular, but, I'll try to keep each thing short.  I've been doing okay for the last 6 months.  Not great in terms of OCD, but not terrible either.  I haven't really made any huge gains, but I haven't had any setbacks either, so that is good in my book.  I am finding that I do fairly well on a day to day basis, but when something out of the norm happens, it tends to spike my anxiety and things get frustrating during those situations.

     One of the biggest reasons I haven't been pushing myself with the OCD exposures the last several months, is that I was diagnosed with Overactive Bladder (OAB) in April.  Probably have been dealing with this for a few years now, but it's gotten a lot worse.  I actually went to a urology clinic in April and was diagnosed.  It's basically like OCD of the bladder, and I don't mean that jokingly.  I used to see all of those commercials about OAB which would depict a middle aged woman (usually in her 50's or 60's having trouble with this issue.  But this disorder is real, and its extremely frustrating.  I was urinating about 17 times in a 24 hour period (including the anywhere from 2-4 times I would get up at night) at the time I was diagnosed.  I was offered some medications, and instructed to try some dietary measures (apparently cutting out acidic food can help to decrease bladder irritation).  Well, as you know I'm not a medication person.  Not with the OCD, and now not with OAB.  So I elected to self manage this on my own, and I have made some progress but it's still been very frustrating to deal with this summer.  I don't want to get too deep into the specifics of OAB, since this is an OCD blog, but both of the disorders are similar in the sense that the more you give into the urges (bladder urges with OAB), the worse the condition gets.  Similar to OCD in where the more you give into your OCD, the worse it gets too.  So I'm basically learning to retrain my bladder, and although I would say I am somewhat better since April, it is still not great improvement.  In fact, I go back to the urologist in a couple of weeks for a follow up appointment.  So this has greatly affected my summer and my stress level, and has actually caused me some issues in the OCD department...what if I have an accident?  What if I wet the bed?  etc.  I haven't done these things, but they are still what if's constantly going off in my mind.

     We also had a family funeral a couple of weeks ago as my grandma passed away at the end of June.  Now first of all, I feel a lot of guilt over the fact that my OCD played a huge role in my not seeing my grandma much over the last few years.  I last saw my grandma on Christmas of last year, so it had been a good 6 months.  Her and my grandpa had recently moved into an assisted living facility last summer and I  honestly had been contemplating visiting them this summer, taking them some goodies as I know they would have enjoyed that.  But...I didn't get to.  It wasn't just the OCD that kept me away, it was the busyness of life, and that is unfortunate.  I was working from home the day that she passed.  My parents were coming home that day from their vacation, and suddenly I got an unexpected phone call from my mother.  She sounded very upset (crying), and just said very simply that they were at the end of my street coming up the street at that moment, would be there in about 30 seconds and they had some sad news.  Now my immediate thought was that someone had passed.  My parents never come to my house unexpectedly and certainly not on a whim like that.  I have to be honest on my blog here, because this is where I come to be honest.  To say the things that no one else other than those with OCD will understand.  One of my first thoughts at the time of that phone call was that something bad happened (I had a feeling it was one of my grandparents) and my thoughts immediately turned to--what am I wearing?  If someone died, my mom is going to be upset.  She is going to try to hug me.  Are these clothes able to be contaminated, or should I go change in the twenty seconds before she'll get here?  To complicate matters, my parents had been caring for my niece, who has head lice, in their home just a few days earlier.  So I was already worried about the lice and being in close contact/hugging with my mom, in case she had somehow gotten it from my niece.  Isn't this horrible?  Isn't this awful that I would think this first in my head.  It's just where the OCD goes unfortunately.  My parents came in and delivered the news and if it weren't for the headlice fear, I probably could have hugged her and dealt with it.  But the headlice fear put me over the top and paralyzed me with worry.  I just kind of touched her arm and said I was so sorry, and we chatted for a few minutes before they went home.  I just feel like such an awful person for writing this.  The funeral didn't take place for almost a week after her death, which just gave me even more time to "freak out" about everything leading up to that.  I knew there would be concerns at the church service (I would be expected to sit in the front rows with family, where I would never choose to sit normally for church.  I always go in the back row.  Always.).  Hugging all over the place, plus again with my sister and my niece being there (and the headlice again!!), how in the world was I going to manage that?!  I don't think I slept more than a few hours the night before her funeral because I was so consumed with these thoughts I couldn't even relax.  I had tried to politely tell my sister the day prior that our family was going to forego hugs with her and my niece because of the headlice--but for real, wouldn't that bother most non-OCD sufferers anyway?!  Then the more I thought about it though, if they were hugging everyone, and then everyone else was hugging us anyway, there was still some concern about this lice spreading.  I was just mortified with all of this.  Thankfully we got through the day and everything went pretty well.  As with most exposures, once I started hugging everyone there, it started to bother me less and less.  I just knew I would sanitize myself thoroughly in the shower as soon as I got home.  The kicker here is that I did pick up a cold virus at the funeral.  I avoid family gatherings because I don't want to get sick is part of it.  So I exposed myself, and I got sick.  My mom was sick, and the people sitting directly behind us at the church service were notably with cough/congestion.  I picked up a head cold which wasn't too terrible thankfully.  I was just so glad when that day was over.  I was so exhausted that I showered immediately and went back to bed at 6pm to take a nap, which I never do that time of day.  I was able to easily fall asleep.  OCD can just be mentally draining.

     There are so many more things I want to talk about in this post, probably because I'm just so far behind--but I don't want to get it too long.  I think I'll wrap up this one by discussing the pet hamster my daughter wants to get.  Now as you probably know, we already have a dog.  So the pet thing is not new to me by any means.  Over the last few months she has been strongly advocating for a hamster.  She is such an animal person, and really wants to do this before she gets too much older.  My husband and I both had hamsters growing up.  In fact here is a gross story--I can vividly remember my hamster peeing on me when I was younger.  It was crawling on my back under my T-shirt and there it went.  I don't even want to know how I handled that situation, at my probably 10 years of age at that time.  Did I even change my shirt?  Did I shower afterward?  My gut feeling thinks I probably changed T-shirts without bathing, and never even gave it a second thought.   Because that is maybe what a normal person would do, right?  Would they even wipe the pee off their skin?  Ew.  I don't even want to think about it.  Anyway my daughter is so sweet and has come up with a huge power point presentation for me about hamsters and their care.  She has put a great deal of effort into this!  Even taking into consideration all of my concerns (poop, handling, etc).  I feel like I'm in a fairly good place right now with my OCD, so I feel like this would push me out of my comfort zone and I just don't want to run into any problems that cause a lot of stress over the next 2 years or so of it's life span.  That being said though, I already feel really guilty for my OCD affecting my daughter and I feel like maybe I just owe her this.  To just be able to deal with this and feel uncomfortable, so I don't get in the way of something that she wants.  I don't want to get into all the logistics of how having a hamster would be uncomfortable, because I think its fairly straightforward.  Poop.  Pee.  In a cage, walking around it.  Picking it up to hold it.  You get the picture.  She would like me to decide this soon (and its really me that's holding this up.  My husband is okay with it), as there are only 3 1/2 weeks left of summer break before school starts again.  So I've been thinking and thinking.  But I just can't seem to say yes yet.  I know when we got our current dog, I had a lot of problems with her initially and it took me quite a bit of time to get used to her in the contamination sense.  Part of that was because she had such a terrible time house training in the beginning, and there were a lot of urine concerns with her.  So again I just see where I'm at now, and I'm terrified of that making me worse.  Ugh.

     Hope the summer is treating everyone well.  Like many other OCD sufferers, summer is a time where I do a lot better in general.  Since we in the peak of summer now, I am really trying to relax and soak up these beautiful days!  We've done quite a few things this summer, so for that I am thankful.  My daughter starts high school in just over 3 weeks, and I am already nervous about some things associated with that.  I try not to worry too far ahead, but the OCD just never shuts itself off.  A post for another time!


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

OCD and Physical Intimacy

     So...I'm going to tackle some thoughts on a taboo subject here on the Internet.  At least, it seems that way for me.  I have struggled with this problem for years and I've done countless internet searches which yield not a lot of information.  Usually, I'm directed to my own blog--ha, ha!  But, it's not really a joke.  Considering the amount of people in this world that struggle with OCD, I know that issues with physical intimacy and all that brings, can create a lot of problems for us.
     When I look back at my life pre-OCD, things just didn't bother me.  I could hold someone's hand without wondering what countless contamination they had been in contact with all day.  I could kiss someone without worrying what contamination/germs were infesting their mouths.  I could have a normal, healthy sexual relationship with my husband without worrying about the many thoughts that would plague my mind in my life with OCD now.  But that is just the thing with OCD in general.  We give way too much thought and attention to things that most people don't even consider.  And it's not that we want to give it that attention.  We desperately don't want to think those things.  But that is the obsessive nature of the disorder.  Dwelling on things, worrying...until we come up with special routines/compulsions to work our way around the anxiety...sometimes even avoiding activities completely because otherwise it just becomes too much to deal with.
     Even when I first started developing OCD, about 12 years ago now, I don't remember having sexual issues initially.  Most of my stuff was targeted around "magical thinking", but I was in the beginning stages of contamination OCD (and just starting out with some germ fixations and handwashing compulsions).  OCD has a way of morphing through the years, however.  I've visited this in previous blog posts, but it's worth mentioning again because I feel there were a couple of defining moments early on with my issues with my husband and intimacy.  When I first started with OCD I was going through a very stressful period in life.  We were having some serious marriage issues, and I was going through a lot of depression/generalized anxiety and some other health issues.  I was having some panic attacks and was simultaneously dealing with some potential food allergy problems that manifested later in life.  I tested positive for a walnut allergy.  Now to be honest, I haven't eaten a lot of walnuts in my life, and there is a chance this could have been a false positive test.  But, OCD does not see things that way.  My OCD mind convinced me I was allergic to walnuts and that if I came into contact with not only walnuts but peanuts or any other form of nut--that I would have an allergic reaction.  And jumping to worst case scenario, my OCD convinced me I would have a life threatening anaphylactic reaction.  Part of the problem was that I ate a Snickers cheesecake slice one night before I had a panic attack, so this wasn't something that my mind just conjured up one day.  There was a definite "I ate nuts and I had shortness of breath, difficulty breathing following"....(although that was later found to be a panic attack).  Obviously an anaphylactic reaction doesn't just resolve on it's own.  After this walnut allergy finding, my mind became fixated on something bad happening to me if I came into contact with with any type of nut.  Suddenly I didn't want to kiss my  husband anymore.  He ate a lot of nuts (still does to this day), and there was certainly a huge risk there for me.  I started inspecting his pants pockets when he came home, for evidence of granola bar wrappers (which were the usual culprit).  I would flat out start asking him every night before bed if he ate nuts that day.  I was scared out of my mind.  But of course he couldn't see that it was anxiety.  He was just very irritated for answering the same question every night.  Maybe part of me was mad at him.  Mad that he didn't stop eating nuts.  Mad that he cared so little about my health that he didn't make a simple change in his diet.  Mad that he couldn't see how anxious this all made me.  But it put a huge dent in our relationship, one of the first in a big series of events.  No matter how small or trivial this seemed, I am certain this played a big part in the downfall of our physical intimacy.  I eventually got to the point where I was so tired of asking him every day, and getting those snarky responses that I decided I wasn't going to kiss him anymore.  I simply wasn't going to take the risk. 
     Even before the nut allergy issues, there were other things about kissing that bothered me as well.  Mouths are just gross, to be honest.  People put objects in their mouths-pens, keys, etc.  They put fingers in their mouths.  They eat without washing their hands.  Not to mention viruses and illnesses that can be transferred through saliva.  It is just too much to think about sometimes.  And that is the sad thing about having OCD...we are going to think these thoughts no matter what.  We will fixate on these things, because that is how our brains work.  So, as far as the just seems gross to me.  I can truly tell you that I can't remember the last time I kissed my husband.  Even a peck on the cheeks or lips.  It has been years and years.  My best guess is probably 7-8 years ago.
     But moving on to other things...what about sex itself?  Sorry to be so blunt, but I think this issue could stand to be discussed.  I've tried for years to discuss this with my own husband to try to find a solution, and I can't even get my own spouse to talk about it with me.  For a little background information, our sex life has been non-existent for 4 1/2 years now.  But I will be honest with you, it's not because I'm not willing to try.  It's because my husband is so convinced that there is no way it would work with my contamination OCD, that now he just avoids the conversations.  There is a back story with the sex problems too, just like with the kissing.  I've also discussed this in previous blog posts, so bear with me.  We went through a period of infertility after we had our first child.  We tried for several years to get pregnant, and had one miscarriage during that time.  No successful pregnancies.  Infertility, if you've dealt with that, is already very stressful.  Nothing is more awkward with sex than when you have to plan out when you're going to have it.  Oftentimes falling on nights where you don't really want to do it, and you just end up going through the motions after awhile, hoping that it will work this time.  It was during this trying to conceive phase that my husband developed a hobby of working on cars/machines.  He was doing a lot of very mechanical stuff, spray painting cars and working with a lot of grease/chemicals.  Just imagine "mechanic hands".  They aren't very appealing or comfortable for someone with contamination OCD.  To imagine those hands on your body.  I remember one afternoon he was painting stuff in our own backyard and he came in the house with his hands covered in green spray praint.  Also the fronts of his jeans were plastered with the green spray paint.  He didn't stop at the sink to wash the paint off his hands.  He just came in the house, went directly back to the shower, and there ya OCD was triggered big time again.  All I could imagine at that point was his entire body being contaminated with the spray paint/chemicals.  His green hands contaminating every inch of his body as he showered.  Thus entered in sexual problems.  How do you have sex with someone when you feel they are contaminated?  His hands always felt contaminated to me, as he was inevitably always working on a project.  I could see dirt/grime underneath all of his fingernails.  I had several ways of helping to reassure myself at this time, but all it did was just tear us further apart.  These are the strange lengths I went to:  at first it was just showering/washing hands before intimacy, then at some point I "inspected" his hands before he was allowed to touch me, I eventually had us shower together and I would wash off his genitals (how awkward is that?!) so that they didn't feel contaminated to me.  The act of having sex became so ritualized beforehand, that there was no spontaneity or fun or anything romantic or normal about it at all.  It was the most dysfunctional process.  And even after we had sex, I would go in the bathroom and scrub at my own genitals trying to remove any trace of his bodily fluids.  And I have a deep sense of guilt, shame and embarassment about all of that.  But truth be told, I wasn't trying to be difficult.  It was my OCD telling me that I had to remove every trace of possible contamination or I couldn't even be comfortable.  That is what OCD compulsions are trying to make you comfortable, and give you that reassurance you so desperately need.  After it became clear that we were done trying to conceive again, that took some pressure off and at least a condom was an easy solution for the "dirty genitals".  But our sex life was basically killed off.  Eventually, it just stopped.  I got into the worst of my OCD at that time with clothing sheets, bedding and all sorts of things that I never even imaged at the beginning of my OCD would be a problem, were then an issue.  There is a lot more to the story, but I'm trying to keep this short (and not doing a good job with that obviously). 
     For a little over a year now, I've been trying to approach the conversation about sex with my  husband.  As much as it does make uncomfortable, I feel I've come up with a way that this can work.  He's been avoiding the conversations though, just stating that he doesn't see a way that it can happen.  I think it we can find a way to bring sex back into our relationship, that is a big step for us.  I think it is a way for us to connect and to try to brings some intimacy back into our marriage.  I've told him this before too, and as awkward as it seems--I think it would be easier for me to be around him naked, than clothed.  I am so worried about my clothes becoming contaminated, so if we're naked I don't need to worry about that.  I've got a plan set for the bed and showers beforehand.  But no, I'm not going to wash his genitals this time.  And I think my plan is fairly reasonable, considering I'm trying to go out a limb and make this happen.  This a big exposure.  But I can't do it without him,  obviously. 
    Just to summarize about the whole intimacy thing in general.  It's really tough.  I look around and I see people holding hands all the time.  I see people kissing.  It's natural.  I think about all of the kissing and sex that goes on in the world and most people are just fine.  Most people don't see it as a danger.  They see it as a very healthy, satisfying part of their relationship.  And that is how I used to see things.  I wouldn't think twice about a kiss, even after I just ate something.  I know that I had sex without washing hands, and did some very unsanitary things looking back.  But now my mindset has changed, and I see the unsanitary factor in all of it.  I think about the dirty mouth, the unbrushed teeth, the exchange of body fluids, the unshowered skin, and the very dirty hands that are all over each other.  And it's too much for me.  I know it's too much for a lot of you too.  Several of you have commented in many of my blog posts how much these things bother you.  So, I know we're not alone.  I've talked to many others who have also gone years without having sex with their spouse.  Who cringe at the thought of their spouse touching them.  But then I've also connected with others who say that their sex life is not affected by their OCD.  They are still able to completely be able to be with their spouse that way, and not bothered in the least.  It's interesting what our OCD dictates for us individually.  But this is a topic I think is worth exploring.  At least if one other person reads this and knows they are not suffering alone, then it was worth writing all of this. 
     I've tried to think this through from all kinds of angles.  Is it possible to have a romantic relationship with someone, when you really truly don't think you will ever be able to get past this part of your OCD?  Is it reasonable for your spouse to expect some degree of ritualized behavior before sex, in order to at least get that part of your relationship back?  I would love to know how you deal with this.  Please, please don't tell me to seek professional help.  I already know that is out there and an option.  But if you have had this problem and benefited from professional help, I would love to hear your story.  I'm mostly just curious how others have dealt with this.
     Thanks for reading, if you made it to the end!  It's such a horrible topic to explore.  For those of us with OCD, we know it all too well.  For non-OCD sufferers, it's something they will never have to imagine.  We live in silent suffering, those of us with OCD.  Here's to hoping that all of you are doing well!  I will post soon about my progress in general and where I'm at with everything.  Just had this topic heavy on my mind lately!

Monday, January 9, 2017

A rough start to the new year

     Happy New Year!  I can't believe it's 2017.  I am not really a "winter person", so the cold weather where I live really gets to me this time of year.  I deal with some Seasonal Affective Disorder too, so add that into the mix of OCD, and the winters can sometimes become very long.  Why is this?  I think winter is harder in general just because cold weather and darker days are kind of depressing.  Also for me, the added concern of colds and illnesses circulating really bother me.  I've really kind of a rough start to 2017 and we're only one week in.  I keep telling myself that this is okay.  This is temporary.  I'll get through this. 
     To begin the year, I've had some more problems with my husband.  This is really a separate topic for a post of it's own soon, but I want to touch it on briefly today.  I am really starting to wonder if someone with OCD and someone on the very opposite end of the spectrum (one who doesn't care if he is dirty or unhygienic in any way) can really live comfortably with one another.  I get it, so please don't remind.  I realize I have OCD, and therein lies a lot of the problem.  Most of what bothers me, doesn't bother most other people.  I think that when you have OCD, it is always going to be difficult living with somebody else.  Because they simply will never live up to our standards of cleanliness.  And they shouldn't.  I really get that.  It is an OCD problem.  But....what happens when there are some legitimate hygiene issues?  What happens when these things have been going on for so long, that you really start to lose trust in the other person, and find yourself having obsessive thoughts and engaging in compulsions because in a lot of ways, they are potentially putting you at risk.  At least themselves, and possibly you and the rest of your family.  Sometimes, I think it is a real fine line to walk.  I will delve into this into much more detail in a post very soon (as I have been thinking about this almost 24/7 lately, even in my dreams, yes!).  But to throw out there some very unsanitary things about my husband--involving mold, a lot of it.  The bathroom that he uses, has mold growth in it.  Very bad.  It used to be so, so bad.  Then I made him clean it up and it was better for awhile, but now the shower curtain is growing mold again.  Not just a spot or two, but the whole length of the curtain.  I have asked him to change it and he doesn't.  I have asked him several times.  I can not go in there because I am afraid of breathing it in and causing respiratory issues.  I am actually allergic to mold after all, as are a lot of people.  He wears a night guard for his teeth, and there are black mold and orange stains on it.   He still wears it.  How would I ever be able to kiss somebody (we stopped doing that a long time ago anyway for other concerns I had) thinking that is in their mouth, and going into mine?!  I went to collect some clothes of his to wash the other day and noticed black mold and brown sludge all caked all over the inside of his toilet bowl.    These are just a few examples to show my point  here.  He also went four days without showering over the New Years holiday.  A few of those days he was out the farm working.  Then he changed oil in two of our vehicles, laying down on the garage floor which is absolutely filthy.  At that point I thought he would shower, but no...he simply came inside and changed his clothes and sat on the couch to watch TV.  Didn't shower until the next day...when it had been an official 4 days since the last time.  I don't think these are OCD issues (especially the mold/bathroom issues).  I think they are extremely unsanitary, and I am certain that most non-OCD sufferers would even find that appalling.  But sometimes I think that because I have OCD, my husband feels I don't ever have a valid complaint.  Any cleanliness concern I have is simply chalked up to the fact that I have OCD.  I don't think that's fair.  I think it's put a huge wedge between us, and I'm not share how to bridge that anymore.  I don't know if we can.
     My husband also came down with a cold several days ago, and that has put me on edge too.  One of my absolute worst triggers with OCD germs is coughing.  I simply just can't handle people coughing around me.  Knowing the respiratory germs are airborne, it's almost like I can just visualize the droplets of viral particles all over the place.  Granted, he has actually done very well with this cold.  He has kept his distance, and tried to stay downstairs.  In turn, I've tried very hard to keep my mouth shut.  Sometimes when my anxiety really gets going and I've been triggered, I have a hard time keeping quiet about my concerns.  So far, amazingly, we haven't had any arguments.  But I feel edgy.  I worry about him walking through the house after I've gone to bed, coughing and projecting stuff on the furniture.  It's been rough.  Thankfully, I think he is past the worst of the cold now. 
     I don't know if it's the combination of these things, because of course stress just makes OCD even worse.  But I've been very worried about all sorts of things this past week.  I suppose part of it is just with it being cold/flu season in general, I am so much more mindful of being around other people at the store.  I kid you not, that somehow I managed to be right next to 3 people at the store in a 24 hour period who were coughing in line, mouths wide open.  I washed my coat twice in a 24 hour period, because I can't stand the thought of that stuff being on my clothes.  If I see someone coughing, I generally do everything I possibly can to get out of the way.  As I was crossing the parking lot one of those times, a guy started coming toward me coughing with his mouth open, and I stopped like a deer in the headlights and turned around and started walking fast.  It's like my mind just can not handle that.  But yet, we were around my nephew at Christmas who was coughing in close proximity to all of us, and we didn't catch anything from him.  (This cold my husband has could not have been from my  nephew.  Too much time has passed for that to be from him).
     Also, it's just been cold as can be here!  30 degree below zero wind chills at times.  I'm finding that car exhaust (from the heaters probably) is terrible.  I have to sit in my car while in a parking lot, waiting for the right time to run in the store, so I don't get blasted with the exhaust from the other cars as I'm walking by.  I can just see it like a cloud, and it is so bothersome to me to think of all that yuck/smoky stuff getting into my clothes, skin, hair, etc.  I try so hard to avoid that stuff, but it is not always possible.
     So although this year hasn't gotten off to a great start, I am determined not to let it slow me down.  I know we are just at a point during the year when I typically do worse anyway.  I think a lot of people with any type of mental health issues just have a tough time during the winter.  So, I'm not giving up or anything over the next few months.   It's just a rough patch that I know I'll have to get through.  I've got a lot planned this year for my OCD, and hoping to knock out some big stuff.  I'll keep working, one step at a time.  Albeit a little slower probably through these next couple of months :)