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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!