Last summer, New Harbinger Publications sent me a copy of Daring to Challenge OCD. It was a busy summer, one overtaken by preparing my house to sell. So while I skimmed the book, I didn't really have a chance to read it until this winter. The book is actually much broader than its title might indicate, covering the basics of OCD and Exposure and Response Prevention, including good information about building a hierarchy to guide your exposures. As the title does suggest, it has an extensive chapter about why treatment is worth it with tips and information to help overcome several common forms of resistance (what if exposure makes it worse? what if something bad does happen?)
I really like a number of things about this book:
-it has three "real" examples of people who went through ERP. The book follows all three throughout. I really appreciate when authors do this, as it seems more relatable/doable to me that way.
-those three people have different types of OCD, including the types where compulsions are more mental than physical.
-it has two useful sections that aren't seen in many books: "Overcoming Obstacles" and "Realistic Expectations for Recovery." These sections cover issues like the idea that you have to keep doing this stuff forever (answer: yes, you kind of do!) and confusion about what's OCD and what's not. These chapters also include anecdotes from the three OCD-ers, again really helping to make it feel real and relatable.
Overall, I was quite impressed with the book. As with any book on OCD, just reading it isn't going to change your life. You have to work it. But I do think for someone (I'm probably one of these) who has struggled with putting ERP into action, it provides some additional information about moving forward, as well as the inspiration of Gina, Mary and Ted, who all changed their lives through exposure and response prevention.
I can't say I know the answer to that question. I do know I'm making hard choices and avoiding avoiding. Due to an illness in the family, I've been faced with more germs in my life while at the same time trying to avoid bringing germs into this person's life (and yes, I'm fully aware that my struggle is not the important one here! But it is real nonetheless).
In any case, despite my fears about making a sick person even sicker, I'm still making the "right" choices most of the time, and not letting fear rule the day. I can feel some momentum building up this week, and I want to ride that out.
The plan to move is in full force, with a new lease starting in April. Lots of chances for exposure, and I have done some avoiding, but with the momentum I noted above, I think I'll be able to do less of it between now and when I move.
Lately I've thought occasionally about seeing a therapist again, but I can't quite justify the expense. If I felt like it was a necessity to my wellbeing, I'd do in a minute, but I don't think it is. In fact, I feel myself wanting a sounding board more than I want someone to push me to do exposures. I think I just need more friends. :)
I hope spring is starting for everyone out there (well, those that like spring anyway!) It's been beautiful here. Even today's rain was lovely.
I was out on a walk the other day, and I decided that I should stop everything (not literally!) and really really focus on my OCD work. That all my other life goals really depended on improving my anxiety situation. But then I thought about it a little more, and I realized that wasn't really true. One, it's not like I can't live my life while trying to improve the anxiety. And, what if my anxiety stays around despite increased efforts? Do I just give up on ever enjoying the rest of my life? I sure hope not.
I'm not feeling very optimistic about my chances at a successful relationship, but that's okay. I'll take that one as it evolves. But for now, I'll move forward with both working on ERP and mindfulness and just enjoying the rest of my life, and working to broaden my social horizons and just be happy.
My new job is going really well. The other day I realized I was looking forward to work on Tuesday. I cannot remember the last time that was true. So it's pretty exciting. I can even imagine finding an additional "super part time" job on top of this one. One step at a time, though.
In the meantime, my one year lease is ending in a few months. I think I will be moving again. Ugh! I like my current place, but I don't love it. And the things I don't love are starting to grate on me more and more. I've found a place that looks wonderful, a bit closer to my sister. I've been spending a lot of time at their house this winter, and I'd love to be in walking distance. This new place is less than a mile from her. My dad reminds me that it won't be perfect, and I shouldn't build it up too much and then be disappointed. Good point for sure. Best thing about renting though, is the flexibility. Every time I move, I get rid of about a third of my things, and I'll need to do that again, as the new place is a little smaller. At least the moving will get simpler every time!
As always, I'm hoping to get in a more regular posting routine. As always, I'll believe it when I see it.
I'm charging right along. I got the job I interviewed for, and even started last week. It's only one or two days a week, but it's a guarantee that I'll get out of the house. OCD creeps in: I find myself wanting to stay in the house so I don't get sick and have to call in so early in the job. Then I remind myself that I'm not allowed to do things like that anymore, and I head out to the store or to a restaurant to bask in some germs. The job itself makes my OCD twitch- am I doing it right, do they think I'm stupid, etc. etc- but there's nothing to do but let those thoughts hang out there and continue right along with life. I succeed at that to varying degrees.
The other day I was at my sister's house, and my brother-in-law, who works in an emergency room, came home from work. "You would not believe how much flu is out there right now!" he exclaimed. Thanks for the info! One sign of improvement, is that I'm moving from such a statement making me angry/irritable- I don't want to know this- to almost immediately being able to view it as just another exposure.
And finally, today my water heater started leaking. My landlords came over to fix it, and I was bothered less than usual about people clomping through the house. Well, I think I was anyway. I'm choosing to focus on the positive this weekend, so there you have it.
As I noted in my New Year's post, I have decided to work toward a bunch of goals this year. Last week I took some action on several of them, with mixed results. I don't mind the negatives as much as I expected though, because it still indicates that I'm moving!
One the positive side, I have a job interview tomorrow. Woo! On the not so positive side, I reached out to someone I was interested in from my old job, and it appears my interest wasn't reciprocated. A disappointment, but not a crushing one.
I spent more time out of my house this week than I have in ages, and I have 5, count 'em 5! activities scheduled for the coming week. I've been surprised how happy being around other people has made me lately.
So, all in all, I'm feeling pretty good. Not working combined with a warm winter has allowed me to do a ton of exercising this winter. I can feel it helping with my mood, so that stays on the agenda for sure.
Today both of my parents stopped by my house. I can't remember the last time they were both here. Actually, they've never both been here at the new place, now that I think about it, and it's been 6 months since my dad was here at all. They didn't need to visit, and I asked them to stop by purely for exposure's sake. I see them quite often, but it's almost always somewhere else.
It was inadvertently more of an exposure than I expected. My parents' washer line was leaking and the day before the visit, they'd had to call a plumber. It made me nervous not knowing what the plumber may have tracked into their house. Although I must say that by the time my parents actually arrived at my home, I'd forgotten about the plumber altogether.
But I was also anxious because while the forecast called for sun, it rained yesterday. By my reckoning, wet shoes track it more than dry shoes. Which is probably true, now that I think about it. Anyway, wet shoes, ugh. It would be my preference that shoes come off at the door, especially now that I have wall to wall carpeting, but in the name of doing a tough exposure, I didn't request that they take them off. Didn't even make any snarky comments when they didn't wipe their feet on the doormat.
I always hope they won't need to use my bathroom, but of course they did, and hands may or may not have been washed afterwards. So all in all, a decent bunch of exposures for me.
I was reminded of something that I don't have to deal with when I'm not around many people: when I get stressed, I'm not a good conversationalist. I end up being slightly dismissive of things people say, because my brain can't provide the concentration needed for a full conversation. Then of course I ruminate about the fact that I was rude. It's always something!
The other thing that happens at the end of a good exposure? First I get excited, then I immediately remember that to really succeed, I have to do this again and again! So, first exposure down, xx many more to go!
Happy New Year. After noting that I hoped to blog more regularly, it's probably not shocking that I didn't. But here we are, New Year's Day, and while I haven't been posting a lot, I have been thinking about my OCD quite a lot.
To me, I think the clearest guide to how to react to my anxiety is to move toward what I want. While my life is really all about me pretty much all the time, I still make decisions that take me away from what I want almost every single day.
What I want: to work (very) part time, to volunteer each week, to pursue a relationship, to organize events for a groups of friends here in town, to not avoid people for fear of getting sick. Which of these have I done since leaving my job three months ago? Not one (although I have applied for two part time jobs).
I also think in another year-ish, I'd like to try a different apartment, and I can already work up anxiety over that.
If you were to ask me if OCD is currently limiting my life, my first reaction would be "no." But that's only because I spend most of my time reading and walking and watching movies. By myself. I enjoy these things, but they're not goals, they're not things that motivate me to get out of the bed in the morning.
So that's my goal for the new year: to get better and better at making the choice that moves me toward what I want. It's not new or innovative, but having a lot of free time has made me realize that 40 years of retirement will be a slog at my current pace, rather than a joy.
I'm Ann, a 43 year old woman who has struggled with OCD for the last 17 years. I've been in treatment with some success, but never really put a knock out punch on my compulsions. I started working toward that goal in 2009. Obviously this is a work in progress. This blog chronicles my journey, as well as discussing OCD more generally.