Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Mindfulness, Part Something

So I've decided to really focus on mindfulness this week (starting today- my OCD week generally starts on Wednesday). A friend sent me some meditation CDs and I've got my copy of The Mindfulness and Acceptance Workbook for Anxiety and I'm going to really go for it.

That's not to say I'm leaving exposures behind, as the mindfulness is really (to me) more a means to get my anxiety down a bit and therefore help with the exposures. And given that it's now cold and flu season and those are my biggest fears, I'm pretty sure the exposures are going to happen whether I choose them or not.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Today's Exposure

Today my parents are coming over for dessert. Having them over didn't used to be a cause of stress, but it is now.

I'm feeling a lot of anxiety, but I suspect everything will go fine.

One thing that's made it easier is that since I've been working on keeping the house clean, there's not nearly as much frantic cleaning needed today as there usually is before I have a guest.

One the bad side, the cats seem to be doing their part to raise my anxiety, including a fresh hairball that I just stepped in. Maybe they're in cahoots with my therapist.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Voices of OCD

This week, The New York Times' Patient Voices feature is about OCD. They have audio interviews with 6 different people with OCD.

All of the interviews are interesting, but the words of Patricia Imbordino reminded me a major point of OCD that I always want to remember as I fight this (and for some reason I don't carry with me at all times, probably because it's scary): "The compulsions, the rituals, are what keeps OCD alive. The more you give in to your compulsions, the more you avoid things, the more reassurance you look for... The more you do that, the more you're giving in to your OCD. ... [you're] agreeing with your OCD."

Another interesting although horrifying portrait was the last man, who started therapy in 1989, but who didn't learn about exposure therapy until 2008. Within a year his OCD symptoms were basically gone. WHY doesn't the psychological training community make sure that all practitioners know about ERP? Shouldn't this be part of Mental Health Practitioner 101?

Friday, September 25, 2009

I'm Not Like *Them*, Am I?

Recently on an OCD forum that I read, two posters were sharing their belief that they are "special," chosen to affect the world in some important way, although one was unsure if he (she?) was chosen for good or evil. Either way, it was a huge responsibility that caused a lot of stress. I have to confess that I laughed out loud. I don't in any way mean to belittle their anxiety, it's just that from the outside it's clear to me that they are not "chosen ones," they just have OCD.

Of course, then it dawned on me that my fears of getting people sick make me react as though I too am "special" and must take extreme measures to avoid irrevocably harming others. I mentioned this to a friend recently, and she admitted that my "making people sick" fear strikes her as just as weird and slightly laughable as I found my forum-mates'.

I still want to argue that my situation is a little different, as I know that I'm not any more likely than anyone else to make somebody sick, I just don't want to be the one that's responsible.

But the similarity is clear, and it points out to me (yet again) that it's a lot easier to see the crazy in someone else's thinking that it is in my own.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Seriously? Chicken?

Today on my run, I looked over while passing a house, and there on the ground by the garbage can were 4 packages of raw chicken. What the heck?! Who does that? Did they think someone was going to take it home and eat it? Isn't that going to attract critters? And smell pretty terrible? It was 90 degrees today!

Of course my brain went straight to an "omg, salmonella!" place. I'd passed really close by, and I really wanted to go home and take my shoes off in the driveway. Who knows where and what that raw chicken had dripped, right? Luckily it's Wednesday and I see my therapist on Wednesdays. So with her voice still fresh (unlike that chicken), I did not alter my path or my plans.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Cluttered House, Cluttered Mind

For years, I've struggled with clutter. Watching the A&E tv show Hoarders has made me think even more than usual about my clutter. I'm confident that I'm not a hoarder, as I don't have much emotional attachment to my stuff, and I can easily throw things out, once I get going. But I'm not at all good at cleaning, and I seem to have no natural ability to organize things.

This wouldn't matter all that much, except that I find that discomfort over my clutter, a feeling that I "should" be cleaning at all times, and I am cleaning a lot to try to get caught up. And when I'm doing that, I don't have the mental energy or time to work on my OCD "stuff."

In 2004, I sold my house and moved. When the house was on the market, I had to keep it spotless. During that time, I felt so light, but I wasn't able to maintain it in my new house.

I have been working diligently over the last few weeks to deal in a hopefully permanent way with my clutter. My main floor is good, my upstairs is getting there. I hope to finish up in the next month-ish, opening up time and energy for exposures and cognitive therapy.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Back In "Too Much" Mode

I'm back in that place where I try to think about too many approaches to OCD: mindfulness, alternate thought records, plain old exposure, etc., and I don't do a good job of any of them. Tomorrow will post a little more about one of the reasons I think I'm not focusing as well as I should, physical clutter in my home, and what I'm trying to do about it.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

What Do I Like?

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about not always knowing how "normal" people behave. But lately I've also realized something else: I can't remember what I like to do anymore. For so long my response to invitations has been so dependent on what my OCD thinks, and I've managed to convince myself that I don't actually want to do a lot of things that I'm really just scared of. I rarely hike anymore, I never camp, and both of those are activities that I used to love. I do remember that I've never really liked sports or recreation that involves water, OCD or not.

I've tried to tell myself lately that I won't let OCD make those decisions for me, but I find I don't really have a good means to decide except for OCD.

I guess I'll start with stuff I know I loved to do (my bowling excursion a few weeks ago was a start), and just try other things out. I feel like my seven year old niece. At the start of school this year, her second grade teacher made them all try all the activities at recess. As a first grader, my niece played on the monkey bars almost every single day. Last week she learned that she really likes kickball; the only reason she'd never played before was because she didn't know how, and she was sort of scared. Sounds familiar.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Working With a Tough Exposure

Several of my big issues have come together in a big scary exposure, and it's taking most of my energy; I'm having trouble focusing enough to write about some OCD-related topics that are humming around in the back of my mind. Hopefully over the weekend I'll be back to it. The fun never ends.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Sometimes All You Can Do Is Laugh

Last night I was feeling really frustrated by my OCD. I had one of those angry, "I'm not going to let my OCD stop my from living my life" moments. This could be it! A huge breakthrough!

30 seconds later, I brushed my freshly washed hair against a small area rug sitting on top of my washer. "Oh no, oh no, oh no! Was that dirty? Should I shower?" 30 seconds!!!

(For the record, I didn't shower)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Ooh, That Makes Me Mad

So I've done some google searches recently looking for other OCD blogs, because I like to read them. And one thing that comes up a lot in those search results is the "I can cure your OCD" website. There's a certain sameness to most of these, the main one being that you have to pay a lot of money to find out much of anything about how their system works. Now, I have nothing against someone making money if they've developed an awesome OCD cure. After all, I'm paying a pretty big chunk of change to my therapist every month.

But one thing a lot of these sites also have in common is contempt for mainstream treatments, you know the ones that dozens of studies have shown to work in treating OCD. It seems to me that if you have to take cheap shots at the "competition" to get any customers, there might be something wrong with your system.

In any case, the day I've conquered my OCD, I'm going to shout it from the mountaintops, not attempt to sell you my blueprint for success.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Happy to Reach Friday

Nothing major to report. I had a funny week, where I made some great progress (public restrooms, in malls!) but fell short, too (told someone to go ahead of me at the library to avoid a couple of people who I thought had colds). Forging ahead.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

So Tired of....

reading articles like the one with this headline. This was one of the featured articles at the front of today. Basically listing the same places that 100 other articles have told us are full of germs. They are things most people touch pretty frequently.

Having spent the last three months carefully touching shopping cart handles, ATM buttons, and my own laundry, I can say that most of us don't have that much to fear. All the fear mongering does make me wonder if the rate of OCD in society is rising. It also annoys me to know that most of this research is sponsored by companies like Clorox and the people who make Lysol.

One of these weeks, I'm going to collect all of the articles about germs that cross my path for the whole week, in the paper and magazines and online. I think there will be a ridiculous number.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Tough exposures

Hoo-boy. After deciding this week that if anything seemed scary I was supposed to go for it, I realized that public bathrooms have actually become more scary to me recently, not less.

So yesterday and today I went down to the grocery store down the street. Usually their bathroom doesn't scare me that much, but the whole way down there I thought, "I don't want to, I don't want to." It was crowded in the store (and the bathroom) both days, which added to my stress. But I did it. My anxiety spiked quite high both times (maybe an 8 or 9 out of 10?). I planned to take a shower last night, when I was still feeling really anxious, but my anxiety came back down pretty far, and I was really tired by the end of the day and just went to bed.

Today after about an hour, my anxiety is already pretty okay. I do know that as I move on to "unknown" public bathrooms this will be even tougher, but I feel like this fear is a huge limitation to being able to go out and do the kinds of things I enjoy, since I can't be away from home for too long.

I also had an accidental exposure this morning that REALLY made me want to look something up on the internet, but I distracted myself, and after a few hours the urge went away. That was extremely satisfying.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

What Is "Normal" Anyway?

I've noticed on some of the OCD boards, the concept of what kind of "normal" we should be aiming for. After all these years of washing or checking or straightening or worrying, we've lost our calibration of normal activity.

While I often read that people with OCD have to reset themselves by exposing ourselves even past normal, recently I've been noticing that "normal" people sure expose themselves to some yucky things.

My family, as I've noted before, are all pretty non-OCD with germs, and I've assumed that meant I didn't have to do quite what they do (in some cases, pretty much never washing their hands EVER). During the last week I did a lot of watching of what other people do without thinking twice.

At a recent lunch meeting one woman, eating a salad, dropped some of her parmesan flakes on the conference room table and just "swept" them right back into her salad (along with who knows what else). Another guy dropped his pen on the floor and picked it up and immediately started chewing on it. A few weeks ago, another coworker was cutting up an apple, dropped a piece on the work kitchen floor, picked it right back up and ate it.

While I wait for the bus, I regularly see people rest briefcases and sometimes even food on public trashcans.

Several of my coworkers walk around in their sockfeet at work (I wasn't too horrified until she walked into the bathroom that way. Ack!)

Last week at bowling, a fellow bowler alternated bowling with the house ball and eating pizza.

And I won't even get started on what I've seen at potlucks at my house.

All of these people seem generally healthy, so I guess we've evolved to withstand this kind of thing, despite what all those public health websites would tell us.

Gulp, if they can do it, I guess I can, too,

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Exposure Homework This Week

I see my therapist every week on Wednesday. Usually we pick about 3-4 things to try to do every day (or as practical). Things like "use a grocery cart at the store" or "empty dishwasher without washing hands first" or "visit and hug family members." This week my homework is "if something seems scary, do it." Things are already coming up. My aunt called to say that she's feeling better than expected, and so we're getting together on Sunday. I wanted to come up with a good excuse not to, but I guess I can't. And I suppose part two of my exposure is to not worry about it between now and Sunday. That one will be easier said than done.

Today after work, I felt like my hair was contaminated, so I came home and lay down on the bed with my hair touching the pillow. Since I usually shower at night, this way I made sure to contaminate the pillow so that the shower wouldn't actually "decontaminate" anything before I went to bed.

I'm feeling good about the exposures, and not as good about the anxiety they still cause.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Your OCD Is Not My OCD. Or Maybe It Is

My aunt (the same one just finishing up her chemo) also has OCD. Hers is different than mine, and while I can sympathize, I can't usually relate directly to what she's worried about. But I had an odd experience the other day. She was worried that a shot that she needed wouldn't work out right. Just hearing the story, I couldn't even figure out why she'd be worried. She had an appointment, I was sure it would be fine. But she was really worried.

Somehow, though, after hanging up the phone when we talked, I became convinced she was right, that the appointment would get messed up and disaster would strike. It was the weirdest thing, like her OCD worry was contagious (the shot was today, and went off without a hitch, by the way). I've never had that happen, and I hope it doesn't happen again.

Oh, and my adventures in shoes today, while they caused a small amount of anxiety, also went off just fine. The training was boring, and the bowling was awesome, both predictably so.