Saturday, October 31, 2009

Doing It Right

In several previous posts, I think I've noted that "If you're not scared, you're not doing it right," with respect to exposures. Today I went down to the little community grocery store. It's very small in there, and it was crowded. I touched lots of things, and there was a lot of sneezing (okay, there was a little sneezing). I came home and really wanted to take a shower, which I'm fully aware is an extreme reaction.

So I'm just sitting around feeling contaminated, and waiting for the feeling to pass. Fun times!

Friday, October 30, 2009


Today I had another reminder of how limiting my OCD can (try to) be. We had a potluck at work, and I considered not participating. I love potlucks, and in my 37 years of them, can't think of a single instance of getting any kind of food poisoning as a result.

And yet for a little while, it really seemed scary and dangerous. Weird.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Update for Today

I rode the bus! Disaster has not ensued!
On the way home, the bus passed by a high school cross country meet. I ran cross country in high school (not well, but I don't guess that matters), so I stopped to check it out. I had a brief moment of fear- all those high school students together in one place, surely some were sick. But I stayed, and it was fun to watch. It was another reminder that I rarely go places anymore, especially if I have a chance to think about it ahead of time. I'd like that to change.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Back on the Bus

Tomorrow I'm back on the bus. It's actually only been two weeks since I last took the bus to work, but it feels a lot longer. Of course yesterday our bus system sent out an email with tips to avoid the flu while on the bus. They recommend carrying sanitizing wipes. So, uhh, that's not helping. But people have been hacking and sneezing my way on the bus for months, so hopefully tomorrow won't be much scarier than any old day.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

One Step Forward, 3/4 of a Step Back

Despite moderate anxiety, I was able to visit my family today. The visits weren't super smooth, though. My sister had gone to a farm to buy apples and pears, and she wanted to set the boxes on her bathroom scale to split up the fruit by weight. I freaked a little. For a number of reasons (involving children's potty chairs), her scale has always seemed contaminated, plus it lives in the bathroom!

Then I went to visit my folks. I normally lurk to be sure that my mom washes her hands before cooking, or I'm just there helping and can see, but I wasn't paying attention today, so I asked her (she had). But later she went rummaging through the freezer out in the garage and then went straight to making salad. Again I freaked a little although I still ate the salad; the garage freezer isn't the most hygienic.

My family is fairly accommodating, but I probably shouldn't ask them to be, and I always feel like something of a failure after I make a weird request or get upset about something. Ugh. At least I netted that 1/4 of a step forward.

That's Just My OCD Lying to Me

It can be dangerous to fall into the "that's just my OCD" trap, because it can start to be just another form of reassurance, another way to look for certainty.

At the same time, I'm finding it useful in helping me do some exposures. My therapist reminded me this week that I have exactly zero instances of worrying about a horrible outcome and having that horrible outcome come true. That's not to say I never get sick, but that when I do, nothing much terrible happens. Which really makes it all the more astounding that I can still worry so hard.

So I find it useful to remind myself that OCD is lying to me. Remembering that OCD is the enemy of my happiness makes me want to work harder. And I'm going to need that, as my last excuse to avoid exposures, my coworker's wedding, was yesterday.

Today I'm off to a movie, to visit my nieces, and to do some shopping. I have not been to a movie in quite a while.

I have been driving to work a lot. Partly due to weather, but mostly to avoid my fellow passengers. A big goal for this week is to get back on the bus.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


It's my blog, so I can take a moment to vent, right? (and yes, I know, that the new improved exposure friendly me should be welcoming these exposures, but whatever!)

Dear Coworkers,
If you want to come to work sick, I can't stop you. But must you tell me about it? And must you tell me while also punctuating your conversation by continually touching me on the arm?

And to my boss. Fine, you want me to bring my budget book to the meeting. Must you then lick your finger before every page turn? If you want to spit on the budget, use your own.

There, I feel better already.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Dating with OCD

I haven't had a boyfriend, or been on a date for that matter, since 2006! For part of 2006 and all of 2007, I was in school and working full time and decided that dating would be more than I wanted to handle. Then somehow 2008 passed, too. And now it's October 2009! I'm really shy, plus getting older, so dating opportunities just don't fall in my lap like they did when I was in my 20s. I decided to put up an online profile a few months ago.

My dating past is checkered. In my early dating life I didn't have OCD, and I've dated some guys for whom it wasn't a big deal. But my last couple of relationships ended because I was too stressed to handle it, or my stressing freaked the boyfriend out. Or a combination of both.

So I've been corresponding online with someone who seems great, and it's really time to meet. I know there's no harm in meeting for coffee. But I do wonder what I should be doing big picture. I know I'm never going to be OCD free. But I can't decide if I should wait until I'm coping with the world a little better to jump into the dating pool. I have some fear that if I jump in before that and it goes badly, it's going to take years to brave it again. Any thoughts?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Doing Okay

Still hanging in there. I'm definitely motivated by the concept of a relaxed me, somewhere out there in the future. I can actually imagine it, even if I'm not close to living it yet. Going to a basketball game tonight. All those people.

In other news, I've been watching my way through Monk on DVD. Just started Season 7. I really enjoy the show, but I'm not so fond of the representation of his OCD. The character of the therapist has always been so central to this show, but the treatment he receives has no known effect on OCD. Over and over again they show him talking about his childhood. Ugh.

Not to mention that his OCD seems pretty random, and more phobia filled than OCD-like, except his dislike of being touched.

Anyway, I know that if his OCD went away, much of the premise of the show would be gone. And all I have to do is watch a CSI episode to know that TV is not based in reality.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Here We Go

All right, I'm off to visit with my sister's family. Did I mention her husband works in an emergency room? Where swine flu patients have been flocking for weeks? Ack!

Then the farmer's market, followed by an event at a large stadium.

I know visiting family, buying groceries, and attending a concert are not major accomplishments for most people, but given how much I DON'T want to do any of these things today, I'm feeling really pleased at the same time that I'm able to make myself go.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

OCD: Nature versus Nurture

Twice recently, I've had conversations with people about whether my OCD was "hard-wired" into me or was a result of my environment.

As I've mentioned before when talking about my immediate family, they do not have ANY contamination issues, and I grew up in a household where handwashing didn't really happen.

So I definitely didn't learn it there. Theoretically I could have rebelled at some point against my family's lack of concern about germs or dirt. But I don't think that's it either. I didn't ever (and still don't) look back at it in disgust. That's just the way it was, and we were all healthy and fine. And the older I am, the more I realize that most of the world is closer to my family growing up than they are to over-handwashing me.

Up until my early 20s, I had brief, very brief flashes of OCD behavior, including about a month where I was sure the house was going to burn down, and one truly weird incident when I become concerned about pregnancy despite not having had sex. But at age 25, it really felt like a switch turned on. Well, maybe a dimmer switch. Over the course of about 6 months, I just became more and more concerned about germs, and washing, and checking doors, until it completely overwhelmed my life.

I don't know how it happened, or why it happened then, but I truly feel that it was going to happen to me no matter how I'd been brought up. One half of my family has a full smorgasbord of mental illnesses, and this is just the one I was lucky enough to get.

Friday, October 16, 2009


Today was supposed to be "the day." My about-to-be-married coworker's last day in the office before her wedding, the day I would miraculously be able to do all kinds of exposures without fear of getting sick. Hmm. Well. It was her last day in the office, and despite what I feared earlier in the week, it doesn't look like we'll be meeting up for lunch next week.

However, the wedding's not till next weekend, and several coworkers are going. So I'm still feeling freaked out about somehow getting her sick, by getting them sick, now apparently ruining her honeymoon rather than her wedding. Especially since I'm meeting up with my sister and her two grade school aged children this weekend. And everyone knows kids are nothing but germ factories. :) (My mom very helpfully told me about the three classmates of my niece who "had swine flu and have already returned to school.") When I write these fears down, it seems as far-fetched to me as it probably does to you, the path from here to there, but at least part of my brain appears to find it likely. My brain is very skilled at this.

Despite a pretty extreme level of anxiety, I did better on exposures this week than I expected. I went to the store three times, went to the library, didn't skip my therapy appointment. And went to work, of course.

I want to get back to a life I can enjoy, but even though my current situation pretty much sucks, getting where I want seems so scary, too. I guess I'm working on it, just much more s-l-o-w-l-y than I'd hoped.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Out of My Stupor

One of my coworkers is getting married very soon. I am terrified of getting the swine flu, giving it to her, and ruining her wedding. Yes, that is a very specific fear. I had convinced myself that once she was out of the office (Friday), this would finally be the time that I would lose some of my worry about getting sick, and really work on exposures. Unlike every OTHER similar time, of course, where that "final" deadline came and another one took its place. It seems there's always someone about to go on vacation, or starting chemo, or graduating from high school, just waiting for me to ruin their special day with an illness.

In the meantime, I was cocooning myself up at home, so that I would "guarantee" I would stay healthy (ignoring the cesspool of germs that is my office, of course).

Today I learned that I will probably see my engaged coworker next week, too, and my anticipation of a mellow weekend was shot.

At which point the ridiculousness of never leaving my house except for work became clear. So it's back to the routine: grocery shopping, picking up books at the library, riding the bus (gulp!) I'm feeling anxious but surprisingly okay about it. Of course, that may be due to the fact that I finally turned the furnace on today after the house got down to 55. Everything looks a little better when you're warm.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Good Night's Sleep

After a good night's sleep, today looked a little better. I did some small exposures, mostly involving my cats. I tell you, you want exposure built into your life, get some cats. The vomit! The wet feet! The sitting in your lap and your bed!

Also spent some time reading yet another OCD memoir. A new review will be up one of these days.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Today's Blog Post

I'm really struggling right now. Like a lot of people with OCD, I'm an information junkie, and I'm super aware of what I should be doing to combat my OCD. Doing it is a whole other thing.

At this point, all I feel sure of is that I will drag my butt into work every day next week. Not making it to work is a slope I will not start down (unless I'm actually sick, of course), because that can lead nowhere good. Other than that, no promises.

I am posting here my commitment to finally listen to a meditation CD that a friend sent me weeks ago. I will post again tonight whether I did it- that'll be an exciting post for sure.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

So What?

That is what my therapist tells me I should be saying to myself. As in, "Oh, no. I'm afraid I'm going to get sick!" "So what?" Now if I could just internalize that, it would be awesome. I have about 10 minute blocks of time where it works great, and I feel pretty mellow about it all. Then, like today, I go to a meeting and the guy next to me has a hacking cough, and I'm right back to "Oh, no. I'm afraid I'm going to get sick!" Sigh. My blog might not be so accurately named.

Monday, October 5, 2009


If I needed any more proof that I can't control it: the party on Saturday was to celebrate the end of my aunt's chemo. I was very happy for her, of course, but I also felt a sense of relief for myself, that I didn't need to worry as much as I had been about getting sick and in turn making her sick. So, Monday morning staff meeting at work, a coworker confides that she's just been diagnosed with breast cancer and will start her treatment this week. I'm not enough of a clod to care more about the effect on me than the effect on her. But. I guess it's about time to realize that all I can do is live my life, it's just too much to try to protect everyone around me, because I'll never succeed. Here's hoping for positive outcomes for them both.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

I Do Not Like Cold and Flu Season

When colds and flu are at the very top of your exposure hierarchy, this is sort of a stressful time of year. During exposure therapy has really been difficult, harder than I expected really. But I'm hanging in there. Yesterday was a big party for my aunt. I went through worrying about ruining the party by being sick, worried about going and having someone else get me sick, and I worried about bringing food that would make people sick. But I went, everything seemed okay, I brought my food, life went on. As it always seems to do, of course.

Yesterday I had a bonus exposure that was a huge success. Squirrels often frolic on my back deck, and I worry about germs being left behind. For some reason I went out there in bare feet yesterday, and then walked through my house without thinking about it. As soon as I did think about it, I felt contaminated, and like the floors had also been contaminated. For about three hours I fought the urge to take a shower and/or scrub down the floors. But I repeated my new mantra, that giving in to that urge feeds the OCD and makes it stronger. And I waited and waited, until eventually the urge passed. That felt great.