Sunday, January 31, 2010

Looking Back on This Week and Ahead to Next

As always, there were some ups and some downs.

I did get the mail most days (I'm not used to it anymore, so I forgot a few times), and I'm doing very well at not washing my hands at work, including after a few vending machine purchases, which is especially tough for me.

I had a great encounter with a friend downtown, and we went to lunch.

What I really need to work on now is my hands. My therapist has noted on numerous occasions that I'm very particular with my hands, and it's not a surprise to hear it. Especially when I'm not washing them every time I'd like to, I'm really careful not to touch my face, or sometimes much of anything else. I know most people don't pay attention to this.

I'm unlikely to start rubbing my eyes or scratching my nose while riding public transit. But, for instance, I used to have a nervous habit of tucking my hair behind my ear, and now I rarely do, simply because I hate to touch my hair out in public. I would like to react more naturally to the world around me.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

This is My Brain on OCD

So, for nearly a year I've been freaking about colds and flu, due to a fear of causing illness in people around me who are undergoing chemo. Currently that's my boss. On Friday, at the very end of the day, she came into my office with a tissue in hand, blew her nose, and then set some paperwork on my desk, right on top of what I was currently working on.

Of course I freaked out. She might have a cold, I could get that cold, and then I could pass it on to my boss... hey, wait a minute!

OCD brain knows no logic. I still felt anxious all evening.

This Should be Interesting

Our work travel budget is really tight this year. I'm one of the "lucky" ones chosen to go to the national conference in June. In Atlanta. Ack. I haven't been on a plane since 2006, I hate hotels, and I hate leaving my house and cats in others' hands. It's the perfect exposure, and I know that, but I'm just going to ignore it for a while.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

First Scary Social Event Down, 51 More to Go!

Today at work, a bunch of us headed downtown to listen to a motivational speaker. I hate those type of things, although he was a perfectly good speaker.

But an awesome thing happened. We were at a facility that has volunteer ushers, and one of the ushers was someone I've been friends with for (I just counted) 25 years! We only see each other about once a year these days. As anti-hug as I can be, I gave her a huge hug without even thinking. Afterward, we went to lunch. No time for anticipatory anxiety!

The best part about it, though, was that seeing her and spending the time together just plain made me happy. I've had this idea that the scary social events would be grueling, but that as a result, eventually I'd be more sociable and happier. I'd forgotten that a year devoted to, among other things, catching up with old friends, could be fun all on its own.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

An Opportunity and Fear

About a month ago, I made a list of things I wanted to be able to do again. The list included the mundane (get the mail every day) to the less mundane (increase my social interactions, start volunteering again.)

In my last career- I'm on number 4- I was a non-profit grantwriter, and among my ideas for volunteering was grantwriting. I find it difficult to do these days, because I take it too personally when grants aren't funded. But yesterday, I learned that a local community health clinic needs a grantwriter for a month or so, mostly for one big proposal. It's a perfect opportunity, and a really scary one for my OCD. I would probably need to spend some time there, at the clinic, and I avoid doctor's offices like you wouldn't believe (well, if you've been reading this blog, you probably would believe).

So it's really a two-fold opportunity. A chance to do what I've wanted to for a while, and a chance for some exposure, too. Which means it's terrifying!

On a lighter note, I picked up the mail on my way in the door yesterday. It was all junk mail, but I was pleased nonetheless.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Goals for This Week

Hmmm. More not washing my hands, of course. When I come home from work these days, I don't immediately change out of my clothes, but when I eventually do, I semi-segregate those clothes, in case they have cold or flu germs on them. After a day or so, I figure the germs are dead, so the clothes can go back in circulation. This week, I'd like to stop doing that.

I also usually wait until the next morning after mail is delivered to get it out of the mailbox- again, letting the germs die. This week, I'm going to get the mail as I come home from work each day.

These are all things I used to do without even thinking about it, so I know I CAN.

Day Two, Okay

I made it through another day of socializing, including eating cookies at a reception without washing my hands first. This one wasn't as fun as yesterday, but I didn't expect it would be, just doing my daughterly duty at an event my mom organized. I hate that when I leave a social event, I over analyze. Did I stay too long? Should I have hugged my aunt? Was I friendly enough? I guess life might be boring if I were perfect. Or something like that.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Day One, Not So Bad

Except for a couple of snarky comments after my nieces spent an hour crawling around on the floor, and then set the table and ran their hands over the top of the corn bread (which I did eat), it was a pleasant evening.

Friday, January 22, 2010

It's Not Going to Happen by Magic

It's become clear to me that I'm holding out some hope that I'll come out the other side of OCD without any hard work or anxiety. That's not only not realistic, it's also keeping me from starting the hard work.

I'm feeling my usual anxiety about being sick (no shock there). I really want to take a shower to "wash off the germs" of spending all day in a meeting with 30 other people. But I'm not going to. Then tomorrow, I'm off to expose my whole family to whatever germs I may have. And of course hanging out with whatever germs they may have. And then I'll be doing that all over again on Sunday.

Anxiety turns me cranky, unfortunately. So I am cranky and expect I will be most of the weekend.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

More Ups and Downs

I had another great day with respect to cutting out hand washing at work. At the same time, I'm struggling with a contamination fear that's so preposterous that I'm too embarrassed to even put it here in writing.

I suspect it will distract me at work tomorrow, and I have a ton to do. I'm hoping I can use it to practice getting focused when I'm feeling really unfocused. We'll see how it works out.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Quick Update

Well, I managed to do the "no extra handwashes" at work today. I was proud of that, as another coworker was complaining about her cold symptoms and I interact with her a lot. We'll see how long I can keep it going.

Monday, January 18, 2010

OCD and Exercise

I think I've posted about this before, but I'm noticing the effect of exercise on my OCD even more lately. When I run I feel strong and free, and exposures just seem more doable. And I can usually carry that over when I get home, as long as I've resolved to do an exposure when I'm out running. Of course sometimes runs present their own exposures, and that's probably good, too.

I can often decide not to take a shower that I planned to take, even though I am objectively grubby at the end of a run. As long as I don't have to be around anyone important right after my run at least; the cats don't seem to mind.

The only caution I have to remember is that I often view my running as another way to keep myself free from colds, so sometimes I purposely skip more days than I would otherwise between runs, just so it doesn't become its own ritual.

Anticipatory Anxiety

I don't imagine I'm alone in that the anticipation of something being scary is usually worse than the actual event. I find this to be especially true as I've tried to overcome my social anxiety. Every time I arrange to do something social, I get a fear in the pit of my stomach. Last night I finally made a list of about 25 people or events I'd like to follow up on this year.

After I made it, I looked at the list and thought, oh, I don't want to! Even though they're all things that, were I not anxious, I would totally love to do, and people I really want to catch back up with. As always, my work is cut out for me.

I signed up for another 8-week community ed class today, this time it's home repair. I'm looking forward to it, theoretically at least.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A Post to End the Weekend

Well, I guess the cake didn't get me after all. I didn't have much going on this weekend, although some shopping and a game got me out into the world of people and their germs. My goal for the coming week is to do zero extra hand washing at work. I'd also like to try not handwashing after grocery shopping as well as not showering after attending basketball games, but those will be harder for me.

I've done terribly at my goal of weekly "scary social events," finding even making a list of people I'd like to reconnect with this year to be difficult. I'm going to try to start that list tonight. I have signed up for an 8-week knitting class, but it doesn't start for a few more weeks.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Even Scarier Cake

So today the woman who served us all cake yesterday with her bare hand (washed? I'm not sure, but suspect not) is out sick. Oh dear. It makes the exposure even better I guess. She's prone to "sick" days when our boss is out, which the boss is today, so maybe Sarah's not even sick. But who knows?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Scary Cake

Birthday cake day at work. Sanitary standards are let's just say, relaxed, for the serving of the cake. No one else seems to mind, though, so I ate my cake, too.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Huge Step

Earlier today, my boss came by. She ran her hand across her mouth absentmindedly and then touched me on the shoulder.

I took off my sweater as soon as she left, exactly the wrong thing to do from an exposure standpoint, of course. Soon enough, I got cold, so I put the sweater back on, but I stretched it out so the shoulder was as far from my face as possible.

But then I went into "do you want to get better? mode," and I ran my hand over the shoulder of the sweater, and I rubbed my hands together and ran them through my hair. Of course then I immediate freaked out, but the damage is done. I'm feeling tense, but really good. I have pretty much NEVER been able to do that kind of exposure, even as my therapist keeps recommending it.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Next Step

I desperately need to cut down on my ruminating. I've spent a lot of today worried that the weather will not cooperate on Wednesday, simply because I have a friend who wants to ski that day and I hate to see her disappointed. It somehow gets all wrapped up in my OCD: one, in that a big piece of my OCD is fear of bad things happening to others, including plain old disappointment, but also two, that when I really get ruminating, I start to think that if the weather's bad when she's skiing, she'll get hurt (or if it's raining, she will of course get a cold!). Not that I think this would be my fault in any way, but somehow, my OCD convinces me that by thinking about it over and over and over, I can somehow improve the results.

So, I'm working on letting the thought go, and also a cognitive shift to remember that worrying about something (like this, at least), will in no way impact the outcome. Because I would really like to get that time back in my life.

I think back about all of the similar rumination sessions I had, the ones in which nothing bad happened, or even if something bad did happen, it didn't lead to disaster. Learn, brain, learn!!

For now, I think I will try to implement the "you get a half hour each day to worry and you can only worry then" method. When the worry comes along, I will attempt to save it for later.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Two Completely Different Approaches to the World

So, as we often do, my dad and I are attending a sporting event together tonight. But before that, he will be at my sister's house for "game night" (although today game night's in the afternoon).

There will be many "exposures" between now and tonight for my dad:
-game night will involve lots of touching of cards, and cross exposure from others' cards
-likely will include cookies or some sort of dessert
-then home for dinner
-part of his commute to the sporting event will be on public transportation
-he will need to show his ticket to an usher, who will probably grab the ticket while doing so.
-I also assume the day will involve a few trips to the restroom
-Plus since he still is at the end of his cold, he'll probably blow his nose and cough a few times.

My prediction of number of times he will wash his hands? Zero. MAYBE, he'll fit one in during a restroom trip, but it's not a given.

Now me, given this same afternoon/evening?
-I'd definitely wash hands before the cookies
-And after getting home from game night
-Before and while cooking dinner (at least once!)
-Before eating dinner
-After any trip to the bathroom (let's say two)
-And probably just a few more times before leaving for the game for good measure.
-I will choose the usher who scans my ticket without touching it.
-And after the sporting event, I'd wash my hands before doing anything else at home.

So that looks like OCD Blogger, 10 washes; Dad, 0 washes. (And if I had a cold, it'd probably reach 15 washes, easy.)

The best number of handwashes for this day probably is about 2-4 (lower end for someone working on exposure therapy). I'm not worrying much about Dad and his germiness- heck, I've been exposed to him all my life. I just find the contrast interesting sometimes.

I'll just keep on working on getting myself closer to 2 than 10.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

I'm Lazy

I always have such grand plans for being productive in the evening, but it doesn't always pan out. Once I get home, I tend to veg in front of the computer. At least when I post to the blog, I can pretend that's productive. :)

Today's exposures: Passed a whole lot of paperwork back and forth with coworkers without washing my hands. Then ate my orange without washing my hands beforehand. Stopped at the library and picked up a video on hold. Came home and sat on all of my chairs with work clothes on. Still working up to deciding not to take a shower tonight.

I was also tempted to cancel a follow up meeting that I have tomorrow with a sicky at work. So far I haven't done it. Not sure how that one will work out.

All in all, though, a decent effort.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Trying to Get Revved Up

I know I can do this, but why does it always seem so hard? I currently see my therapist on Wednesday afternoons, my only afternoon off from work. I want to "reclaim" that time and try some volunteer work that may lead to a job change eventually. Plus it would be nice not to spend that money every week. But if I'm to do that, I need to "graduate."

So time to buckle down. (again!) I've ridden the bus every day this week, and I've been wearing my "bus" clothes around the house after work. I've been in meetings with sick people every day this week, too. But I still walk around tense at most times. That's what I want to get over.

Monday, January 4, 2010


Another one of those, "I can't believe this is cause for excitement" kind of posts. I wore my new pants. I regretted it early in the day, as I took the bus and it rained, so I was wearing wet thrift store pants. But as the day went on, I felt completely fine. Woohoo.

In other news, a whole boat load of my coworkers came back from the holidays with colds, or claiming they can feel one coming on. While I did a little avoidance of those people, I didn't feel panic stricken either, which is a step in the right direction.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


So I bought some fabulous black pants at the thrift store for $6 (plus some capris that fit perfectly for $1.50). And despite what I said about not being that concerned about the preowned nature of thrift store clothes, I'm having a seriously OCD reaction to them, including internet trawling for what terrible diseases I could get from said pants. This despite having a wardrobe made up of basically nothing but thrift store clothes.

I washed them, as I think most people do. But normally I would let them sit for about a week- somehow that's the magic time-and then I often wash them again before wearing.

I'm wearing them tomorrow, though. I am.

Reality Check

I've been saying for a while now that while I'm doing well with individual exposures, I'm still really struggling with the sense the something terrible would happen if I were to get sick.

I was thinking about this last night. My boss's treatment may last through calendar year 2010. Unfortunately, statistically, my aunt's cancer is likely to recur after about two years, and this could put a recurrence in early 2011, lasting who knows how long.

Am I really going to spend the next 2 years trying every waking moment to keep myself from getting a cold? That's not very realistic, and it also goes back to this idea that OCD can suck all the joy out of life, but only if I let it.

Now, if only these ideas could sink all the way in.

Exposure Plans

Tomorrow I'm going thrift store shopping. I've bought most of my clothes at thrift stores for years, but I've been more wary this year. Less from icky-people-wearing-the-clothes-before-me than from a generic I-hate-being-out-in-the-world place. But in any case, I really need some "new" clothes. I wear the same two pairs of pants to work almost every day. And since they're both gray, I sometimes wonder if anyone thinks I'm wearing the same pair of pants every day. I'm not a fashion plate in the best of circumstances, but that would be pretty bad.

One good thing I've found is that when I flake on one exposure (lunch with my friend), I tend to add a new one in. So Value Village tomorrow it is.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

New Years Resolution Fail

Well, that didn't take long. I had tentative plans to meet a friend for lunch on Monday. But it may be raining, I have a busy schedule at work, and she works in a hospital. I do TERRIBLY with things outside my standard schedule, and hospitals give me the heebees. So I told her I was too busy and I'd reschedule.

So, the resolution is off to a rockin' start. I have an alternate "scary social event" in mind for the week though. . .

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year's Resolution

Happy New Year!

I was going to do a "wrap up the year" post last night, but then I forgot. Plus, the year was mostly, OCD, people around me got cancer and OCD got worse, and then it got a little bit better. So there you have it.

I've already mentioned my New Year's resolution, but I will make it official here. I resolve to do one "scary social thing" each week of this year. Scary pretty much means any non-work non-family outing or event. I've always been somewhat socially anxious, but being afraid of getting a cold really ups the fear ante around other people. So in most cases, social events will help with both my social anxiety and my OCD.

Chances are I'll miss some weeks, so I mostly want to get to 52 scary social events during the year. I practiced last week, and that meeting went well, so I feel vaguely optimistic. I have all kinds of ideas: people I reconnected with at last summer's high school reunion, a knitting group at work, community education classes, more people from the online group I participate in, a book group I was in for a while. Time will tell.

When I try to imagine what a "good" life looks like, being a good friend plays a really important role. I haven't been a very good friend in recent years, due to my anxiety, so this is my big move in that direction.

Hope your own resolutions get off to a good start.