Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Weekend

Pretty uneventful weekend, OCD-wise.

I went to a home repair class with some small exposures, and made myself buy some produce from the slightly funky farmer's market that has cropped up less than a block from my house.

I had a good experience on the social anxiety front. I've had as homework for weeks making small talk when I'm out in public, but I almost never do it.

At my home improvement class, I decided to try. The first person I chatted with clearly wasn't interested in any social interaction, and I felt a little silly, but I tried again during the break. I asked the woman sitting next to me a totally generic question about her experience working on her home. We had a really nice chat about a bathroom remodel she's planning. It was a great lesson in several ways. One, I hardly had to do anything to get a good conversation going. Two, the break was much more pleasant without my usual "trying to look busy while time s-l-o-w-l-y passes" approach. And three, this woman looked completely uninteresting to me until she started talking, and then she was really warm and friendly. It was a very "don't judge a book by its cover" conversation.

So that was good; I'll definitely be looking to do more of this, accepting that sometimes I'll say something dumb, and that's okay, too.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Lurching from Fear to Fear

It's no surprise to me when I have a day where it just feels like I'm going from scary thing to scary thing. I've possibly written about this before, but today was definitely one of those days. Now, the things are not usually objectively "scary," but that hardly matters, does it?

It started on the way to work with a walk by a woman who was flinging a huge bag into a dumpster. I imagined that my still wet hair was now contaminated by whatever dust may have come flying out of the dumpster, and thought, well, I'm pretty sure I'll be taking a shower tonight.

But by the end of the day, that fear was long gone. Partly because that's just what happens, and partly because new fears came along all day to replace that one. Just a few examples: the city accidentally turned off the water to my workplace today for about an hour. (Hello? How does that happen???) When the water was turned back on, I imagined that icky things might have been flushed through when water valves were reopened. Then a visit from a coworker with a nervous habit of fidgeting with everything on my desk. (Please! Touch all my stuff, why don't ya!) Then monthly birthday cake day with the server again touching every piece of cake with her unwashed hand. And on like that the day went.

Again, nothing major. But after every one I felt tense for about 30 minutes, or until the next thing came along. And a lot of my days go like that.

BUT, the good thing, is that these days, even if I'm anxious, I'm able to avoid crazy handwashing and showering- and of course I ate the cake. I even got the mail when I got home from work. Every day there's a point (or many points) where I wish I could be stronger, but I know I'm doing things I never would have even six months ago, so I'll keep on keeping on.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

It's Raining Again

Boy, I didn't realize how much I enjoy not being wet until the rains returned. Oh, well, it's the northwest, and exposure is good for me!

Today, I left my flash drive at home. After I realized I could spend 2 hours redoing my work or 1 hour taking the bus home and back to retrieve it, I was treated to a bonus bus trip. In the rain, of course. (By the way, you can tell that the bus in this photo is not in the pacific northwest, where we pride ourselves on not using umbrellas. Why that's a matter of pride is less clear.)

I think public transit is probably second only to public bathrooms in its exposure potential. For someone with fears of colds and flus like me, I think it beats the bathrooms actually. Stuck in that overheated little box with 30 other people, wondering who's going to sit next to me, reminding myself, exposure is good for me!

Monday, February 22, 2010

ERP Works AGAIN! (who knew?)

This morning on the bus, a woman sat next to me and practically dumped her oversized bag (one of two, plus a newspaper and a coffee cup) on my lap. It was inconsiderate, especially considering that she had an empty seat on the other side of her, but my annoyance was purely OCD, wondering where she might have set that bag prior to my lap.

After I got off the bus, I was feeling seriously uptight, although I forced myself not to actively avoid the part of my coat that the bag had touched. But I definitely imagined washing the coat when I got home. Now it's 8 hours later, and I feel fine. The coat doesn't seem contaminated, and I don't feel contaminated.

I guess that's the plus in getting "contaminated" on the way to work- there's nothing I can do about it for hours anyway. It's the perfect ERP system.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Scary Social Events Four, Five, and Six. Check, check, and check! Including breakfast with a friend I haven't seen in more than 5 years. It was fun.

Also agreed to restart as facilitator for a currently defunct book club. So that will provide even more opportunities.

Goals for the week: More of the same, but beefed up, mostly. For instance, I've been getting the mail everyday, but I still often wash my hands after I open it, so that's not really a great accomplishment. So, this week, get the mail, bring it in, continue about my evening.

Same with going to the grocery store.

This will be a big step, for sure.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Thank Goodness for Small Favors

My cubicle at work is sandwiched between the risk manager and the health and safety guy (with those sickly IT guys off to the other side). As such, I sometimes learn more than I want to about incidents at our facilities. This week, I was lucky NOT to learn the details, at least until the incident was over. On Tuesday, I heard some rumblings about drains backing up, and we couldn't use our sink for the day. The next day, some of the bathrooms were closed. I didn't think that much about it, and I work a short day Wednesday anyway.

But today, I hear risk management guy telling a woman she should just wash the clothes she was wearing, oh, and she might want to run her car through a car wash. Sewage is clearly involved. What?? Turns out there was a raw sewage backup that leaked onto her car. Over the course of several days. Risk guy shows me video- it's LOTS of water dripping on and near her car. THEN he shows me video of the sink in the legal department: it's bubbling over with dark brown water. He says at one point you could see toilet paper in the ooze. There was so much they were squeegeeing it out into the drain in the parking garage.

OMG!!! Luckily, I didn't learn any of this until today, Friday, or I think I would have run screaming out of the building. The woman whose car was involved was amazingly mellow about the whole thing (I guess she's had a while to get used to the idea), and it appears no one involved has gotten sick.

I walked home from work today, and I passed an apartment building with a Rescue Rooter truck outside. It was all I could do to keep from crossing the street.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


The IT guys across the cubicle wall are passing their colds around again. I'm proud that I haven't resorted to crazy amounts of hand washing today, but holy cow, is their sniffling making me anxious!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

OCD in the Media

ABC's Nightline recently ran a feature about OCD. As usual, it focuses on contamination, but it does vaguely address other types as well.

It's set at the annual OCD conference held last year in Minneapolis and follows Jonathon Grayson around as he and some OCD-ers do some extreme exposures. It's similar to Oprah's piece on OCD a year or two back, including the exposure to the dumpster. This time they climb in. Ack. While I'll admit I'm grateful that my therapist doesn't subscribe to the dumpster diving approach to exposure, it's useful as a way to get some perspective when I get scared of some really basic things, like sink handles.

Redoubling my Efforts

I've decided that I'll give myself the next couple of weeks, till the end of February, to see if I can make a noticeable difference in my efforts- then I'll (re)look at medication.

This is of course not the first time I've said I was doing this, but I'm feeling strong today. We'll see how it goes.

Last night, for only the 2nd time in a quite long basketball season, I didn't shower after coming home from watching the game. So that's a start.

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Mediocre Day

As often happens, the closer someone near me gets to a trip or a big medical event, the more anxiety I feel over the possibility of making them sick. My dad's heading out of town later this week, and I'll be seeing him tomorrow. It's so easy to tell myself, well, what's the harm in being just a little more careful than usual until after Tuesday. Of course, the harm is that it lets the OCD get just that little bit stronger. And then I get to worrying about even more things. Ugh.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Why Do I Blog?

Well, ultimately, it doesn't really matter. But I have been thinking about it lately, in part because a friend has recently started a blog, and we've been talking about it.

When I first started, I thought I was going to be making super amazing progress, and I would be oh, so inspirational. Hmm, well. I have made progress, and I'm happy about that, but I still have a good long way to go.

One problem with the blog: An OCD-type feeling of inadequacy when I don't make fast progress. But heck, I guess I shouldn't worry about that, because I know a lot of people (sometimes myself included) are fascinated by reading about the wacky things that people with OCD do. So on bad days, I suppose I should really go for the full-on OCD crazy (I kid, mostly).

Other times, I go read another OCD blog and think, oh, they write so much better than I do, why am I even bothering, but I know it's not a competition.

For now, it's mostly about accountability. Despite the fact that I'm not progressing as fast as I'd hoped, I know for certain that there have been some weeks where I've completed an exposure simply because I wanted to be able to come to the blog and say, I did it!! Most days, that's success.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Yay for Three Day Weekends

Although this post doesn't actually have anything to do with three day weekends.

Today I found myself nervous about going to the grocery store. So off I trekked. I will confess that I aimed for the dinner hour, so the crowds would be less. I forgot it was the day before Valentine's, though, so it was packed anyway. Serves me right.

Lately I've been doing great with my shoes. I went through a stage where I was convinced I was going to track some dead disease home on the bottom of my shoes, especially after running. But I've been careful not to avoid wearing any of my shoes, and while I generally take my shoes off in the house, sometimes I purposely clomp through with my shoes on, just to ensure that I still can.

As always, it's the little things.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Weird Week, Okay Day

The good thing: for the first time in a good long while, my fear of getting a cold seems to have mellowed out a bit. I've been going to meetings without fear and touching paperwork from other people without feeling an urge to wash my hands afterward. I had a meeting about grant writing at the health clinic yesterday, and drove by my sister's house site (again), this time in the rain.

But I've also been doing a lot of general ruminating, revolving mostly around other people either being mad at me or thinking badly of me. Today, I had a miscommunication with a coworker, but I didn't realize it. By the time I did, it wasn't possible to clear it up. For a couple of hours, my mind stewed on the fact that she might think I was a bad person. (The miscommunication involved a cupcake. Really. This blog has made me aware of the large role baked goods play in my life. Who knew?)

Anyway, at lunchtime, while eating my cupcake, I looked on an OCD forum, and found people discussing just letting feelings like that hang around: not trying to get rid of them, but also not giving them more attention than they deserve. Just treating it like any of the hundreds of thoughts that pass through my head on any given day. That's easier said than done, of course, but it's actually worked quite well today. I've been able to apply it to a similar worry that's been hanging around for a few days. So, all in all, a decent day. If only the stomach flu weren't going around...

Ooh, Big Posting Gap

It's been a funny week, one where I've both done a lot of exposures and experienced a lot of rumination. I guess that's how it goes. Will post again this evening with more than 3 lines!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Writing About Your Experience

I received an email two weeks ago from a grad student at Arizona State assisting on a professor's book of first person accounts of mental illness. It will be a supplemental textbook, with an intended audience of future mental health professionals.

They want to share people's accounts of living with mental illness, as a way to help practitioners understand what their patients are dealing with. I like the idea, since I know that a lot of people have less than ideal experiences with mental health professionals.

The guidelines are pretty simple:
* Submissions should be a personal account of your personal experience with mental illness;
* Personal accounts can be written on any aspect of your experience that is significant to you (i.e. your relationships with family, your experience with healing and seeking help etc);
* Narratives are preferred although poetry and other formats will also be considered;
* Submission does not guarantee that your work will be published.

If you're interested in this, send me an email, and I have some more information about the people putting this together.

The timeline is pretty short, with the manuscript to be finished by June.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Second Scary Social Event!

Today I went to an organic gardening group I joined last year. It was nice, and I'm glad I went. I even ate a cookie despite feeling like my hands were "dirty." As always, I'll do a lot for sugar.

For good or bad, the meeting was held very close to where my sister's new house is going up. I've been avoiding the site, since the whole process sends me into OCD fits. But today I drove by. It looks lovely, and only scared me a small, well, medium, amount.

I'm thrilled with my "scary social event" progress, though. After months with zero or maybe one event, I've got six scheduled for February already, and it would have been more had my knitting class not been canceled at the last minute.

At six to ten a month, I'll be at 52 in no time!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

No Rest for the Weary

My reward for hanging tough yesterday? Another day of exposures. I get on the bus, and the woman across the aisle looks like she wants to die, with her head practically between her knees. My brain thinks "stomach flu." I get off the bus at my stop and immediately walk by a garbage truck emptying a dumpster, complete with a cloud of crud.

Get to work and find my computer has a virus. IT guy types away on my keyboard for over an hour (germs! on MY keyboard!) Killing time while this happens, my coworker regales me with stories of her week long stomach flu.

Ride the bus to therapy because it's pouring. Bus is full and smells of too many people and wet dog (he's sitting right in front of me). As the bus pulls into my stop, the guy two rows back sneezes. For some reason I turn to look and he sneezes again. Oops. Touched a lot of handrails (and didn't sanitize anything).

I get home (stopping to pick up the mail!), and decide a run would be relaxing. I nearly trip over a DEAD DOG! (I feel terrible for the dog and I wonder what happened- stray dogs are very rare around here. But, not relaxing.)

So, not the best day. Freaked out over all of these things less than expected, although my therapist did have to talk me down a little.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tough Day But I Won

Today I spent two hours in a meeting next to a guy who was coughing and blowing his nose. Then I walked home from work and had a minor (very minor) incident with a drunk homeless man. Got home, let the cat out, and it started sprinkling. Cat came back in with wet and dirty feet, then jumped on the bed.

But, I have not taken a shower, and have no plans to do so tonight. My OCD tried to convince me that I would be warmer after a shower, but I didn't cave, just turned the heat up.