Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Let the Contamination Commence!

Well, I went to my aunt's today. I went to work, went to my own therapy appointment, and then picked her up from a medical appointment and took her home. I felt good and contaminated when I got there, and she had me get her mail, use her keys, go get a few groceries, and adjust her oxygen supplies. It should have been overwhelming, but mostly it all just needed to be done. And so I did it. I felt pretty okay.

Then I came home and brought in the garbage cans in the rain. I need a drink! Just kidding. I'm feeling okay, and making myself try to stay in the present rather than getting anxious about future visits.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Inside of My Head

So, it appears that I will consider my yard and driveway contaminated for a while now. And since I can't very well avoid going outside, there's gonna be some stress. My aunt's situation requires me to visit her home a couple of times a week. Which of course makes me sure that I'll be transferring the contamination to her.

I'll be frank and say it's a bit late to be all that worried about getting my aunt sick, but still, I hardly want to make a bad situation worse. And of course I worry about the rest of my family, too.

Regardless, there's nothing I can do to avoid any of it, without becoming a hermit. That's simply not an option, so I'll just have to keep on keepin' on.

I'm feeling a tremendous amount of anxiety, however, so I suspect the blog may turn even more stream of consciousness than usual for a while. Sorry for the impending blather.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Go, Icky Exposure

So, my new neighbors left all their cleaning supplies, including their toilet brush and a plunger, in the driveway when they moved in a week ago. Now they're still there, and it's raining. There's also random other crap out there. I've watched them step right around it several times today.

It's safe to say I had a good solid freak out about this earlier. But there's not much I can do, and even if anything terrible will result from sluicing toilet water germs, it can't be undone now.

They are not my favorite neighbors, though.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Another Up and Down Kind of Weekend

I did great with my aunt. She's been discharged from the hospital, and now she's at home, but she needs a fair amount of help. I went over there yesterday and helped with food and even some laundry.

But as always happens, as one fear subsides, another fills its place. Now it's my crummy new neighbors who are stressing me out. I'm working on sitting with the anxiety today.

One thing that's really unusual: I'm actually doing cleaning and sorting around the house while feeling stressed, rather than parking my butt in front of the internet all day (current posting time excepted). So that's good at least.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Learning to Go With the Flow

It's safe to say that spontaneity is not a strong suit. When people who know me well call me to ask me to do just about anything, they've learned to preface it with "You don't have to decide right now." I usually say yes eventually, but I always need some time for it to sink in, even if it's something I really want to do.

I'd like to be a little better at this. The situation with my aunt is forcing me to undo my rigidity a bit. I try to schedule in my head when I'll go visit her, and how to make the trip as easy on my anxiety as possible. But then she may end up not feeling like visitors or she may have a last minute visit from a doctor at that time. I don't have any choice but to be flexible, and while I'm not great at it, I've noticed that even after just a few days, I feel less anxiety at not knowing exactly what's happening when.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Exposures are Making Me Cranky

Today it's "Bring your Kids to Work Today." Can I just say that bringing your three year old into work is not the best use of this day for anyone?

And bringing your sneezing three year old just means you're avoiding taking a sick day.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

OCD Trading

On Saturday, my aunt was admitted to the hospital with fluid in her lungs. My sister and mother dealt with her appointment and hospital admission, since they knew I would not handle an emergency room well (although I did babysit my sister's kids).

But I still felt bad for not being able to be there for a family member. In these situations, I often find myself doing an "OCD Trade." When I don't do one exposure, I'll substitute another. In this case, it was an exposure at the grocery store that I'd been putting off for 3 weeks. It went well.

Similarly, on Monday I was feeling bad about possibly not working up the courage to visit my aunt today (which I ultimately did), and I walked down to the store and used an "unsafe" public restroom for the first time in about a month.

It's not the best system, but it is moving me in the right direction.

I've also made some solid hospital progress. I've visited my aunt three times this week. The first time, I walked there and took the bus home, to avoid contaminating my car. The second time, I took the car, but put a towel on the seat. The third time, I drove, didn't use the towel, and it was raining out! It's still scary, but there's definite improvement.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Another Day

Okay, so that last post was pretty terrible, but there you have it. Here's a more standard post. In the last couple of weeks, I read a book and watched a movie that both made me say ewww! Not recommended for bad OCD days.

First the book: Medical Detectives by Berton Roueche. It's a nonfiction book about health department epidemiologists solving tricky cases. It's a funny book anyway, since the stories were written in the 1940s and 50s; we don't have so many typhoid outbreaks these days in the U.S. But even so, it got a little overwhelming to read story after story of people contracting dreadful diseases. I had to put it down.

The movie was Sunshine Cleaning, with Emily Blunt and Amy Adams as women who start a "biological cleanup" company, cleaning up after crimes and deaths. I actually enjoyed the movie overall, but there was one scene, ugh. They've just started, don't realize that they should be following some precautions, and they're carrying a massively blood stained mattress. One of them trips, and she falls face first onto the mattress. OMG!!

Anyway, OCD does make our experience of the world a little different (not that I imagine most people weren't horrified by that mattress scene!)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Well, that's the reward?

I pushed myself a LOT this week. I was feeling really good about it, and at the same time looking forward to the fact that I didn't have any obligations at all tomorrow, and it's supposed to be a beautiful day.

But my aunt has pneumonia and was admitted to the hospital today. I need to visit her tomorrow. Hospitals terrify me. Yes, I am 100% aware that this is a much much bigger deal for her than me. Especially since this is likely a sign that her cancer is back.

BUT, this blog is about me. And I have long not gotten along well with this aunt. We're not close, she's not very nice, and if she were less dysfunctional, I would probably never see her at all (I know that sounds backward, but her dysfunction means she needs support from people she mostly hates, me and the rest of my family).

So anyway, tomorrow went from being a happy reward for hard work accomplished, to just another stressful day.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Doing Okay

I'm continuing to have pretty good success at identifying the scary activity I'm about to encounter and then doing it anyway.

What I'm realizing, though, is that this method may be a bit too random. I think I need to return as well to a written hierarchy of scary things to work through in a systematic fashion. I know just from the anxiety I feel at the idea of this that it's a good idea for me.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Shopping Extravaganza

I hate shopping. Things to be touched, sick clerks to help me. But since this week is "do what you don't want to" week, I've been catching up on shopping chores, plus trying to meet a non-OCD goal of increasing my spending at local independent stores. In the last 24 hours I have
1) Purchased a gift for my cousin's brand new twins.
2) Purchased part two of a gift for my cousin's brand new twins.
2a) (forgot this one): Purchased onion sets at garden store.
3) Mailed the gifts.
4) Signed political petition outside the post office.
5) Bought drink at local co-op on the way home.
6) Bought snack at another little store on way home.
7) Went to humane society and looked at cats and bought cat litter.
8) Ordered takeout.
9) Rented video while take out was prepared.
10) Picked up takeout.

I was wearing headphones in between a lot of those, so I got to touch my hair a lot and spread the germs while taking them on and off. I love my neighborhood- I could walk to nearly all of those places (didn't walk with 50 pounds of cat litter). And the onion sets were almost two miles away, so I did those while on my run, but that was cool, too.

On the run, my shoelace came untied just when I was almost home (no, chickens were not actually involved. Although, hmm, there were chickens at the garden store). I was surprised at how scary that seemed to me, and I realized that it's actually been months since my shoelace dragged on the ground in public. But just as it should, my anxiety dropped quickly, and by the time I got home five minutes later, I'd forgotten about it. Love that.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


Today I went to visit a friend. In the country. On a muddy 27 acres. With an unruly dog. It was raining. At one point she got a phone call, and I went outside to hang with the dog. He's a sweet dog, actually. But he sure does drool a lot. Oh, and he apparently likes to drag pieces of elk carcasses home. I didn't see any, though.

It was a major accomplishment to me that I spent almost no time ahead of the visit ruminating about that dog and his muddy paws (the photo is not her dog or her mud).

I had a great time; it was scary social event #12 for 2010.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Hey, Another "Push"

Well, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I'm trying another big exposure push. I figure every push, even if not fully successful, takes me a little further down the road I ultimately want to travel.

So far what this push looks like: if I realize I'm avoiding something, I do it. Today I didn't want to pay with cash at the grocery store, because then I get change, and who knows where it's been. So I paid with cash. I noticed that the clerk looked a little glassy eyed (thus surely had a cold). I stayed in her line.

I'm going downtown today, and my OCD instinct is to park far away from my destination in a spot that doesn't require using the pay station. But I'm going to use the pay station, and pay with a credit card (I prefer coins- you touch less that way).

One thing I like about this, when I'm "feeling it," is that the decisions are actually easier. Sounds scary? No point in fretting, 'cause that's what I'll be doing. And if I get sick, it's a badge of success.

Monday, April 5, 2010


I've written about habituation before. It's the process by which the brain pays less attention to a stimulus the longer that stimulus is around. I've been aware of this concept for a really long time. But I've always thought of it in the context of a single exposure. Every time I've talked about ERP working, it's a habituation process, whereby the exposure is scary, and then less scary and less scary, until the fear is gone.

But I rarely if ever think of habituation in the larger sense, at least not by name. That the more times you successfully complete exposures, the less worked up your brain is going to bother to get at the next exposure. I know, duh, that's the whole point of doing this, but it still inspired me to contemplate that today.

It's motivational to remember that every time I can successfully sit through an exposure, I'm just a little closer to big H Habituation. It will come in handy this week, as every single day this week I'm scheduled to do something that scares me.