Monday, May 31, 2010

Feeling Annoyed, Moving Forward Anyway

OCD makes me so mad and frustrated (duh!)

Everywhere I look lately, the concept of "living in accordance with your values" comes up. It's part of Acceptance and Commitment therapy, and well, it's just a good idea.

So I'm working on that. There are two main pieces for me: being a kind and caring person and developing a circle of friends. Pretty simple, shouldn't be so hard. While I consider myself a good person, I sometimes don't do the right thing just because I'm so anxious. And I've lost track of many friends in recent years because socializing is so hard for me.

At every turn, there's a difficult action to be taken. Intellectually I know that the anxiety I sit through now will lead to less anxiety in the future. And I also know that all the worrying and ritualizing in the world doesn't actually protect me or my friends or loved ones from much of anything. Knowing this apparently isn't always enough.

Hmm, I'm not sure this post has much of a point. Oh, well. I'm still here, still trying to make the right choices, still spending a ridiculous amount of time figuring out what the right choice even is some days.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The OCD Project

So, there's ANOTHER tv show about OCD. It's The OCD Project, on VH1, but also available for viewing (in the US at least) at

Six people with a range of OCD "types" live in a house together for (I think) 3 weeks- Real World OCD!- and undergo intensive exposure therapy. I'm optimistic if a little skeptical. The therapist who they work with is David Tolin. He's well qualified, but he's also been on TV a lot lately, including being one of the therapists on A&E's Hoarders. Could have completely noble intentions, could like being on TV. Could be both.

The TV approach to OCD seems to rely on the extreme end of exposures. In the previews, the therapist is seen licking the bottom of a colleague's shoe, and there's the obligatory let's all climb in the dumpster scene, too. I'm uncertain whether it's because ultimately it's the best way to get results fast, or if it's because it attracts incredulous people to the TV.

Either way, I'll be watching. The previews also show the woman with contamination OCD letting her housemates put their hands on her face. I cried just watching it.

Monday, May 24, 2010


It became clear to me a few weeks ago that my upcoming trip for work was consuming every free moment of thought for me, and I actually cancelled it. Not so good. BUT. I have a plan. Part of the problem is that the trip took about three different things that were VERY high on my exposure hierarchy and combined them: being away from home multiple days, plane travel and hotels.

So I'm creating a hierarchy for travel, and I'm going to move up it throughout this summer. I'm going to start with an overnight trip to the coast. Then I'm thinking a weekend away by car, camping or to visit friends a few hours away. And then a plane trip to California later in the summer (which I can do with the credit from my cancelled trip. Oops!) . I really think I can do it, plus these trips all sound like fun to me, rather than the torture that the work trip was shaping up to be.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Still Here

It's been a busy week, mostly responding to the audit at work, mentioned below. Turns out I didn't actually make any mistakes on the audited project, but the whole process is still making me extremely nervous, and I think it's stirring up a general pot of anxiety.

I'm still doing fairly well on exposures, including almost no hand washing at work, despite having a lot more contact with people and their paperwork than normal. So that's good.

The ants that moved in a few weeks ago are lingering and have decided that my kitchen and my cat food are both fabulous. But I'm continuing to deal with them without OCD problems.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Spoke Too Soon

I've been doing GREAT on contamination exposures, today especially. My OCD monster isn't pleased, and is lobbing grenades at me from the edges of my non-contamination fears.

We're having an audit at work. It would be a standard audit, but for some reason we haven't had this one in about 20 years. The vast majority of the information is all perfect. There are a few problems, though. One is my fault, one is my boss's, and a few are from years before either of us were even there. Nothing fraudulent, just errors.

But I've become convinced not just that I'll be fired, but that my boss will be, too, and she'll blame it all on me. She has cancer, so of course I'm catastrophizing that she won't find another job before her COBRA benefits expire, and she'll die, cursing me the whole way.

I have no choice but to sit with this anxiety. She has a day full of meetings tomorrow, so we may not even have the chance to go over any of the data. The other relevant coworker is on vacation for the next 4 weeks. Ugh.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Pretty Good Weekend

Did pretty well with exposures this weekend.

I took my aunt to the park, even though she may have had a cold (oh, the irony!) Between her oxygen tank and wheelchair, there's no way to transport her without touching lots and lots of things. She had a good time, and I felt good about that. I even kept my shoes on in her apartment, which I NEVER do, for fear of tracking in something godawful and making her sick.

I also came home from that visit and did a bunch of yardwork and other chores, rather than immediately jumping in the shower.

I've had boatloads of exposure to my neighbor's "contaminated driveway." Their son plays pseudo-hockey in the driveway with a tennis ball, which bounces into my yard about every tenth shot. Then he troops into my driveway to get it. I did give him a "death glare" the gazillionth time the ball came into the yard, but then told him it was fine, although perhaps a little grumpily. Once I even threw the ball back myself, after swearing I'd never touch it. So, some progress.

On the other hand, I'm having MAJOR anticipatory anxiety about my travel later this summer. Pretty much all aspects: someone will break into the house (perhaps the neighbor kid, who will see me leaving the house with a suitcase, and who will be mad from when I gave him the death glare), something will happen to the cats, all my carefully raised plant starts will die, contamination on the plane, contamination in the hotel. Am having mixed success with stopping myself before I go too far down the path of rumination. Will keep working on that.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


I've started an OCD Notebook. If I'm going to make this work without a therapist, I need to take a more focused approach than I have been. So I'm using the notebook for a couple of things. One, I want to have one place to write down all the things that OCD keeps me from doing, and what I want my life to look like instead, so I can always remind myself.

I also want to have clear, focused goals, both big picture and for each day or week.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

On My Own

Well, I broke up with my therapist. I've not made that much progress, and I really couldn't justify the expense anymore. I'm not giving up on exposures, though. I'm part of a couple of sites online that I think will help me deal with the accountability as motivator issue. What I need to do, therapist or no, is institute more discipline into my approach.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Well, That Was Gross

One of my cats has had a lot of trouble with hairballs lately. He vomited near the back door yesterday night, and I made the mistake of waiting until today to clean it up. By which time a zillion little ants had found it. I swept them up and out the door, although since there's dark carpet on the stairs there, I'm sure I missed some. Ack, I feel itchy just thinking about it. The area I swept feels very contaminated to me, since it's where I store my shoes (plus just the obvious yuck factor), but I didn't shower afterward. Feeling a little icky, but okay.

Sunday, May 9, 2010


Watching my aunt's situation has made me reflect a lot on relationships. At age 61, she has 2 non-family friends in her life. One lives in another city and she only sees her every few years, and the other is a very Christian woman, who may or may not view my aunt as a good deed. She's alienated everyone else, with a combination of mild accusatory paranoia and extreme neediness.

While I don't have social problems to the extent that she does, my own circle of friends is a lot smaller now than 10 or even 5 years ago. Partly this is because I have so many family members in town to socialize with, partly due to social anxiety. But even with my sister I sometimes get weird about whether she likes me as much as I like her.

So, it makes me realize that I need to do two things: put more effort into building and maintaining friendships, and not spend so much time worrying about whether my friends really like me. That piece tends to sort itself out over time anyway.

The Mall

Well, my aunt and I had a disagreement about the mall, and we didn't go. She claimed she was too tired, and I don't know if she really was, or if she was being passive aggressive about it. But the fact is, I don't think she can go shopping without a wheelchair, and we don't currently have one. So I'll get to save that exposure for another day.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Odds and Ends

Tomorrow I'm taking my aunt home from a medical appointment. That in itself seemed super scary to me, until she asked if I could take her shopping at the mall (for a medical item). Now the appointment seems like nothing, and the mall is FREAKING me out. She's an difficult shopper, who drives sales people a little batty and returns about half of what she buys. So I totally can't wait. The fact that she can't walk more than about 100 feet makes me wonder how it's going to work at all. Plus there's the oxygen line. And if she has to try this thing on, I think I'll die. Worry, worry, worry.

Today, I decided to get a burrito for lunch. I love them, but sometimes I get weird about eating out. So I went. Of course, the guy who was cleaning off all the counters, and then wiping his hands off on his dirty apron, returned to the food prep line (put on gloves at least, but didn't wash his hands first) just in time to make my burrito. I wanted to change my mind and leave, but I didn't. No one else seemed to notice anything at all, so I tried to be "normal." I'm not prone to food or restaurant-based illness, so, I'm hoping for the best. Heck, if I get sick, I'll get out of my visit with my aunt tomorrow. :)

Monday, May 3, 2010


Just made my reservation for my first plane trip in 4 years. I don't love flying, but I like staying in hotels even less. I've been putting this off for weeks now, and it mostly feels good to have committed to this trip. I do like traveling for work in some ways- I like restaurants, and per diems, and sightseeing. So hopefully I will have some fun when I'm not worrying.

It Has Been A Year

It's been literally a year that I've been saying to myself, "If you get a cold this week, it will be terrible, just continue your avoidance until next week and everything will be okay then."

By now, I'm fully aware that next week won't be any more cold-friendly, so I'm trying to continue my exposures.

Today I woke up to the choice of driving my car to work or taking the bus. Both felt so fraught with contamination possibilities that I really just wanted to call in sick. But I didn't. I took the bus, and I did get "contaminated," but I'm hanging in. Not getting a whole lot of work done, but I still have the afternoon ahead of me.