Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Obsessed, Season 2

Season two of A&E's Obsessed debuted on Monday. I watched yesterday and didn't find it compelling. It's definitely due to the comparison to The OCD Project, but I'm not certain quite what the difference is. Part of the problem is the 2 people, 1 hour format. You don't get much a feel for the people and their personalities at all, which is part of the draw of The OCD Project. I really care about what happens to those people.

But it's more than that. Something is different in the way they present the exposures, so that despite the person claiming to be anxious, you can't really tell. So perhaps despite the claim that The OCD Project features exposures that are way over the top, maybe that's how you can really tell how scary it is.

Another problem was that the woman (whose name I can't remember), had OCD that seemed to be an eating disorder. She took a very OCD-type approach, but at heart, she ate very little and exercised too much in order to keep her weight down. I couldn't relate the way I can to most people with OCD, and I found it odd that they never once uttered the word eating disorder.

Graham had contamination OCD, and I found him more interesting, but I wish we'd seen more or him. I liked the exposure in the water, as they spent enough time that we got to see it unfold.

Despite my gripes, the "follow up screens" indicated that both had made really good progress, so that's great news.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Pretty Good Weekend

A good OCD weekend. I did a bunch of shopping, including some thrift stores, without washing my hands, and my mom visited twice! Now if only the carpenter ants hadn't decided to hang out in my house. :(

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Thanks, TV Writers

Lately I've been plowing my way through DVDs of past seasons of the show Criminal Minds. For those who don't know, Criminal Minds is primarily about an FBI team that profiles and catches serial killers. It's completely unrealistic (the profilers are also the interrogators and investigators- at least they don't also do the lab work!- and they nearly always swoop in at the last second to save the latest victim), but okay, it's a TV show. I also realize that being a serial killer requires that something in your brain is not quite right. Even so, I'm annoyed. There have been several shows where our killer has OCD. I could almost even deal with that. Out of 100 episodes about people who kill, why couldn't a few have OCD? Well, in a group of people known for their sense of responsibility, serial killer doesn't seem too likely. Plus, they actually had a character say about our OCD killer, "OMG, he totally can't stop himself," as though his OCD compulsion was killing. No, actually his OCD compulsion seemed to be cutting the crusts off his sandwich just so.

Anyway, I'm sure this isn't really worth being annoyed over. It's a guilty pleasure show full of holes, this is just another one.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Friday Updates

I'd been sitting with the anxiety about lunch with my aunt, and while it hadn't disappeared, it had gone down quite a lot. Today she called me at work to cancel. She'd had a fight with my dad and it stressed her out so much she didn't want to meet. Her calling me at work was a clear OCD-based action on her part. She couldn't wait the few hours it would take till I got home to get it off her chest. I'm torn. On the one hand, yay, I get my morning back. On the other hand, it actually made my anxiety zoom back up a little, with the uncertainty involved- would she change her mind again before tomorrow, now we have to reschedule, etc. I went for a brief walk, and now I'm feeling okay-ish again.

Interactions like this with her always remind me why I'm willing to sit with tough exposures: I don't want to live a life like hers, so stressful, so empty.

But a great thing happened today, too. I went to the knitting at lunch group! The people were so welcoming and nice. Oftentimes at the end of a social event, I think ugh, that sucked, or even worse, ugh, I suck. Today I left feeling like I couldn't wait to go back. Yay for scary social event #15!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

In the Yucky Middle

I'm in a place where I'm succeeding at more and more exposures. So now I'm moving up to harder ones. For more than a year, when interacting with my aunt, I've nearly always "demanded" something that eases my fears, be it changing the time or date or location of our time together, or when things have been really bad, canceling altogether. My aunt has long been an OCD trigger for me (it's not uncommon for a person to seem "contaminated" for no logical reason- my aunt is that person for me). Now I have the added fear that I will harm HER. And then the extra fear layered on top that if I harm her, the ripple effect will mess up my whole family.

SO, that's awesome. Anyway, starting two weeks ago with the trip to the grocery store, I've been working HARD at letting my interactions with my aunt evolve naturally. It has been difficult. This weekend, it feels like all the options are terrifying- if I drive, if she drives, if we carpool, if we go separately- disaster waiting at every turn. But as yet, I haven't done anything but let my aunt decide time, place, transportation. It feels good, it feels terrible. The compulsions may go away, but the thoughts don't, and I think that's the trickiest part about sticking with ERP.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Okay, This Is Getting a Little Weird

This afternoon I went for a run. On my way back home, what do I see? A whole raw chicken (in a bag), in the grass by the sidewalk. How often should one expect to run into packages of raw chicken while running? This was a completely different street than last time. Apparently, chicken is my destiny.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Scary Social Events Update

My goal for the year was to average one "scary social event" each week, that is a social event that didn't involve my family. I was doing quite well until early April, reaching event number 12 during week number 14 of the year. The start of my two month break coincided almost exactly with my aunt's latest hospital admission. I've been working to ramp up again. Last week was my book club. Tomorrow I'm scheduled to start a 3 or 4 week knitting class. I really don't want to go, but I know that it's mostly OCD-based. What if the teacher touches my knitting? What if my classmates are sick? Plus generic social anxiety. I feel the same way about EVERY new social activity. I'm pretty sure that if I get back on a once a week (or more) schedule, these won't feel as hard. Here's hoping.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The OCD Project, Episode 4

I didn't like this episode quite as much as the others, but mostly because of the production, or maybe I should say editing. They spent what felt like half the time showing them doing their toilet/food exposures. While those were perfectly fine exposures (if probably more extreme than they needed to be), they sure didn't need to be so prevalent. Did we even see Cody do anything this episode? (Edited to note that this week's episode on wasn't complete, so I guess I missed a few people). Despite the fact that I have contamination OCD, I'll be disappointed if they give all their attention to that type of OCD at the expense of the others. The preview from next week looks more focused on the people with the fears of death and harm. I'd be much happier in a haunted house than a dumpster, that's for sure.

A couple of striking moments from this week: when Arine's mom is eating that toilet water scone and says to Arine, "I would do anything to help you," I was so moved. When Kristen's in the men's bathroom later and she says, "I'm not doing ANYTHING in this bathroom," that so would have been me! And I really really hope that Kristen has a breakthrough before the end of this show. While I understand where in her head those weird tantrums/sobbing fits are coming from, I really do, I'm also embarrassed for her. Think of going back to your life knowing that everyone you know has seen you do that! Now, if at the end of the day, I'd overcome my OCD, it'd totally be worth it. But if not, not so much. Please have gotten better, Kristen!

Last week I discovered that Dr. Tolin's got a weekly blog on He answers a lot of questions. In the blog written for episode 3, he clearly addresses the issue of learning to live with uncertainty. He also brought it up briefly during the show this week. I was glad to see that. He obviously knows his stuff, but it's hard to get everything into 42 minutes a week.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Exposures Plus Minor Meltdown

I touched a garbage can at work, stored my lunch in the "contaminated" refrigerator, and ate a piece of candy handed to me by a coworker. All good stuff. Then I stopped at the grocery store on my way home. The clerk had a weird rash on her arms. She's handled my groceries in the past without it stressing me out, but today I was buying a gift for my dad for Father's Day, so the Responsibility/Harm side of my OCD emerged and I freaked a little. There was a fire in the apartment building across the street from the store, complete with five fire trucks, and I think that started me out a little on edge (everyone was fine, but there was a lot of smoke!)

Several hours later, the rash is still making me feel a little anxious, but I plan to give Dad the gift. Off to watch The OCD Project Episode 4 online.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Oh My Gosh, Kids!

My scary meeting today was at the zoo. I did pretty okay with being near the (formerly) vomiting woman. Afterwards, I wandered the zoo for a bit. I ended up behind a family with an 18-month-ish old little girl. She was lagging behind her dad by about 5 feet, and she encountered some food on the ground. It looked like a pancake, although I don't suppose it was. Anyway, she happily peeled (really, it was squashed flat!) it off the sidewalk, and before her dad could stop her, it was in her mouth! She didn't swallow it, but oh, my! Her dad just laughed. Haha, I don't know how you OCD-ers with kids manage it!

Feeling Really Empowered. And Scared

I'm marching through exposures (sometimes literally, when I've been walking in places that formerly felt contaminated to me), and it feels great. Mostly. Mixed in is so much anxiety! As expected, of course. If there weren't any anxiety involved, it wouldn't be so difficult, and I would have done this years ago.

My latest "underlying fear" relates to my aunt. After 8 weeks of needing to be driven by members of my family to up to 5 appointments a week, she's off oxygen and able to drive again. As I sat on the bus next to a coughing sneezing man today, I imagined myself getting a cold, giving it to my aunt, and starting her oxygen/needing rides cycle all over again. Ugh. I remind myself that I and my family will be happier in the long run if I don't have OCD, even if it's inconvenient in the short term. I'm still really anxious, though.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Big Exposure Opportunity

So tomorrow I have an offsite meeting, and I'll need to ride there with coworkers. There's a good chance this will mean riding in the car with the woman who was out yesterday due to vomiting. Doing this would be a HUGE exposure for me, but I'm feeling surprisingly good about it.

Lately I've done enough exposures that I'm starting to recognize the little "high" I get after completing one. I'm an exposure junkie!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Still a LOT of Work to Be Done

I'm doing better, I'm working hard, and I'm pleased with this. But several things happened today to remind me of the work still ahead of me.

I was on the bus, and the woman across from me had a cast on her arm. I've considered casts contaminated ever since I broke my arm and witnessed the shockingly unhygienic way my cast was applied (I say that even without my OCD eye- they dropped items on the floor of the hospital, and then picked them back up and used them). But I was fine until she went to get off the bus and couldn't get her coat on, and asked for my help. I offered it, but then didn't touch anything with that hand until I could get to work and wash it. So that wasn't so great.

Then I got to work and learned that a coworker is out with what is likely the stomach flu. My instinct was to go home and huddle in the fetal position, but I didn't. But I'm not even close to being able to shrug it off, either.

And finally, my sister is moving across town today. We're currently having a thunderstorm- it's been raining HARD for close to an hour. Mmm, a new wet house, full of all her wet boxes. Can't wait to get over there and share my office's stomach flu germs on my wet feet.

So, yeah, I'm still freaked out awfully easily. But I'm attending an event tonight where for the first time in at least 5 years, I'm bringing an uncooked fruit dish to a potluck (oven-cooked items are "safer" of course), and I'm still going to visit my sister after that event. Not a perfect ERP day, but not terrible, either.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Hmm, Well That's a Little Embarrassing

One of my coworkers just returned from the conference in Atlanta that I was supposed to go to. She brought me two gifts: The first was fine, peach cookies (well, fine but gross, like eating my peach hand lotion). The other gift: a little mini spray tube of hand sanitizer that she got from a vendor. When she gave it to me, she said, "I know you're always a little careful." Ack. Ack! I'm known as a germophobe! I don't think I've ever said anything to her about this. I guess I'm not as stealth as I thought. Bummer.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The OCD Project, Episode 3

This week, they started in on some big exposures. The ones I paid most attention to were those of Arine and Kristen, who both have contamination OCD like me. They were not to wash their hands (or even touch water) for three days. So that would be hard enough, but then, they went to spend some time with homeless people in Los Angeles, including shaking their hands.

Scariest of all, however, was Arine's assignment to stick her finger in the slimy water running down the filthy gutter nearby. Then she ran her hands over her clothes and hair and face. Hoo-boy, I'm not sure I would have done it! One thing I noticed, and perhaps only a person with OCD would, is that she had a bandage on her finger. For someone with an HIV fear like Arine to do that with a cut on her finger was astounding. I was impressed.

Kristen struggled a lot more. While outside of OCD, I don't think I'd have much in common with Kristen, our reaction to OCD-type things strikes me as quite similar. When she did her "worst case scenario" last week, it didn't involve dying from contamination, it involved living a crappy pointless life due to OCD. And yet she still struggles so hard to do these exposures. I'm certain I would be reacting the same as she is if I were on the show. She wants to do it, but it seems SO HARD!

Each week I like this show even more. Hope it stays as good. And as usual, my exposures all seem just a little easier after watching theirs.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Kicked My Nemesis to the Curb!

Actually, I didn't, my aunt decided she didn't need chicken. But I was ready and willing to buy it, and I felt good about that. We did buy ground beef, though, chicken's good friend germ-wise, and I made it through with flying colors. What I'm most proud of is that I didn't ask my aunt to make any accommodations for my fears. I touched everything I needed to touch, and I let her give me a hug before I left. She did not, however, ride around in one of those electric scooter carts. Both of us were scared of those. :)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Maybe Grubby Is My Natural State

Funny thing about habituation. The last couple of weeks, I've only been showering approximately every other day. The night that I don't shower, I feel uncomfortable for a bit, but it passes. But by the second night, usually after I've gone running or been gardening, and I'm smelling pretty terrible, I feel TOO comfortable. Do I REALLY have to shower? Umm, yes! Off to shower now.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Chicken is My Nemesis

My third post about chicken! [turns out it was actually my fourth!] I'm vegan, for reasons completely unrelated to OCD. But it sure is nice not to have raw meat in my home, for reasons completely related to OCD. This week I'm taking my aunt shopping for the first time in a year, and after weeks (per my sister) of buying precooked turkey for sandwiches, she's now decided to buy chicken. Raw chicken, of course. I so do not want to be anywhere near raw chicken. But again, the exposure gods are looking my way, and it's for the good. Right?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Foiled Again!

I told myself I was leaving the garbage can out there so it would get wet, and I was. But I was ALSO letting the garbage man germs dissipate. That's OCD thinking for sure. Also, the sun had come out and the edges of the can were drying off.

I decided to go for a run before taking the can back in. In those 30 minutes, the yard waste guy came by and knocked the can over, and it started raining again. So it was wet, dirty, and again covered with garbage man germs! The world is conspiring to get me better exposures, and I suppose I'm glad. Luckily my runs always steel my resolve for exposures, and I didn't freak out.

Now I'm off to use the bathroom at the grocery store. If I'm lucky someone will sneeze on me!

OCD Makes You Stupid?

Actually, it just makes you LOOK stupid. Yesterday I stopped at the library on my way home. About a week ago I looked up a book I wanted and wrote down the call number, but I left it at home. I thought it should be in the knitting section, but it wasn't there. I didn't want to look it up on the computer system, because I didn't want to touch the common computer. The librarian saw me looking puzzled, and I muttered something about not remember where the book was, and umm, I wasn't sure how to find out (said while standing three feet away from computer with library catalog on it.)

She of course looked it up, and then walked me over to where the book was (surely thinking I wasn't bright enough to find it myself. Sigh).

Then she handed it to me. So, not only did I get to look stupid, I got exposed to all those computer germs anyway. :)

On a better note, I put my garbage can out last night despite my fears, and as we speak it's filling up with today's rain. I'm letting sit out there for a while for maximum exposure yuckiness.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

If It's Not One Thing, It's Another

I've been able to continue my streak of only washing my hands after using the restroom at work. So my OCD has to find a new way to keep me under its thumb. This week it's the garbage can. I've developed a fear of water in the garbage can, either mine or my neighbors' cans. Because, of course, it's a slurry of who knows what, and it has to be dumped out somewhere, and what if I walk through it, and on and on like that. The fact that I've been putting out garbage in the rainy NW for 12 years and I'm not dead yet apparently matters not at all.

So yesterday I went outside to put the garbage out. Guess what. That record rainfall over the last week apparently all gathered in my garbage can! Of course it did. When I picked the can up, garbage can water ran all over the driveway. And then I tried to dump it in the grass, and instead poured it on my just about to ripen strawberry patch. Yum!

I'm tellin' ya. It's just not possible to get this stuff right! Which of course is a clear sign that I just shouldn't try. Still working on that.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The OCD Project, Episode 2

Week 2, the show continues to be interesting. The part that resonated the most for me was Dr. Tolin talking about why they need to give up ALL their compulsions: if they don't, if their feared outcome doesn't happen, they'll attribute that to their remaining compulsions, and maintain the fear. That is SO true for me. For months, I've been stopping some but not all of my handwashing. Nothing terrible has happened. Rather than concluding that handwashing isn't protecting me and isn't needed, I've decided that the limited handwashing I'm still doing is the most critical kind, and I need to keep doing it. That's not what I want. Sigh. Point taken, Dr. Tolin.

The one thing I didn't like about this episode is that the therapists seem to be telling the participants that what they fear will "never happen," rather than working with them to accept that sometimes feared outcomes DO happen, but that we have to learn to live with the uncertainty and do those exposures anyway. Maybe that's still to come.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

OCD, Taco Bell, and Compassion

One of my guilty pleasures is the 7-Layer Burrito at Taco Bell. About once a month I get a major craving, and yesterday was that day. The last time it happened, I stopped at Taco Bell, and there were two homeless guys sitting and eating in the parking lot, and I couldn't bring myself to go in. Yesterday, I think the same guys were there, but I went in anyway. The craving was strong! But once I went inside, there was another grubby homeless guy, probably in his 20s, right in front of me. I watched as he paid for 2 of the cheapest items on the menu with every last penny he had. I watched as he ate a packet of hot sauce plain while waiting for his order to be prepared. And as I watched these things, my only thought was, please don't let him touch anything that my food will touch.

It was literally not until more than 12 hours later that I thought, I could have paid for his food, or bought him something else. Or bought his friend in the parking lot some food. He was eating hot sauce for goodness sake! (He took about 25 packets with his tacos, a sad snack for later.) I also realized I have about 20 coupons at home for free chalupas that they hand out when my basketball team gets to 100 points. I've never used a single coupon, but I'm sure these guys would use them.

The whole thing made me so sad, once I could step back from my fear. Sad for these guys, who at age 25 must have some serious issues to be so down and out, and sad that my own issues blind me from my ability to help others. I know I'll do better next time.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A First!

So, I've mentioned that I've been doing well with exposures lately. I got to the end of my workday today and I realized that I'd only washed my hands once, after using the restroom (and I then touched the door handle on the way out).

That means I didn't wash before eating my lunch, or my apple in the afternoon, or after getting handed documents to proofread, or before handing said documents back to my boss. I didn't wash my hands after coming in from riding the bus in the morning, or after twice filling my water bottle from the drinking fountain that's right outside the restrooms.

And as well as I've been doing with the hand washing, this is probably the first time since OCD that I've accomplished this. Yippee!