Friday, December 30, 2011

Today, I Will Deal With Today

Another goal for the new year. I want to wake up and plan today, think about today. What's on today's list. Not what's on the list of maybes for next week, next month, next year! Might as well get started today.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My Brain on OCD

I found an excellent description of how I experience anxiety, in of all places, a Carolyn Hax column, original link here.

"I have found that people have an amazing ability to adapt and adapt quickly -- I guess it is what makes it possible for us to survive, but it can also work to our detriment. I believe our bodies want what is best for us, but sometimes a body forgets that what is best for us in the moment may not be the best for us over the long haul.

I first noticed this in March. I live in a town that is about 100 miles from the Fukushima Nuclear Plant. While my area was considered "safe" for radioactive fallout, the following days were littered with dozens of daily earthquakes day and night, no food or water to be found for miles, and no gasoline for those who wanted to go in search. After the 10th day of no more than 30 minutes of sleep a night, another Westerner and I decided to get a little distance.

After we drove about 200 miles, there were no more earthquakes, all the stores were open, it was calm and we were safe. Once my brain registered that I was safe, I had this strange feeling of my panic searching for something else to grasp onto ... I had become so accustomed to the fear and panic, that rather than it leaving when it was no longer necessary, it went looking for something else. I had to consciously tell myself there was nothing to fear and that it was OK to feel safe.

I see this in so many of the questions you get -- people are so used to feeling uneasy and unhappy, that even when things are OK, they seem to feel the need to make life fit into their adapted-to uneasiness and unhappiness. Sometimes it is OK to just allow ourselves to let it go, remember a time when life was lighter and allow yourself to go there."

My brain does this all the time. As soon as one fear passes, a new one jumps right into its place. And I'll find that if I'm not feeling anxiety, I'll scan around my brain looking for one. Interesting to think of it not as an OCD trait, but a human one.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Twas the Day After Christmas

Overall, Christmas was nice. Everyone on their best behavior and lots of good food. My OCD has reached the point where I can eat everything and not feel very especially anxious, no matter what germy practices I've witnessed during the food prep process. But for some reason, at some point at every event with my mom, I finally have a mini-fit and complain about something. Last night it was when she picked up the plates from the already set table to move them over for use "buffet style" and held the flat clean surface of each up against her sweater. Way to get sweater crud on everyone's dinner, Mom. Since it's a wool sweater, I know she never washes it. There's no reason to complain about it, though. She'll never stop this sort of thing, it's already been done, and I'm the only one who cares anyway.

But still, I always do. The stupidest thing about it, is that I lose any "credit" I've stored up from not complaining about the first 20 things that I noticed. I'm still Ann, the one who freaks out about the germs. Someday I'll learn.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Need a Different Approach For This One

My job isn't a super stressful one, and I don't have huge amounts of responsibility. It does have some stress and some responsibility, however, centered around budget cuts and dealing with federal funding. My workplace is very ethical. But there are lots of places where judgment calls are made, and every time an issue requiring judgment (or more often, a change from the PRIOR decision) arises, I become convinced that disaster will strike. These disasters always end up with me or my boss in jail (where she blames me), or sometimes I end up fired, or sometimes we just spend hours and hours and hours straightening up the mess I cause and everyone hates me, and we have to pay lots of money back. It's all fabulous to ruminate over.

There's no physical exposure possible for this one, it really calls for a script. I don't have a good track record with using scripts in ERP, because I'm not good at focusing when I try. But I really need to go there. This is one of those situations where it's become so clear that there's just zero point in spending hours worrying about something that will not likely come to pass; even if it did come to pass, I can't do anything about at all until it actually DOES.

So, that's a big goal for the new year: meditation and scripts, woohoo.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Yet Another Exposure

It's not like the continuing opportunity for exposure is any surprise, but here's another. Last week I entered a giveaway contest on a blog I occasionally read. I was hesitant about entering because the thought of a stranger mailing me a package set off my OCD. But, that being the case, I HAD to enter, right? So I did. And I won. Yay! Boo! I'm surprised how much anxiety I feel about it, because I order things through the mail fairly frequently. Just not as much lately I guess. All the more reason to "run right toward" this exposure.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Made it Through Another Day

Today was our potluck plus white elephant exchange at work. It went okay, except for the moment that a white elephant item was revealed to be one of these (and used, I believe):

Can you believe it! Luckily everyone knows the first rule of the white elephant exchange is "never take the big gift," so there's no way I would have opened that, but I do not even know what I'd have done if I had. I got a paperweight, and I was pretty happy about it, compared to the other possibilities.

Last week, I had my picture taken with Santa, also at work. I was pretty proud of myself, because prior to my sitting there, a few people I consider contaminated, including the janitor, had their pictures taken, too. And while you can't quite see it, Santa's gloves are gray and grimy. It's not an especially flattering photo (I'm not sure how I got so squinty) but I figured it was time for a picture.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

What a Day

I touched a bunch of "contaminated" stuff today. I kept meaning to wash my hands, but then I was so busy that I'd look up and another hour had passed and I still hadn't done it. So far, so good.

Then I got an email from IT telling me a virus had been detected and deleted on my computer, and did I remember what I might have done to download it? My brain went straight to, ack, I'll be fired for sure!

Right before lunch time, I walked down the hall toward the kitchen, and woah! there was water cascading out of a light fixture into a (luckily) empty cubicle. At first we thought it was clean water from a small water heater on the floor above us, but soon the smell made it clear that there was a toilet involved. Excellent news! The water looked clear at least. Much better than the raw brown sewage that came down on someone's car in the parking lot last year. Yes, it's an old building.

I was surprisingly okay about the waterfall, although I was certainly grateful not to be the woman whose office it did eventually infiltrate. She had an umbrella over her computer at one point.

Even so, tomorrow's our holiday potluck. and my first thought was to skip it- the leak was really really close to the kitchen where all our food will be stored and the housekeeping staffer who helped clean up the spill today is the same person who will put out a stack of plates for tomorrow's potluck. But I know that no one else is having this thought, so potluck I shall.

Then I came home to my nice relaxing house, but first I had to pass the neighbor's still not cleaned up garbage. Also excellent.

I guess this is the point you just have to give in to it all.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

OCD and Strep

One of the comments on ocdtalk's post here got me thinking about strep and OCD.

It seems clear there's a connection. For the most part, the OCD community seems to support it only for kids who have an extremely sudden onset, like turning on a switch. My OCD wasn't like that, and I was in my 20s when it really came on strong. Even in those sudden onset cases, while antibiotics can "cure" it, it apparently can return. I also get the impression that it's a pretty long course of antibiotics that's required, although I haven't researched it much.

The whole issue does get me wondering, though. Around ages 10-11, I had strep throat at least three times. I think my sister only had it once. I have OCD, she doesn't. Is there a link? I don't know. Or could people prone to OCD also be more prone to strep? I don't know.

If I knew that there was a high chance that antibiotics would mellow out my OCD symptoms, I'd go there. But considering the docs barely agree on what to do with the little ones with strep and OCD, I don't think they'll be treating adults with OCD with antibiotics any time soon.

Maybe in 20 years we'll all look back in wonder at why it took so long, but until then, it's the ERP route for me.

What's your strep story? Did you have strep throat as a kid? Did it seem to correlate in any way with your OCD symptoms?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Garbage Update

I'm sure you've all been thinking about my neighbor's garbage! Just me? Well, here's an update anyway. Today the (once again) overflowing can got knocked over. Actually, I think they ran it over with their car (well, one of their six cars- now they have one that can only be described as the "Scooby van"- it's metallic gold colored and it appears to be from circa 1974). Guess it's hard to see the garbage can while driving the Scooby van. Garbage was strewn about. They mostly picked it up, but about 20 pieces escaped and are blowing around our driveways as I type.

When I went out tonight and discovered this un-picked up garbage, some of it in my yard, my brain said, go pick it up! Right now! Then you'll know for sure how this episode will end!

But I didn't, and I still haven't. I did, with my bare hand, pick up the pieces that had already floated into my yard and returned them to the neighbor's driveway. One was a piece of cotton- possible bathroom garbage! I'm confident that the anxiety I feel will pass.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Going To Have to Face It

My list of Scary Things Goes Something Like This:


Stomach Flu, Cold Sores

Colds and Flu and Garbage Germs

All the Other Creepy Germs

Now, this list can be rearranged somewhat. Whatever germ is closest to me at any given time tends to temporarily zoom to the top of the list until it's gone or my anxiety peaks and ebbs.

On my way home from work yesterday, I was contemplating all of this and realizing that to live the life I'm looking for, I'm going to have to accept that some, possibly all, of these things could come into my life. The reason bedbugs are so high is that it can take time and other exposures to get rid of them, and it seems so overwhelming. But the fact is, if I got them, I'd have no choice but to deal, and I would.

Knowing this doesn't actually make the process seem any easier, but it does make me realize there's no point in ruminating and avoiding, because when I do, I'm also avoiding a lot of good things that life can bring.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

iPhone as OCD Treatment?

Partly this seems great, partly it makes me cringe, and somehow it seems like it would wear off at some point. I guess as long as the photo is dated, you don't have to worry that it's yesterday's photo...

I still hate it that ERP seems so unknown.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Looking Forward

I've never contemplated suicide. Well, that's not true. I've contemplated and decided that it's something I would never do. There have been plenty of times, however, when I've thought to myself that being dead would be a-okay: I wouldn't have to worry any more, at least. The whole idea of not minding death is ironic, though, considering how much mental effort I've spent over the years worrying about getting sick and dying. Heh.

Lately, there's been a change. Life, while not perfect, is pretty good. When I look forward, contemplating my future, it's with a sense of anticipation, not dread or resignation (well, usually anyway). I enjoy so many things and people in my life. If I were to die tomorrow, I'd miss out on so many good times.

But even in the smaller sense of my future, there's been a change. I'm noticing that I look forward to things nearly every week. Mostly little things: a movie, an event with my sister's family, hanging out with my parents, a sporting event, a potluck at work. I'm so used to dreading events in my future, that it's an astounding change for me.

Life's not all rainbows and unicorns, it couldn't possibly be. But it's getting better and for that I am thankful.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Still Need a Cognitive Update On This One

I still struggle with the thought of giving someone something as simple as a cold. I either worry that they'll in turn give it to their immune compromised grandma, or some trip or event will be ruined because they were sick.

Last week I worried about both. As I mentioned, my coworker flew off to help with the birth of her very first grandchild. I fretted that I'd get her sick before she left and then she wouldn't be able to be around her grandchild, or at least would be miserable from illness.

Well, I didn't get her sick. She got herself sick. As far as I can tell, she still snuggled right up to her granddaughter. And while she wasn't thrilled to be sick, nothing came of it. She had a great trip and all was well.

Why can't I get this through my thick skull? That remains a big one to work on. Luckily winter gives me plenty of opportunity.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

It Really Does Work

Despite having a decidedly mediocre day yesterday, I had one amazing exposure. It worked in textbook fashion. I went over to my sister's to make cards and gift tags with her and with my nieces.

Just as she did last time I was there, my older niece used the bathroom (and let's just say she wasn't just peeing) and didn't wash her hands. I know that plenty of people never wash their hands, but I can't help but think that little kids aren't, shall we say, the most careful wipers.

So, yeah, anyway, she came back out and proceeded to feel to the urge to check out (and touch) all the many craft supplies I'd brought. Ooh, was I tense! I imagined ways I could avoid touching the craft stuff without looking obvious. I sighed as I mentally cancelled my plan to make some cards for a craft sale at work next week.

But I also knew this was a good exposure. My nieces pretty never wash their hands-nor did I as a kid- and nothing much came of it, so in my non-OCD head, I knew this wasn't really a big deal.

So, after a bit of angst, I did nothing. I made gift tags, I touched whatever I wanted, and I, and they, all ate dinner, some of it finger food, without washing up beforehand.

By the end of the night, I felt totally fine about it. No anxiety at all. I put all the craft stuff away at home without stress. I'll likely make cards for next week, unless I decide not to for some other (non-OCD) reason.

It was awesome! A successful ERP feels amazing.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Maybe Tomorrow

All day I've been composing a really positive post in my head. But then I went and had a reasonably miserable day. Argh. But the positive is still there lurking around. So perhaps tomorrow that post will see the light of day.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Some Stories You Should Keep To Yourself

Today at lunch, one of my coworkers excitedly told us she had a "gross" story to tell. And boy was she right. It involved a seriously vomiting child on public transit. Right behind her. This very morning. And of course, I was now sitting next to her.

By the transitive properties of OCD, she is totally contaminated, and I am, too. It's a good exposure, but I still think some things should just not be shared. Sigh.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Here's What I Did This Weekend

I stayed home. And it was an exposure. I visit my various family members every couple of weeks. But I will very often schedule it last minute, so I can assure myself that I'm not sick and neither are they. There was no reason to visit anyone this weekend, but we were all healthy and I REALLY REALLY wanted to call them and schedule and "get it over with." But I didn't. I called and scheduled for next weekend instead.

The challenge for this week will therefore be to continue on with life, rather than spending the week trying to avoid germs.

Saturday, December 3, 2011


I'm not a very disciplined person. This is not strictly true, When I'm in school I'm extremely disciplined. I maintained a 4.0 in high school, kept up my grades while playing a varsity sport in college, and took a full schedule of classes while studying accounting and working 32-40 hours back in 2007.

Outside of academics, though, things don't look as good. I hate to clean, I'm sort of a slacker at work, and I just may be addicted to the internet. Exercising 3-5 times a week is my most focused activity. I'm not overweight, but I must just have a good metabolism, because I eat an awful lot of junk food.

I'm trying to get working on my discipline, especially after noticing that on evenings when I just never turn on the computer, I get a whole heck of a lot further down my to-do lists.

I can't help but think that getting more disciplined in my free time would also help me push forward in my approach to OCD. I'll let you know how this all works out. Going to turn off the computer now!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Relapse and Progress At the Same Time?

Lately I've been feeling like I've relapsed. I think it's due to all the time spent thinking about my neighbor's garbage (which will likely continue to be a "problem" pretty permanently due to our new garbage system).

But I also feel like I can really see the right path ahead of me: the one in which I face a little extra discomfort now in order to avoid a lifetime more of discomfort.

It's a testament to the power of OCD that even so, I'm still tempted to do the compulsions. But so far, I'm holding out, and I sure hope I continue to do so.