I don't read my old blog posts very often. Usually only when I'm looking to reference something in a current post. Tonight I randomly was looking back about a year and a half ago. In some ways, I can clearly see where I've made some important strides forward. In other ways, I feel like nothing has changed. Next time I do that, I'd like to see a greater contrast.
A while back I was posting goals for the week, and then, I wasn't.
I was reminded of them this morning, as I headed out to the store with some very specific goals: I would drop off a prescription at the pharmacy, then head to the grocery store across the parking lot, where I would use the restroom.
Alas the pharmacy doesn't open until 10 on Sunday. Still, I grabbed my grocery cart firmly by the handles (usually I just pull it from the front), then I used the restroom, and went about my merry shopping way. Then I came home and ate a snack and started my laundry without washing my hands. Oh, and did I mention the woman I passed by with the cold sore? I tried to tell myself she probably checked out in my line, but I didn't push that one too hard.
Scary for a bit, mostly satisfying!!
So, goals for this week: Use an unfamiliar public restroom. Attend a movie theater, with no shower after. Take a bag of yard waste to my parents' house, whether or not it's raining. No handwashing this week at work, even if people have colds. Continue to pet the neighbor's cat without washing after.
I am often amazed by how few people there are who really have their OCD under control. I don't actually believe that it's because those people went off to happily live their lives and are too busy to check in on OCD boards. I'm sure that's true for some people, especially for the lucky few that stumbled onto good treatment early on in their OCD, but I sincerely believe that most people get a little better, then get worse, repeat, repeat, repeat.
HOWEVER, there are a few people who post on the yahoo OCD Board who truly seem as close to cured as you can get. And they tell the same story: they decided they weren't going to do compulsions anymore. It took some time and it took some work, but it WORKS. And now, when obsessions crop up, they smack them down immediately, before OCD can take hold again.
It's a testament to how strong the hold of OCD is, that despite knowing this, that despite how crappy OCD makes our lives, that despite how straightforward treatment is (at least for contamination and checking types, like I have), how HARD it is to do what those people have done. I'm s-l-o-w-l-y getting there, but despite my successes, there are still exposures that seem soooo hard and scary.
On Sunday, I went to a concert with my parents (my mom's in a community orchestra). After the concert, I helped my mom clean up the reception, then we all went to dinner.
I ordered finger food and ate it without washing first. I ate food off both my parents' plates, I shared food with my mom using my fingers. I drank my water after my dad picked it up by the rim with hands I know are washed zero times every day. Then at the end of the meal, my mom joked about how we couldn't share a dessert because I wouldn't be willing to eat a piece of cake off the same plate. I will admit I was ticked off, although I made a joke about it. She really doesn't get OCD at all, and she also seems not to ever notice when I do exposures.
A few months ago, I wrote out a list of things I wanted to do this year, but that OCD preferred I didn't: ride the bus, shop at thrift stores, things like that. One thing that took me until this week to do was "sell things on ebay." I did it years ago, but recently I've been afraid of sending germs off with my packages, or having something go wrong, or you know, just general disaster. This week I sold two things. It was a little scary, but I mailed them off. No disaster yet.
My cat Simon died on Tuesday. He had a heart defect, that apparently led to a clot breaking off and lodging in an artery. It wasn't a peaceful way to go, but on the plus side, he didn't suffer over days as he got sicker and sicker, as often happens with pets.
I adopted Simon when I already had two cats, and really didn't need another. I was just visiting the shelter with a friend. He had the most amazing, sad, pathetic "take me home" face. However, when you took him out of the cage to visit with him, he put up the most ridiculous racket I've ever heard out of a housecat. I assume that's why he was still there making that same pathetic face when I went back to check on him a week later. And then he was mine.
As long as he wasn't in a shelter or a car, he was a sweet cheerful easy-going kitty. He started out terrified of outside, but he grew to love it. Luckily he never figured out how to get over the chain link fence in the back yard, so I didn't have to worry about him getting into the street or cat fights. Not that he would get in a cat fight. His approach to meeting other cats went something like, "Yay, it's another cat!!" The one time he tangled with another kitty, he almost died, because he apparently lay down on his back to play, and the kitty nearly got his jugular. He may not have been super smart...
I cannot tell you how much time I've spent contemplating the damn cupcakes. Will they be good? Will I food poison everyone? Do cupcakes require a plate or can I just provide napkins? Should I make extra in case my partner in cupcakes forgets? Will I get sick and cough all over everyone's cupcakes? Does it matter if I do? Does cream cheese frosting require refrigeration? And did you know that it IS possible to eat too many cupcakes?
Well my parents and my work both presented me with a couple of big old exposures yesterday. The parents one is sort of personal and the work one is sort of boring (I work in budgets after all) but suffice it to say, I spent some time worrying about disaster. But overall, I'm doing okay just sort of ignoring the worry and moving on. It probably would be therapeutically better to let the anxiety "wash over me" and then fade away. But whatever. That doesn't sound like a fun way to spend my weekend, does it? Regardless, I think I'm doing okay with these, and I'm happy about that.
Whenever I head out to knit night, I tell myself that no matter what I encounter there, I will not take a shower when I get home. Some nights that's harder than other nights. Tonight was a "hard night." While chatting with the woman next to me, we got talking about her work. She's a dental hygienist. I was pleased that hearing that didn't set me off. But THEN, she mentioned that her last patient today had cold sores. She sent him home, but then she spent the next 5 minutes chatting about cold sores. This is actually what first triggered my OCD back in 1997, a fear of what I thought was my boyfriend's cold sore (turned out he didn't actually have one after all). Fond memories, there! Anyway, just thinking about them makes me want to take a shower. Cool, no? I'm not taking the shower, but I'm not feeling great. I'm learning that OCD fears make me want to eat junk food. If I get over my OCD, I'll probably lose 20 pounds!
About a month ago, I agreed to provide treats for our May birthdays at work. We have a coworker who's gluten-free, so I'm attempting to make my cupcakes gluten free, too. I think I can do it, still experimenting a little. But OCD has really latched onto this. What if my gluten free products mingle with the flour in the pantry, or the bagels I bought? I've got this idea that my coworker isn't just sensitive to gluten but will somehow die if she eats it. I know I'm going to make them anyway, but I hate the worry. Trudge, trudge, keep on going.
Well, it's always the things we don't worry about. I went to my parents' house. I ate the pizza. I forgot that I don't really have the enzymes to digest cheese anymore, living the mostly vegan life that I do. I got rather violently ill. And plugged up the toilet. So awesome when you have OCD. I got through it, though. My niece has Asper gers and had the most amazing tantrum I've seen. It was not the best day ever. My mom claims she had a nice Mother's Day. My mom's funny that way.
My dream is to live life mostly like a "normal" person. i suppose I should instead say a person without OCD, in terms of the places I go and the decisions I make.
I've done a lot of exposures in the last year, but I've also spent a lot of time ruminating, and I also still make a lot of choices based on how I feel from an OCD perspective.
So I'm going to work hard on this. This weekend my mom invited me for pizza on Mother's Day (the same day she's also babysitting for my sister's kids all day- something might be wrong with this picture, but I am at least bringing her cupcakes. Anyway...)
As soon as I said yes, I got scared that my nieces would be sick. I almost went so far as canceling.
But I didn't. I like pizza. And I was recently saddened when my sister (very kindly) told me that she's changed her children's guardian in case of her death from me to her mother in law, because they know her so much better than they know me. And that's partly because I'm lazy, but it's in large part because her kids cause me OCD problems.
Last week I got a newsletter from a non-profit I donated to last year. They're right down the street from me. They were looking for a portable table to use at outreach events. I had the perfect table. I've used it twice, neither of those times in the last six years, and it was languishing in my attic. Great! Then OCD stepped in. It's a little flimsy, what if it falls over? It's a folding table, what if someone pinches their fingers when they close it back up and sues the non-profit and they hate me? What if the woman at the office has a cold when I deliver the table! Huh. Nice try, OCD! It made me nervous but I dropped it off yesterday. She put it together in front of me to make sure she could, and didn't come close to pinching her fingers. :)
I'm Ann, a 43 year old woman who has struggled with OCD for the last 17 years. I've been in treatment with some success, but never really put a knock out punch on my compulsions. I started working toward that goal in 2009. Obviously this is a work in progress. This blog chronicles my journey, as well as discussing OCD more generally.