Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bleaching the Sidewalk?

The sight of my very particular neighbor hosing every last leaf from her walkway today reminded me of something I came across on a run last week. I was running on the sidewalk, and one of the sidewalks had some soap suds on it, like you might see if someone had washed a car. There was not a driveway or any place nearby to wash a car, however. As I ran past, I noted a very strong smell of bleach. Now, it's possible they had some bleachy water and threw it out near the sidewalk. But it really really appeared that they had washed their sidewalk with bleach. Stop giving the lady with OCD ideas!

No, seriously, this is not something I would do, and I was pretty fascinated, wondering what would motivate such a thing.

Monday, November 28, 2011

It's Almost As Good As Med School

... OCD, that is. I'm kidding. BUT. I do find that being an information junkie with OCD means that I often know more than my doctors about my medical issues. Except about medications; today's doctor's sure do know a lot about medications.

I did not find out much of use at my appointment today. The nurse who took my blood pressure (lower than expected!) and my doctor both had colds, so that was awesome. Actually, it wasn't terrible, since that's an exposure I'm supposed to be having anyway.

Today I also almost got to/had to drive a coworker to the airport- her daughter's having a baby in another city. I was really really nervous about it, since it brought together a whole host of exposures for me. But I was going to do it, and without nearly as much stress as I'd imagined. But then, 15 minutes before we planned to leave, her son called. He happened to be nearby, since he'd taken the afternoon off from work, so he drove her instead. And I was almost, just almost, disappointed.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Light Therapy Side Effects

One of the listed side effects is feeling "jittery." I seem to have that one. For about the last five days I've had this weird anxious-y butterfly feeling in my stomach and chest. Back before garbage day, I was attributing it to that, but it's still going. It makes me feel like there's something wrong with my heart, which is not a good feeling at all. (edited to add: my heart rate is actually up more than 50%- that's apparently what I'm feeling. Guess it's good I have that doctor's appointment coming up.) Online info seems to suggest that the side effects often subside. I'll have to see. I don't think I'm willing to put up with this long term. Maybe the sunshine will stay around for a while.

Friday, November 25, 2011

A Very Full Morning

After the garbage can incident reminded me that if I give OCD an inch, it will take a mile, today I set out to do some exposures. Nothing major. It turned into a really nice morning.

I planned to walk to do some errands, but I decided instead to start out on the bus. As always, I need to push to keep myself on the bus with all those germy people.

Then I went to one Black Friday sale. I ended up purchasing only apples and tulip bulbs there, so perhaps I am not the best Black Friday shopper, but that's okay. My next stop was an accidental black Friday sale and an accidental exposure as well. I needed some purple yarn, so I stopped at the neighborhood yarn shop. They were offering 10% off to anyone who was wearing their pajamas. I guess it symbolized getting up at the crack of dawn to hit the sales. But for a person with bedbug fears, I wasn't thrilled to see everyone in their jammies. My first thought was "must leave this store." But I didn't. Next, I had trouble finding the cotton, and had an awkward encounter with a salesperson. I've noticed recently when awkward things happen to me, I tear up easily and have an automatic "flight" response, but I fought it off today, and did just fine. That felt good. The purple cotton was pricier than I'd hoped, but when I got to the checkstand, it was 40% off! Score!

By this point, after nearly 4 inches of rain (!) this week, the sun had come out. I'm liking my blue light machine, but real live sun feels SO GOOD! So I walked a mile up to the library in the sun, and my mood was fabulous. At the little strip mall next to the library, I found a Christmas present I needed, 30% off. Yay!

Last stop, up the hill to the food coop, where in addition to getting what I went for, I also found a treasure trove of good stuff in the bruised produce for 39 cents a pound bin. Yay, again!

By this point, I was pretty weighed down with purchases, but the sun was still shining as I walked the last mile home, ending with a visit to my favorite futon mattress, still living in the parking strip (now with 4 extra inches of rain!)

What a great day. Off to plant the new tulips.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Depression Workbook

I recently checked out "Overcoming Depression One Step at a Time" from the library. I'm pretty terrible about doing workbooks, especially since I can't write in library copies, but even so, I could see that it was a great book, and I got some good tips from it.

The authors advocate an approach they call "behavioral activation." They differentiate it from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, but I believe it's just another subset, just as Exposure and Response Prevention is a subset of CBT. Ultimately just semantics anyway. The approach basically lets your actions inform your thoughts.

They fully acknowledge that "just doing it" while depressed is no easy task. Instead they start by having you track times of day or activities leading to the most depressed state. So you might start by making changes there. They also teach you to make goals and then break them into really small pieces if needed, to just get started and start a positive reinforcement cycle.

It still will take some level of motivation, but overall, I really liked it. One thing they talked about that's also extremely relevant to anxiety is keeping yourself from rumination, via mindfulness. I put this to use the other day on a run. I was ruminating about, what else, garbage cans, when instead I made myself focus on what was around me. I noticed lots of interesting things about the houses and wildlife I passed by, and the run was made much more pleasant. I love coincidences, so I was pleased when I ran by a church reader board that said "Occupy Mindfulness."

Anyway, I do not think I'm doing this book justice, but I do recommend it.

P.S. Today was garbage day- all the garbage is gone. For now. I will attempt to handle this much more calmly should it happen again.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Garbage, Take Five

I've been doing pretty darned okay with my "neighbor's garbage can" anxiety, even including the fact that they chose this week to throw out their old toilet seat, right there on the very top of the can, where I get to see it every day.

Then yesterday, I had a brilliant idea (/sarcasm)! I have extra room in my can, I would throw one of their extra bags into mine. It might have worked great, had I not been so anxious about grabbing the bag that I went over there when they were clearly home and active in a part of the house where they might see me. Duh, me. I'm standing in the driveway when the door opens and someone comes out to get wood for the fireplace. "Uh, say I, my cat headed that way and I was uh, looking for him. Hope I didn't scare you." Geez. (at least I do have a cat. :) )

Not five minutes later they all went out for the evening. Then I went back and grabbed the garbage. Of course now if they notice, they'll probably assume it was me and wonder why I'm stealing their garbage.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Light Therapy

My winter depression seems mild this year, but it's definitely there; the winter has really only started, too. I finally hauled out the blue light therapy light that I "inherited" last year. It's really small and really easy to use. And so far, I've found it fits really easily into my morning routine. I'd say my mood is slightly better even after just a few days, but this week also has some PMS-y mood stuff going on, so I can't really be sure what's causing what. I'm also really prone to placebo effects when it comes to my depression (which I don't consider a bad thing). Will keep you posted if I see real changes.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Give It Time to Sink In

About three months ago I made a list of things I wanted to ask my doctor about. Most of them are related to getting older/turning 40- nothing major. Then I never got around to making the appointment. Last week I sent an online request for a migraine medication refill. The next day I got a call from my doctor's office telling me it had been two years, and they wanted me to come in to chat before they renewed the prescription.

I freaked out! Well, just inside my head. I said, "do I need to? Umm, I guess I'll decide if I want to keep the medication." And I hung up! After about 30 minutes, I realized I wasn't actually scared of the appointment, and that I needed to make one anyway. So I called back and did that.

But it reminded me that I pretty much always need to that brief amount of time to register any change or unexpected event in my life. To the point than when my family calls to ask me to do just about anything, they preface it with "you don't need to decide right now..."

It would be helpful if I could remember this fact in my "back pocket," so to speak. So that I could skip the freak out part and learn to say something like "let me check my calendar and get back to you." Pretty sure, if it didn't already, my medical file now has a "she's a little nuts" flag on it. Oh, well.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Scary Social Events: A Crapshoot

About a week ago, I looked at the calendar and realized that it had been more than six weeks since I'd attended a "scary social event." Since the original goal was to do this an average of once a week, I was well overdue. Luckily, there were several things coming up on the calendar.

The first was a reception for a non-profit I thought I might be interested in volunteering with. I knew it would be hard for me, since I didn't know anyone, and I'm not a good mingler, but I decided to go for it. It did not work out well. When I walked in, I asked the woman manning the check in table about volunteering. She told me the best thing to do would be to look at their website. My heart sank, as I realized that meant I had basically lost my potential conversation topic before I even got started. Now, if I were a better chit-chatter, I could have talked to the people there, almost all certainly current volunteers, about their experiences. Unfortunately, I am not a good chit-chatter, everyone was sitting with at least one other person at a table, and most of them looked about 20. They didn't have any poster board information to stand in front of and pretend to read. So after about 4 minutes, I left. So, I think we can call that one a dud. It was scary social event #33 for the year, though, even if only for 4 minutes.

On the other hand, yesterday I had a FAR better experience. I suspected I would. The local neighborhood association was volunteering at the food bank. I figured even if the social part went poorly, there'd be something to do. It got off to a rocky start, as I couldn't find the group for about 10 minutes. Once I did, it turned out they all knew each other, but not surprisingly, people who serve on the board of the neighborhood association are very welcoming. I chatted like I knew how, met some very nice people, all of whom live within a quarter mile of me, and helped the community in the process. Scary social event #34: a rousing success. The very very best part? For the entire time I was there, I didn't have one single OCD related thought. Heaven!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Back on the Bus

During the summer, I ride my bike to work. We've had a really nice early fall, so I've continued to ride. But now the rainy season has set in, and I'm back on the bus; the transition can be hard. I don't know what happened, but it was the most crowded bus ever. I actually missed my stop because I couldn't get through all the people to get out. Then of course I had to squish up against everyone to get out. By the time I finally made my way off the bus, I was actually in tears. But even so, I was proud of my decision to get on the bus rather than driving, and happy that I didn't try to avoid this particularly busy bus.

Still didn't really enjoy the process, however.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

On "Vacation"

Once upon a time, when I had a "vacation" I would go on a trip. My environmental views, combined with my OCD, plus the fact that I love to sit at home and read, has led me to a life where a vacation usually involves staying at home.

That's fine when I have a plan and a big project, like this summer when I painted my house while on "vacation." But if I'm not careful, I accomplish nothing and don't even bother to relax. For three years I worked at a school. While we didn't have summer off, we did get 2 weeks each for spring break and winter break. It was fabulous, except for the winter break I spent obsessed with the thought that I might be pregnant. I was not, but I did spend two weeks straight fretting and looking up symptoms on the internet.

I've been off work since Wednesday. I've spent far too much of my time contemplating my neighbor's trash can.

About a year ago I acquired some meditation tapes. I've only used them a couple of times. It's time to really get on that. I need to learn to live in the moment and focus. I want a real vacation!

Saturday, November 12, 2011


Just when I get a little pleased with myself, the garbage cans are out to get me again. This time it's my neighbor's can. Our city recently started collecting food waste in with the yard waste, so now our garbage is only picked up every two weeks. No problem for me, I live alone and don't create much garbage. Plus the yard waste gets picked up more often, great for a gardener like me.

My neighbors however, have 5 or 6 people in their house. They also apparently don't follow directions well, as they missed the first garbage pickup under the new system. So that means a house that already completely filled their bin every week is going to go 4 weeks between pickups. With almost two weeks to go, their can is overflowing already.

I do not like garbage, I like it even less when I imagine it strewn about the street. I know I should just sink into the exposure and work my way through the anxiety. Instead I'm just freaking out about garbage germs. Grrrrr.

Edited to add: After posting this on a yahoo forum, I've been reminded that now is the time to do some exposures! Nooooooo! So I'm going to try. I'll let you know how that goes! :P

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


A few weeks ago, someone I know posted this story on facebook:

There recently was a death of a 98 year old lady named Irena. During WWII, Irena, got permission to work in the Warsaw Ghetto, as a Plumbing/Sewer specialist. She had an ulterior motive...

She KNEW what the Nazi's plans were for the Jews, (being German). Irena smuggled infants out in the bottom of her tool box she carried, and she carried in the back of her truck a Burlap sack, (for larger kids). She also had a dog in the back, that she trained to bark when the Nazi soldiers let her in, and out of the ghetto. The soldiers of course wanted nothing to do with the dog, and the barking covered the kids/infants noises. During her time and course of doing this, she managed to smuggle out and save 2500 kids/infants. She was caught, and the Nazi's broke both her legs, and arms, and beat her severely.

Irena kept a record of the names of all the kids she smuggled out, and kept them in a glass jar, buried under a tree in her back yard. After the war, she tried to locate any parents that may have survived it, and reunited the family. Most of course had been gassed. Those kids she helped got placed into foster family homes, or adopted.

Last year Irena was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize....


Al Gore won, for doing a slide show on Global Warming.

Now, when I read such a thing, that has a ring of "exaggerated internet story, complete with mediocre use of grammar," I first mosey myself over to Sure enough, a few of the details were wrong. She was Polish, actually pretended to be a nurse, not a plumber, she worked with others, who knows about that dog, the dig against poor Al Gore seems gratuitous, and it's not known for sure that she was a Nobel nominee (although it seems reasonable). But as far as the big picture is concerned, the story is true. Irena Sendler died in 2008 at the age of 98.

Now, it's never my goal to guilt or shame myself into feeling less anxious or sad, although as I noted in my last post, it's so easy to do that. So that's not how I took this story, and it's not my intention in passing it along. When I was younger, I was a go-getter: I volunteered up to 20 hours each week in addition to my job, working on environmental issues and with at risk youth, among other things. And now? Well, I spend a lot of my free time on the internet. So, no, I don't want to shame myself back into action. I want to inspire myself back into action. Despite the rampant cynicism we often experience, the fact is that individuals can make a difference.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Depression, the Cartoon

Have you ever read the blog Hyperbole and a Half? It's super amazing, if her style hits you the right way, and for me, it totally does (warning, some language not suitable for work). The Year Kenny Loggins Ruined Christmas made me laugh till I cried, although depending on your religious views, it may be a bit blasphemous; my sister's favorite is This is Why I'll Never be an Adult.

Last week, she added a post about depression. It's sad and funny (mostly sad) and seems pretty accurate; I really relate to trying to "shame" yourself into feeling better by comparing your life to other people's. It also makes me realize I've never had truly bad depression. For this I guess I can only be grateful.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

I Guess That's Not What a Normal Person Would Do

What would a normal person do in this situation? That's what we're sometimes told as a way to figure out if a compulsion is "okay." Would a normal person avoid that situation, wash their hands after touching that object? If "normal" is problematic, try what would a person without OCD do in this situation?

Last week at the soccer game, I tried that approach. My 7 year old niece was playing with her friends on the sideline of my 9 year old niece's soccer game. Their game involved rolling soccer balls around in a big mud puddle, then pulling them out and seeing who could get the most mud off the ball by rolling it through the grass. I watched them do this for about 15 minutes, thinking to myself at first, Ugh. Then I decided, well, no one else seems to care, "normal" people must agree that that's just what 7 year olds do, and I let it go.

Then 10 minutes later, the game ended. My sister turned around and saw them and said, what the heck, stop playing in the mud! Then one of the other girls' dads saw them and said, what the heck, stop playing in the mud! Oops! I guess I got that one wrong.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


I've been pretty aggressive with exposures lately. Not perfect by any means, but I've chosen to hang out with sick people, ridden the bus, gone to potlucks, scheduled events right after wet soccer games, worn "contaminated" clothes, touched "contaminated" things, not rescheduled when OCD said that I should.

I feel powerful and good. I feel terrified. I am determined.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Happy November

Last night I realized just how little it takes to throw me off my game. Trick or treaters, for instance. For years now, I've either gone out or just pretended not to be home, to avoid them. This year I bought my candy and turned on the porch light. It made me surprisingly nervous.

Then my phone, which has been acting up on and off for weeks, started dropping incoming calls again. I called the phone company, and of course they could not reproduce the problem. The uncertainty of it stressed me out, well, a lot.

Two simple things, one really high stress level. I did make it through the trick or treaters, though, and within a few minutes, my anxiety over the phone went down. Then I moved on to another mundane-ish worry- an issue that I won't be able to resolve until the weekend. I reminded myself that this is a PERFECT exposure scenario, having to sit with uncertainty, and that helped a bit.

Last weekend I stumbled upon a super inspirational story on the internet. A story of bravery in the face of true unambiguous tragedy. I've been using it both for inspiration and for perspective. When I have a little more time, I'll share it.