Friday, March 30, 2012

A Decent OCD Day, But I Really Need to Get it Together

I am an intensely disorganized person. I cringe to think about all the time I have wasted in my life looking for items I've misplaced. But I've generally been pretty good about bus passes. For close to 15 years now, I've been fortunate enough to work at jobs that provide free annual bus passes. But boy, you sure don't want to lose that pass. And with the exception of the time that my backpack was stolen and I was the victim of ID theft, I never have lost a bus pass. Until now. It was destined to happen. I rarely take the bus these days, as I've been riding my bike a lot more. Without the need to find the pass everyday, sure enough, it's gone.

I can remember the last time I saw it, and I just KNOW I set it somewhere off to the side, but I have torn apart the room it should be in, and it's just not there. For two weeks I didn't worry about it, figured I'd find it soon enough. Last night, it became clear I wasn't going to find it, and OCD took over. Because unfortunately, my bus pass is also my work ID, with 24/7 access to our building. And the ID says what that building is.

So of course last night I became convinced that I'd actually dropped it somewhere, and the person who found it was plotting to break into the building this very weekend. And it would be ALL MY FAULT for not reporting it missing sooner. So of course last night I also became convinced that the security guy who replaces cards would be out today, or not respond to my email.

BUT, the good news: instead of staying up looking into the wee hours, or worrying, I made myself go to bed, and surprisingly, I slept fine. Then by the time I woke up, my worry had dropped from about an 8 to a 3. The security guy doesn't get in until 1:00 every day. I sent an email at 11:00 and then let it go. And by 1:29, my new badge was in my hand. Of course then I worried that if someone had found the badge, I would somehow get ID thefted or stalked. The badge only has my name on it, though, so there's not much to be done with it, especially now that it doesn't open anything. They can ride the bus until August, though.

In any case, even that fear only lasted about 15 minutes, and didn't distract me from my work. All in all, I was pretty happy with my approach and how it worked. BUT, I was also really really clearly reminded that I need to get more organized and focused. My house is a mess, my brain is scattered, and my willpower regarding all kinds of things is just rotten these days. I just read an article that stated that willpower can be improved by practice, like building up a muscle. I need to try that. Things need to improve around here.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

When the Universe Says Yes Yes Yes and OCD Says No No No

As I sort of mentioned in the last post, I backed out of a basketball game on Sunday. The reason I said yes in the first place, is that the universe seemed to be telling me to go.

It was a game my dad and I had considered attending months ago, the night was a fundraiser for a non-profit that my mom's on the board of, it was a Sunday game so it would end early and I wouldn't lose sleep on a "school" night, it was a game that our not-very-good team had a chance of winning. So I had considered buying a ticket anyway. But chose not to spend the money. But then, on Sunday morning I was offered a free ticket (approx $50 value). I normally wouldn't even have checked that email. It was a really really good ticket with a great view. My potential seat mate was someone I knew well enough that it wouldn't be awkward (always a consideration). Could there have been any greater sign I was supposed to go? Not so much. Add to it, it would be a fabulous OCD exposure!

So I told my friend I'd love to go. Then I went to mow the lawn. And my brain started humming. I thought to myself, well, for a free ticket, normal etiquette says you buy the ticket provider a beer. And oh my gosh, what if he was drunk on the beer I bought him and got in an accident on the way home and died. Or even worse, killed someone else. Let's not take into account the fact that this guy's had season tickets for at least 4 years- I could see him in his seat from mine. That means he's managed to get home without killing anyone, oh, about 160 times so far. Didn't matter, OCD said, there's always a first time. Plus my buying the beer would change up the timing.

Sigh. Really? I bought that? I backed out of the game? Yep, I did. My team won in a squeaker, by the way. Everyone lived.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Oops, Long Time, No Post

Well, I sure haven't been running toward discomfort lately. Just this evening, I almost signed up for a scary social event. Came thisclose. Then backed out. Ugh.

But I did tell my best Seattle friend today that I'm coming to visit this summer. Once you say it out loud, it's got to be true!

Friday, March 16, 2012

What Will They Think of Next

Recently saw this posted on Facebook. A friend had taken this photo in a restaurant bathroom. Her comment was "now I've seen everything." But sure enough, people came along to say they wish that door protectors were in all bathrooms; after all, some people don't wash their hands. Now, I of all people can theoretically understand the sentiment. But the fact is, if you're worried about what's on their hands in the bathroom, you pretty much shouldn't touch anything. And while I get that sentiment, too, it's just not a good idea.

It continues to amaze me the extent to which society tries to push germ phobia. Listen people, it's not all it's cracked up to be. :)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Book Review- Zelah Green: Dating Queen

A number of months ago I reviewed the young adult book Zelah Green by Vanessa Curtis. Well, Zelah's back, and I've been asked to review Zelah Green: Dating Queen (the books seems to have different titles in different countries, thus the title on the cover photo). When we last saw our heroine, she had just left a rather quirky residential treatment facility, where she'd been treated for her OCD. It helped a bit, but didn't quite take.

Now she's home for the summer with her dysfunctional Dad, and things aren't going well. It's not clear whether they take a turn for the better or worse when her almost friend Caro from the treatment center shows up uninvited to stay for the summer. Zelah's dad's an unemployed alcoholic, Caro's a depressed cutter, and her dad's girlfriend takes a conveniently-timed vacation, leaving poor Zelah to deal with the stress. Her OCD, not surprisingly. ramps right back up, and she's back to scrubbing her face till it's raw, and stopping to jump the prescribed number of times every time she takes the stairs.

With nothing much to do at home besides clean, Zelah joins social site "mysortaspace" and next thing you know, she and her old friend Fran are sneaking into London to meet strange (or perhaps not so strange) boys.

I really enjoyed the first book, and this one was decent but not quite as satisfying. It's a quick read, and the characters are quite interesting; I find myself wanting to know how it all turns out. However, at this point, it feels like the story is inching along at a snail's pace, simply to allow the series to have a whole lotta books.

Zelah's OCD is front and center, but her treatment is extremely slow. This is okay, sort of, and probably pretty realistic, but it's also frustrating to read about compulsions over and over and over. Caro's appearance doesn't feel very natural, and Zelah's father's reaction to Caro seems even less natural. I get that having the book center on therapy rather than characters might be dull, but at this point, I think we'd all be rooting for Zelah to succeed and watching her do it would be fabulous. I'm curious where the story goes, but hope it doesn't take 10 books to get there. Zelah Green is available via

Sunday, March 11, 2012

These Exposures Will Take Some (Fun) Work

Yesterday my sister and I went to the annual fundraising auction for her kids' school. I love auctions and I'm a sucker for homemade items that people aren't bidding enough on. This year, yet again, it was a hand-crocheted afghan. It sort of exactly matches the afghan I got last year at the same auction. I gave this one to my sister. Last year the afghan was paired with a pizza gift card (not really sure why). This year, it was part of the "relaxation" basket. So, yeah, I got a GREAT deal on a massage, a facial and a pedicure. I'm pretty sure I'm not letting anyone near my feet in public, having fought foot fungus for almost as long as my OCD, only getting rid of it in late 2010.

But I really really really want to get that massage. I have had a professional massage, twice actually since I've had OCD, but it's really hard for me to do. But I can definitely say that while it will be an exposure, and not an easy one, I can clearly see that getting a massage will have a lot more upside than hanging out in public restrooms.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Some Satisfying Progress

A lot of times I take a shower right after cleaning the toilet. At this point, it's mostly just habit. I shower in the evening, so it's easy to just end the day with cleaning and hop in the shower (and drop my cleaning clothes right in the wash, of course).

But I'm sure that some of it's OCD-based. I'm finding, however, that as my OCD loosens its grip, sometimes I do exposures without even realizing it.

I do occasionally clean the bathroom without a shower these days. And last week, after I took my shower, I realized I'd put the same "grubbies" right back on- I'd completely forgotten to drop them in the wash. In fact I still haven't; I'm wearing the same clothes right now, again.

Sometimes when I do these accidental exposures, I still have moments of fear. But usually I figure if my brain doesn't care enough to do the compulsion in the first place, I'm not going to do it after the fact either. I hope I continue to move in this direction.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Book Review: You Are Not Your Brain

Jeffrey Schwartz, the author of Brain Lock, is back with a new book. He's the co-author, with Rebecca Gladding, of You Are Not Your Brain: The 4-Step Solution for Breaking Bad Habits, Ending Unhealthy Thinking and Taking Control of Your Life.

For the most part, I would say this book functions as an extension of Brain Lock. The 4 steps are the pretty much the same, but this time, the focus is not on OCD. It's on breaking any kind of "bad" behavior, although negative thoughts and anxiety are discussed extensively.

In Schwartz's world, bad habits are the result of false messages that our brains send us. Then as we act on those false thoughts, those bad habits get hardwired into our brains. Once that happens, it's difficult to stop them, but it can be done.

To do it, you need to follow the 4 steps: relabel, reframe, refocus, revalue.

Relabeling means to attribute those thoughts we have to a false message, not a real emotion or an action you really must take. When you reframe, you acknowledge that the thoughts and action are the result of a false message, not an inherent part of who you are. In the reframe section, he goes into the "cognitive distortions" we see in OCD, such as catastrophizing, all or nothing thinking, magical thinking, etc. Next, you refocus: basically, you process your thoughts in a healthier way. Rather than doing a compulsion, you go for a walk, for instance. He stresses that the goal is NOT to distract yourself, but to keep yourself from participating in your bad habit. Finally, you revalue, whereby you learn to differentiate between real emotions and "false signal" emotions.

The big picture of his approach is to let your true self, your underlying values, guide your actions, not the false signals you're receiving from your brain.

Schwartz has long been somewhat controversial in the OCD world. Some people feel that he promotes avoidance with his "refocus" step. In addition, many of his readers end up with an "it's not me, it's my OCD" mantra, which can turn into its own compulsion. While I agree somewhat, I also believe people should do what works for them; active exposure is too much for some people, especially early on. In addition, as I noted, in this book the authors are careful to note that you should NOT be avoiding when you refocus, but should be processing the emotions you feel as you do it.

There's just a TON of information in this book. The overall focus is that your brain can send you false information, but your mind has veto power, and you can retrain your brain to react in a more healthy fashion.

Overall, I think it's a really useful book, although as I noted, OCD is not the focus. There was only one piece of the book I really hated. It's the part, fairly brief, where the authors suggest that people develop these faulty brain messages because in our childhood we didn't get enough attention, acceptance, affection, appreciation, and/or "allowing." I don't think any of these were true for me, and I resent what feels like a step back into blaming bad parenting for OCD.

Despite this, I feel it's a worthwhile book. I checked it out from the library and didn't have time to read it as closely as I'd have liked. I may just buy it for my collection so I can take a closer look.