Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I Hardly Ever Wash My Hands: Book Review

You've probably noticed a number of people this month reviewing the book I Hardly Ever Wash My Hands, by J.J. Keeler. Here's another.

One of Keeler's stated goals in writing the book is to make people aware that OCD isn't just about being hyper organized or washing your hands all the time. As such, each chapter runs through a different "type" of OCD that she's dealt with over the years: fear of violently harming others, fear of hitting someone while driving, scrupulosity, fear of AIDS.

Her writing style is nice, and she has a great sense of humor. On more than one occasion I truly laughed out loud while reading, although sometimes it was just because I saw myself so much in what she was writing.

While I haven't suffered with most of the specific fears that she has, the idea of the "what ifs" clearly comes through in her writing, and I can sure relate to that.

Most of the book is written for those without OCD, so they can understand a little better what we go through. The last chapter, however, is written to those with OCD, with her advice for dealing with it. I liked this chapter; the advice is useful and in many cases practical and she gives examples from her own life.

I enjoyed the book. It was a quick and interesting read. I would have liked to have read more about her journey to where she is today. Most of the information was anecdotal details of her struggle, written with a humorous bent. The final chapter seems to indicate that while she still struggles, she's developed a strong toolkit against OCD. I'd like to learn a little more about the process of how she got from there to here.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Conference

I did not attend this weekend's OC Foundation Conference in Chicago. But it's still helping me in the fight against OCD.

I spent some time looking at the agenda yesterday, and even the titles and descriptions of the talks had really useful reminders for me.

Among them:

To get stronger, you must repeat actions in the face of doubt and distress. Participants will learn a strategy—based on five rules—to voluntarily seek out and embrace uncertainty and anxiety.

The child will build their own "germ bomb" and the child and family will go on a germ scavenger hunt around the conference hotel to find items to place in their "germ bomb."

Embracing Your Life as an Exposure Task

And of course there's Dr. Grayson's virtual OCD camping trip. I remember seeing a segment on Oprah where they climbed into a large dumpster and another scene where they touched the inside of a really really grimy garbage bin. Sometimes when I worry about the neighbor's garbage I think about climbing into a dumpster and I get some perspective. I try to use it as motivation, not reassurance!

And this morning when I was having some stress about a dentist appointment scheduled for September, the idea of the importance of embracing uncertainty got me on the right track again.

So thanks OCD Foundation. Hope the people who actually attended have been just as inspired.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Weird Worries

This week I have been worrying about the weirdest things. Some of them are annoying but fairly typical: will my sister's cat be okay while they are on vacation, will my mom get in a car accident (always related to something I've done, of course)?

But the latest one, honestly, you would possibly not come up with it even if you guessed for a million years. Okay, well, a million years is quite a long time. BUT. I have repeatedly, over more than one day, worried that I will pick a zucchini for my mom that is too big or perhaps too small. Yep, indeed. My mom's zucchini plant has not made any zucchinis this year, and mine are going crazy.

I'll be seeing her on the weekend. And I have spent time, more than once, staring at the plant, deciding if I should pick it now, or maybe tomorrow morning. If I wait until tomorrow night, will it be too big? AHHHHHHH! Make it stop. I've been taking an exposure approach, letting the thought just float in and out. But I still went out to stare at the plant this evening.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Little Bit Of Miscellaneous

About a month ago, I read an article about Jennifer Lawrence. She's an actress who's now probably best known for starring in The Hunger Games. The article was several years old, but oddly, the author twice mentioned Jennifer's peeing prowess. Yes, you read that right. She was proud of how fast she could get in and out of a public restroom (or any old place she happened to be peeing). And she specifically noted that she thought washing your hands after peeing was serious overkill.

You will not be surprised to hear that the article was a little odd. But I've thought frequently about it since, usually while using a public restroom. Now I haven't stopped washing after using one, but clearly Jennifer's still alive, so I probably could if I chose to. Hmmm.

In unrelated news, I brought some extra zucchini from my garden into work today. I hate doing that, as I get afraid that I've somehow contaminated them and the recipient will get sick. But I brought them in anyway. Avoiding avoidance and all that.

Finally, I'm getting excited to hear about people's experiences at the upcoming OCD Conference. I decided not to go for a number of reasons, some of them good, some less good. In the end, it turns out that the next two weeks at work are super duper busy, so it's good I'll be here instead. But I want to hear all about it!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Forgetting to Have OCD... and Then Remembering Again

My coworker moved over to our office this week. On Tuesday she called to ask if she should bring her nice wood bookcase- would there be room or need? Now, if I'd remembered I have OCD, I would have tried to think of a logical reason that we didn't need it, that there wouldn't be room. Because after all, bedbugs like wooden furniture.

But I "forgot" and I answered like "normal" me. I thought a wood bookcase sounded pretty and said, "sure, bring it over. We can always get rid of it later if we don't have room."

It took a full 24 hours before I thought, hey, what the heck. That was TERRIBLE advice! Haha. It felt good.

In the end, she didn't bring the bookcase. But it was not because of me, and I'm glad about that.

But on to the remembering. Yesterday morning I walked out my front door only to be faced with my neighbor's overflowing garbage can. A crow was pulling a half full bag of dry cereal out of the top. That accomplished, the bird dropped it all on the ground and had a a feast. So I spent the day ruminating about garbage again. Grumble, grumble.

On the positive side, I pledged not to touch (as in "fix") their can or their garbage, and so far I've kept the pledge.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Free Floating Anxiety

I'm sure many of you can relate to "free floating anxiety," a sort of low level buzz of anxiety not attached to any particular worry.

I often get sort of the opposite of that: I'll be feeling pretty positive, and then I'll stop and let my brain "focus," and it always remembers something that I "should" be worrying about. Boom. Dread.

This week, I've been wandering around with free floating anxiety instead. Several times I've stopped to get that "anxiety focus" and found that there's not actually anything to be worrying about. Weird! Now I wish I could get the anxiety to go away, too.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

My Germy Fourth

We had a BBQ lunch at my parents house yesterday. My nieces had spent the night. My mom had my niece set the table. In the past, I've tried to partially intervene to avoid germy hands all over the silverware, but yesterday I didn't.

I washed my hands when I first got there and was helping with food. But after that I helped move chairs and tables around and all sorts of other dirty kinds of things and didn't wash after. I didn't try to avoid things my dad had touched. I ate a three-quarters cooked salmon burger, and it hasn't killed me yet.

I even gave my niece a big hug at the end of the day. And I was the last hugger, so I got everyone's "hug germs." Then when I got home I was too lazy to take a shower, so I've been marinating those hug germs for nearly 24 hours now.

The best part of these events is that my anxiety is always a LOT lower than I expect it to be, which makes for a really nice positive reinforcement cycle.

Hope everyone (in the US) had a nice 4th.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

A Good Week

I've been composing a post in my head all weekend. I did a great job with non-avoidance this week. But so many of the things I was proud of sounded stupid when I thought about writing them down: I rode in a car! I went to lunch! I ate cake!

Suffice it to say, I usually avoid some pretty mundane things, and this week I chose not to. I am happy with my efforts.