I recently received a review copy of the novel Oxford Messed Up, by Andrea Kayne Kaufman. The book's protagonist, Gloria, is off to Oxford to study feminist poetry as a Rhodes Scholar. When we meet Gloria, she's about to board the plane; she will proceed not to drink a thing for the entire plane ride, because she cannot pee until she reaches her private bathroom at Oxford. Gloria has OCD. Really bad OCD. Scrub the bathroom for hours till your hands are raw OCD.
When she arrives, she learns to her dismay that she does not have a private bathroom after all. In fact, she'll be sharing with Henry, a charming, but pretty grimy sort, with issues of his own. Gloria and her OCD are not pleased. But despite his griminess, Henry is a huge Van Morrison fan who slowly charms his way into huge Van Morrison fan Gloria's good graces and they forge a fragile but really sweet friendship.
When Gloria's fear of germs ultimately leads to a breakdown of sorts, Henry steps in, with his psychologist sister's help, to help Gloria through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and in a flash, she's overcoming her OCD (more on that later).
There was a lot about this book I really enjoyed. The writing is lovely, although the characters do swear a lot. The characters of Henry and Gloria are well developed, and you really find yourself rooting for them. I also really liked how much they cared for each other and how hard they were willing to work both to help each other and themselves.
OCD is treated with respect, and boy is it nice to see exposure therapy given some attention.
The portrayal of Gloria's OCD didn't quite ring true to me, although it was far better than most. Gloria's inner voice was always thinking "foul germs, foul germs," when I wanted the voice to be saying "what if, what if." At the same time, some things felt just right: becoming dehydrated while trying to avoid porta-potties and refusing social events because it's all just too much, for instance. And a scene in which slippery lotion on her hands keeps Gloria from storming out of a room actually made me laugh out loud.
- her recovery, while it had a few bumps, still seemed unusually fast and smooth, with very little detail of the discomfort this process likely would have entailed. Maybe it would have been boring to read about that, but as is, it just felt a little too easy.
- in a book that seems targeted at women, I was astounded at how many times I had to read about Gloria's breasts. Once or twice, it would have told me that Henry was attracted to her chest and that he noticed it. But really, the tenth time it just felt icky.
- speaking of breasts, one scene between Gloria and her breast cancer surviving advisor was so wildly inappropriate that I briefly set the book down after reading it. I felt the same important message could have been achieved differently, and in fact just had been achieved differently.
Despite my complaints, the book and its characters really did draw me in, and I found myself picking it up in most of my free moments last week. If any of you choose to read it, I'd be curious to hear your reactions to the book's portrayal of OCD and its treatment.
If you'd like to check the book out, the Ebook edition will be available for $0.99 on Amazon from May 1-5.
Yesterday was shaping up to be a pretty good day. I met up with my sister for lunch, then got hugs from her "dirty" kids without any stress at all.
I went grocery shopping and ended up in line behind a guy who looked a little grimy, and then wiped his nose with his hand right before he checked out. In the past I would have changed lanes, or if I couldn't, I would have had a small freak out. Instead, I stayed in line, went out to the car, and ate a pretzel from the food I'd just purchased.
So far, so good. Then I decided to stop at a rummage sale I'd seen a sign for earlier in the week. I almost didn't go in, as despite loving a good bargain, rummage sales are hard for me. But I'm in "new me" mode, so in I went. Found a few things.
Then I went to check out. They were selling a single platform bed, the kind with drawers in the bottom. It was right next to the checkout. One of the drawers was pulled out, and I couldn't resist looking in for signs of bedbugs. And, OMG, there was a bug crawling around the drawer! Was it a bedbug? I don't actually know. It was the right size, but I didn't want to stare that long, and I didn't want to get any closer if it WAS a bedbug. But it sure has ramped my anxiety right back up. What if I carried one home? It's unlikely, but it still got me freaking out again in general. After months of staying away from my "favorite" bedbug forum, I scoured it again last night.
I know it's such a waste of time. Reading about bedbugs doesn't change the chances of having them. Panicking about them ahead of time will do no good. If I do have them, it will suck, and then I will do what I need to do to get rid of them. But...
This week two of my coworkers have really bad colds. My fear of getting colds is all out of proportion to the threat. I have no fear of the illness itself. It's that there's always someone in my life who I fear would suffer more serious consequences of having a cold. While there's the tiniest grain of truth to these fears, the fact is I can't avoid all contact with the human race because of it.
I also find that while in theory it's reasonable to avoid people who actually have colds, it's a slippery slope, that leads to me avoiding all people, because you never know who may have a cold (case in point, I guess, is that one of the coworkers actually felt this cold coming on for about 5 days, and I had no idea).
So, until yesterday, I was avoiding them. Today, however, they kept bringing me reports to read and edit. So finally I said to heck with it. It's time for an exposure. And I touched those reports, and I moved them around all over my desk. And I touched my hair, and ate my apple, and basically just ignored those cold germs.
As always, my fear dropped FAST! Basically, once the germs are spread around, I know there's nothing to be done but move along. So I do. It really feels good to do a scary exposure. Once it's done anyway.
I love the community of OCD bloggers that's grown up in the last couple of years. I love the support, and I just love hearing what you're all up to.
But I also think it's funny that we're pretty much all women. I don't know of any data that indicate that woman are more prone to OCD, and the best data I found indicates that blogging itself is split about 50-50 between men and women. And yet here we are, a support group of women.
I do have some male followers, and from time to time, someone male leaves a comment with an OCD blog link, but most of them don't post very often, if at all.
Puzzling. Not that I mind our girl power (ha!) but I still find it puzzling. Anyone have any thoughts?
I've long known that I deal terribly with changes to routine, or times when the process in doing something isn't what I expect it to be. Today I had an incident that brought that into focus.
I bought my dad an online gift subscription to a sports league's radio broadcasts. I tried it out on my end and it all worked fine. But my dad is both really really bad with technology and he has an older computer. So it didn't work the same on his end. He called and I tried to walk him through it by phone. I THINK in the end it worked. But I'm not sure. And it took maybe 45 minutes. And involved trying to download new browsers, and both of us feeling frustrated. Great gift, Ann!
In the end, it will be a great gift. But today, I sat on my couch and cried. I'm not even sure why. Because I wanted to have done a "slam dunk" good thing for my dad (no pun there- not basketball this time)? Because I'm afraid we broke his computer? I don't even know. I guess it was just the unexpected aspect. That it didn't all go according to plan. I even found myself walking again through how easy it was on my computer. That's a compulsion for sure. So now I guess I will sit and accept the thought that I've done wrong, that my dad is bummed, that his computer will somehow get a virus because of all this.
Last August, I got a new roof. That in itself caused OCD problems: people, at my house, on the roof! In the hot summer sun. No one died. The roof hasn't leaked. At that time, I had a skylight installed. I was (and am) so proud of that skylight. Sometimes I just lie on the floor underneath it feeling happy. It was so scary to me. The workers had to come into the house. The chances for something going wrong seemed high, although they probably weren't actually high. Regardless, the decision scared the heck out of me, but I really really wanted that skylight. It's in my finished attic, and it's totally changed a dark place into a cheerful light-filled one.
But, the company I chose only did the exterior work on the skylight. When they finished, the only sign from the inside was a nail that poked through the ceiling. Apparently I didn't get a photo of that, but here it is not long after that point. I had some work to do. I did open up the hole, but there I stopped. Now, my procrastination was not solely due to OCD. Mostly it was due to the attic being a cold place in the winter. But now it's April, and my OCD kicked in. My house is nearly 100 years old, and some of the attic wiring is original. Every time I bang around there with a hammer, I imagine that I'll dislodge something and the whole house will go up in smoke. Doesn't help that the house behind me was destroyed by fire in 2005. It was a candle, but that makes no difference to my brain when it really gets going.
SO, I've been putting off the finishing. But this week I had a day off, and I went for it. You can't tell in the photo above, but you could look up and down into the insulation. And poke yourself on rusty nails. It was really classy. The typical way to finish this project would be to add drywall, but my attic is a weird space. When it was finished, instead of drywall, they used thin sheets of plywood. I'm not even sure that meets code, but it's done. So I needed to match that look, as odd as it may be. Here's a look at the mess I made in the process: After I got the new wood up, I actually liked the bare wood look. Unfortunately, the project required a whole lot of caulk and spackle, so it really needed paint. This is a photo after the primer is on; I loved the look of the clouds. You can see the top of one of the four new houses they built after the old one burned down, too. And finally, the finished product. You can see some of the funkiness, both of the project and the previous attic work, and that right side really needs another coat of paint, or two or three, but overall, I'm happy with it. So happy to make a plan and then follow through with it! That's not my strongest suit. Yay!
Over on One Anxious Girl's post about making decisions, I noted that I've been putting off a home project for 8 months now. Well, I finally did it. Still needs the final coat of paint, and I will confess that I did a slightly half-assed job. But it still looks far better than it did before. And done (ish) is done!
This isn't a book review, because I haven't actually read it yet. A number of my fellow bloggers have mentioned how much they've enjoyed the book Get Out of Your Head and Into Your Life. The other day I was wandering a used bookstore and there it was on the shelf. So now I'm a proud owner of this book. It covers Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. It looks like a good fit for me right now. I'm doing well on contamination issues, but far less well on "amorphous things that are out there in the future." It's definitely keeping me from living my life to the fullest. Will keep you posted.
This week I realized I need to sit down and write out a new list of exposures to work through. Right now I'm more in the mode of waiting for things to come to me, and that doesn't usually move me forward very fast.
Yesterday I hopped on the train for some good old public transit exposures! As I noted in my last post, I haven't been taking the bus since I lost my bus pass. But the train is free through the central part of town, and it goes right past my work place.
It was a good exposure. Lots and lots of people and no open seats so I had to hold on to the railing. And I felt REALLY contaminated when I hopped off. About an 8 out of 10, I'd say.
I had to walk back a few blocks to work. Even in that short bit of time, I could tell the anxiety was going down, and I convinced myself to see how long I could stand not washing my hands. After about 15 minutes, my anxiety was down to about a 4. I never did wash my hands (well, eventually I did, but not for OCD reasons); I even ate my afternoon apple without washing.
I love the good ERP experiences. I just wish the NEXT one seemed easier each time. Maybe that'll come someday.
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.