Friday, November 6, 2015

My Progress So Far

As always, some successes, some... not successes.

At work this month, I'm assigned to cleaning the bathrooms. Not a perfect job for one with contamination OCD. Three months ago, when I put the chore list together, it seemed like a good chance for exposures. And it still is, of course.

In fact, the cleaning part went surprisingly well. I even "contaminated" myself at one point and didn't do anything about it. Now my car is presumably contaminated as well, and I'm fine with it. So hooray!

BUT... after I left the office, I thought, did I leave the sink running? One, I knew I hadn't, and two, if I had, the next person to use the restroom could have just turned it off. I came really close to not checking, and I knew I shouldn't check. But I did. Of course the sink was off. The dumbest part about checking is that I know it doesn't really help, because after I checked, I still wasn't certain it was off as I left the office yet again. But that time I didn't go back and check,thank goodness. That's a vicious cycle.

So there's day one. Room for improvement, but feeling okay with what I did accomplish.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Getting My Thoughts on "Paper"

I keep thinking "oh, I should blog about this." And then I don't. By the time I sit down to do it, I've usually forgotten what I was planning to write about.

I've found that over the last month or so, while my anxiety is still there, I'm feeling so much more energy and motivation to do things I want to do. I've been riding my bike to work and for exercise, doing crafts and a bit of volunteering, and continuing to downsize my clutter.

Travel is way up there on my "terrifying" list, but I've been making lists of places I want to visit. Actually taking a trip will be a big step, of course, but it's really been years since I even wanted to travel much.

So, this winter, I will try to get my thoughts down here, especially as I've been starting to do some scary exposures.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Inching Forward

I'm doing better. A lot better. The medication hasn't been a game changer exactly, but it's given me just enough boost (or perhaps I'm just in an natural ebb from OCD, but I'll take it), to work more productively on exposures.

Over the last week, I've been working on "avoiding avoiding" when things are scary. I'm not always successful, but more than usual. And I can tell that the success builds on itself. The more exposures I do, the more exposures I'm willing to do going forward.

I still need to commit myself more fully to meditation/mindfulness. I really enjoy it when I do it, but somehow it still always seems HARD. But I'll keep trying.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Small Zig in my Path

As I've noted in recent posts, I was trying Celexa, but while it may have been starting to work, the side effects were too much: pain from stomach acid and nearly daily migraines. So earlier this week, I switched to Zoloft. On day two, I thought the stomach and migraine issues had returned, but I don't think that's the case, so I've still got my fingers crossed.

My anxiety has improved, but it still jumps up to surprise me with its intensity at times. I'm inching toward being more disciplined with my mindfulness practices, and I hope to make bigger strides as I work with my therapist over the summer.

My mother continues to be a HUGE source of exposures for me. I find it extremely frustrating, as if I didn't know better I'd swear she goes out of her way to not only contaminate herself and me, but to call me up to tell me about it. But I know she's just oblivious, and I also know that in the long run, it's better that she accidentally forces me into exposures.

Today's adventure: finding a nest of baby mice while cleaning in her basement. Good times!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

So Terrible at "Response Prevention"

I'm so good at the academic principles of OCD treatment. I've mentioned before how many books on OCD I have and how many more I've read.

I'm not as good at actually following through on hard exposures. It's taken me all these years to finally really hear the message that part of getting better is learning that the feeling of anxiety is uncomfortable, but that's okay, you can survive it. And when you do, you learn that anxiety isn't as scary as you thought. My brain hasn't learned that part yet. But I'm working on it.

Over many years of therapy, with professionals and on my own, I've only been able to go so far, and then the exposures have seemed too scary, the anxiety too much. For what I think is the first time, I'm trying to push through on harder exposures. I'm not enjoying it one bit, and I haven't really been doing it long enough to say how well it's working, in the big picture. But I'm trying my hardest.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Made it Through Jury Duty

And that was good. I am still lurching from "what if" situation to "what if" situation. I am working to stay in the present, and I do think I'm getting a little better at it. But still experience more than usual anxiety. I've found a great psychiatric nurse, who I think will be helpful in trying to figure out a better medication solution. Celexa doesn't seem to be doing it, although I'm giving it another week or two to make sure.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Finally Slowing Down

I think the medication is starting to kick in. Hooray! I met with the new therapist yesterday. She's very different from people I've seen before, in that she doesn't specialize in OCD. But she does use cognitive therapy, and I like that her focus is on the whole person, and not just the sliver of my OCD. So we'll see how it goes!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Going a Mile a Minute

It occurs to me today that my brain has never before done what it's been doing the last 2-3 weeks: shifting worries in a flurry. I've felt this anxious before, but it's generally been over one overwhelming fear- when I discovered radon in my house, for instance, and couldn't get it fixed for a month. But now I'm just all over the place. I'm not sure what's different, or why. I have my first meeting tomorrow with a therapist who focuses on CBT and mindfulness, and I hope she's a good fit for me.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Monday Update

Yesterday I tried a day without the lorazepam, to see if that was what was helping, or if it was just the natural progression of my day to feel better in the afternoon. Verdict: loraepam definitely helping! It's tricky though, because I don't want to take it on a day I need to drive. Which really is only a few days a week luckily. I think I will take the bus to work for a few weeks. That would really leave only one day a week that I need to drive, and even that's flexible. It's my hope that the Celexa kicks in within a few weeks, and then it won't be an issue.

Generally, I'm still having a really rough time. My insurance coverage for medication is good. My insurance coverage for therapy is terrible. Well, it's not that so much as I can usually only get an appointment once a month, and they tend to assign you a therapist pretty randomly, which seems nearly pointless. So I intend to self pay; it's not really in the budget, but I think I'm worth it.

My sister and a good friend of mine have been an unbelievable source of support for me over the last week, and I'm incredibly grateful.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Day 2 on Lorazepam

Well, I woke up yet again with my "feeling of doom." I took a full 1 mg of the lorazepam. The pharmacist said it starts to work in about 15 minutes, but I don't seem to notice much for an hour. At this point, I just feel sleepy. I probably shouldn't drive on this dose, although on 0.5 mg, I felt sharp and normal.

I've read that you can't really do ERP while on a short acting anti-anxiety pill, but I'm not sure that will be true. While the "doom" lifts, I continue to be able to experience the more standard anxiety about most of the usual things I worry about. Maybe it's not quite as intense. I think for me it would be easier to do ERP to a low to moderate level of fear: it's like shifting the whole hierarchy down a notch. Seems like how so people describe the SRRI: making everything manageable enough to start the hard work of exposure therapy.

Friday, May 29, 2015

A Medication Change

The last week has been one of the hardest I have ever experienced. I've heard that some people experience an uptick in anxiety when they start on an SSRI, and maybe that's what happened to me. But I was a mess this week. Barely functional some days. I did make it into work, and I'm happy about that.

I was able to get an appointment for today with my primary care doctor, who wrote me a prescription for lorazepam. I'd had a prescription back in 2006, but I never took it. If you've read my blog for any time, you'll know I've been a reluctant medication taker, although that's changing. Anyway, it was clear to me this week that waiting possibly another month or more to see if the SSRI would work was simply an untenable solution.

So I took half a lorazepam today. I can't quite say how well it worked. I did feel much better as the day wore on, but that's generally true. Regardless, I think it worked somewhat. Tomorrow I'm going to experiment with a whole pill, since I don't need to leave the house if I don't choose to.

Overall, I feel like the cloud of doom that followed me all week is lifting. But I still have a lot of rumination about things that happen during the course of my day. And then today I stopped in briefly at work to make a copy of a key. Oh, my. I had to test the key on the cabinet, and it's a cabinet with all the important stuff in it: checks, spare keys, accounting records. I cannot even tell you how many times I checked that it was locked. More than I think I've ever checked anything, ever. And it wasn't even quite like I didn't believe it was locked. More like I wanted to have so many memories of checking that I couldn't doubt it later- although of course OCD doesn't work that way.

I came home and joked with a friend that I sure hope there's not some unknown security camera in that office. And then of course I spent some time ruminating about that possibility. Haha, OCD won this round.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

One More Try

For years, I've resisted medication. This despite at least 4 tries on various SSRIs for OCD. But over the last year, while I've been pretty high functioning with my OCD, and doing well with contamination type exposure, my underlying anxiety has been ramping up, up, up. I had convinced myself that the medications don't really work that well, but lately, everywhere I turn, I'm hearing people talk about how important they were to their recovery.

So, this time I'm going into it with the expectation that I'll need to be on them for a while, and that I need to be patient. None of my usual, I'll take this till I get through the crisis and then stop.

I'm on day three, so it's unlikely that there's any real impact, but I can already feel my brain feeling a little more open to facing some scary stuff. Placebo effect? Probably, but I don't mind. I'll keep you posted on how things go as I move through this process.

Friday, May 15, 2015

But, It COULD Happen!

It's not an innovative idea to consider the idea that the anxiety in OCD is all about uncertainty. OCD is known as the doubting disease for a reason. BUT, even so, I've still been amazed just how often I've done a compulsion based on my brain convincing me that some very obscure fear just.might.come.true.

"But it could happen," my brain tells me, and then it would be ALL YOUR FAULT. I should note that my brain tries to tell me this even when the feared event would in fact not be my fault at all. For instance, the other day, a coworker of mine used the rarely used back door to our office. I reminded myself when he did that to check that the door was relocked, since he didn't lock it when he left. Sure enough, he came back about 15 minutes later and relocked the door. And yet, later in the evening, I remembered that I didn't check the door upon leaving for the day. And then I worried that if it had been left open, it would be my fault if someone came in and stole something.

I'd even convinced myself to drive by and check. Because, IT COULD HAPPEN. But I am not going to. I've given in to my OCD so very much. I've lost out on years due to my inability to push back against OCD. Not today, OCD, not today.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

How Does Time Move So Fast and So Slowly!

When I'm having anticipatory anxiety, time feels like it will never pass. I'll be worried forever! And then I open up my blog account and find that it's been a month since I last posted. So I guess time is actually flying by!

It's been an interesting month. Weirdly busy at work, busy finishing up my move (yay!), doing some really really hard OCD exposures (yay!), doing some compulsions, too (boo!)

I've been telling myself that as soon as I finish the move and get settled, I'll hunker down and start being more consistent with my ERP exercises, and with daily meditation. Well, the move is done, just a few more boxes to unpack. No more excuses.

I've said it before, but I'll say it yet again, look for more posts this summer as I get myself in gear!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Still Moving

Major life changes certainly bring out my anxiety. I'm hanging in there, and should be pretty much done by a week or so from now. But it's not easy.

I had finally started working on some mindfulness and meditation, but the change in schedule has sort of thrown it all out the window. I do realize that's a choice- if I were really dedicated to this process, I'd make it a higher priority.

Yesterday, I did something I haven't done in ages- I drove to work on a day I wasn't scheduled to be there, in order to check something. Checked on it twice, in fact. I was so mad at myself, but I still did it. When I'm less stressed, I can make myself make that right decision, and in fact have done that a lot lately. I guess this gives me a chance to practice self acceptance: I don't always make the right decisions, but it doesn't make me a bad or weak person, and I can wake up tomorrow and try to do better.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Moving Isn't All That Fun

I'm in the middle of moving. Well, actually I'm at the start of moving, but my place is in total disarray, so it sure feels like I'm in the middle. I'm pretty excited about my new home, but not as excited about the process.

Today I sold a piece of furniture on Craiglist, then immediately convinced myself that something bad would happen to the person using it. I was in the middle of reassuring myself that the chances were small, it would never happen, etc, etc. All of which I know I shouldn't do. So I guess it was a good thing that today I was also reminded of the fact that reassurance doesn't actually do any good:

Yesterday I was briefly worried that I'd kill the new seedlings I was growing. And then today I did, by leaving them out in the hot sun for too long. Now, it's not at all odd that I killed the plants, and I wasn't all that anxious about it happening. But their death still made it clear to me that my underlying idea that worrying about something is a talisman against that thing happening is simply not true. Once you remember that, there's not much reason to bother with reassurance.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Book Review: Daring to Challenge OCD by Joan Davidson

Last summer, New Harbinger Publications sent me a copy of Daring to Challenge OCD. It was a busy summer, one overtaken by preparing my house to sell. So while I skimmed the book, I didn't really have a chance to read it until this winter. The book is actually much broader than its title might indicate, covering the basics of OCD and Exposure and Response Prevention, including good information about building a hierarchy to guide your exposures. As the title does suggest, it has an extensive chapter about why treatment is worth it with tips and information to help overcome several common forms of resistance (what if exposure makes it worse? what if something bad does happen?)

I really like a number of things about this book:
-it has three "real" examples of people who went through ERP. The book follows all three throughout. I really appreciate when authors do this, as it seems more relatable/doable to me that way.
-those three people have different types of OCD, including the types where compulsions are more mental than physical.
-it has two useful sections that aren't seen in many books: "Overcoming Obstacles" and "Realistic Expectations for Recovery." These sections cover issues like the idea that you have to keep doing this stuff forever (answer: yes, you kind of do!) and confusion about what's OCD and what's not. These chapters also include anecdotes from the three OCD-ers, again really helping to make it feel real and relatable.

Overall, I was quite impressed with the book. As with any book on OCD, just reading it isn't going to change your life. You have to work it. But I do think for someone (I'm probably one of these) who has struggled with putting ERP into action, it provides some additional information about moving forward, as well as the inspiration of Gina, Mary and Ted, who all changed their lives through exposure and response prevention.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Does It Get Easier?

I can't say I know the answer to that question. I do know I'm making hard choices and avoiding avoiding. Due to an illness in the family, I've been faced with more germs in my life while at the same time trying to avoid bringing germs into this person's life (and yes, I'm fully aware that my struggle is not the important one here! But it is real nonetheless).

In any case, despite my fears about making a sick person even sicker, I'm still making the "right" choices most of the time, and not letting fear rule the day. I can feel some momentum building up this week, and I want to ride that out.

The plan to move is in full force, with a new lease starting in April. Lots of chances for exposure, and I have done some avoiding, but with the momentum I noted above, I think I'll be able to do less of it between now and when I move.

Lately I've thought occasionally about seeing a therapist again, but I can't quite justify the expense. If I felt like it was a necessity to my wellbeing, I'd do in a minute, but I don't think it is. In fact, I feel myself wanting a sounding board more than I want someone to push me to do exposures. I think I just need more friends. :)

I hope spring is starting for everyone out there (well, those that like spring anyway!) It's been beautiful here. Even today's rain was lovely.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Top Priorities? Not Quite Sure

I was out on a walk the other day, and I decided that I should stop everything (not literally!) and really really focus on my OCD work. That all my other life goals really depended on improving my anxiety situation. But then I thought about it a little more, and I realized that wasn't really true. One, it's not like I can't live my life while trying to improve the anxiety. And, what if my anxiety stays around despite increased efforts? Do I just give up on ever enjoying the rest of my life? I sure hope not.

I'm not feeling very optimistic about my chances at a successful relationship, but that's okay. I'll take that one as it evolves. But for now, I'll move forward with both working on ERP and mindfulness and just enjoying the rest of my life, and working to broaden my social horizons and just be happy.

My new job is going really well. The other day I realized I was looking forward to work on Tuesday. I cannot remember the last time that was true. So it's pretty exciting. I can even imagine finding an additional "super part time" job on top of this one. One step at a time, though.

In the meantime, my one year lease is ending in a few months. I think I will be moving again. Ugh! I like my current place, but I don't love it. And the things I don't love are starting to grate on me more and more. I've found a place that looks wonderful, a bit closer to my sister. I've been spending a lot of time at their house this winter, and I'd love to be in walking distance. This new place is less than a mile from her. My dad reminds me that it won't be perfect, and I shouldn't build it up too much and then be disappointed. Good point for sure. Best thing about renting though, is the flexibility. Every time I move, I get rid of about a third of my things, and I'll need to do that again, as the new place is a little smaller. At least the moving will get simpler every time!

As always, I'm hoping to get in a more regular posting routine. As always, I'll believe it when I see it.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Odds and Ends for January

I'm charging right along. I got the job I interviewed for, and even started last week. It's only one or two days a week, but it's a guarantee that I'll get out of the house. OCD creeps in: I find myself wanting to stay in the house so I don't get sick and have to call in so early in the job. Then I remind myself that I'm not allowed to do things like that anymore, and I head out to the store or to a restaurant to bask in some germs. The job itself makes my OCD twitch- am I doing it right, do they think I'm stupid, etc. etc- but there's nothing to do but let those thoughts hang out there and continue right along with life. I succeed at that to varying degrees.

The other day I was at my sister's house, and my brother-in-law, who works in an emergency room, came home from work. "You would not believe how much flu is out there right now!" he exclaimed. Thanks for the info! One sign of improvement, is that I'm moving from such a statement making me angry/irritable- I don't want to know this- to almost immediately being able to view it as just another exposure.

And finally, today my water heater started leaking. My landlords came over to fix it, and I was bothered less than usual about people clomping through the house. Well, I think I was anyway. I'm choosing to focus on the positive this weekend, so there you have it.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Moving in the Right Direction

As I noted in my New Year's post, I have decided to work toward a bunch of goals this year. Last week I took some action on several of them, with mixed results. I don't mind the negatives as much as I expected though, because it still indicates that I'm moving!

One the positive side, I have a job interview tomorrow. Woo! On the not so positive side, I reached out to someone I was interested in from my old job, and it appears my interest wasn't reciprocated. A disappointment, but not a crushing one.

I spent more time out of my house this week than I have in ages, and I have 5, count 'em 5! activities scheduled for the coming week. I've been surprised how happy being around other people has made me lately.

So, all in all, I'm feeling pretty good. Not working combined with a warm winter has allowed me to do a ton of exercising this winter. I can feel it helping with my mood, so that stays on the agenda for sure.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Having Visitors

Today both of my parents stopped by my house. I can't remember the last time they were both here. Actually, they've never both been here at the new place, now that I think about it, and it's been 6 months since my dad was here at all. They didn't need to visit, and I asked them to stop by purely for exposure's sake. I see them quite often, but it's almost always somewhere else.

It was inadvertently more of an exposure than I expected. My parents' washer line was leaking and the day before the visit, they'd had to call a plumber. It made me nervous not knowing what the plumber may have tracked into their house. Although I must say that by the time my parents actually arrived at my home, I'd forgotten about the plumber altogether.

But I was also anxious because while the forecast called for sun, it rained yesterday. By my reckoning, wet shoes track it more than dry shoes. Which is probably true, now that I think about it. Anyway, wet shoes, ugh. It would be my preference that shoes come off at the door, especially now that I have wall to wall carpeting, but in the name of doing a tough exposure, I didn't request that they take them off. Didn't even make any snarky comments when they didn't wipe their feet on the doormat.

I always hope they won't need to use my bathroom, but of course they did, and hands may or may not have been washed afterwards. So all in all, a decent bunch of exposures for me.

I was reminded of something that I don't have to deal with when I'm not around many people: when I get stressed, I'm not a good conversationalist. I end up being slightly dismissive of things people say, because my brain can't provide the concentration needed for a full conversation. Then of course I ruminate about the fact that I was rude. It's always something!

The other thing that happens at the end of a good exposure? First I get excited, then I immediately remember that to really succeed, I have to do this again and again! So, first exposure down, xx many more to go!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Here's to a New Year!

Happy New Year. After noting that I hoped to blog more regularly, it's probably not shocking that I didn't. But here we are, New Year's Day, and while I haven't been posting a lot, I have been thinking about my OCD quite a lot.

To me, I think the clearest guide to how to react to my anxiety is to move toward what I want. While my life is really all about me pretty much all the time, I still make decisions that take me away from what I want almost every single day.

What I want: to work (very) part time, to volunteer each week, to pursue a relationship, to organize events for a groups of friends here in town, to not avoid people for fear of getting sick. Which of these have I done since leaving my job three months ago? Not one (although I have applied for two part time jobs).

I also think in another year-ish, I'd like to try a different apartment, and I can already work up anxiety over that.

If you were to ask me if OCD is currently limiting my life, my first reaction would be "no." But that's only because I spend most of my time reading and walking and watching movies. By myself. I enjoy these things, but they're not goals, they're not things that motivate me to get out of the bed in the morning.

So that's my goal for the new year: to get better and better at making the choice that moves me toward what I want. It's not new or innovative, but having a lot of free time has made me realize that 40 years of retirement will be a slog at my current pace, rather than a joy.