Why "71º & Sunny?"

I consider 71º to be the perfect temperature. Not too cold and not too hot. I also love perfect sunny days. The vast majority of days are not 71º & Sunny and yet, all days were created by God's hand and they are still gifts, even if they don't fit my ridiculous definition of perfection. My struggle with OCD has at times imprisoned me in an impossible attempt to achieve perfection. I'm now learning to love all kinds of days that don't even come close to 71º & Sunny.

Please leave me a comment below. I really want to know what you are thinking!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Bit Out Of Control

I am feeling out of control today. My Compulsive Skin Picking (CSP) has really gone crazy. I'm overeating to a ridiculous amount. The overeating has activated a severe reaction from the gastroesophageal reflux that I also struggle with. In fact, I was sitting up on my couch until about 4:30 this morning because every time I tried to lay down, the reflux would cause me to cough uncontrollably and the burning in my throat would become painful. Which leads me to another problem. Sleep. Sigh. My sleep schedule is a complete mess as well. When I do actually finally fall asleep, it's usually in fitful starts and stops.

I don't want to give you the wrong impression. I am not overly discouraged. Considering what my husband and I have gone through over the last few years with his illness and mine, well, it would take a lot more than this to really discourage me. I am, however, very frustrated and disappointed with myself. I seem to be the creator of a lot of my own problems. I could fight the CSP, if I actively pursued the tenets of HRT, but when I'm in the middle of it, frankly, I just don't want to stop. The same thing for eating. If I stop overeating, my reflux would improve and so would my sleep. If I forced myself to get up at the same time every day, regardless of how I slept the night before, that would also help my sleep schedule.

It's quite strange. In some ways, I feel increasing control over the OCD. In other ways, well, I guess you can tell. It's like I only have a limited store of discipline and I've used it all up! Anyway, this is mostly just a post for complaining. If you wanted to send a few prayers over my way, I sure wouldn't mind. What do you do to get control over yourself? How do you stop yourself from doing something that you really, really don't want to stop?

Friday, January 27, 2012

I Don't Have THAT Many Compulsions, Do I?

The other day Tina wrote something in her blog and it got me thinking. She shared that it was pretty difficult to become aware of all the OCD rituals that one does on a daily basis. OCD is a sneaky illness. It can be very subtle. It can morph over time. Rituals can span the range from being performed in your mind only (rumination or replaying events), it can be a distinct physical action, or it can manifest itself though avoidance.

I thought it might be a useful exercise to list a couple of obsessions (the thoughts that worry me) and their accompanying compulsions (the actions or non-actions I perform to relieve the anxiety brought on by the obsessions).

Obsession:

Compulsions:
*Re-play event over and over in my mind to see if I did actually hit anyone or anything (this is a mental compulsion)
*Drive back to the scene to check for dead bodies on the road, or ask someone else to check for me
*Check rearview mirror repeatedly to make sure everyone behind me is ok
*Look at other cars around me to see if they are reacting to any type of car accident
*Check my car for damage when I get home
*Discuss issue with my husband when I get home to get reassurance from him that all is ok
*Check online news when I get home to see if there are any reported hit and run accidents
*Avoid driving (I've done this several times - just ask my parents who have had to drag me around in their car!)

Obession:
I think a bathroom is dirty and I will get dirty if I use it and: I might get sick, or I might make someone else sick, or I will be a gross person

Compulsion:
*Replay event over and over in my mind asking myself, "Did I actually touch the toilet with my body, or did my arm hit the stall wall when I was in there?"
*Wash my hands repeatedly afterwards
*Sit on a towel or something else in my car on the way home so I don't get my car contaminated too
*Repeatedly ask others around me if they think I am dirty
*Change and wash clothes when I get home
*Throw out some clothes when I get home
*Take a shower when I get home
*Avoid using public bathrooms (or believe it or not, I've even avoided using my own bathrooms at home sometimes until I had no choice but to use them and then I would take another shower)

Obsession:
I think I've offended someone with something I said and now I believe they are angry with me

Compulsion:
*Reconstruct the conversation over and over in my mind to check for anything offensive I might have said or any type of negative reaction the other person might have had
*I will ask others who were there if they thought I had said anything offensive, or I might reconstruct the conversation for someone who wasn't there
*Contact the person I think I've offended on some false pretense ("Oh I was just calling to say hi or ask you a question about that thing . . .") to see if they respond negatively to me
*Contact the offended person and apologize unnecessarily
*Avoid social interactions because I worry about everything that comes out of my mouth

OK - I think you get the picture! Are you able to discover any tricky compulsions that you weren't even aware of? I suspect that if I sat here longer and really thought about it, I could come up with even more.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Hit And Run OCD

One of my major obsessions is something that is known as "Hit and Run OCD." It is the sense that you have struck someone while driving your car. I only have to hit the slightest bump in the road and I'm convinced that I've killed some poor pedestrian and that he or she is just lying there and left to die. The anxiety is even worse if I've had some type of difficulty while driving.

For example, one night a few years ago I was driving out of my college campus and headed home for the night. While I was stopped at a stop sign, a young man to the right of my vehicle motioned to someone else on the left side of my vehicle. I looked out my left window only to see another young man standing right next to my car! I was shocked because I had not seen him standing there, and would not have seen him if the other person had not motioned to him. The two of them continued talking and walked off together. I was absolutely horrified and felt positive that I hit the young man to my left. I started to drive away, but the anxiety became too agonizing so I turned around and parked in the nearby parking lot so I could examine the "scene of the crime." I did not see a body lying in the road, but at this point my OCD was so strong that I did not even believe my own eyes. I did the only thing I knew to do. I sat in that parking lot for 15 or 20 minutes, just waiting for the police and/or an ambulance to show up. They never came, of course, because I had not hit anyone.

This specific obsession has tormented me off and on for a few decades. I try to reduce the anxiety caused by the obsession through an assortment of compulsions. In particular, I will either drive back to the scene, or I will ask my husband to do so; I might check my rear view mirror compulsively to make sure all pedestrians are still standing and walking safely; I might check my car for damage when I get home; or I will check all the local online news to see if there are any reported hit and run accidents. The big problem with driving back to the scene is that I often feel as if I've caused more accidents while driving back. Then I have to drive back around again to double check my newly caused accident. I might at that point feel that I've caused another accident, and I must drive back again to check this as well. It can turn into a horrible whirlpool of sickening anxiety that sucks you down until you are so mentally overwrought and exhausted that you have no choice but to give up and go home.

I have been trying to fight this (with some success) for a few years. I'm joining Ann in her 30 OCD challenge. I will try very hard to drive and not look in my rear view mirror compulsively, or to drive back, or to check my car for damage, or to check the online news. This will be really good Exposure and Response Prevention. I think I can do it.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The 100 On My Hierarchy Scale of Fears

My psychologist constantly reminds me that she is a scientist and that she only deals in scientific fact, not assumptions created in OCD land. Let’s just say that my land has lots of assumptions a/k/a cognitive distortions. One of my big cognitive distortions is that others will look at me and think I’m a disgusting, gross pig who deserves to be unloved and rejected. I think that may be one of the reasons I struggle with contamination issues. I don’t want to be dirty and gross.

Well something truly terrible and disgusting happened to my house last year and I’m afraid it reflects on me. It’s so gross I try not to think about it. My doctor wanted me to write about this a couple of weeks ago but I’ve been afraid to. I'm finally going to do it.

Last year we had mice. Not just a few mice. I mean, a whole disgusting infestation. They were only in the walls, with the exception of our finished basement. I could hear them in the walls every night. It literally almost drove me insane. (I am not exaggerating here.) We had the problem treated. Unfortunately, we had such a bad problem we had to have them re-treated. Finally, that took care of the problem. Then another problem arose. Many of them died. IN. THE. WALLS. The smell was horrible for about eight weeks. Yes, count ‘em, eight. The mouse people told me there was literally nothing we could do, short of tearing down our walls. I was so grossed out that I practically lived in our upstairs bedroom for two months, as I could not smell them in that room.

The big problem I am left with now is what to do with the basement. We have a ceiling in the basement, but there is a small trap door to allow us access to some water pipes, etc. Mouse droppings fell through the gap around the trap door onto the pingpong table underneath, and onto the bookshelf nearby, and onto the rug. We went into the basement to pick up the droppings, but other than that, I have not been down there for almost a year. I want to throw every last thing in that basement away. The ping pong table, the bookshelves, the books, all the furniture, the file cabinet with all our personal papers, all our dvds, you name it. I want to rip up the wall-to-wall carpet and throw it out.

I have literally been avoiding this exposure for ten months. I don’t know how to deal with this. I’ve never been so tormented by one exposure. My doctor wants me to start making some progress on this again. I’m too afraid. I don’t think that room will ever be clean enough, no matter what we do. I also don’t want to expose my husband or myself to any diseases that may be lurking because of droppings or rotting mice in the walls. I am petrified that if people find this out about my house that they will think I am a disgusting pig and will not want to have anything to do with me. I was even ashamed to tell all of my wonderful new blogging friends about it. I just know that if I can get through this, I’m well on my way to recovery. I have to get through this first, though. I'm stuck. I'm scared.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Support From The Support Group

I'm very fortunate in that I have a great support group that meets locally. Our group is run on the G.O.A.L. (Giving Obsessive Compulsives Another Lifestyle) model. It is my understanding that the very wonderful Dr. Jonathan Grayson is the originator of the G.O.A.L. group. (I am a huge fan of Dr. Grayson as he has dedicated his life's work to those of us with OCD).  I love this group because it is such a relief to share my struggles with others and know that they completely understand not only how I feel, but also how I think. The best part is that my support group is not a whine session. Oh sure, we talk about the things that upset us, but we also talk about how to fight our compulsions and how to perform ERPs. Each time we meet we set goals to work on and then we report about our success or struggles when we meet again. (By the way, it was my support group that urged me to wear my jacket the other day.) I am also blessed because I have made great friendships that go beyond the group setting and that is helping to restore a certain normalcy to my life that has been missing for many, many years.

Another important aspect of being part of this group is the feeling that I am contributing to the recovery of other OCD sufferers. As a Christ follower, I look for meaning in everything in my life. Once I finally came to accept my illness and the chronic nature of it, I realized that there had to be a higher purpose. I believe that part of my mission is to strengthen and uplift others who fight mental illness. I'm thankful that God provided this group both for my encouragement and for the encouragement of others. I would highly recommend joining a support group. I do think it's worth mentioning, though, that you may not find the right group immediately. I did go through three other groups before I found the one that was right for me (maybe I'm just picky). The International Obsessive Compulsive Foundation is a great resource for finding support groups (see link under online resources).

Living with mental illness is difficult work and the burden is made lighter when we share the load together, don't you think? I hope you have someone you can share your burden with. I would be honored to be one of your burden sharers, even if it's just through the comments section of this blog. God Bless!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Compulsive Skin Picking - The Fight Goes On

Last night was my first real concerted attempt at fighting CSP. I received the two small gel balls and the minute sand timer in the mail yesterday. I've decided to give HRT a solid try. I'm happy to report that I was able to hold off picking for at least four to five hours. It was very difficult though. It's unbelievable how often I think about picking. Finally, around midnight, I gave in. I didn't go too crazy though. I held myself back some.

One thing that really surprised me was the reaction I had the other day when I fought the CSP. I hadn't received the gel balls in the mail yet. I kept picking at a spot on my scalp. I worry so much that I will get a bald spot from this. To stop myself from picking further, I put a little bit of antibiotic ointment on the spot. I knew that I would not want to touch it at that point and get the ointment all over my fingers. It did stop me from picking at it. The weird thing is that I started breathing hard and I was physically struggling to the point that my husband noticed and asked me if I was ok. I didn't even realize I was struggling until he pointed it out. Once I became aware of what was happening and that it was only because I was fighting the picking, I calmed down pretty quickly. It was one of the oddest experiences I have ever had in battling my anxiety disorders. I can only surmise that it was a kind of withdrawal symptom. Not fun. It was very eye opening to me and it cemented the fact that this is a very real problem that I have to deal with. Now.

Monday, January 9, 2012

One More Tiny Step Against OCD

I have not worn regular coats in several years. Part of the reason is that I get very hot in them and uncomfortable. The other (and the main reason) is that regular coats are not very washable. After a few washes they start to look worn out and old. Instead, I have worn little fleece jackets. I have several of them in different colors. They are very washable. Usually I wash them after one wear as I feel they are contaminated. I have however, had a few successes in this department lately.

Over Christmas break I wore the same fleece jacket every day for a week. I never hung the jacket back up in my closet though. I just left it on a chair in the living room until I was ready to wear it the next day. Tonight however,  I was out and dropped my jacket onto the floor and partially onto a garbage can. Boy did that send a shock wave through my system. It is amazing how quickly adrenaline can flood your body. Afterwards, I was encouraged by others to wear the jacket anyway. I did put it back on, and the best part is that when I got home I actually hung it up in my closet, with all of my other clothes. One more tiny step against OCD.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Hindsight Can Keep Its 20/20 Vision

So far, so good. My crazy week is actually moving along relatively nicely. I'm not panicking too much about everything I have to do and I am slowly tackling each item and making progress. In addition, I've decided to try and work on my CSP again. I've realized that part of the problem is that when I feel the urge to pick, I'm usually too lazy and too involved in picking to get up and walk over to set the microwave timer to 60 seconds. In addition, there are many times when I'm in the car or somewhere else where I do not have access to a timer.  In order to solve this I've ordered an inexpensive one minute sand timer along with two gel filled stress balls. These are all small items and will be easily carried around. This should help me make a better attempt at HRT. (By the way, I've added a new link to the Online Resources. It is the Trichotillomania Learning Center (TLC). Trichotillomania is the proper name for Compulsive Hair Pulling and it is a close cousin of CSP. Treatment for CSP and TTM is somewhat similar. The TLC site also has some good information on CSP, which is why I've added it to my list.)

I did have an interesting evening last night. I went to church and directed the rehearsal for a skit that will be performed during Sunday services. In retrospect, the experience was pretty amazing. I felt relatively confident during the rehearsal process. I did do a little second guessing, but for the most part I was obsession free and things went quite well. I had a job to do, I did it, and I felt good about it.

Then I went home. That is when the nagging doubts, a/k/a obsessions, started slowly playing around in my mind. "Why did you do this, or why didn't you do that? Why did you say this, or why didn't you say that?" Over and over as the evening went on and later when I went to bed, these thoughts were circling with increasing ferocity. I was starting to feel some agony about this, but mercifully I somehow managed to eventually fall asleep. When I woke up, I had many errands to attend to and I didn't really get a chance to think about it again very much until this evening. It is so strange. Sometimes when I'm hard at work, I'm so involved in the task at hand that I'm able to escape most obsessions. It is only after the fact that I'm plagued with all of the second guessing. Supposedly hindsight is 20/20 but I'd rather not look back at all. Why can't I just do something and then move on permanently? Do you have times where you feel confident about something you've done and then later on all of a sudden your confidence completely melts away? Or is there anything that you do that you feel good about all the time?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Trying Not To Panic

Happy New Year! Tomorrow my husband returns to work from Christmas break and life will return to some type of normal schedule. This is good even though I have had a wonderful time with my family. I love my normal schedule. What person with OCD doesn't?

My normal schedule also includes some new things this year. As my mental illness has improved I've begun taking on more tasks because I feel ready. My husband and I both do a lot of volunteer work at our church. I've been singing on the worship team and acting on the theater team for years. I've also recently begun working on the audio team to run the sound system for the worship team when I'm not scheduled to sing. In addition, because my theater director moved away, I've also been given the director's position. Yikes. That is a scary one. There is a lot more to it than I thought. I have to cast the dramas (easier said than done when everyone else's schedule is crazy), find all the props, assemble musical cues if needed, and lastly, run the rehearsals. I also agreed to sing at a special service this coming Friday night. Oh, and I almost forgot that I have a theater team meeting (that I scheduled and now need to prepare for) in less than two weeks. Lastly, and this is the real kicker, my psychologist and I are going to start working on an item that is a 100 on my hierarchy scale. I'm starting to wonder if I'm totally crazy for taking these things on. Usually all of these events do not tend to take place around the same time but right now it's like a perfect storm of conflicting events.

Here is where the panic starts. I'm starting to have trouble sleeping. I even had a nightmare about this the other night! I know, deep down, that the panic stems from a fear of not doing each item perfectly. I am desperately afraid of failure. I think that people will judge my competence, thereby judging my worth as a human being. I've always been the type of person whose self identity is wrapped around achievement. I've been though enough Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to know that these are all just feelings. They are not facts. Feelings cannot be trusted as they are riddled with cognitive distortions.

Fact: My self worth is not based on my achievements, but on the fact that I am a beloved creation of my Heavenly Father.
Fact: My friends at church will not like me less if I make mistakes.
Fact: Making a mistake does not mean I am an incompetent person.
Fact: Others will probably never judge me as harshly as I judge myself.
Fact: My husband and family will still love me regardless of how I perform.

I will take each task one at a time. I will be mindful and think only about what is going on right now. I will pray. I will ask for help if I need it.

Phew! I actually feel a little better already just writing this out. Thanks for reading, you've helped me a lot today!