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!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Took Off The "Robot Comment Preventer"

OK, I'm laughing as I type this. Don't know what it's called when you try to post a comment on someone's page and it comes up with "Please prove you're not a robot" and then it displays two hideously difficult words to decipher. Well, whatever it's called, I'm taking it off as it seems to be impeding commenting, and I love to read people's comments. I just hope you're not a robot!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

How Do You Love Someone In Spite of Contamination?

I visited my 100 year old grandmother in the nursing home yesterday. Walking into that building is so incredibly difficult for me. It just feels absolutely filthy. I need to clarify that this particular nursing home is very clean. It never smells. I can easily say that it is one of the nicest nursing homes in reasonable driving distance from my house. Still, I always feel significant anxiety there.

My poor grandmother has severe Alzheimer's Disease.  She never recognizes me or my family any more. I can assure you that she has probably not washed her hands after going to the bathroom for many years. I'm sure her hands get washed when she gets baths, but I suspect that is the only time. There are times when her hands look visibly dirty. She sticks her fingers in her mouth. I'm sure she must have "accidents" and I suspect that other residents do too, so I am always afraid of sitting on any chairs (though I cannot see any visible stains). I stand whenever I visit her and insist that my husband stand as well. I don't let my husband touch anything there; not the doorknobs, not my grandmother's wheelchair, absolutely nothing. I touch everything (being careful to not touch myself at all) and then the very last thing I do before we leave is wash my hands. I also usually don't take my daily shower until after I've visited her. Yesterday, the cat who lives on my grandmother's floor rubbed up against my leg. All I could think about was the fact that all the residents touch this cat with their dirty hands.

I hate myself for not visiting my grandmother more often. She was a wonderful grandmother to me when I was growing up. I have lots of sweet memories. I feel ashamed and I feel like a failure, both as a granddaughter and a Christian. *Sigh.* Notwithstanding all of my successes in battling OCD, there are still some things that are great challenges to me, and this is one of them. I'm going to try very hard to see her weekly.

How would you fight this one? Would you sit on the chairs on your visits? Would you absentmindedly touch your face or your hair, even if you touched my grandmother's hands or wheelchair, or other possessions? I want to love her in a tangible way in spite of my contamination issues. I want to put this frail, elderly woman's needs before my own. As a Christ follower I'm commanded to care for the widows. I don't want to disappoint my Lord. I don't want to disappoint myself. I keep thinking that she is already 100 years old, and I probably don't have very much longer to get this right. This is hard.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Seashell Souvenir

Here is a photo of the memento I put together from my trip. I took a little triangular glass jar, put some blue colored sand at the bottom, placed my favorite shells in the jar, wrapped a blue ribbon around the neck of the jar, then attached a glass starfish charm and a label entitled "Hope" to the ribbon. Voila - something to remind me that there is always reason to hope, even when things appear hopeless.

                                                   

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Peace

Two weeks ago today I was walking along the shoreline of the Siesta Key Beach in Florida. It was in the high 60s-low 70s. There was a cool breeze and the water felt warm on my feet. The sand at Siesta Key is unlike any other beach sand I've ever seen. It was cool to the touch, with the consistency of softened light brown sugar. Oh, and the seashells. Thousands of seashells. When I saw them I knew they would make a great souvenir to bring home.

I probably spent an hour by myself collecting those precious shells. What a glorious hour it was! I was nearly overcome with joy and peace; two emotions that I have not experienced in many years. I was so in awe of what God has accomplished in my life. I felt like I was bursting with gratitude to Him for the healing that has taken place thus far. Yes, I still have a lot of work to do in fighting the OCD, but the fact that I am even experiencing any peace at all is nothing short of a miracle.

Until recently, the word peace was a foreign concept to my heart and my mind. I ached for it though I became convinced it was an impossibility for me. For so long, I've literally been afraid of my own shadow. Through the lenses of anxiety, it seemed that everywhere I looked was another opportunity for disaster or danger. It was easier to withdraw from life than to face more agony. Continual days of torment are no longer my reality. There are moments of it, yes, but the never-ending pain that filled one day after another has ended. The world actually appears differently to me today.

There will be more peaks and valleys ahead as I live out my days here on earth. I realize that I am on the mountaintop right now and I'm going to savor each moment. I don't want to forget that perfect golden hour on the beach when every little thing in the world felt just right. I created a small memento out of my shells as a reminder of God's faithfulness, and of the hope that He has restored to my life.

I'm saying a prayer right now for everyone who reads this, that you will find hope, joy, and peace too.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Book Review - "OCD: A Guide for The Newly Diagnosed by Michael A. Tompkins, PhD"

Thanks to Ann's great book review, I purchased a copy of "OCD: A Guide for The Newly Diagnosed" by Michael A. Tompkins, PhD. I'm glad I bought it, because, like Ann, I also think it will be a good little reference work to keep around. I won't go into a detailed analysis of the book because Ann has already done so. However, I've a few thoughts I'd like to share.

The author explains a lot of the basics, so that anyone new to the world of an OCD diagnosis will have a good starting point to begin the healing process. There is a lot to learn about OCD and I think this book organizes the issues well.

I appreciate Dr. Tompkins' advice on finding an appropriate counselor. I even laughed when I read his comment on page 60, ". . . you will not find the perfect person to help you nor will you enter treatment without any doubts or unanswered questions." I have to admit that in the early days of therapy (like the entire first year!), I often wondered if my doctor was the perfect doctor for me. I believe Dr. Tompkins does a good job of explaining how to maximize your results from treatment while at the same time reassuring the reader that some doubts are to be expected.

I agree with Ann that the chapter on recovery is excellent. It was my favorite chapter, but I guess that makes sense because that is my focus at this time in my life.

There is also a chapter at the end of the book that lists many resources, including books and organizations, and even treatment centers. Inclusion of a list of treatment centers is an excellent idea as it can sometimes be difficult to find a comprehensive list of these centers elsewhere. The book resource list is lengthy, though there were a few missing titles I had expected to see in the list.

In summary, I would absolutely recommend this book to an OCD patient. It will take permanent residence on my bookshelf, side by side with all of my other anxiety disorder resources. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

I Did It!!!!!!!

After almost one year, I finally spent time in my basement and sat down. In fact, my husband picked up some take-out and we ate our dinner down there. It ended up being easier than I thought it would be. Much easier. Once again, the anticipatory anxiety was exceedingly more painful than the reality. Although, after about 20-25 minutes, I had had enough so we came back upstairs. I'm still worried that not everything is perfectly clean, and naturally, nothing is ever perfectly clean. About the only thing my husband didn't wash were the walls. Of course, I'm now afraid to touch the walls. Don't you just know that my psychologist will tell me that I have to touch the walls for an ERP! But hey, that's for next week's appointment. My goal this week is to sit downstairs for a little bit every day until the anxiety goes away.

It has not been all smooth sailing since I've been home however. When I came home on Monday night I noticed that the small hand-held vacuum that we used to pick up mouse droppings in the basement was now located in my first floor closet. I ended up having a full meltdown, mild hyperventilation included. My husband had cleaned the outside of the vacuum, but all I kept thinking was that the inside of the hose was not clean and it was now contaminating my first floor. Ugh. It's always something. So my assignment (ERP) this week, in addition to sitting in the basement, is to use the vacuum throughout the rest of my house. We'll see about that one.

On another note, I've added a new page to my blog. It's called "Got Questions?". Feel free to comment there on anything not related to my current posting.   : )

Monday, February 13, 2012

Score - Me: 10 OCD: 1

I'm flying home in a few hours. I'm so thankful to the Lord for giving me this past week in Florida. I had a great time and it was terrific distraction for what was going on at home. In fact, it was only last night that it really hit me that I was going to have to deal with the basement soon. When I started to think about it, I got such a surge of adrenaline through my body that I actually shivered. However, I made a decision to be mindful and told myself that tomorrow was another day and that I should enjoy the rest of my time here, and believe it or not, I was able to do just that. In the past I would never have been able to do that and it really surprises me now. I think it is a result of practice. I've been working on these concepts for a few years and I believe that my body has started to adjust to it and I seem to have much more control over my reactions than I used to.  Now, when I get home at the end of the day and have to actually step into the basement, well, that's another story.

I have struggled with random bouts of free-floating anxiety. I totally hate this as it is quite unnerving. Each time it occurred I kept telling myself it was just a feeling and that I should not give it any thought, and soon enough, it went away.

I've had some big victories this week. I swam in a pool for the first time in a dozen years!! In fact, I had so much fun that I did it three days in a row. I re-used my bath towels for two days in a row (not that I've never done that before, but it's usually quite uncomfortable for me) and it didn't bother me too much. I made a conscious decision not to check my bed for bed bugs! I wore flip-flops all week and didn't even check my feet at the end of the day (I've been working on this one for a few years - finally true success). A relative of mine grabbed the garbage, then grabbed the door handle, and I forced myself to use the door handle later and not wash my hands. I re-used my hat this week several times without washing it. I'm sure there were some other things, I just can't remember them all.

If you are reading this and feel like you could never get to this point of recovery, I want to stress to you that this did not happen overnight. I have been in cognitive behavioral therapy for 2 1/2 years. It takes time for your mind and your body to adjust. The trick is to keep going at it, and you will have your successes too. The Bible says that living for God is a marathon and not a sprint. I'd like to steal that thought and say that it's true for healing from OCD as well. God Bless!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Update

I've spoken to my husband and he says he is making good progress in cleaning the basement. I've not questioned him about anything, and believe it or not, it's been remarkably easy not to. I'm so distracted by being out of town that I'm not thinking about it too much. We'll see what happens when I get home.

I was full of anxiety yesterday because of the traveling, lack of sleep, flying, and staying in a new location. I was also (and am still a bit) full of guilt for going on a trip while my hubby has to stay home, work all day, and then work on the basement. I feel like a bad wife. I'm very scared that he will exhaust himself and that it will cause a flare of his Crohn's Disease. He assures me it will not.  However, at this point, the plan is already being implemented and all I can do is pray for him.

On another note, I'm kind of excited. When I was in the airport, I used the restroom and even brought my rolling luggage into the stall with me as I didn't want to leave it unattended. To the best of my recollection, I have NEVER done that before (well at least not since the OCD has been so horrific in the last 16 years). In fact, in the past, if I traveled alone, I would skip using the restroom altogether rather than risk contaminating my luggage.

I'm looking forward to the future for the first time in a long time. That's still hard to believe. I'm also looking forward to getting caught up with everyone else's blog posts when I get back, so keep writing!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Only By The Grace Of God

I'd like to send a heartfelt thanks to everyone that commented on the post about my mouse problem. You really did comfort me and provide some much needed evidence to counteract the cognitive distortions swimming around in my brain. I'm grateful and blessed that you cared enough to write.

This is it. After almost 11 months of avoidance, tears, fear, anguish, and frustration, I have agreed to let my husband clean the basement. At this point, we believe it would be too much for me to attempt it with him. Even letting my husband do the cleaning alone is extremely anxiety producing. However, I feel that I have no choice. I met with my doctor today to finalize the plan for tackling this issue. I would just as soon throw all the furniture out and never set foot in that room again. Of course, my husband feels slightly different about this situation. We have a lot of furniture that we bought specifically for that room. There are two shelves of books down there. There is a rack of CDs. My barely one-year-old college diploma is proudly displayed in that room. There are mementos from my child's youth. Yes, I am ashamed to say, if I let the OCD take control, I might even consider tossing some of my now grown-up child's items. It breaks my heart when I think about that.

This afternoon, my psychologist stated that if I don't deal with the basement, then OCD wins. So much of my life has been taken by this cruel illness. So many years. So many moments that could have been joyful. Oh, I simply cannot let that happen anymore!!

I do believe that God has given me the strength to come this far, and He will give me what I need to continue. It is hard. So incredibly hard to give up control and surrender to uncertainty. Will my husband get sick from cleaning the basement? Will we spread contamination to others if we use the items that remain down there?

I am going out of town next week and my husband, wonderful man that he is, will stay behind and clean. He and I have had a discussion about almost every item in that room and what to do with it. As part of the ERP, I am no longer allowed to question my husband about the clean up. Next week, I cannot call and ask him about the process, nor can I question him when I return from my trip. And then, somehow, someway, by the grace of God, I will have to step foot in that room and sit on the couch and begin to use everything like normal again. I have no idea how I will do that. Well, actually, yes I do. One step at a time. Just like everything else.

This is my prayer: "God, I am giving you this ERP. When obsessions strike I feel like a lost, little girl with nowhere to turn. I know that is not true. I'm asking you to give me the strength to move forward. I'm asking you to help me put my family's needs above my anxiety. I also want to serve you better and I can't do that with this weight hanging around my neck. Lord, I also ask that you comfort each person who reads this post. Please Father, give them the support and strength they need too. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen."

"Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation." Isaiah 12:2 ESV