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, October 28, 2012

Little Things

Do you ever feel like you have no impact on the world or on people around you? Does what you do not meet up with your expectations of yourself? Sometimes, I get what I call "visions of grandeur." You know, ideas that I "should" be doing this incredible thing or that. I was recently reminded by someone I love that anything that I do does not have to be big and splashy in order to be worthwhile. I just need to keep plugging away, trying to serve God right where I am, and hopefully making a little difference in my tiny corner of the world.

Don't minimize the seemingly "little things" you do. Illness (mental and/or physical) may limit the scope and breadth of the things you do, but that doesn't mean that it limits the impact on others.

God does not command that we do great things, only little things with great love.-Mother Teresa www.inspirationpeak.com

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:16 ESV

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Have you ever used SUDS? No, I'm not talking about your bubble bath! I am actually referring to Subjective Unit(s) of Discomfort. It works similar to a pain rating scale, only it is an anxiety rating scale. Some people use a scale of 1 to 10, while others use a scale of 1 to 100. My psychologist suggested using the 1 to 100 scale so that I could be more precise with my feelings of anxiety. I agreed with her, so that is the scale I use. You could probably use any scale you want, as long as you are consistent with using the same one all the time.

Something very low on the scale, say around a 20, means you are experiencing very little anxiety, and something around a 100 means that you are completely overwhelmed with anxiety. Jonathan Grayson, in his book, "Freedom From Obsessive Compulsive Disorder," states, "When using 100, try to remember that this means there is no greater anxiety you can feel-or, in other words, don't use ratings of 110" (page 66).

To me, the important word is "subjective." Basically, the anxiety sufferer is the one who decides where on the scale his or her anxiety sits. Sometimes, that is difficult for me. Especially because it is subjective and I have no outside proof of what I am feeling. Often, I struggle with what "number" I am. "Am I a 55 or a 65 on the scale? Oh, no, what if I'm totally wrong about what number I am?" If I let it, attempting to find my number can itself become an obsessive and compulsive activity. I fight that urge, however, and usually just try to settle near to whatever number I first came up with instinctively. On a scale of 1 to 100, if I'm off by 10 or 15 points, I don't think it's a very big deal. I try to look at it as a rough guide. Again, we can take Dr. Grayson's advice: "With regard to the accuracy of your SUDS rating, don't worry. The ratings are meant to generally measure what feels mildly distressing to severely distressing" (page 66). There is no perfection allowed in OCD treatment and recovery!

Why is the SUDS scale helpful? The scale is invaluable when creating a hierarchy of exposures (more on that in another post). It can also guide us on how to proceed with an exposure. My doctor always recommended working on ERPs that were about a 60 or 70 on the SUDS scale. At this level, things are certainly uncomfortable and painful, but they are not completely out of my ability to tackle them. Additionally, the SUDS scale is helpful when looping ERPs. Moreover, during in-office exposures, my psychologist would often ask me, "What's your SUDS level?" so she could decide on how to proceed with the ERP.

If you have never used SUDS, you may want to start keeping track of your anxiety levels, so that you can get an idea of what is a really difficult exposure and what is easier for you to work on. I do think it's important to remember that this is just another tool to help us in the battle against OCD. So, what's your SUDS level?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Making The Most Of ERP

Sometimes (ok, maybe most of the time!) ERPs can be quite painful. It is for that reason that we should try to get the most out of them so we don't waste our efforts. My psychologist was really great about educating me in the proper way to do ERPs. She introduced me to the concept of "looping" them. Essentially, it is not enough to do an ERP just once and then wait days or weeks to attempt it once more. In fact, if we do it just once, it can be so painful that we may be afraid to ever do it again in the future.

To loop an ERP, simply means to re-do the ERP. For example, perhaps I am anxious about touching a public toilet. What I need to do is touch the toilet and then rate where I am on the SUDS scale (it can be 1-10, or 1-100). I like to use a 1-100 scale. Maybe after touching the toilet, my level is 80, which means I am experiencing a LOT of anxiety. At this level of anxiety, I am usually crying and shaking, and hating those three little letters: OCD. At some point, though, my anxiety will drop. When my anxiety reaches a 40, (half of my initial peak of anxiety), I need to go back and touch the toilet again. Once more, my anxiety will peak. I might only peak at a 70 this time. Once the anxiety drops to 35 (again - half of my peak), I need to loop back and touch the toilet. I will experience another peak and another drop. I think you get the idea from here.

To get more effectiveness from looping, it's helpful to loop it every day, as often as you can. Before you know it, touching that toilet will get easier and easier! I did not loop my exposure when I sat down in my finished basement the first time after it was cleaned. In fact, when my anxiety got really high, I left the room. Big mistake. Of course, this made it harder to go back down again days later. It took me a lot longer to get used to the basement room than it probably would have if I had looped it.

Looping seems easy to apply with contamination type items, but I'm sure it can work for other types of OCD too. Obviously, there are some obsessions that can't be physically looped because of safety reasons, or perhaps they are impossible to duplicate. That might be a great time to script out a worst case scenario of what you fear, read the script and sit with the anxiety, and then go back and re-read that worse case scenario once the anxiety comes down by half. Jonathan Grayson's book (see his book listed under Helpful Books to the right) gives directions on how to do scripting.

I thought my psychologist's idea of looping was great, so I wanted to share it with you. I wish I could say I did lots of looping. (Sunny writes this with her head hung low.) I wonder how much more quickly I would have gotten better if I had. It certainly does take time, effort, and planning. If you decide to try looping, I would love to hear if and how it worked for you. I'm always thankful to receive helpful tips and strategies from my fellow OCD sufferers to add to my own recovery "toolbox." Good luck!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Concluding OCD Awareness Week

What an exciting week! I had the privilege of attending two different worship conferences this week. These conferences are an opportunity for those involved in church music and technical ministries to learn from professional (mostly Christian artists and technicians, though occasionally some are not) musicians and technical experts. It's a great time of learning and connecting with other believers.

Often, the musicians who perform at the main worship sessions are well known artists. At the second conference this week, the featured artist was Paul Baloche. I love Paul's music as he is an extremely gifted songwriter. Our church uses a lot of his music during worship time, so when Paul led worship I felt like I was really at home. I was especially joyful when Paul led us in "Today Is The Day" (one of my all time favorite songs).

As OCD Awareness Week was concluding, I thought it would be appropriate to wear my awareness t-shirt at the conference yesterday. I must admit that I was a little nervous about wearing it, but honestly, the thought of bringing a little attention to OCD (and to my brave fellow OCD sufferers) really seemed worth any minor risk of awkwardness for me. I knew I made the right decision when I got stopped by an employee at the restaurant where my group had breakfast.

The employee noticed the "crafty" tools depicted on the front of my shirt and she asked me if I was an artist. I turned around and showed her the back of my shirt. I said that I was wearing it for OCD Awareness Week and I explained a little bit to her about how there is now effective treatment available. I also told her about the IOCDF. She seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say and thanked me for sharing the information. Wow. That rocked. I wore that shirt proudly for the rest of the day, just hoping that someone else would notice it and realize that help is out there.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

My Wish For You

I never discuss my child out of privacy concerns. I will, however, say this much. My wish for my child upon high school graduation was for a vibrant, full life, lived in Christ. A life not dominated by anxiety, fear of risk, or even a fear of failure. But a life of adventure, taking chances, and frankly, just plain old living. Not just subsisting. The song, "I Hope You Dance," by Lee Ann Womack, perfectly encapsulated all of my hopes and dreams, and I shared that with my child at the time. It has become our special little song.

I heard that song in the car this afternoon, and it brought me right back to that point in our lives. I continue to wish all those things for my child today. It also got me to thinking about OCD Awareness Week and about my fellow anxiety disorder strugglers. Why is OCD Awareness Week important? One reason it is important is because if we can get the word out about proper treatment, then perhaps many others can begin to "dance" through their lives, instead of being tormented by their illness.

Slowly, but surely, since my treatment, I have begun to "dance" more and more. My dear, sweet, precious readers - this is my wish for you too. God bless, and dance!

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger
May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid, love ever leave you empty handed

I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens
Promise me that you'll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice, to sit it out or dance

I hope you dance
I hope you dance

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Livin' might mean takin' chances, but their worth takin'
Lovin' might be a mistake, but it's worth makin'

Don't let some hellbent heart leave you bitter
When you come close to sellin' out, reconsider
Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance
And when you get the choice, to sit it out or dance

I hope you dance
I hope you dance
(Time is a wheel in constant motion always rolling us along)
I hope you dance
I hope you dance
(Tell me who wants to look back on their years and wonder, where those years have gone?)

I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens
Promise me that you'll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice, to sit it out or dance

I hope you dance
I hope you dance
I hope you dance
(Time is a wheel in constant motion always rolling us along)
I hope you dance
I hope you dance
(Tell me who wants to look back on their years and wonder, where those years have gone?)

Monday, October 8, 2012

OCD Awareness Week

October 8 - 14, 2012, has been designated OCD Awareness Week. I am grateful to the International Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Foundation's attempt to bring attention to, and to reduce the stigma of, OCD. The IOCDF's mission to educate the public about the true nature of OCD, and its effective treatment, is critical to bringing relief and hope to so many who suffer in shameful secrecy. For several years, I was one of those who kept my pain private for fear of discrimination and rejection. Thankfully, because of great treatment, my life has changed dramatically.

However, every time I am tempted to think that I am really almost done with all of this "OCD stuff," I am reminded that it is a chronic mental illness that I will most likely have to manage for the rest of my days here on earth. For example, this weekend has been a challenge for me. I had the Friday evening purse incident, and I also had contamination difficulties when I checked into a hotel room on Sunday afternoon.

I get frustrated sometimes because I feel like OCD should be mostly background noise at this point in my recovery. I realize that I do need to keep up with my newly acquired anxiety fighting skills. I also must continue performing ERPs as a lifestyle. However, there are some things I can't change, and that includes how much anxiety I feel. Some things will always be hard for me. I accept that. I don't like it, but I accept it. And maybe that is part of OCD awareness. Helping others understand that some parts of life are just difficult to navigate for those of us with anxiety disorders. We certainly don't want to be viewed as less than capable, and yet there is the necessary acknowledgement that at times, a little compassion and patience can go a long way to ease the burden of those living with mental illness.

So here's to awareness of the need for education and proper treatment, for ownership of recovery by the OCD sufferer, and lastly, for the desire and hope of receiving empathy and sensitivity from society for those who live with the daily turmoil of mental illness.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

It Was A Horror, But I'm Not Talking About The Movie

My husband and I were having a lovely dinner and a movie date night. That was until about 3/4 through the movie. I had my small clutch style purse, sweatshirt, and my husband's baseball cap on my lap. All of a sudden, my purse fell onto the theater floor. I was a little grossed out, but I figured I would just pick it up and force myself to use it normally. My husband reached down, grabbed my purse, and handed it back to me. That's when I felt it - some sort of wetness on my purse. Oh, how I thought I would die! I noticed that my husband rubbed his hands together quickly, as if to dry off something wet on them. I immediately wanted to go wash my hands. I asked him if he should go wash his hands too. He told me that there was no reason for him to wash his hands. He also told me that I should just wipe my purse off with a napkin and go on like nothing happened. Uh huh. Right. I've made tremendous progress in fighting my OCD, but this was really pushing it. No way I was going to let this one go.

I spent the rest of the movie holding my purse (and now contaminated sweatshirt) on my lap in such a way that I would not get even more dirty and spread the filth. When the movie finished, I looked down at the floor, and noticed what appeared to be spilled soda, and my husband's baseball hat laying right on it. Ughhhh. I picked up the hat and carried all my gross items back to the car. Thankfully, on the way out of the theater, my husband did agree to stop in the restroom and wash his hands. When we got to the car, he opened up the car door for me (because there was no way I was going to touch the handle), and then we drove home. Of course, the hat and the sweatshirt went straight into the washing machine, as well as everything I was wearing. My hands also got a good scrubbing. I'm still trying to decide whether I should throw my little purse out or not.

I was not very successful battling OCD last night. I did notice one interesting thing, however. While watching the movie, I was really debating whether I should go wash my hands or not, because I didn't want to miss any parts of the film. In the past, if something gross had happened, I would have been so freaked out that I wouldn't even have noticed that there was a movie still playing. Hmmmm . . . I guess you could still call that progress.