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!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Just A Thought

Yesterday afternoon, I was watching a football game with my family. The tv network showed clips of some people joyfully shaving their heads in support of a coach who is fighting cancer. This was a wonderful display of encouragement, compassion, and solidarity, for a man who is facing what is probably the fight of his life.

After seeing this scene, I had a thought. Someone gets cancer, and people shave their heads, raise money, and rally around the sufferer. Someone has a mental illness, and people get mad and frustrated with them.

Please understand, I want to make it clear: I think it is important that people who struggle with cancer get as much support as they can get. I know cancer is a terribly frightening disease and I'm happy to see cancer patients get showered with love and concern, as they should be. It's just that I wish I would also see the same response for those who suffer with a terribly frightening disease of the mind.

I know those of us with mental illness can at times be very, or even extremely, difficult to live with. We don't mean for that to happen. Really, we don't. And just like a cancer patient is responsible for following through with his or her treatments, we need to follow through with ours as well, and do what we can to minimize our symptoms. However, beyond that, well, it's not our fault. Really. It's doubly painful to have to live with an illness and then have people be angry with you because of it. It sure can be lonely sometimes. That makes me sad.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today, in the United States, we are celebrating the holiday of Thanksgiving. This is a day for us to get together with friends and family to eat a large feast and to thank God for everything He has blessed us with. There are so many people and things I am thankful for, that if I listed them, there would not be enough room on this blog. So I'm going to list just one thing I'm thankful for: you! Thank you for reading, commenting, and being so supportive. If you, or someone you love, suffers from an anxiety disorder or depression, I want you to know that I am praying for you right now as I type this. God Bless You.

Beautiful autumn mums.

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
Ps 118:1 NASB

My sweet potato casserole.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Nice To Meet You

Today is the one year anniversary of 71º & Sunny. When I first started this blog, I was anxious about keeping my identity a secret. I didn't want anyone but my immediate family to know that I was "Sunny." (By the way, thanks for giving me that nickname because I totally love it!!) I know that lots of you have struggled with whether to tell others about your OCD or mental illness issues. Many of you have chosen to keep that information private, and I completely respect that. I would never, ever criticize or judge someone for keeping their illness private. There are several reasons why someone might do that, and for many years, those reasons were my own.

I thought now might be a good time to share a little bit more about myself with you, seeing as we've been friends for a year.

I love cats, especially my little Anna. We once had a pure white, teddy bear hamster named Pop. He died a few months after we got him. He was so cute, and his passing made us cry like little babies. Speaking of crying, I'm a complete softie. I cry at movies, and yes, even at commercials. I love action flicks, dramas, mysteries, and the occasional chick flick. I'm totally into rock music (I was a teen of the 80's!) and pop. My most recent favorite pop song is "Call Me Maybe," much to my husband's irritation. I've had a drum kit sitting in my extra bedroom for about 5 years. I'm finally (probably) going to start lessons this winter.

I also love, love, love to read. It opens up an entire new world for me. Travel is another favorite past-time which is, of course, limited by budget. When we do travel, we like to stay at B&Bs. I also like to cross-stitch, and I've recently started doing it again.

My favorite foods are spicy Thai and Mexican, though I will never refuse a really good, greasy, extra-cheesy slice of pizza. Dr. Pepper is absolutely my drink of choice (I even have a t-shirt that says "I'm A Pepper"). I hate vegetables and milk. Peeps are some of my favorite snacks. I even have Peeps socks.

I've already told you in previous posts about how I like to sing, act, direct, and work the audio board at church. I'm thinking about auditioning for community theater next spring. I also love to attend the theater. It's so much fun to see something performed live.

I'm a fan of crisp autumn days topped off with apple cider and a nice pumpkin or banana bread. I like to visit big cities, but suburbia is where I prefer to live. I like the mountains and the ocean too. Thankfully, my beautiful New England has both.

I love Jesus, my family, and my wonderful church friends who are like family. I get angry when I witness injustice. I laugh a lot and I try not to take myself too seriously. Little kids and animals make me smile. I'm afraid of bugs, but I'm not afraid of heights, and one of my most treasured memories is of riding in a hot air balloon with my extremely height phobic husband. My favorite color is purple, but pink is pretty great too. My beloved iPhone is never too far out of my reach. My favorite games are Words with Friends, Phrase Friends, Gardens of Time, and the wildly addicting Bejeweled.

Oh, and I have OCD. And I'm not going to hide it anymore.

My name is Monique Gagne. So very nice to meet you!


Monday, November 12, 2012

Here An Obsession, There An Obsession . . .

As stated in my last post, it's been a really busy time for me recently. The last few days have continued to stay hectic (but in a good way). Sometimes, being very active is a great thing for my OCD because it doesn't give me much time to focus on it, or on the crazy thoughts (obsessions) that swim through my mind. Other times though, taking on additional activities introduces more obsessions into the mix because it takes me face to face with things that I might have avoided in the past.

On Saturday morning, I led a meeting for the Theater Team at my church. Because it was my meeting, I was responsible for opening up the building and then locking all the doors after we were done. I hate taking on this kind of reponsbility. It's a very scary proposition to me, because if something goes wrong, then it's all my fault. The funny thing though, is that I didn't even give much thought to the locking up part until the end of the meeting. That was a victory in and of itself, simply because in the past I would have been consumed with anticipatory anxiety for hours beforehand.

After everyone left, I stayed behind to use the restroom. I was a little anxious leaving the bathroom, knowing that I was the last one in there and that I was responsible for making sure that the faucets were off (I always worry I will leave them on and flood the church - weird, I know) and that the lights were off. Next, I had to make sure that the sound and lights were off in the sanctuary. This was not too stressful, as I'm often responsible for lights and sound on other occasions, so I've gotten pretty used to it. The side door though - that was a tough one as it can be a little tricky to close properly. I did re-check it once. However, once I reached my car, I really wanted to drive around to the side to check it again, only from the outside instead. I forced myself to drive away. That was hard. However, a few minutes later, I pretty much completely forgot about it!

Code Red - a dumpster is nearby!

On Sunday afternoon, after church services were over, there were only a few of us left in the building, including one of the women who was cleaning up all of the trash. Red alert. I generally stay far away from people wielding garbage bags. As I was walking to my car, I noticed her trying to put the trash into the dumpster. Unfortunately, the dumpster is really tall, and as she tried to lift the dumpster cover and toss the trash in, the cover fell down and knocked the bag over onto the ground, spilling a bunch of its contents. I really, really wanted to get into my car and drive away. I know, that would have been a jerky thing to do. I'm going to be honest with you - if she had not seen me, I probably would have driven away. However, she saw me, and I would have looked like a total loser (and very un-Christ like) if I hadn't walked over to help her. So, I sucked up my courage, walked over there, and held the cover for her (which was above my head because the dumpster is so tall) while she dumped the garbage in. Some of the garbage came out of the bag and flew into the air above us. I *think* some of it grazed my head, and I know that some of it hit my leg and shoe.

So I did the only thing I could - I cried all the way home and then washed everything in sight. Um, no, not really. That's what I wanted to do. Instead, I went back into the building, washed my hands, and went on with my day. Sure, my stomach was in knots as I drove away, but you know what? After a few minutes I was just fine. The obsessive thoughts bothered me a little throughout the afternoon and evening, but I checked with my husband and he told me to just go about my business like normal. Later, I went home and slept in my freshly cleaned and changed bed sheets, without having taken a shower first. Yep, progress. Praise God!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

There's Always Time For Hit and Run OCD

I've had a couple of really (good) crazy busy days this week. Of course, I still made time for Hit and Run OCD. Ugh.

It wasn't a big or time consuming incident. But, still, I gave in, even though I knew I shouldn't have. There is always guilt after I give in to an OCD urge. I hate that part too. Sometimes you just feel pulled in both directions and it can get tiring.

Last night I was driving to a lecture that was going to be given by a gentleman who is an expert in mastering albums for really big music artists. I was hoping to learn a little something that might help me with mixing sound for the worship band at my church. The lecture was scheduled to take place at a university in Massachusetts, in a city that I am not too familiar with. At one point I was looking at my windshield-mounted GPS when I hit a bump. I instantly felt that old familiar spike of anxiety. Rather than resist the anxiety, I decided to drive back and take a quick peek at the potential accident site. There was nothing there (surprise, surprise!). I even pulled over for a few seconds just to stare at the spot and make sure I was seeing everything clearly.

The whole thing took maybe two minutes out of my night. Not a major issue in the big scheme of things, but, I know that anytime I give in to OCD it can lead down a slippery slope. As I continued my drive to the university, the episode continued to weigh on my mind. I wondered why it was that certain bumps on the road bother me and why others do not. It then hit me. I had not been driving perfectly. Meaning, I was looking at the GPS, instead of looking at the road. And that makes me a bad person. Well, at least in my OCD mind it does. You really have to love those cognitive distortions.

A perfect driver never takes their eyes off of the road. If a perfect driver gets into a car accident, or causes one, well, it's a true accident. However, if I am not driving perfectly, and doing something that is distracting and then I cause an accident, well, I deserved it. It's all my fault and I should go to jail and suffer all of the consequences that come with it. Not only that, everyone I know will hate me because I negligently caused an accident.

I've come to realize that I am only stressed about driving if I've done something "imperfect" at the same time. The truth is, I think every driver is probably guilty of distraction at one time or another.  Of course, some drivers are more distracted than others! I think the important thing to take from this is that I'm not perfect. And I guess that will have to be ok.

I thought you might enjoy seeing a picture of Southern NH's first snowfall of the winter. We haven't even picked up all of the leaves yet!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

An Actual, Real-Life Sports Hero?

An actual, real-life sports hero? I think I may have just found one. In this era of doping, steroids, criminal behavior, and title stripping, it is refreshing to come upon an athlete who uses his newfound fame for something else other than his own personal enrichment. I recently came across an interesting article at CNN online that introduced me to a brave young man. Royce White, 21, is a basketball player who is commencing his rookie year for the Houston Rockets. Royce battles Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. And he's not shy about sharing that information.

One of Royce's biggest struggles is his extreme fear of plane flights. Of course, being part of a professional basketball team means constant flying. Ironically, this may actually help him to overcome his OCD. Those of us who've been through CBT/ERP know that consistent exposure to things that frighten us is the only real way to beat a fear. Going to work may be the best thing that ever happened to Mr. White!

Royce has used his experiences with anxiety to encourage others who struggle as well. As a college basketball player, he visited with a group of youngsters who also dealt with mental illness and he shared about his disorders with them. Additionally, he is working to end the stigma of mental illness through a new campaign that he is initiating.

Personally, I haven't been interested in the NBA since Larry Bird led the Celtics to greatness. Hmmm . . . I may just have to start watching a little basketball again.