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!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Lesson Learned From Christmas Exposure

I am now past the terrifying Christmas exposure of the candles. I'm not going to sugarcoat it - it was terribly miserable at first, but, as time wore on, I realized that I could handle this exposure just like I've handled every other one. Once again, the anticipatory anxiety was the true problem.

A couple of my worst fears even came true during this exposure, and yet, the world did not come to a crashing halt. Someone did accidentally knock over one of the candles, but it went out on its own on the way down. Phew - so it didn't burn down the building! Also, a child came over to help me blow out the candles, and she blew so hard on it that the wax flew back onto her and burned her hand. I thought I was going to die! I immediately sent her to the bathroom to put her hand under cold water and I went to find her mom. When I told the mom, she looked at me and said, "Uh, I think she's fine. If you turn around, you will see that she's jumping around and laughing, so I don't think it's a problem." Alrighty then. Another crisis averted.

Confession time - I did not hand out the glass candle holders as gifts. I was too afraid of the chipped glass hurting anyone (this is a harm obsession). In fact, I threw them all out (which was a compulsive act - a harm compulsion - because I didn't want to hurt anyone). I know, it's an awful waste of money. I do struggle with guilt about that, but fear always beats out guilt. Let's just say this incident caused a little, um, "domestic tiff" between myself and my husband, who had previously forbidden me from throwing them out. Ooops. he he

Sort of a White Christmas - just a couple of days late!
Meanwhile, I had an incredibly joyful Christmas with my family. I thank you so much for all of your prayers. Yes, OCD was still my companion, but it did not rule the day. We also got nailed with our first real winter storm (approximately 6 inches or so) on Thursday. Thought you might like to see a pic of that.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Have A Blessed, Merry Christmas

I'm praying for all of you right now that your Christmas will be filled with peace, love, and a sense of wonder. I'm praying for a peace that surpasses all human understanding, love that fills your heart to the brim, and a sense of wonder about Christmas and God's best gift ever, Jesus. My dear, precious friends, I pray blessings upon you. And if this season is difficult for you for any reason, I'm praying that you would feel the presence of the Comforter.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Exposures? Bah Humbug!

This can be filed under, "What in the world was I thinking?" Roughly a month and a half ago I volunteered to set up approximately 50 some-odd pillar candles on the stage at church for our Christmas Eve services. I offered to do this when my OCD was more under control and I was feeling great. Seriously, with my paranoia of fire, how insane was that? It seemed like a good idea at the time. Now, not so much.

We have services tonight and tomorrow night, so a really good friend of mine, along with a couple other people, helped me set them up yesterday morning. We had to test them of course, so we lit them. Oh boy. That was painful. I was really worried about setting the place ablaze.

However, I'm more worried about tonight and tomorrow night, when the band and other assorted people will be on stage next to the candles. I'm concerned about them bumping into the candles and knocking them over, or maybe a stray ember will spark something on fire. Ugh.

I'm also worried about some gifts I am giving people that are food items. I'm so scared that I will accidentally do something bad to the food and that people will eat it and get sick. Oh, and I also bought some small votive candle glass containers to give as gifts. They fell and one of them has a small chip, so now my mind is telling me that someone will get glass in one of their gifts. Maybe it will even get into the food gifts. Aaaaggghhh.

I woke up at 4:00 a.m. today with my mind churning about all of this stuff. Finally, I decided to search online for some Bible verses about anxiety. That did help and I fell asleep around 5:30 a.m.

So now I'm exhausted, sick to my stomach with anxiety, and just generally not in a very holiday mood. I'm going to keep fighting though. I refuse to let OCD ruin another family holiday, even if I have to fake my way through it. I'm going to pull out all my CBT tools and trust my currently fragile spirit to my Heavenly Father.

The candles are pretty.

I hate glass items. Ugh.

Friday, December 21, 2012

This Christmas Season

This Christmas season, I've struggled a bit with getting into the spirit of things. The tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut has certainly been on my mind. In addition, this week, I attended the funeral of a young, expectant mother, who also left behind a child that was seriously injured in the same car accident. The same day I learned about the car accident, I read Janet Singer's heartbreaking post about the 19 year old who took his life because of severe OCD.

I was only a minor acquaintance of the young woman (in fact, I think I've only ever spoken to her once), and I never met any of those poor souls who lost their lives in Connecticut, or the young man who was so tormented by OCD. Yet, I've struggled with feeling guilty about trying to enjoy the holidays.

I had a discussion with my husband about this the other night. I told him that I was having a hard time moving forward and that I felt torn. If I move on with my life, I feel like I don't care about the suffering of others. However, if I spend too much time thinking about things that I absolutely can't change, then I end up getting sicker and my anxiety worsens while my depression deepens.

Pretty decorations lift
my spirits.
My husband looked at me and said, "Monique, life is for the living." Those words really stuck with me. So that's what I'm going to really try to do this next week. I'm going to live. I'm going to be thankful to Jesus for coming into my life, and I'm going to enjoy time spent with my friends and family. I know that if I passed on, that is absolutely what I would want for my loved ones left behind. I think the best way we can honor those who go on is to remember them, and to comfort and serve those they left behind. But, we also need to live, because life is for the living.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Who Knows Of It?

Pain, suffering covers all like a murky fog;
Who knows of it?
Grief, loss, futures vanished like whispers in the wind;
Who knows of it?

Hearts shaken, lives shattered;
Who knows of it?
Tears fallen, knees buckled under weight of sorrow;
Who knows of it?

Teeth clenched, palms raised in disbelief;
Who knows of it?
Eyes downcast, heads hung low in despair;
Who knows of it?

He knows of it.
He brings water to the thirsty,
comfort to the anguished,
strength to the weary,
and guidance to the lost.

He knows of it.
He brings hope to the hopeless,
dawn to the night,
healing to the pained,
and peace to the tormented.

Bring it to Jesus, who restores the crushed
and mends the broken.
Yes, He knows of it.
                     M. Gagne

I wrote those words in an attempt to get rid of it. What exactly is "it?" I have no idea. Sorrow, shock, horror, rage; take your pick. Whatever small discomfort I am experiencing is absolutely minuscule compared to the devastation that is facing several families in Newtown, Connecticut. I've struggled to pray for them. I don't really know what to say in my prayers, as the whole situation is completely overwhelming. Mostly, I just ask God to comfort them. Because, thankfully, He knows of it.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
Psalm 34:18 ESV

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Waxing And Waning

I love to watch the
moon wax and wane.
The moon is not the only thing that waxes and wanes. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is something that is also known to wax and wane. Meaning, OCD can get worse for no apparent reason, and at times it can get better, again without any obvious reason. I think it's easy to say that most of us are pretty happy when OCD wanes on its own, but when it waxes (or gets worse) without any explanation, that can become exceedingly frustrating.

Unfortunately, I'm at a point where the OCD is becoming more problematic. I have no explanation for this. Perhaps it is the cold weather and darkness that is settling like a thick blanket over New England. Perhaps not. In any case, it really doesn't matter what the cause is. My OCD is getting worse and I have to live with that reality. And deal with it.

I know of a handful of people that have almost completely recovered from OCD. I know many more people that have improved through treatment, but still have to be vigilant about their symptoms. I believe I fit in the latter category. I've come to the conclusion that truly accepting the fact that I have a chronic mental illness means that I also must accept what comes with it, including the waxing and waning of the illness. As my symptoms improve, I will celebrate. As my symptoms worsen, I will refuse to blame myself. Instead, I will ride the wave while at the same time doing what I can to minimize the symptoms. I'm done fighting the idea that I have OCD. I still hate it, but not as much as I once did. I'm choosing to accept it, while not giving in to it. Easier said than done.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Avoidance Works

It's true. Avoidance does work. So does stuffing my face with food so I don't have to feel any emotional pain. Drinking works for lots of people in order to dull their suffering. Yes, all these things serve their purpose of helping us keep the pain away - for a little while. Some time ago, my psychologist explained to me that there are "benefits" to these behaviors, or else we would never engage in them to begin with. The problem is that these poor coping strategies don't take care of the underlying problem, and of course, they leave a wake of devastation of their own.

I was reminded again today of why avoidance is my worst enemy, although it seems like my best friend in the short run. My husband and I spent several hours this afternoon dealing with some things around the house that I had been putting off for months and months. Oh, it was hard! I must admit that I complained the entire time.

I know, I must embrace the idea of dealing with things head on if I'm to continue making progress against the OCD. It has to be a lifestyle change. I always, and I mean, always, regret avoidance. Maybe one of these days I'll finally make that lifestyle change.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Crohn's and Colitis Awareness Week

Advocacy for Crohn's and Colitis is near and dear to my heart as my husband lives with Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Thankfully, because of bi-monthly infusions, he remains in full remission and his life is hardly impacted by this terrible illness. Unfortunately, many people are unable to enjoy the kind of remission that my husband has been blessed with. They continue to live with symptoms that make it difficult to live a normal life. If you, or someone you love, is afflicted with Crohn's or Colitis, I highly recommend that you visit the excellent website maintained by the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America. Here's to your good health!