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!

Friday, December 20, 2013


My Memere, 3 years ago
at age 99
It's been a very eventful few weeks. We had to deal with Jim's most recent health issues, and the night before Thanksgiving, my 102 year old grandma passed away after many years of living with Alzheimer's. Her passing was a blessing, as she had absolutely almost no quality of life whatsoever, and she had not known who we were for years. We expected it, we even prayed for it, and yet, when she did pass, I was surprised by how it affected me. I will never, ever be able to talk about my Memere in the present tense again. It also saddened me when I realized I would not need to buy her a Christmas present this year. Or ever again.

There is nothing that annoys me more than when someone passes, and everybody talks about them like they were a perfect saint. It just seems so . . . hollow and fake. My Memere wasn't perfect (who is?), and we had our issues, but I still have many wonderful memories of her from when I was a little child. As someone who struggles terribly with perfectionism, it is hard for me to deal with both sides of people (myself included). I tend to think of people as all wonderful, or if I don't see them that way, it is very hard for me to deal with them at all. There is no question that polarized thinking follows me everywhere. I'm learning to accept all sides of people, both good and bad, (again, myself included). If I'm hurt by someone or don't agree with what someone did, I am trying extremely hard to forgive and move on, even if they never realize or acknowledge the wrongdoing. It is not easy. It doesn't mean that I'm ignoring wrongdoing, or not dealing with it at the time. But, I'm sure you understand what I mean, when I say there are times you must forgive and move on. I've chosen to focus now on the positives of my relationship with my grandma, because there absolutely were a lot of positives. I think she did the best she could for her family.

I'm not exactly an angel either. I let my OCD get in the way of being there for her in the last several years. I really hate that about myself. I thought I would be consumed with guilt at her passing because of that. Strangely enough, I'm not. Oh, don't get me wrong, I'm not excusing myself. I guess I'm just trying to apply the same healthier thought patterns to myself. I can't change my past behavior anymore than I can change someone else's. So, what I'm left with, is the need for forgiveness and acceptance once again. Only this time, it's towards myself. I've asked my Lord for forgiveness. Now, I need to follow His lead.

Christmas will be bittersweet for my family this year, as I'm sure it will be for many others. God bless you if you are dealing with loss, and all that goes with it, right now. I pray that He comforts you with His love, His peace, and wonderful memories of your loved one.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18 ESV

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Deja Vu?

It was almost exactly 3 years ago (12/13/10) that Jim was released from the hospital after a week and a half stay that was due to a life threatening flare of Ulcerative Colitis/Crohn's Disease. And . . . yesterday (12/14), we were in the emergency room again. To keep him in remission from his disease, he gets an infusion of immune suppressing medication every 8 weeks. Because his immune system is now compromised, any type of cold/flu/fever can be dangerous for him. So when his temp hit 101, I called the doctor's office, and we were then directed to go to the ER.
Jim was not too happy with me that I
forced him to go to the ER!

Being that uncertainty is at the core of OCD, these types of things usually drive me crazy (literally). I always worry that he might die or be disabled for life. And the memories. Oh, the bad, bad memories of 3 years ago that continue to haunt me every November/December since then. Well, truthfully, they haunt me all the time.

I was definitely scared yesterday, don't get me wrong. But I never felt out of control or overwhelmed. I can't believe I'm saying this, but in some ways, those bad memories served a good purpose. I remembered how awful things were at that previous time, but I also remembered that I got through it. That helped me tremendously yesterday. I knew things could have been much, much worse, and even if they did get worse, we would find a way to survive.

I have been petrified about this type of health problem for 3 long years. I've had massive anticipatory anxiety. It finally happened. The world did not collapse. I tried really hard to focus on our blessings. The ER staff was great. They took his condition very seriously and treated him cautiously. Tons of our friends and family were praying for us. I'm sure that was why I was relatively at peace yesterday. We managed to make it to the hospital and back home before a major snowstorm (10 inches) hit us. There is a lot to be grateful for.

Oh, and Jim just happens to be on the mend! Today was a pretty good day for him and it seems like his fever is gone.

We are so much stronger than we think we are. You are so much stronger than you think you are. Remember, OCD lies to us. Just because we feel weak, it doesn't make it true.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Alive & Kicking

The chorus of the Simple Minds' 80's hit, "Alive and Kicking," has been rolling around my head the last few days every time I thought about writing this post. Yes, I am indeed still alive and kicking, though you'd never know it from the lack of posts recently.

It's been a combination of things that's kept me from writing. I've been unbelievably busy (a good thing that I enjoy) and I had a couple of difficult situations recently that have been painful and anxiety provoking (a not so good thing). It was nothing earth shattering, but I do need to develop a thicker skin. If you figure out how to accomplish that one, please fill me in because frankly, I haven't a clue.

Unfortunately, one of the ways my anxiety showed up was in the form of hit and run OCD. One day last week, I spent almost an hour re-driving by "troublesome" areas. This is the worst episode I've had in quite a while. It's not the end of the world and I can move on from it, but it's still frustrating. C'est la vie.

In the meantime, I press forward. I hope things will calm down soon so that I will be able to post (and read!) blogs again.

Just a thought for both you and me as we head into the holidays. Nothing has to be perfect. There is no perfect gift, so we don't need to torture ourselves trying to find one. It's easy to idealize the holidays and then become disappointed when they don't meet our expectations. I think it's important to remember to take care of ourselves by trying to get adequate rest and also to take the time to enjoy (and be mindful of) the specialness of this season. God bless.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

When Will I Learn?

So I had my date with the dentist today. Jim joined me for my cleaning, and actually held my hand through it. I know, I'm a big baby! The staff at my dentist's office is awesome. They were totally cool with Jim coming in, and the hygienist even told me that they see dental phobia often. She said that she has seen patients literally shaking in the chair and sometimes she's seen patients just sitting there with tears rolling down their face. Wow. I feel incredibly bad for those other patients. I'm so blessed that both my husband and my mom were willing to come with me.

Just having a little fun with
my new toothbrush!
Now, for the interesting part. Surely, I could sense your prayers and I thank you so much! Jim, my mom, and my worship pastor were also praying and I believe all those prayers made a huge difference. I slept well last night and I didn't feel too bad throughout the appointment, which is amazing. I did have a pretty severe dizzy spell as I was getting into my car to leave. I'm sure it was from all of the adrenaline coursing through my body. So I sat in my car and took deep breaths until I felt good enough to drive. In a lot of ways anxiety doesn't scare me anymore, and I usually recognize the symptoms right away. I waited until it passed and then went about my day.

The best part? I have no cavities and my gums are the healthiest they've been in years! So I was (of course!) worried, once again, about nothing. Absolutely NOTHING. When will I learn?

Oh, and just a quick shout out to the Boston Red Sox who are the 2013 champions! Yahoo! I'm not a huge baseball fan, but hey, I'll jump on the bandwagon!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Date With The Dentist

Oh boy. Tomorrow I have to go to a terrible appointment. A dental cleaning. I know, sounds silly, huh? Unfortunately, it's not silly to me. I have a massive dental phobia that has only grown worse as the years have gone on. The irony is that my psychologist once told me that dental phobia is one of the easiest phobias to treat. Of course, the treatment sure isn't fun. She suggested that I go online and watch any video I could of people in the dentist's chair, or pictures and videos of dental drills, etc. She also suggested that I drive to my dentist's office and hang out in the parking lot, then maybe after a few days of that, go into the building, then a few days later maybe just hang out in the waiting room for a while. Essentially, she wanted me to expose myself to all of these scary things for a while each day until I felt the anxiety go down. You know, good old fashioned Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP).

Do you think I've done that? Nope. So my anxiety has increased (like it always does when I don't purposefully confront it). Because of that I have been putting off my cleaning for a long time. I'm too embarrassed to tell you how long! I now suspect that I have a cavity. I have very soft enamel and I've always had gum problems, so this turn of events is not exactly shocking. I have to deal with this, but I'm so s-s-s-scared. I finally had to ask my husband to call the office for me and set up an appointment. I just couldn't bring myself to do it. He did call this morning and managed to get me an appointment for tomorrow. I can't believe it, because my dentist's office is always booked for weeks.

So early tomorrow morning (I'm not a morning person, so this should be doubly fun) my husband will accompany me to the appointment. And he will sit in the room with me. Yep, I'm 45 years old and I need my husband to sit in the dentist's office with me. Sigh. Living with anxiety/OCD is certainly a humbling experience. You're in a grown-up's body, but it feels like you have the mind of a frightened child.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Feeling Better, But Already Worrying About Christmas!

It looks like the iron and Vitamin D are kicking in. I'm still tired, but not nearly as totally exhausted as I had been feeling. I still don't have a lot of motivation to do things, although I think it's partly because I'm so busy with projects at church that I really don't have much energy left to do stuff at home. It's not like I really enjoy doing things at home anyway, so it's no big loss!

I was doing a little shopping today at The Christmas Tree Shop. They carry tons of products besides just Christmas items. They did, of course, also have a whole lot of Christmas decorations for sale. When I saw them, I started to get really overwhelmed about the thought of having to decorate the house (sounds like anticipatory anxiety, don't ya think?). All I kept thinking about was how tired I still am and how much work it would be to get the house together for the holidays. I wondered if maybe I could skip it this year. But then I started thinking about my adult child coming home to visit and I wondered if that would make me a bad mom to leave the house undecorated. Ugh, guilt. The only time I ever skipped decorations was the winter of Jim's horrible flare.

I manage to worry about some pretty stupid stuff, don't I? I decided that I was getting all worked up for no good reason. I don't really have to think about this for at least another month. In the meantime, I'm taking the supplements prescribed by my doctor. For all I know, I might be feeling tremendously better in a month. Or not. In either case, it doesn't matter. I'm choosing to deal with it when the time comes, and not a moment before it is necessary. I refuse to waste time worrying for nothing.

For so many years, I didn't realize that I had choices, even about things as minor as this. I was so locked up in cognitive distortions that I couldn't think outside of the very tiny box that was my mind.

Monday, October 14, 2013

International OCD Awareness Week, October 14-20, 2013

I like this year's theme of "so OCD."

I'll be honest. I cringe whenever I hear someone say that. I know that no harm is meant by that statement. I also know that lots of people think that those of us who get upset about this type of stuff are too sensitive or uptight. But here's the thing. Living with severe OCD is absolute agony that I would never wish on anyone. I have literally been on the floor, on my hands and knees, screaming and sobbing because I was so utterly distraught. I have spent days upon days (before completing treatment) wishing that I never had to take another tortured breath on this earth. I have had lots of contact with others who have OCD through support groups and annual conferences, etc. I have seen the torment etched on their faces. I have seen eyes that reflect a deep all-consuming well of pain, and I have seen incredibly red hands (sometimes my own) that look so raw and painful that you wonder how they can continue to use their hands.

I once had a psychologist tell me that in their opinion, OCD was one of the most painful mental illnesses to be afflicted with. The thing is, when someone flippantly says, "I'm so OCD," it completely minimizes the suffering of everyone who has it.

Yes, I really am so OCD. Ask me and I'll be happy to tell you all about it.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Mental Illness Awareness Week

It's Mental Illness Awareness Week.

Sometimes, I feel like I have to do something grand to help fight the stigma and bring attention to what constitutes good mental health treatment. However, I'm just going to change my Facebook cover photo to this picture for the coming week. Yep. Just a little thing. But your little thing, with my little thing, with his little thing, and her little thing, well . . . then it's not so little anymore!

God bless my friends!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Racing Thoughts

My bloggy friend, Abigail, wrote a beautifully descriptive post about what it's like to live with the horrible, anxiety-fueled racing thoughts that often accompany OCD. I felt like she was describing me when the OCD was really bad. Imagine living like that with horrible fears swirling through your mind every day while trying to pretend in front of others that nothing is going on. Welcome to the world of OCD.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Character Flaw vs. Mental Illness

"Evangelical, fundamentalist, or born-again Christians (48 percent) agree prayer and Scripture study alone can overcome mental illness. Only 27 percent of other Americans agree." (Emphasis mine.) Ed Stetzer, the president of LifeWay Research, which is the company that conducted this study, shared this disturbing information in an article he wrote for Christianity Today on September 17, 2013.

Big 'ole sigh. These statistics shocked even me.

Please, please hear me. I am a firm believer in God, the power of prayer, and the healing balm of the Bible. I believe that ALL failing of the human body is a spiritual issue, whether it be physical or emotional. I also believe that though God is able to instantaneously heal anything He so chooses to, it seems that very often He allows human interventions to play a part in physical and emotional healing.

When sharing about my struggles with anxiety, I have in the past (but not in my present church family-thank goodness!), heard, "Read your Bible more, pray more, etc. . ." I've never heard that when sharing about a physical issue. Never.

My recent diagnosis of anemia is a perfect example. I told several friends and ministry co-workers about it. Not one of them said anything to me about my failure to pray enough or read my Bible enough. In fact, I heard things like, "Oh, I hope the doctor can figure out your fatigue issues, or, I hope the iron pills work, etc." I heard offers of prayer for me, but nothing was said about my possible "spiritual failings" as the cause of my troubles. Ironically, I eat a pretty crummy diet, so in reality, I should definitely take part of the blame for my physical issues.

So . . . why does society view an illness of the brain so much differently than an illness of the body? One type of illness engenders compassion and sympathy; the other, scorn.

I love what Stetzer says in the article. "Medicine is not the answer to everything, and we live in an overmedicated world, but we need to treat character problems like character problems-and illnesses like illness." Amen to that.

Here is my anemia recovery plan: I'm going to pray about my anemia, I will read Bible verses that pertain to physical suffering in order to receive comfort (and wisdom) from my Lord, AND I will *try* to eat a healthier diet, take my iron pills, and proceed with any follow up treatment recommended by my family physician. Sounds like a pretty well rounded treatment plan to me.

Mental illness is not a character flaw. It's time we stop treating it as such.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Yep, So True

A hard truth that requires some serious work, but it's necessary if we are to grow.

Recently posted from EverythingOCD's Facebook account:

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Envelope Please

A huge thank you to all of you who left really lovely supportive comments on my last post. Your kindness was (and is) much appreciated.

I continue to feel beyond exhausted, and yet, solid sleep eludes me. Just writing this post took some effort. I did, however, take your comments to heart, and I got some blood work done a few days ago. My doctor called me yesterday and said that the winner is: (drum roll) . . . low iron in my blood! It never occurred to me that this could be the problem. After hearing my test results, I did a bit of research on anemia, and apparently extreme fatigue is one of the main symptoms. Fatigue and Restless Leg Syndrome (this prevents me from sleeping well) are my worst symptoms. Apparently, low blood iron levels can also contribute to Restless Leg. My doctor told me to start taking iron supplements, and that is exactly what I shall do. I'm really hoping this will take care of my lack of energy.

I guess I'm not depressed after all. I've struggled with psychological issues for so long that I just always make the assumption that that is the cause for any physical symptoms I might have. In fact, I really was wondering if I was just lazy, and if that was why I was sleeping all the time. It feels really good to know that there is a physical cause for my symptoms and that it's not just in my head!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Not Sure What's Going On

So . . . as it says in my title, I'm not too sure what is going on right now. Well, for the last few months, actually. I have absolutely no energy. Zero. None. I'm finding it incredibly difficult to crawl out of bed, and when I do, all I can think about is going back to bed. I'm still going to all the meetings and rehearsals and things that I'm obligated to at church, but that is it. Jim and I recently had a "staycation," you know, a vacation where you don't really go anywhere. We did take some day trips, but even that was hard. I would have just preferred to stay home.

The strange thing is that I don't feel sad. If you asked me if I was depressed, I would say no. However, at my routine quarterly appointment with my psychiatrist a few weeks ago, I was told that my symptoms certainly seem depressive in nature. Reluctantly, I would have to agree. This is awful and embarrassing to admit, but there are days when I have no outside obligations, and I don't even bother to eat because I don't have the energy to go downstairs and fix something for myself.

Again, I don't feel sad or depressed. I'm definitely not telling you this because I want you to feel bad for me or anything like that. I'm not suffering. Believe me, I've been in despair before, and this surely isn't it. But, I also know this is not normal or healthy. So I agreed to add an anti-depressant to my SSRI at my psychiatrist's suggestion. Well, actually, first he suggested a lower dose of my SSRI, but I'm scared to do that for fear of increasing OCD symptoms. So the anti-depressant is the next step. I should know in the next week or so if it is working. I have not seen any improvement yet, but I'm hoping and praying it works. Ugh. I REALLY hate adding medication. While I'm (obviously) not against meds, you could not exactly call me pro-meds either, for a lot of reasons. But, it is what it is.

What really bugs me about this is that there is absolutely no outside reason for feeling this way. My marriage is really good, my adult child is doing well. I have loving friends and family. A roof over my head and food in my refrigerator. I guess that's just the chemical nature of depression isn't it? It appears for no (apparent) rhyme or reason.

Part of me soooooo desperately wants to paint a complete, happy ending for you. However, a bigger part of me wants to give you the truth. The messy, complicated, bitter-sweet truth. And yes, while there is bitter, like what I'm dealing with right now, there is a lot of sweet too. I am NOT hopeless. Oh, I have gone through so much worse than this before! I know I will get through this too.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

You Mean I Don't HAVE To Go On A Mission Trip?!

Map from: http://www.freeworld
For several years, my church has been sending short term mission teams to Africa and Central America. For a long time, I wanted to go on one of these trips, but was unable due to my OCD contamination fears. Sadly, the people that get served by our church's missionaries live in appalling circumstances, and it is not unusual for their living arrangements to be near open rivers of raw sewage. Given the severity of my OCD symptoms, spending time in this environment (without a complete meltdown) is not a very likely scenario.

I became convinced that being able to go on one of these trips would be proof of my recovery, and so I felt an obligation to go. I also felt the guilt about not being able to go. Ugh. It was just another thing that I wasn't able (or maybe willing?) to do. What kind of Christian was I? Not a very good one in my estimation.

The last thing I would ever want to do on a mission trip is be a complete distraction with my anxiety. People work hard on these trips and they are there to serve, not to babysit one of their team members. That would make the trip about me, and not the people the trip is supposed to be about. Also, I realized that I wanted to go on one of these trips just to prove my mental health. Not exactly a noble reason.

One day recently, it hit me totally out of the blue. Who said that I had to go on a mission to prove that I was better from OCD? There was only one person: me. I now understand that mission trips are not for everyone, and that maybe God wasn't even calling me to the mission field at all. I could certainly be there for others through financial support, prayers, and encouragement, but there was absolutely nothing dictating that I had to physically participate in a mission myself. So I've taken myself off the hook from having to serve in this way. You know what? It's been sweet relief. There are so many other ways I can serve Jesus and my fellow man (or woman!).

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

How Many Fears Do We Actually Have?

I first heard of John Acuff through his blog, "Stuff Christians Like." He's a witty guy who lovingly pokes fun at his fellow Christians as a way to challenge us to be more authentic followers of Jesus. More than once I've giggled at something he has said while simultaneously realizing that, "Oh wow, I do that too! Maybe I need to rethink that . . ."

I also follow John on Facebook. Ironically, lately he's been posting things having to do with fear. A couple of his posts actually hit the nail on the head when it comes to anxiety and OCD. Thought I'd share one with you.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Behind The Scenes

A few days ago, I posted a video log (or vlog) about how comfortable I'm becoming talking openly with others about living with OCD. What you don't know, is that I really struggled with putting that video up.

Aren't I just the cutest and
fluffiest little thing ever?
You see, my fur baby, Anna, was not in a very good mood when I taped that video, and she mewed and growled a bit on camera. After taping, I didn't want to post it, because I thought that Anna looked mad, and that someone would misunderstand and think I had hurt her and abused her, and I would be reported for animal cruelty, Anna would get taken away from me, I would be arrested, put in jail, and I would lose everything and everyone who cared about me. Hmmm . . . a bit of CATastrophizing, wouldn't you say? (Ha - pun intended!) Yes, indeed, but that sure is how OCD works. Cognitive distortions are the fuel for tormenting thoughts.

I told Jim that I was scared to post it, and he told me to post it anyway as an ERP. He also said that no one would think I hurt Anna just because she was acting like a little diva. Ugh. Ever since we brought Anna into our family, I've worried that someone would falsely think I was abusing her. I remember that until my kid turned 18, I constantly obsessed (and agonized) about someone mistakenly thinking I was an abusive parent and that my precious, precious child would be taken away from me.

I know that these fears are just OCD, as there was never any reason why either my child or my cat would ever be taken from me. Oh, but when these obsessions come, they feel so, so, so real. Like there is no possibility of anything else being the truth.

It is REALLY scary and humiliating admitting these crazy thoughts to you like this. But, I have them, and I suspect others have them too. Honestly, when I really think about this (and when I think about posting about these fears), it makes me panicky and sick to my stomach with horrifying anxiety. But I'm not going down without a fight. I'm tired of my illness controlling me - and I'm posting this in spite of my fear.

If you have these thoughts too, please remember, you are not alone. And the thoughts are not truth. OCD is a filthy liar.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Beautiful Things

OCD is an ugly, ugly mental illness. It's horrible and painful for everyone who has it, and for everyone who loves someone who has it. Thankfully, God is in the business of taking ugly things and making them beautiful. The level of recovery I am enjoying since receiving CBT/ERP and being put on the proper medication is nothing short of beautiful. I am so grateful that my Heavenly Father provided this wonderful treatment for me. During church services yesterday, we sang the song "Beautiful Things" by Gungor. It is one of my all time favorite worship songs, because I feel that it describes my life in Christ. The best part? This beautiful redemption is offered to every person walking on this planet.

Beautiful things. God created you. You are a beautiful thing.

Beautiful Things video

Friday, July 12, 2013

Big To-Do Bout Nuthin

"Oh boy, do I feel silly," I thought to myself yesterday.

The plumber came. The plumber left. And it happened almost as quickly as it took you to read those last two sentences. Really. He showed up, talked to me through my screen door, and went to my back yard to work on a pipe coming out of the house. Less than ten minutes later, he came back to my screen door, told me he was done, and drove away. He never even came into the house! Alrighty then.

The best part is that Jim offered to stay at the house with me while the plumber was supposed to be there, and I told him not to and that I would be alright. I really did want him to stay with me. It was so tempting, but I knew it would be healthier for me if he didn't.

On another note, I had a little OCD win with my garage door yesterday. I always worry that I will drive away and accidentally leave the door up, and then children will come into our garage and get hurt on tools, etc. Well, when I drove away yesterday, for the life of me I could not remember if I put the door down. Oh how I wanted to drive back to check! I forced myself to keep driving anyway. You know what? A few minutes later, I forgot all about it and I didn't think about it again until I returned home many hours later. Yep, fighting OCD really is possible. One step at a time.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Anticipatory A-A-A-Anxiety

I've definitely got some anticipatory anxiety brewing right now. Unfortunately, a plumber has to come to my home tomorrow morning to do some work. I believe he (or she!) will probably need to go into the unfinished part of my basement. You know, the mousy part. And then the plumber will probably touch numerous things throughout my house spreading that awful contamination. Agh!!!

I've been thinking all week how I was going to handle this horrible episode. I can ask my husband to come home from work and be here when the plumber is here. I can ask my mom to come and sit with me during the appointment. I can take some extra medication to help me through it. I can cancel the appointment and avoid the whole thing (but not really - the work must get done). I can do any combination of the previous things. Or . . . I can do nothing and just let the plumber come and do his or her business. I can sit with the terrible fear, experience it, and teach my badly behaving body and mind who is really boss. And let me tell you, it's NOT going to be the OCD. I'm choosing the last option, though it's really scary.

One thing I've learned about anxiety is that if you can get through it, your body will adjust to it, and over time (and through many exposures) your body will react less and less to it. Of course, it's the anticipatory anxiety that forever taunts me. I'm always convinced that it is going to be so much worse than it really is. Generally (especially the more you do ERP), the exposure tends to be easier than expected.

So what am I afraid of? The unknown. I don't know what will really happen tomorrow. And I'm just gonna have to live with that.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Thirteen Years

Thirteen years. That's how long I waited to start Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) after I was first officially diagnosed with OCD. Thirteen years. Not weeks, or months, but years. I was that deathly afraid of CBT/ERP. I think you could call that the mother of all anticipatory anxiety.

Around the time I was diagnosed, in 1996, I did some research online about the proper treatment for OCD. After reading about ERP, I convinced myself that I could never do it. That I could never touch that contaminated item, or that I could never drive over that bump without doubling back to check for an injured pedestrian left languishing on the road. I once heard Dr. Michael Jenike say that most OCD patients wait until their life is unbearable before they seek out CBT/ERP because they are so frightened of it. That is certainly my experience. So I did what I tend to do when I'm scared of something: I avoided treatment. I truly regret that. My family and I continued to suffer needlessly for an additional thirteen years because of my fear.

Would I be completely OCD free now if I had received the right kind of treatment earlier? I doubt it. However, I do think my family and I would have suffered a lot less, and perhaps I would be further along in my recovery than I am now. Sigh. It is what it is. But I would love to encourage you to seek treatment earlier rather than later. It will not be easy. I will not sugar-coat it for you. You will probably have to work harder at this than at anything else you've ever worked on in your life. The first few months of my treatment were brutal, probably in large part because I waited so long. Today though, oh life is so incredibly sweet! Yes, I still live with some of the symptoms, but finally, I am actually living. The difficult treatment was absolutely, without a doubt, totally worth the level of freedom I have today.

From what I understand, OCD generally does not get better on its own. Rather, it tends to worsen without good treatment. Please, if you are thinking about seeking CBT/ERP, then I urge you to do it. There is help available. I KNOW it seems impossible, but it's truly not. You can do it. You are a lot stronger than you think. Hey, you're surviving life with OCD aren't you? That's proof enough of how strong you are.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

I Did Want To Get Better (Sort Of)

Janet, over at ocdtalk, recently wrote a great post that got me thinking about my own recovery. It's true, there were times that I did not want to get better from OCD. It's also true that I obsessed about suicide because I was so tormented by OCD. So which was it? Did I want to get better or not? Yes, I did want to get better (mostly). I can't say 100% yes, because that would not have been true. I did want to rid myself of the pain, but I did not want to rid myself of the perceived benefits of OCD.
A poem I wrote in my 12th
grade Creative Writing Class.

I think it's safe to say that most people who know me would refer to me as being a bit quirky. Frankly, I kinda like that. Also, no one would mistake me for Ansel Adams, Monet, or Celine Dionne, but I like to think of myself as an artist. I enjoy singing, acting, and various other creative endeavors. As an OCD sufferer, I was under the mistaken notion that recovery from OCD would cause me to lose the part that made me unique or was responsible for any artistic leaning I had.

I did not need to be concerned! In fact, I am so much freer to be my true self now. I'm certainly at the height of my creative abilities (which really isn't saying all that much - but for me it is forward progress). I no longer feel the constant weight and burden of unrelenting anxiety. I can put my energies towards living and creating, rather than towards just trying to ward off the next potential (imagined) catastrophe.

Yes, my personality has changed a bit, but I think in a good way. I am much more positive and hopeful overall. I realize that I have a lot more choices in life than I thought I did. I'm making more decisions based on rational thought and not in fear. In essence, I'm more "me." And though I'm most definitely far from perfect and I sure have a long way to go in my journey with Christ, would it be terribly prideful to say that (for probably the first time in my life ever) I think I'm ok with who I'm becoming? Meaning, that I don't hate myself anymore. Meaning, that I believe God created me a certain way, and with His help through CBT/ERP and medication, He's helping me to find the "me" He intended. The flawed, imperfect, stumbling, bumbling, believer that is seeking to follow God with all her heart while simultaneously trying to enjoy the good gifts that surround her on this earth.

If you are afraid that recovery from OCD will strip you of your uniqueness, please don't be. There's so much more of you just waiting to come out!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Ugh. That Old Fear Of Fire Again.

Jim and I went to my in-laws house on Sunday afternoon to wish my father-in-law a Happy Father's Day. While there, my mother-in-law accidentally pushed a couple of napkins next to a lit candle. It was a tea light, so the candle was very small and the flame was low to the table. Well, that sure got the OCD humming.

Because I've gotten so much better, these panicky moments are mostly unusual for me now. It was definitely strange to be feeling like that again. I started obsessing about it immediately, though I tried to let it go. When no one was looking (including Jim!), I grabbed the napkins and held them under the kitchen faucet to get them wet. Of course, with the way that OCD works, that did not feel like enough. I was not convinced that the napkins were really soaked. When my in-laws left the room, I quickly whispered to Jim about the situation, and asked him what I should do. "Nothing." Somehow, I just knew that was going to be his answer. Meanwhile, I'm thinking to myself, "Hello? These are your parents. Don't you even care about their safety?"

I threw the napkins out in the bathroom garbage, but continued to worry about them. I asked Jim if he would toss some water on them the next time he went to the restroom. Being the good non-enabler that he is, he refused. Grrrrr. So I finally took my cup of soda (there was a little left) and I went into the bathroom and poured it in to the garbage and onto the napkins. Then I started to worry about the soda causing a fire, because I've read that sugar is very flammable. Oh the terrible tangled webs that OCD weaves.

Don't ask me how, but at some point I did manage to sort of forget about the napkin thing. We left, and although I secretly wondered if I would hear about their house burning down the next morning, I was able to put it behind me for the most part. That feels really kind of cruel to me that I was able to let it go. What kind of loving person does that? (I know, I know - that is just OCD talking to me through cognitive distortions, but still . . .)

Jim just happened to talk to his parents last night. So I guess that means they are alive and well and that their house is still standing. No thanks to me, though.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Depression In Children And Adolescents

The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation is holding another webinar on Tuesday, June 11th. The subject is depression in kids and teens, and it is being given by Karen Dineen Wagner, M.D., Ph.D. I enjoyed the last webinar sponsored by the BBRF, and I thought that maybe some of you might like to "attend" this next one and perhaps learn some helpful information. If you would like to register for this one hour long webinar, please visit bbrfoundation.org/webinar. Happy webinar-ing!

Monday, June 3, 2013

A Great Treatment For Depression

Helping someone else. Oh, believe me, I know, when depressed it is so incredibly difficult to even get out of the house, never mind trying to do something for someone else. However, I have found volunteering, serving, whatever you want to call it, to be one of the best treatments for my depression.

There is just something about thinking about someone else for a while that makes my pain feel less. Many years ago, I had an unpleasant confrontation with someone. I walked away feeling extremely hurt and second guessing whether I had behaved in a truly loving and kind manner. I was so upset that I spent days in bed after that. I literally could not get out of bed because I was so overcome with pain, frustration, guilt . . . you name it. I could not function at all. I realize now that I was in a complete anxious and depressive meltdown. Was it an overreaction to the situation? Probably, but living with depression and an anxiety disorder will certainly contribute to overreactions.

Several days later (while I was still in bed) the phone rang. It was a friend of mine who was calling me because she was very upset about something. I can't even remember the reason for her call. I do remember that I spent the better part of an hour talking to her and trying to minister to her. By the end of the conversation, I think she felt better, and strangely enough, so did I. I was actually able to get out of bed that afternoon and work my way back to a normal schedule.

I learned a great lesson from that episode. Thinking about others is the best way to help me stop thinking about my own struggles. I have found tremendous fulfillment by volunteering on several teams at my church. Just yesterday, someone thanked me for serving at church. My answer? "Well, it really feels selfish because I get so much out of it." It doesn't feel like work to me. Obviously, my main reason for serving at church is to serve God, but there are also many personal benefits. It forces me to get out of the house. In addition, I get an incredible sense of accomplishment, I get to think about what others need, I get to feel like I'm contributing to society, and like I'm making an eternal difference in the lives of others. I also get to meet many new wonderful people and lastly, I get the chance to experience what it's like to be part of a team that is striving for something bigger beyond ourselves.

As a Christ follower, obviously, I think that churches are a great place to volunteer. But there are tons of places that need help. For example, nursing homes can always use someone to visit their patients, libraries often need people willing to read to kids, Habitat for Humanity can use people with building skills, and Big Brothers/Big Sisters always needs people with a heart for kids. For some people, organized volunteering is not their thing, but hanging out with elderly neighbors or mowing their lawn is.

I just wanted to pass on something that has made a tremendous difference in my life. Especially in my emotional life. Maybe it might help you too. Blessings!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

But You Were Able To Do It Before

Can I complain a little? To make it sound better, I'll call it "venting" rather than complaining, ok?

I've made progress with fighting my OCD. A lot of progress. I still have OCD though. I suspect I always will, and I'm ok with that, believe it or not. Well, most of the time, I'm ok with that. Because I've come a long way in my recovery, and depression is not the large ball and chain in my life that it used to be, I think people around me forget that I still live with a mental illness. I don't forget though. I never can forget because it won't let me. I suspect a lot of you can relate to this too. Forgetting isn't an option for us, try as we might.

Recently, someone challenged me to do something that I had been able to do in the past. However, on this particular day, I just couldn't really do it. "But you were able to do it before." Ugh. Yes, I know but that doesn't mean that I can always do it. Some days I have the strength to do it, and some days it's just easier to do it. Other days, well, not so much. I don't think I should use this as an excuse to not try. I know I should always still try to fight the compulsions. Sometimes, though, it's just harder than at other times.

I know this person meant no harm in what they said. I'm sure my behaviors and thought patterns are confusing to anyone who doesn't have OCD. They're confusing to me! I'm not upset with this person. I get it. Just another day in the world of OCD land.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Living With Me And My OCD: A Documentary

Anytime OCD gets talked about in the media, I'm always excited about the opportunity for more people to learn about the disorder. I'm even more excited when I know that the subject matter will be treated with intelligence and sensitivity.

Living With Me and My OCD is a documentary being made by Claire Watkinson, of the UK. Claire is also an OCD sufferer - which is why I'm just sure this documentary will be filled with honest stories of those who live with and triumph over this illness on a daily basis.

Like any project of this nature, a lot of funding is required to bring it to life. I've chosen to partner with Claire to help make this documentary a reality. You can be a part of this too. Claire is using a crowd funding campaign to raise the necessary funds. Even a small donation can go a long way. In fact, you can give as little as 3 British Pounds Sterling (equal to roughly 4.56 U.S. dollars) to receive a yellow "Living With Me and My OCD" wristband. There are 7 days left in this crowd funding campaign, and if you feel led to join, you may do so at this link: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/living-with-me-and-my-ocd.
Proudly wearing my yellow wristband!

It's so exciting to be a small part of this amazing project. I have such a desire to make a difference in the world of OCD, and to join with others who feel the same way is an incredible opportunity to do just that: make a difference.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Thoughts On The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation's OCD Webinar

I had the opportunity to listen to the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation's free webinar on OCD last Tuesday (5/14). It was an excellent talk presented by Helen Blair Simpson, M.D., Ph.D. It was an introductory speech about OCD and the gold standard of treatment. Once again, I was reminded of the importance of CBT/ERP in battling this affliction. Dr. Simpson also discussed the use of SSRI's in fighting OCD.

Because it was of an introductory nature, I will not repeat everything here as a lot of this information can be found on this blog, and at the International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) website.

There were a few notable things however, that I wanted to share with you. First, interestingly, Dr. Simpson mentioned that even though there are 3 categories of OCD - mild, moderate, and severe - most people who have OCD are in the moderate or severe category. Meaning, that apparently, if you get OCD, it's usually pretty bad. She also mentioned that the median age of onset is 19. And lastly, OCD is twice as common as schizophrenia in the general public. Her point? That when you put all these facts together, there are a LOT of people suffering severely, starting from a young age. This is why it is so important to get solid information and good treatment to as many people as possible.

The other thing that stuck out to me about Dr. Simpson's speech, was the promising advances in the research into OCD. According to Dr. Simpson, there is still a lot of work to be done, however, progress is being made. She cited one experiment involving one of her junior faculty members (I'm sorry - I did not get her colleague's name). This young researcher was actually able to duplicate OCD symptoms in a mouse by shining a specialized light on the part of the brain that is usually involved in OCD. After performing this experiment, the mouse began excessively grooming itself, even when the light was no longer being used on the brain. When the researcher gave the mouse an SSRI, the grooming behaviors stopped. It seems as if science is getting closer and closer to unlocking the secrets of OCD.

This webinar was top notch and rivals anything that I've heard at the IOCDF's annual conference. If this represents the quality of all the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation's monthly webinars, I would highly recommend them to anyone. The best part? You can now watch the webinar for yourself as it has been uploaded to the Foundation website. If any of you get a chance to watch it, I would be really interested to hear your comments. Enjoy!

FYI: If you would like to "attend" future webinars, this can be done through your computer or through your phone. I previously thought a smart phone was required to do this, but I believe you can simply use a regular phone to attend if you choose not to use your computer. Of course, you would not be able to see any of the slide presentations without a smart phone or computer, but I think attending any future webinars this way would still have a lot of informational value.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

It Was A Fun Exposure

I went for my makeover on Friday. It did end up being fun, but it definitely was an exposure. Shortly after arriving for my makeover, the cosmetologist had me sit and wait for her while she gathered up the necessary cosmetics. I soon realized that she was grabbing all the makeup "testers" that were sitting on the counters in front of each item. Meaning, these were items that any customer could touch and sample for themselves - eye shadow, blush, face powder, eye liner [though she sanitized the eye liner with a special liquid] - you get the idea. I'm fairly certain that there are plenty of people that touch these items with their bare hands. Many times, I've seen young school girls in these stores playing around with makeup. So . . . that was not a fun discovery. But you know what? It's ok. I let her do the makeover and I was just fine. In fact, she did a "night-time" party look and I rather liked it. Could I catch something from this makeover? Yep, I sure could. Am I going to worry about it? No. I am making a firm decision to let this go and live with the uncertainty. Sometimes I can do this, and sometimes I can't. Right now, I can, so I will.

Ah, life sure is a lot more fun when I refuse to let OCD dictate to me.

Hi there!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Brain & Behavior Research Foundation

I've recently become aware of an organization called the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation and I wanted to pass this along to all of you. I've only just become aware of this group, so I am not too familiar with them, and I cannot make a recommendation one way or the other about the quality of their material. I am, however, looking forward to learning more about this institution.

Apparently, the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation is a non-profit group from New York that raises money and then uses those funds to award grants to researchers studying mental illness and its treatment. I love that!

Also, on the second Tuesday of each month, they present a free (and open to the public) webinar dealing with different mental illness issues. In particular, tomorrow's webinar is entitled, "OCD & Anxiety: Symptoms, Treatment, & How to Cope." The talk will be given by Helen Blair Simpson, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the Anxiety Disorders Clinic & OCD Research Program, New York State Psychiatric Institute. The best part is that you don't even need a computer to take part in the webinar, as it is also available by phone. You can register for the webinar here: http://bbrfoundation.org/meet-the-scientist-webinar-may-2013.

Lastly, the Foundation also produces a weekly e-newsletter discussing mental health issues and you may sign up to receive it here: https://app.e2ma.net/app/view:Join/signupId:1416819/acctId:1407720.

I will be "attending" the webinar tomorrow and I look forward to sharing what I've learned with you. If you also attend, I would love to hear what you think about it as well.

UPDATE: I've just signed up to attend the webinar through telephone as I will not be near a computer tomorrow afternoon. Apparently, a requirement to participate is either a smart phone or a tablet.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

A Fun Exposure?

A fun exposure? Yep. Well, sort of. I have a frequent customer account with a large makeup retailer. I was recently offered a free makeover by this retailer. My first thought was that it seemed like a fun idea. Of course, my next thought was of an OCD nature. I know they use clean or new makeup applicators to apply the makeup. However, I also know that some makeup techs will "double-dip" the clean applicator back into the eyeshadow or blush, etc., thereby contaminating the makeup.

I asked Jim what I should do about this. His response? "Well, I think most people would get the makeover and not even think twice about it. I think you should do it; it would be a good exposure." So, I have an appointment tomorrow afternoon for my free makeover. I'm looking forward to it, but I have some anticipatory anxiety about it too. If a previous makeup artist has double-dipped into any of the makeup (and it probably has happened), then there is a chance I could get someone else's germs. I especially worry about getting any type of eye infection. Even worse than getting sick, I worry that I will get contaminated and that I will become dirty and "gross." What does it mean if I am dirty or gross? That I'm filthy and unloveable and that no one would want to be near me.

I think this is only a 30 or a 40 on my SUDS scale, but if I let myself think about it too much, it could climb. I'm making the conscious decision to go to the appointment anyway. I will also have to make an effort to not reassure myself tomorrow by doing mental compulsions during the makeover. Telling myself that I probably won't get sick, or that I won't get germs, or trying to convince myself of the odds that I will be ok and not get dirty, are just mental compulsions that only serve to temporarily bring my anxiety down. I need to accept that I could get sick or dirty, and that even if I do, I will figure out a way to survive it. I must learn to live with the uncertainty. It's the only real way to battle anxiety.

Who would have thought that even playing around with cosmetics could be a challenge? OCD sure is crazy, isn't it?