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!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

OCD And My Marriage

Me with my best pal
I have had the privilege and blessing of being married to a wonderful man for 25 years. There were times, though, when I was not completely sure we would survive. My anxiety has always been the third party in our relationship. In addition to all the usual challenges that come in any marital relationship, GAD, OCD, & depression have been a large burden to both of us. There are times when I feel tremendous guilt because I know that my poor husband, Jim, did not sign up for a life of having to care for someone who struggles with mental illness. And yet, do any of us know what we have "signed up for" when we get married? Committing to a lifetime of loving someone is a long time, and things can certainly change health-wise, for either party.

I am fortunate in that Jim is a compassionate person, and my struggles have certainly torn at his heart strings. For years, we would go through cycles with my OCD. I would be in an OCD moment, we would get into a huge argument about it, then I would feel terrible, and he would feel guilty for getting so angry with me. He would try to make me feel better by enabling me and by participating in compulsions. Then, he would realize that this was unhealthy and not normal, so he would get upset, I would panic, we would argue, and then the cycle started all over again. In addition, if he did not participate in my compulsions, I could get quite angry, and frankly, mean. When my anxiety is high and my fear is overwhelming, I can become like a trapped animal. I am convinced that my husband only stayed with me out of his deep sense of commitment to the Lord, and because he actually still managed to love me, in spite of this painful merry-go-round.

The Fall of 2009 became a pivotal turning point in our relationship and in my recovery. I began CBT/ERP with a specialist in Boston. The first year of therapy was brutal, mainly, I believe, because we let my illness get so severe. Slowly but surely, the OCD started to get under control. One of the things that really helped was my husband's collaboration with me to get better. He did not begrudge the money we spent on therapy (and it wasn't cheap as insurance only covered part of it). He doesn't drive a 13 year old car for nothing! He came to therapy sessions when I asked him to. At my request, he read Jeff Bell's excellent memoir, "Rewind, Replay, Repeat," he accompanied me to the IOCDF Annual Conference last summer, and he also attended marital CBT/ERP sessions with a psychologist who specializes in treating couples affected by anxiety. He has also spent literally hours upon hours listening to me, and learning about how OCD impacts my thinking and emotions.

At my psychologist's suggestion, we made a pact to work together on the anxiety. Working together to fight OCD and GAD can be a disaster for a relationship if you don't both agree on some basic ground rules. He agreed to not get angry or be sarcastic with me when he tried to stop me in my OCD tracks, and I agreed to try to refrain from getting angry back, recognizing that he was just trying to help me. We try to talk to each other gently in the midst of OCD turmoil. He tries hard not to enable me (which is difficult for him because he has a sweet and giving nature). I try to work on my anxiety because I know it makes him suffer too. We are co-warriors in the fight against anxiety. We realize that the other one is not the enemy, the OCD is the enemy.

Just the other night, I was really struggling with facing a fear. I was pretty upset about it. Instead of minimizing my fears, my husband said, "It's ok. You will be ok. We'll do it together. I can't imagine how hard this is for you." Wow. Those last words said it all. He gets it. He usually follows up words like that with a hug.

The result of all of this effort? A much stronger, more loving, kind, and compassionate marriage with less interference by the OCD monster. It did not happen overnight. It cost money and time, but honestly, I would do it all over again. I feel certain that my husband would agree. Is our marriage perfect now? No way! We still fight over stupid things like the toothpaste cap, and yes, even OCD sometimes. But we've been given the tools to move forward in a healthy manner, together.

My absolute favorite pic of the two of us!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Now Serving Chips, Dip, & Anxiety

Yesterday, some friends invited us over to their house to watch the AFC Championship game with them. (A big football game - in case you are not familiar with the sport!) On the way to their house, we stopped at the grocery store to pick up some sodas, chips, and dips.

As we were checking out, I picked up one of the bags that held a glass jar filled with dip. Wouldn't you know, that is the one bag that I had to drop on the floor, with the glass jar making a very loud noise when it hit the tile. Immediately, I stated, "Oh, I'm going to go get another jar. I'm not serving that one to people." My husband looked at the jar, and said, "I think it's ok. I can't see any cracks." I still insisted on getting another jar. The cashier (a young girl in her teens) said, "Oh, no, see it's fine. There are no cracks." I said, "No, I'm not serving that. I will buy another one." She started to get a little insistent that it was ok, but I refused (while inwardly I was beginning to get angry that she was fighting me on this) and I walked away to go find another jar. (I was planning on paying for the dropped jar, as well as the new jar.)

When I returned to the cash register with the new dip, I asked my husband where the dropped jar was. He said, "She took it back." I was really getting upset now, although I think I did a pretty good job of hiding it. "Did you tell her we would pay for it?" My husband answered yes. Then the cashier again said that the jar was fine. I asked her if she was going to put it back on to the shelf, and of course, she said yes. I told her that I wouldn't do that. She pretty much ignored me at that point. I honestly don't know why it mattered to her so much that the jar was "ok."

We paid for our groceries and left, but oh I was so angry. I hate the idea that someone might choke on a small piece of glass that may have chipped off of the jar. I considered talking to the store manager to complain, but at the same time, I was concerned that I would look like a crazy lady. I don't know, maybe I am a crazy lady. I really hope no one gets hurt. The situation is out of my control, though. Like most of life, I guess.

As we drove away, my husband apologized to me. He said that he was enabling me by allowing me to buy another jar and that he should have made me serve the dropped jar. He felt like he failed me. Maybe he did enable me, but I can tell you that if he had forced me to serve that dropped jar of dip, I would have completely come undone in front of our friends who do not know that I have OCD. I know that purchasing a new jar of dip was a compulsion. It's just that the urge was so overwhelming to do it. 

I also feel a bit guilty now for becoming angry at the cashier (though I never let it show to her - or at least I don't think I did). I don't know if I should feel that way or if it's false guilt.

It's amazing what a mine field the grocery store can be for someone with anxiety!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Maybe TV IS Bad For Your Health (Mental Health!)

Yesterday, I was (gasp!) doing some housework and I turned on the television for a bit of background noise. A commercial came on that talked about how the flu spreads from one person, to the next person, to the next person, until finally, someone's aunt gets it and ends up in the hospital. Essentially, the public service announcement was telling us that unless we get the flu shot, it is our fault that dear old auntie is in the hospital, possibly dying from the flu. Given my issues with hyper-responsibility, well, this ad made me cringe.

About two minutes after this commercial, a sitcom came on. The whole episode was about how the main characters' house was infested with bed bugs because a family member got them while on vacation in Florida. Great. I'm going to be visiting some family members in Florida in a few weeks.

I wanted to throw the TV out the window. I've decided that television (and probably housework too) is bad for my health.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Sneezing The Day

Well, so much for sneezing, er, seizing the day! This past week I've been waylaid by a nasty head cold.  Of course, whenever I get ill, it always brings the possibility that I can make others ill as well. This gives my OCD lots to play with in my mind.

The week unfortunately started with my poor hubby coming down with the head cold first. He was so sick that he actually took a day off of work, which almost never happens. That really scared me. Other than my husband's issues with Inflammatory Bowel Disease, he is almost never sick. Which makes sense, I guess, because IBD is caused by an overactive immune system (hence why it's called an autoimmune disorder). Thankfully, he recovered quickly, probably due to that high powered immune system (and some prayer!).

My cold started with a sore throat. I had a meeting the day of the sore throat. I made myself attend the meeting anyway, as I was not really sick, but just experiencing one mild symptom. I did feel somewhat guilty about going to the meeting, though. Afterwards, it hit me like a ton of bricks. The next few days I camped out in bed working my way through a box of tissues. I finally felt quite a bit better by yesterday afternoon. Since I was feeling up to it, my husband and I decided to go out to lunch and then do a little shopping at the mall. I was worried the entire time about being out in public. I was very careful to touch as few things as possible, in order to prevent the spread of germs. Granted, I wasn't coughing or sneezing, and I didn't have a fever. But still, I was a little stuffy and feeling a bit weak. I feel guilty because there have been so many news articles about the deadly flu that is working its way across America, and my neighboring state of Massachusetts has declared a flu emergency. I think I only have a cold and not the flu, but . . .

I'm also supposed to go out to dinner with friends tomorrow night. One of my friends is pregnant. I think I should stay home, but I don't know if that's OCD avoidance or if it's just being a responsible, caring person.

In addition, while walking through the mall yesterday, I accidentally kicked a piece of cardboard that was on the floor. My first instinct was to bend over and pick it up to prevent others from tripping on it. Instead, I kept walking and left it on the floor because I knew that's what I should do as an ERP.

Ugh. Sometimes, I get tired of feeling responsible for everyone else's well being and safety. I realize, of course, that that responsibility is self-imposed by my OCD.  So I push myself to go out and I force myself to leave "hazards" on the ground and I end up feeling like a selfish person. It's just a feeling, not a fact. I hope. Yep, just another day in OCD land.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Guess What I Got In The Mail?

Believe it or not, it's already time to start thinking about the next International Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Foundation annual conference! I have attended two different conferences and I highly recommend going. It is a great opportunity to meet fellow OCD sufferers and to learn from some of the most highly respected OCD therapists and researchers in the country (maybe even the world!). In addition, there are several support groups available during the conference weekend.

I received a notice in the mail this week from the IOCDF about this year's conference. It will be held in Atlanta, Georgia, on July 19-21. The IOCDF has also created a website (www.ocd2013.org) to share up to date information about the conference.

Just thought I'd pass this along in case anyone was interested. Have a nice day y'all. (That is supposed to be my "Atlanta" accent. ha ha)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Carpe Diem!

I hate New Year's resolutions. I am firmly against them, because I have always failed at them. However, I like the idea of a "theme" for the year. Thanks Tina for this great idea! My theme this year is "Seize the Day!" What I like about this theme, is that it can mean very different things in all kinds of situations. It can mean facing a fear head on, or attempting something new, or it can even refer to trying to follow God when it's difficult to do so. I want to be the kind of person who attacks life and doesn't just let it slip by. I've done that for way too long thanks to anxiety and depression.

I decided to go with this theme because it dovetailed very nicely with some thoughts I have been having recently. You see, I have lived in New England for almost all of my life. Even so, I've never been on a pair of skis or a snowboard. I should probably turn in my Northeastern citizenship card immediately! I have been thinking about going skiing for the last several weeks. We recently had two signifiant snow storms and I live close to a small ski mountain. So what's my excuse? Fear. Lots of it.

First, I am afraid of getting hurt. If my post on riding a bicycle doesn't convince you that I'm an un-athletic klutz, well then I guess nothing will! Beyond that, I'm also afraid of getting contaminated. I'm afraid to get sweaty as I always feel so dirty. I also don't like the idea of getting all my clothes wet (and perhaps muddy) from the snow and dirt, and then sitting on areas where other "dirty" skiers/snowboarders have been sitting. Outside activities (particularly on rainy or snowy days) have always been a contamination challenge for me. I remember cringing about it constantly when my child was small and would spend time outside in the elements and then bring back wet boots, a soggy hat, and soaked mittens.

In light of my theme, I'm trying to muster up the courage to hit the slopes. Ok, the bunny slopes. But, slopes nonetheless. I am hoping to do this in the next couple of weeks. I shall keep you posted. Oh boy, now that I've posted about it, I really have to do it, don't I? Carpe diem!