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!

23 comments:

  1. What a beautiful post! I loved reading this. You gave such a clear overview of the effects OCD, anxiety and depression had on your relationship, and the ways you and your husband battled back. Your husband sounds wonderful. And you make such a good looking couple!

    I know that I have not always been easy to live with, and I am grateful for my husband, too.

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    1. Thanks, Tina! OCD can really wreck a relationship and I'm very blessed that ours has managed to survive and even thrive in spite of it. But I do need to recognize that I am indeed hard to live with at times, and I try to keep on eye on that for his sake. He doesn't deserve any less. Larry does sound like an awesome husband too. I'm glad you have him in your life!

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  2. Wonderful! My husband has certainly endured a lot with me as well.

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    1. I'm happy you have a supportive husband as well, Kristina. Sure makes all the difference in the world!

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  3. Such a beautiful love story. Your photos make me smile and I can see real happiness in your eyes.
    Every so often when I get sad and feeling sorry for myself I try to remember to feel grateful for my faith and to God for providing me with a family that would surround me with such unconditional love and support. I know you would do the same for him as would I for my husband. Your husband sounds of great character and I know he would say the same of you. Lovely post.

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    1. You know, Krystal Lynn, I never thought of it as a love story, but I think you're right. Thanks for that!

      Living with OCD does make you feel sorry for yourself sometimes, doesn't it? I struggle with that too. I also have to remind myself that I could have it sooooo much worse, and I'm so blessed to have people who love me to walk down this hard path. From what I've read of your family, I agree - you are very blessed with wonderful people too! I'm so glad you have that.

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  4. Sunny, I love those photos! They really capture the sweet and strong relationship you two have.
    I am so thankful for Michael's patience with me - I know we have a lifetime of things ahead to get through together, but I am so grateful that we have each other.

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    1. Thanks, Anna. I love those pics too. From what you've written, Michael sounds very supportive. There are definitely hard things to face together in life, but if you fight it while holding each others hands through it, it's AMAZING what it can be like for your relationship once you get on the other side of stuff.

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  5. Wonderful post, and I'm glad you two found each other. All marriages have issues. If it's not OCD, it's something else, and I agree that working together, through whatever obstacles arise, has the potential to make the marriage stronger.

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    1. Wise words, Janet. Yes, ALL marriages do have issues. It's important for me to remember that.

      We are so lucky we found each other. There's a whole, crazy back story to that as well, but that's for another time!

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  6. You guys are so cute! So glad he has been such a fantastic support for you. Through better or worse... :)

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    1. Aw, thanks Lolly! Yep, and it's sure nice to be able to experience some of that better part!

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  7. Wonderful post! Your words on your fears, and comments on Jim's commitment to the Lord and loving you, echo what I think of Shep. My COE, anxiety and depression have been hard on both of us. Kudos to you both for sticking with it...you have so much to teach!

    P.S. When I saw the picture at top before I read the post I thought, "Whoa! What a cute guy Sunny is with...does Jim know about this???" LOL ;-)

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    1. Ha ha ha I laughed out loud Jean when I read your last sentence! You are too funny. he he

      Yes, I know that you and Shep have gone through a lot together. He seems very special. Often, when I read your posts it reminds me of Jim and I.

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  8. Beautiful post and beautiful pictures! Your husband sounds wonderful!

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    1. Hey Elizabeth - I've been trying to log into your blog and it tells me I'm not invited. Could you maybe send me a new invitation when you get a chance? Thanks!

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  9. I can so relate to this story only I have been diagnosed with PTSD and MDD. I also have a very compassionate and loving husband of 36 years. Thanks for posting your jorney.

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    1. Hi Deborah. Welcome!! Wow - 36 years - what an accomplishment! I'm happy you have such a supportive husband. It was my pleasure to share about our life journey together.

      I am sorry about your struggles with PTSD and MDD. I know that must be very difficult.

      Glad you "stopped" by. Come back soon! : )

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  10. What an encouraging story for couples everywhere, whether or not they battle with mental illness! Thanks for sharing that.
    I am blessed too with a husband who would rather work with me than against me. I am convinced I could not have gotten this far without his favorable attitude. A good partner is an asset and you have been blessed!
    It helps to invite your partner to be part of the solution and not the problem.
    It helps to tell your partner that you need their help and that they can make a difference, sometimes just by listening.
    It helps to tell your partner that just listening to you is an amazing gift.
    It helps to tell your partner that you are sorry for the times when your behaviors have made their lives difficult and miserable.

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    1. Hi Wendy! It was my pleasure to share that story with all of you. We've learned a lot through our journey together and I was hoping that maybe it would be helpful.

      Yes, I like how you word that - "invite your partner to be a part of the solution!" I agree wholeheartedly with everything you said. It's really important to communicate your needs, but like you said, also how we realize that our issues can be painful for them too.

      I'm glad that you have a wonderful husband to support you. It makes everything a little less difficult.

      I'm so glad that you visited and commented. Blessings!

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  11. Well hello Monique 😊 I just finished reading your incredibly raw and uplifting blog post about OCD and your marriage and I burst into tears as I read your description of the OCD cycle/Merry-go-round. This is exactly the pattern that my husband and I have endured for the last five years and to read it word for word how I would describe our relationship when in a tough OCD moment was bittersweet; bitter to realize how painful the cycle is for us and surely has been for you and sweet to know that this is "normal" and others have gone through this and overcome the behaviours.
    I just wanted to thank you for being so willing to pursue your mission set out in your blog to help inform and support others and to congratulate you for succeeding in your goals both related to OCD itself and your desire to make a difference in others' lives. You are an inspiration and I thank you

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    1. Aw you are so sweet! Thank you for that wonderful encouragement. I'm glad that anything I wrote connected with you. So many people suffer in silence, and I really want to help people feel comfortable to reach out and discover that they really are not alone.

      I'm so sorry for what you have endured because of that horrible thing we call OCD. I suspect that what you and I have experienced in our marriages is pretty common for those living with anxiety disorders.

      The really cool thing is that proper therapy does work. It has made a huge difference for us, and I know it can make a difference for others too. There really is hope for you.

      I'm really glad you "visited." Please come back again. Blessings.

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