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!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Sense Of Smell

Yep, that's a LOT of perfume!
I actually have a healthy obsession. Well, at least I think it's healthy! I am in LOVE with perfumes. Yes, I've (well, at least I'm trying to) become a perfume connoisseur. It all started in the last few years. I began to put on a lot of weight, and clothes shopping was no longer fun for me. I didn't feel that great about makeup either because I didn't like the way I looked. But, what I realized about perfume, is that I could wear it and feel feminine, and it fits every size and shape. Now, it's actually become a bit of a passion of mine and it no longer has anything to do with how I look. It does, however, have a lot to do with how I feel.

La Petite Robe Noire by Guerlain
- a new favorite in miniature.
Mmmmm.
When I'm experiencing anxiety, I try to be mindful of my environment and pay attention to my senses. One of the most powerful of them is the sense of smell. Until I began CBT/ERP, I had never before really paid much attention to my environment. I was always stuck in my head with terrible thoughts constantly swirling in never ending torment. I have since literally learned to stop and smell the roses (or, tuberose, in my case).

When I spritz or sprinkle on some new exotic "juice" (as they refer to it in the perfume biz), it evokes all kinds of feelings for me. Some scents, like lavender, are soothing and relaxing. Others, like vanilla, remind me of food and comfort. Some are energizing and some are just plain fun (Aquolina's Pink Sugar, anyone?). Like reading an intriguing book, perfumes have a way of transporting me to another place in my mind.

Unfortunately, I do have quite expensive taste. Have no fear, though, I've found a way around that. There's a certain makeup retailer that gives you 3 free samples every time you place an order, so I've been able to stock my perfumery quite inexpensively. Believe it or not, I've bought makeup just so I could get the 3 free samples! Even better, I've just discovered that there are some very high end perfume retailers that will sell you sample bottles. What better way to experience a $200 bottle of perfume that would normally never be in my reach! In addition, I'm starting to collect miniature perfume bottles. Again, these are at a fraction of the cost of the larger bottles, and some of the miniatures are little works of art in glass. They are literally eye candy for the sense of sight.

L De Lolita Lempicka
- beautiful miniature
and so yummy!
It might seem silly, but I do consider this one more little tool in my kit for fighting anxiety. It's an additional "trick" that helps me escape anxiety land. Plus, I figure if I push this angle - you know, the whole "perfume as therapy thing" - that my husband will be a proponent of keeping my juice supply full and plentiful. Ha ha.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow

Sunday morning and another snow storm in NH. It's a real problem for us, because we live 30 minutes away from our church and most Sundays, Jim and I are (happily!) scheduled to serve in some capacity. This morning, Jim was scheduled to play electric guitar, so he took our all-wheel-drive to church. I'm not scheduled for anything, and I didn't want to sit there for 6 hours waiting for him (we have 3 services, plus a morning rehearsal) so I stayed home. Normally, if I'm not scheduled, I would drive our second car and just show up for one of the services, but there was no way I was going to take our little front-wheel drive in this mess!

Jim texted me this pic from outside our church
If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you probably know where this is going. I was pretty worried about Jim driving this morning. I reminded him several times about being safe and to take his time, etc. When he went to kiss me goodbye, he said, "You're looking at me like it's the last time you're ever going to see me." Oh boy. Busted! I started laughing, because that was exactly what I was doing! I was trying to visually absorb every molecule of him "just in case." After 25 years of marriage, he can pretty much read my mind.

The other thing I was anxious about this morning (yes, of course, there's always another thing) was a fellow member on the audio team at church. I was originally scheduled to run sound this morning, but an opportunity came up for me to visit a church in Boston to do some research for my church. As a result, there was all kinds of switching and schedule changing, and someone else (I'll call him Ted) was put in my place this morning. However, because of the incoming snow storm, my field trip to Boston got cancelled yesterday. At the time, I figured it made sense to just let Ted stay on the schedule because of all the rearranging that had taken place.

Then it hit me early this morning. Ted was going to have to drive to church in this storm. In my place. Because of me. All I could think about was that Ted is married and has two little kids. If something happened to him it would be all my fault. I asked my husband if I should call Ted and tell him I would run audio. Jim said, "No, that would be totally OCD. Nobody else would do that. It's hyper-responsibility." So I agreed not to call him, although I wasn't sure that was the right decision.

Now, hours later, my anxiety is pretty low. I've learned that if I sit with it, it eventually dies down, or goes away altogether. It's 12:30 p.m. and I know that church is wrapping up and people are getting in their cars to drive home. I'm praying for them, and that is all that I can do. I don't know what will happen. I've decided to accept that. Uncertainty. You've got to love it. No, really, you've got to learn to love it.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Happy

No thanks, I'm good without it.
Tonight I felt really . . . happy. For no special reason. And that is awesome. The last few months have been a bit difficult, both with anxiety and depression. Lately, they've been weaving in and out of my mind a bit more often. So it felt great to not feel the weight of either of them this evening.

Before he left work this afternoon, Jim texted me and asked if I would like to go out to dinner. He figured that since we had a pretty busy week coming up that we wouldn't have much alone time together, so he thought a dinner out would be nice. Nothing fancy, just a local Chinese restaurant that we really like. We went and enjoyed both our time together and the excellent meal. I thought it was pretty funny when I opened up my fortune cookie and found a note that said, "You will soon achieve perfection." In the past I would have read that longingly and wished it to be true. Now, I just laugh at statements like that. I don't want or need perfection anymore. Not that it even exists anyway.

What is that round protuberance
coming out of my stomach?
When we got home, my kitty, Anna, and I played with a ball on my bed. It felt like total carefree freedom. In the past, I would have felt like my bed was dirty, or that I was dirty, and that I couldn't just roll around on my bed and play with my cat. And that's when it hit me. I was happy. Happy to just be. Happy to hang out with my cat and not worry about contamination. Happy to leave perfection and all of its burden behind.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

I'm Annoyed

With myself.

Last evening I walked into a public restroom. There was a woman at the sink. She walked away from the sink and left the water running. That's when I just knew. It had to be OCD. She walked into a stall, grabbed some toilet paper, and used the paper to turn off the water faucet. She apologized to me for taking so long. I was in no rush (and frankly even if I had been, I would never had said something to make her feel any pressure) so I said, "No problem." She then used the same toilet paper to open the door to the restroom and she held the door open with her foot while she tossed the toilet paper into the garbage. I could tell she was very embarassed. As she walked out, she laughingly said, "When I was in my 20s this stuff never bothered me, but now that I'm in my 30s . . ." I mentioned something about how it was no big deal and she left. I felt bad for her.

It wasn't until I was driving home later last night that I realized that I had missed an opportunity to reach out to her. I should have said, "Hey, I'm no one to judge. I have OCD, so I totally get it." Maybe that would have started a conversation, maybe not. But now, I'll never know and I'm kicking myself because I could have possibly comforted her and given her some information or support. It kills me because reaching out to others who suffer with mental illness is a passion of mine. Grrrr. Well, I know what I will say the next time something like that happens. And sadly, because of the hideous OCD monster, I know there will be a next time.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Vacation Exposures

I'm back from Florida! Overall it was a very good trip. Of course, OCD came along in my luggage. Sometimes I get kind of tired of carrying that freeloader around.

Oh do I miss this pool!
I did have some issues with contamination. Some I won, some I didn't. That is ok. I did beat most of the pool exposures I faced. The condominium's pool is lovely and I enjoyed my time in it. Yay for CBT and ERP!!!

One morning, I arrived at the pool and there were several leaves that were floating on top of the water. My first instinct was to be completely disgusted by it. I had to remind myself that they were just leaves. Nothing more. I decided to touch the pool net/skimmer and I used it to pick out most of the vegetation that was floating around. I forced myself to do it and it really wasn't that bad. After I jumped in the pool, I grabbed as many of the leaves as I could by hand and I tossed them onto the deck. The anxiety went away really quickly. After that, it became my mission to keep that pool spotlessly clean. Every time a new leaf blew in, I made a beeline to it to throw it out of the water. Hey, I had worked hard to clean that pool and nothing was going to mess it up!
The "scary" skimmer

I even used the pool bathroom. I do have to admit, these bathrooms were quite clean, so that did make it easier. I have a hard time using pool bathrooms, though, because after you use the restroom, but before you wash your hands, you have to pull your bathing suit back on (I have a one-piece). That means that my bathing suit was now contaminated by my unwashed hands. I pushed through this however, and used the bathroom normally. I have to say that it made my time at the pool so much more pleasant. I didn't have to rush back to the condo to use my own bathroom, or even worse, I didn't have to wait hours to go to the bathroom. In the past, I would have avoided the bathroom and suffered the physical discomfort of not going.

I had one more really big exposure yesterday. I was in the airport waiting for my flight home when I decided to use the restroom. I laid my eyeglasses on top of my carry-on luggage and they slipped off onto the bathroom floor. Again, thankfully, this was a fairly clean bathroom. Fortunately, the glasses did not fall on the floor near the toilet, but on the floor near the door (it was a single person, separate bathroom). I stood there for a moment and debated in my mind about what to do. I finally decided that most non-OCD people would probably just pick up the glasses and use them as if nothing had happened. So . . . that is what I did!! When I arrived home, I did not wash them nor did I take a shower. It was a little difficult, but I just kept telling myself to do it anyway. I'm so glad I did not give in.

How are you doing? I would love to hear about anything that you have fought through recently. And there is nothing too small to celebrate!!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Extended Trip




Beautiful sunset
Sometimes I can be a little flaky. Case in point: I booked my flight home from Florida for Friday, March 8th, instead of Friday, February 8th!!!!! A friend told me that this must be a Freudian slip. Ha ha - quite possibly. Well, it actually works out alright, because this Friday and Saturday, there is going to be a monster snow storm barrelling through the Northeast. Had my flight been scheduled for this Friday as I had originally thought it was, I most likely would have been stranded overnight in the Atlanta airport on Friday. That is an experience I can live without! I've booked a flight home for early next week, after the storm is all over. The only really painful part about this delay is the $150 airline change fee. Yikes! At least I get a few extra days to sit in the precious sun. Aaaaah.

The flight down to Florida was pretty uneventful. Though I was very tired, my OCD didn't really act up much. I did see an airport bathroom attendant wiping down the counters with the remaining tissue left on an almost used up roll of toilet paper. Eew. Since arriving here, I've had a handful of free-floating anxiety attacks (meaning that I can't figure out what caused them). When they hit, I just try to be mindful of my surroundings as a way to bring myself back to the present, instead of being off in anxiety-land. I also pray.

I've struggled some with contamination issues, of course. I did force myself to ignore a hyper-responsibility obsession. I was in a store and dropped a ceramic magnet onto the floor. I looked at it quickly, noticed that there were no cracks, and I put it right back in its place. I wanted to keep examining it to make sure that no one would get hurt on any jagged pieces, but I reminded myself that I already checked it and it was fine. I forced myself to walk away from it, and to be honest, I hadn't even thought about it again until right now.

I am a little worried about my husband having to drive around in the snow storm. I know it bothers me because it leaves me feeling uncertain and out of control. I am also scared because he has another head cold (very unusual for him). The fact that he is on immunosuppressent medication means that he is vulnerable to many illnesses. A simple cold could turn into a disaster for him. However, other than praying for him, there is nothing else for me to do. So . . . I'm making a conscious effort to let go of this too. For me, part of seizing the day means embracing uncertainty. So that is what I shall do.

I LOVE palm trees!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Bon Voyage!

In approximately 4 hours, a taxi will be picking me up to whisk me away to the local airport. For those of you keeping track, yes, I will be picked up at 4:15 a.m. This means that I must be awake around 3:30 a.m. to get ready. I rarely fall asleep before, say, 1:30 or 2:00 a.m. This should be interesting. My anxiety always goes on overdrive when I've not had enough sleep, so I'm praying that God will help me through these next several hours. I'm not even tired yet, and I'm already a nervous wreck.

I'm flying by myself to visit some relatives in Florida for this next week. Leaving my husband behind. I'm going by myself. I already said that, didn't I? It's really hard for me to leave Jim, my "safe person." In fact, a little while ago I mentioned to him that I thought I was making a mistake leaving him behind. I have this weird fear that he will die when I'm gone and I will have missed my opportunity to spend his last moments with him. He hugged me and said, "You need to go - as part of an exposure." He's right. Again.

The funny thing is that this is not the first time I've traveled alone. I even have family waiting for me on the other end of the flight. I visited family in Florida by myself last winter. Furthermore, in the summer of 2010,  I went to the IOCDF Annual Conference completely by myself, and I was in much worse shape, mentally speaking.

So what am I afraid of? Hmm . . . strange public bathrooms. What to do with my luggage when I go into strange public bathrooms. Going through security. Pulling out my little baggie of liquids and hoping that I don't get arrested for making some kind of security mistake. Spending a 3 hour layover in an airport that I've never been in before. Sleeping in a strange bed. Bed bugs. Being away from Jim, and my kitty, Anna. Being out of my comfort zone. Uncertainty about what will happen. Sounds like a lot of anticipatory anxiety. Yep, sounds like a good exposure to me.