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, December 25, 2014

Wishing You a Real Christmas

So often, when people find out that I volunteer a significant amount of time at church, I can tell that they think it's a "nice" thing to do. Or that I must be really devoted to my "religion." Nah. What, or really, who, I am devoted to, is Jesus. Following Him is often not easy to do. I've had to make choices. I've had to, in essence, "draw lines in the sand" for myself. I do this because I believe with every fiber of my being that Jesus is real. He's not just a plastic figurine in a bundle of hay, laying on someone's front lawn for 4 weeks every December. He's more than a story. More than a memory. More than a myth.

Knowing this helps make sense of those stressful holidays, when the dinner is burned (or when a snowstorm knocks out the power and ruins your entire meal), or when you have to deal with that difficult relative again, or when a devastating and painful loss is amplified during this season that is supposed to be "the most wonderful time of the year." He's more than a memory. More than a myth.

I hope that you will find the joy and peace that comes from knowing the real One, the Holy One, the One that makes it all worthwhile. Jesus. Merry, blessed Christmas my friends.

"Real" by Nichole Nordeman

Frozen statues in the cold
Washed in moonlight, blue and gold
Mary's babe in plastic hay
Quiet wonder on her face
Mary you look so serene
Far too pretty, much too clean
We might think we know you well, but what stories would you tell?
Of all the dirt, and dust, and shame, every burning labor pain
And as I turn to walk away, I hear you say
I am real, don't turn me into memory or myth
Let me be real, real
And I'll show you what it means to love this
To be real

Shepherds bending to the ground, Bethlehem is safe and sound
Joseph, you look brave and true
But do we know what it was like to be you?
How many sleepless nights awake, found you desperate and afraid?
And as I turn to walk away, I hear you say
I am real, don't turn me into memory or myth
Let me be real, real
And I'll show you what it means to love like this

To love like you don't even care about the hurry and the hustle
Like you are unaware December comes with so much trouble
Cause you believe a Baby came, not in paintings or in plays
But every minute, every hour, every day
To be real
Real

You are real, real
Show us what it means to love like this
To be real, to be real
More than a memory, more than a story
Real

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

#GivingTuesday



In the United States, we have Black Friday and Cyber Monday. I participated in both. But now we have #GivingTuesday and I'm going to participate in that too. This is a day that was created to help balance out the highly materialistic aspect of the Christmas season. Giving Tuesday is about encouraging people to increase their charitable giving and to share a little about what causes they care about. I care about spreading the love of Jesus and I care about the pain that many people live with because of OCD. So today I'm donating to Missions of Hope International (an organization working to provide hope, education, vocational training, and the love of Christ to communities in Kenya) and to the International OCD Foundation. My donations are not big. But a lot of people giving a little bit can really add up!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

And The Back Story

Sorry guys. This is a bit of a long one.

Phew! I'm tired. What an autumn it has been. A little of it has been good, unfortunately, a lot of it not so good. I spent 5 hours in the Emergency Room two days ago, suffering from vomiting and severe nausea that just would not stop. It was awful. I'm very thankful to the nurses and doctors that helped me to feel better. I'm definitely better today, but still have some weakness and a lingering headache that I wish would go away.

I've also had a few other things going on that I've been struggling with, but I won't bore you with all of those details. I'm not going to sugar coat it though, it's been painful.

One big positive is that Jim's doctor believes he is in "deep-remission." That is huge and I'm so thankful. Because of that, the doctor suggested that Jim could stop taking his bi-monthly infusions if he chooses. But then, that means that there is nothing preventing Jim from getting another life threatening flare of Crohn's. Of course, I want him to stay on the meds, and Jim wants off. I'm terrified. Sigh.

Another good thing is that I got a part-time retail job (just for the holidays). It's my first paying job in over 16 years. I'm really thrilled about it, because it is a definite victory over the OCD. There were times when I thought I would never, ever be able to work again. Of course, the job brings up new obsessions and more things to be anxious about, but I'm trying to use my CBT/ERP skills, and overall, things are going very well.

But the big story in my life has been my baby, Fender. We first brought him home at the end of August. And 10 days later, we almost lost him. Yep, you read that right. I woke up on a Wednesday morning to find that he had a little blood in his stool, so I called the veterinarian and scheduled an appointment for later that day. While at the vet's office, she noticed that he had little bruises all over his body. She got concerned and decided to take some blood work. Imagine my shock when she came back to tell me that he had literally no platelets in his blood! Those little bruises? They were the result of internal bleeding caused by the fact that he had no ability to clot his blood. The vet told me that she had never seen a blood test result like that before. She then had me take him over to another animal hospital that had more sophisticated equipment. Thankfully, the medication they gave him kicked in and he was able to come home two days later with just the tiniest bit of platelets starting to form in his blood again. I'm very happy to say that all of his subsequent blood test results show a very normal and healthy puppy. However . . .

There are complications, of course. After taking every possible blood test known to man, the best conclusion that the 5 (count 'em, FIVE) vets that saw him can come to, is that he had an immune reaction to a vaccination that he received at 8 weeks of age. Which means: he can never receive another immunization again, or it might kill him. Which also means: he can never be kenneled or boarded, he can never have puppy playdates with another dog, just going to the vet for a checkup puts him at risk, and he will most likely die at a relatively young age from some (normally preventable) disease. I can never have him groomed, so we will have to do all of the grooming ourselves. I can't have friends watch him if we go out of town, if they own a dog. Let's face it, who will watch your dog but only someone else with a dog of their own? Yep. Definite life complications. Thank goodness for my parents. They have been literal life savers. This past weekend they watched Fender so that we could go to a wedding. More than that, they have just been overall super helpful during this most stressful period.

One of the biggest complications, though, was that I noticed in early September that, gulp, Fender had fleas! I thought I would die. Literally. If you have been reading this blog for any length of time, you will know that I have an absolute terrifying fear of bug/rodent infestations. This was beyond my worst nightmare. I did some research on treating/eliminating fleas, and the news was not good. I could not put any flea treatment on Fender because he was still recovering from his near death, and he was also on immune suppressing medications (ironically, just like my husband). We did not know what his reaction would be to the flea meds, so my vet told me not to use them. She also told me not to flea bomb the house for the same reason. In fact, she told me that the only thing we could do was to vacuum our entire house, every day, for the life cycle of the flea which is, 90 days. Seriously?! It takes me 2 hours to vacuum the entire house. 90 days???!! I did it for the first 7 out of 9 days. We just could not keep up. Jim and I were both physically and emotionally exhausted. I was worried sick about Fender's health, but I was also worried about Jim's health too. Because of Jim's own ill health, being exposed to flea bites (and any subsequent diseases they might carry) is just out of the question. But I'm deathly afraid of pesticides too, so a flea bomb was out of the question as well. I was also mortified about the possibility that I might pass fleas on to someone else and then they would have the same problem. It was the perfect OCD storm, and it is why I truly thought I was having a relapse.

About a week and a half later, I was able to bring Fender to a holistic vet, and after speaking with her about it, she agreed to help me find a flea treatment that was not as strong as most on the market. I put the treatment on him, and thankfully, he did not have a reaction. Oh I felt so much guilt about using that treatment! I thought for sure that I was killing him. Then she told me that since it had been a few weeks since I first noticed the fleas, and that because I had not seen another flea since that first day, the odds were good that I caught them early, and that I should just really give the house a super good cleaning once a week. Ok. Now that I could live with.

December 5th will be 90 days. But I'm pretty sure at this point that we do not have fleas. I've literally not seen one since that very first day I noticed them. We washed Fender with Dawn dish soap and literally tore through the house like crazy to wash everything down right away, so it looks like we did indeed get them early. I also had tons of friends praying for me (thank you!) and I'm certain that the Lord carried me through this terrible, terrible time.

And so . . . we try to move forward. With all the uncertainty that life continues to throw our way. Honestly, the only thing I am certain of, is God's love for me. And for you.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Hello Everyone! I'd Like You To Meet . . .

Fender! Our 4 1/2 month old Maltese puppy! (We named him after Jim's favorite electric guitar - the Fender Stratocaster - tee hee. We like to call him our "rock 'n roll" puppy.)

Fender has been home with us since the last week of August, and I had planned on sharing this news with you a lot sooner - but oh is there a back story to all of this! And I will indeed tell you that story soon, but for now, we just wanted to say hello.

This is the day that we chose Fender. He was 8
weeks old. He would not come home for
another 2 weeks.

And . . . this is the day he came home!

His first car ride in his new car seat! (Yes, I am
that crazy dog lady with a car seat.)
He is 10 weeks in this picture.

I like to title this look "Sherlock Bones." All he needs is a little chapeau.

This picture is from approximately one month ago.

We already love him to pieces and he has become a treasured member of our family. Let's just say that he has VERY devoted "dog grandparents" ha! He can absolutely be a little rascal (think: the dog ate my homework) but he is also a sweet cuddle bug and we are very thankful for having him in our lives.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

OCD Awareness Week, Day 2

Today, my mom, Nicky, and I went to the Massachusetts State House for an OCD Awareness luncheon.

You know, if a person doesn't know what is wrong with them, it's awfully hard to get proper treatment. That's why awareness is so important. It was exciting to hear that the IOCDF is working with the Massachusetts State Legislature to increase awareness of OCD and access to treatment. And this is how the barriers to recovery get removed. One little piece at a time.

1) My Mom and I, 2) The MA State House,
3) Jeff Szymanski, PhD, Executive Director, IOCDF,
& 4) my new OCD MA awareness t-shirt

Monday, October 13, 2014

OCD Awareness Week, Day 1

Hey everyone! It's OCD Awareness Week and I'm going to post just a little tidbit every day this week in honor of this auspicious occasion. #OCDweek

Taken from today's The Telegraph:

"OCD is the poor cousin of mental health in that people tend to joke about it and trivialize the suffering of those living with it, says Ashley Fulwood, Chief Executive of OCD-UK. "But it is a serious illness and it can lead to tragic consequences."


Monday, October 6, 2014

Want To Get Better From OCD?

My bloggy friends have been on a roll lately! I read Jackie Lea Sommers' post today and it is full of truth. Hard truth. But truth that will set us free. So I just have to share.

Want to get better from OCD? I do (most of the time!). Jackie removes a few of the excuses that can keep us mired in the mud. Yes it will hurt. Like h-e-double-hockey-sticks, want to rip every last hair out of your head, why is this happening to me, kind of hurt. Nope, it's definitely not a get better quick overnight kind of thing. Does that even really exist - for anything? Sigh. Oh, how I truly wish it did. Is it easier and quicker to get better from OCD with the right, properly qualified professional at your side? You bet! And I will always encourage any sufferer to get proper professional help, because I do believe it is really the best way to go. But for most sufferers, I think it is possible to make at least some bit of progress on our own. And even small progress can make an impact on our daily functioning and contentment in life.

It's NOT fair that we have OCD. It's not. I hate it. With every fiber of my being. I hate the pain it causes me and I hate the pain it causes those who love me. I hate the pain that it causes you. But hating it and realizing that it's not fair will not do one. single. thing. to improve our condition. I encourage you to go through the "this isn't fair, why is this happening to me, and I'm in agony" phase. I truly do. I think it's necessary. Hey, I still go back there for a visit every now and then. Just don't live there. Please. It will only make things worse for you in the long run.

If you decide that for whatever reason you cannot get the help of a professional, and you choose to go it on your own, I will be your biggest cheerleader. No, I'm definitely not even a partial substitute for a real, live, properly trained therapist. But I'm always glad to offer virtual hugs, encouragement, and the understanding of someone who has been (and continues to be) there.

I mean, what do you have to lose by trying? Besides the mind-numbing pain of OCD, that is? Hugs to you, my friends.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A New Must Read

Since I started my own blog almost 3 years ago, I've been following another blogger, Janet Singer, of ocdtalk. It is one of my absolutely all time favorite blogs, for a few reasons. First, Janet doesn't even have OCD herself. She is an advocate on behalf of her son (who went through a terrible struggle with OCD, but post-treatment, is now doing well) and other OCD sufferers. Second, her blog is always chock-full of legitimately good, scientifically backed, helpful information. Third, she poses thoughtful questions about the subject matter when answers do not seem obvious and forthcoming. I met Janet in person at the International OCD Foundation's Annual Conference a few years back, and she is just as lovely in real life as I expected her to be based upon her writing. Therefore, when Janet announced that she was writing a book with Clinical Psychologist Seth J. Gillihan, Ph.D., I just knew it was going to be a must read for me. I suspect it will be a must read for anyone else looking to find helpful resources and inspiration when it comes to battling this terrifying mental illness.

So it is with great pleasure that I can say that it is now possible to place a pre-order on her book! The best part? Use code 4S15OCDBK to save 30%! I am placing my order today, and will anxiously anticipate its publication in January.

If you would like to help share this resource with your community, you can call your local librarian and request that he/she order the book. Many local libraries will gladly order requested books. I plan to do this myself.

Congratulations, Janet! I'm so proud of you, friend.

Update: You can also pre-order the book at Amazon. The discount code I previously mentioned will not work at Amazon, however.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Pain Today, Healing Tomorrow

I just finished watching a video of the speech given by Ethan S. Smith, the Keynote Speaker of the International OCD Foundation's 2014 Annual Conference. It is 46 1/2 minutes long. And worth every single minute. Ethan shared the story of how he went literally from the depths of hell to living a productive, meaningful life. It is simply brilliant.
Ethan S. Smith
Photo courtesy of IOCDF

In some ways, the video is not easy to watch. Ethan's therapists were tough on him because they needed to be. But it's also great to watch, as he is funny and vulnerable, and really, quite wise. His major OCD theme is hypochondriasis.

I viewed the video because I thought it might be a good resource to share with others. What I did not realize was how much I personally needed to hear his words, especially in light of my own recent trials. If you are struggling terribly with OCD, or you love someone who is, this is absolutely worth 46 1/2 minutes of your life. (Also, check out his blog post that is underneath the video. Definitely worth a read.)

"The amount of pain that you invest today is worth the pleasure for the rest of your life." Ethan S. Smith

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Relapse-ish?

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all of you who commented on my previous post and offered your support and prayers. You all hold such a special place in my heart that I could never fully express it.

I thought I would give you a quick update. I went to see my psychologist on Tuesday, and she surprisingly told me that I was not having a relapse. She considers it to be a relapse if a patient goes back to square one. I'm happy to report that I am nowhere near that.

She helped me think through my circumstances and helped me to see that yes, though I am struggling right now, and I FEEL horrible, I am not regressing all the way to the beginning. The truth is that I don't think I could, even if I tried, as I know way too much about fighting anxiety now. I can't unlearn it. Thankfully! My doctor also helped me to remember that I am experiencing transition in my life and transitions take time and they cannot be rushed, no matter how much we try.

So there you go. I was letting my emotions confuse the issue. Again. Well, that's a big surprise, isn't it? Ah, no. Not really. I'm so grateful that she helped me to clear up some cognitive distortions and to reframe the situation. In addition, the session was a good reminder to attempt mindfulness in all areas of my life.

My circumstances have improved over this last week, and I feel like I'm turning a corner. I believe this is in large part due to your prayers, to the prayers of my family, and my "in-person" friends. Thank you so much my dear, sweet friends.

I'm choosing to view this as another opportunity for God to grow me, humble me, and refine me. Sometimes though, I really wish I was not such a slow learner, ha!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Relapse

I have been gone from the blog for weeks and it is due to some difficult circumstances in my life at the moment. I will be fine. But the OCD is really flaring right now because of the stress and I am overwhelmed and exhausted. Lots of tears have been (and continue to be) shed. My husband is pretty exhausted too, and of course, this causes me to obsess over the state of his health, which just adds to the entire mess. But don't worry. I really will be ok. Eventually. And I will fill you in on the details at some point in the near future. Honestly, I'm just so sick of the entire situation that I can't talk about it right now. And I know my situation would probably be not that big of a deal for most people. It is for me, because it pushes all of my OCD triggers.

I know that many OCD sufferers get particularly discouraged about relapses. Mostly, I'm ok with it, because I know in my heart it is temporary. I also know that it is probably a normal part of life for most of us who struggle(d) with severe anxiety disorders. I don't think it is realistic to never expect a relapse of some sort.

Anyway, I just wanted you to know that I have most definitely not forgotten about you all. I just need a little equilibrium to return to my life before I can return to any kind of semi-normal posting schedule. If you are the praying type, I sure wouldn't refuse a few extra prayers! Be well my friends.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Facebook Boundaries: To Friend Or Not To Friend?

This post is an ERP that I'm doing as part of my therapy homework. Yes, I have to address "The Facebook Issue." Which for the average person, might be nothing more than a blip on the radar, but for me, it is an issue. A people pleasing issue. A hyper-responsibility, fear of hurting other people's feelings issue. A "if I don't 'friend' someone, I'm a bad Christian" issue. A "they won't like me if I say no" issue.

Boundaries were completely non-existent for me. Though I tried to be careful to never step over anyone else's boundaries, I didn't know how to protect my own, and I allowed them to be trampled on at times. And I resented it. But, I was too fearful to do anything about it. Or if I did get angry enough about it, I would still be afraid to respond for fear of being disliked, or a "bad" Christian, or even worse, I would respond, but I would react to the person in ways that I would regret later.

Many years ago, I read just the first couple of chapters of a book that literally changed my life. It is titled, (shocker!) Boundaries. I highly recommend it. Well, at least the first few chapters that I read! The great thing is that it was written by Christians, so I felt a bit more comforted that I was not being unChrist-like by setting boundaries.

Though this book was very helpful, it has still been difficult to hold tight to my own boundaries. This has been especially difficult in the area of Facebook lately. When I first joined Facebook, I decided that it would be a place for me to share things with my family and my actual, in-person friends. I thought that decision through carefully, and at the time, I felt like it was a good decision. To be honest, I still do.

I've met SO many wonderful people through this blog and through a private Facebook support group, and I've been "friended" a whole lot recently. And though I've wavered back and forth, I've decided to stick with my original plan of keeping my circle to family and personal friends. But, oh, has that been hard! So often, when I've been friended, I've thought, "Oh, but this person seems so lovely, and I would really like to get to know them in their own personal life, and well, maybe they'll think I'm a snob if I say no, etc." I think you get the thought process here . . .

My wonderful psychologist has challenged me to stay true to my initial goal of Facebook. She agrees with me that it's a healthy boundary, and she recognizes that it's healthy for me to have to, gulp, say no to people. It may be healthy, but that doesn't make it easy. But, like any other ERP I've had to undertake to get my life back, it does get easier with practice.

So here goes.

I care so very deeply for all of you, my fellow bloggers and readers. Truly, I really, really do. And I love the online relationships I have formed. And they surely are real relationships to me. But I'm going to have to keep my Facebook account to my family and in-person friends. I really hope you understand. Hugs. Monique

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Gift Of Being Kind To Yourself, Part Two

Though I started this blog with the intent of helping others, a really pleasant by-product is how writing about my experiences of living with OCD have been helpful for me as well. In particular, while composing Part One of this post, I began to realize that I was starting to slip back into old patterns of speaking harshly to myself. And when my friend C asked if I could give some examples of speaking nicely to myself, I realized that it was an opportunity to do some good 'ole cognitive restructuring.

1. "I'm a filthy, disgusting, pig." Yes, I've said this to myself. More times than I can possibly remember. I have Contamination OCD. I often think that dirt/germs = bad/gross/unloveable. So if I don't keep my house as neat and clean as I think it should be, I think that it is a reflection on me personally, and that no one would want to be around me if they knew my house wasn't up to certain standards. So when I catch myself saying these types of things in my mind, I stop and say, "No, the state of your house has nothing to do with your value as a human being. Do you think other people have more or less value based on the state of their home? Of course not. What makes you any different?"

2. "I'm such a(n) idiot/stupid/dummy." Whenever I make a silly mistake, my first reaction is to say this kind of thing. Sometimes, I'm not even really serious when I say this stuff. I'm almost kind of joking. But you know what? Even jokingly referring to myself this way is unhealthy. When I catch myself saying these things, I stop, and rephrase it. "No, you are not _______. It was an oversight. It was human. Nothing more, nothing less."

3. "You're so arrogant. Who do you think you are?" Because of my experience with a severe anxiety disorder, and my level of recovery, and the fact that I am so open about it (because I genuinely want to help others), I get asked a lot of questions, by a lot of people. So I try very hard to share my truly honest opinions about what helped me and what I think constitutes good treatment. Of course, I'm no expert, and I always clearly state that, but people still seem interested in hearing about my own experiences, and my resulting opinions. And I'm so incredibly happy to help. But my Hyper-Responsibility OCD often kicks in and tells me that I'm giving bad information. And that I'm an arrogant fool for thinking that anything I have to say is legit. And the Scrupulosity OCD in me tells me that I'm not being humble enough, and because I don't read my Bible nearly enough (and I really don't - that's not Scrup talking) and I don't pray enough, so who am I to be saying anything? I'm clearly not leaning upon God enough to lead me in speaking to others. What arrogance! This is a time when heaping guilt upon myself is not helpful. I think it's better to say, "Well yes, I do need to increase Bible reading and praying. And I need to make a plan to do that. But I also trust that God is so much bigger than me, and that He can still do good things in these circumstances in spite of me. And the past is the past."

4. "You're a lazy slob." Yep, I stay in bed a lot. I procrastinate. A lot. Am I lazy? A lot of times I think so. But then I remember how I was before anxiety and depression really got hold of me. And I realize that depression is a beast that can hold you down. And I also realize that procrastination is probably just another word for avoidance, anxiety style. So I remind myself that I can't possibly keep up with others who don't have anxiety and depression. I try to say, "You are human and you are battling significant issues that maybe those around you are not. Comparison is deadly. Instead, you should try to focus on what will get you healthier for the future. Again, the past is the past."

In case you want more food for thought on the subject, I found a really cool post about speaking nicely to yourself that you may be interested in, just to get a little bit of a different viewpoint on the matter. My only critique on that post is that in my opinion, we shouldn't even think these things about ourselves.

Lastly, here's an important point. Let's say that everything mean that I said to myself was actually true. Does saying those things to myself actually help anything? Would it help me be more humble, or less lazy, or less stupid? Absolutely not! It would just keep me mired in the mud of self-loathing. As far as I know, a person enveloped in self-loathing is usually unable to move forward. So, whether I think I deserve it or not, I consider speaking to myself in a harsh or mean manner to be totally unacceptable because it is needlessly cruel, and frankly, unproductive. Give it a try to speak nicely to yourself. What have you got to lose?

Monday, July 21, 2014

ERP: An Absolute Necessity

The mere thought of Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is terrifying to most OCD sufferers. I first learned about ERP in 1996, but I avoided it until my life fell apart (for the second time) in 2009. Thirteen years. I wasted thirteen years of my life. I can honestly say that learning how to do ERP (under the guidance of an expert Cognitive Behavioral Therapist) was one of the best decisions I have ever made. It is a skill that I will now have with me forever. Literally changed my life.

A lot of anxiety sufferers desperately wish for a way around ERP. I know I sure did! To my knowledge, there just isn't one. At least not at this point in time. So, until something else comes around, CBT/ERP is the best way to go. Considering its necessity to recovery from anxiety disorders, maybe we need to reframe how we look at ERP. My friend Janet, of "ocdtalk," published a truly excellent post on ERP that I highly recommend. It may just change how you look at ERP.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Back On The Couch

I'm back in therapy. And contrary to the title of my post, I don't actually lay down on a couch in session. It's probably a good thing, because I'm pretty certain I would not be able to stay awake for very long in that position!

I like to think of this as CBT, Part Deux. While I do have a reasonable amount of OCD left in my life, it is not the reason I've sought out help again. In fact, I feel like it is due to the success of my past treatment that I am finally in this particular head space. I've had enough OCD cobwebs cleared out, that it has made room for other longstanding issues to bubble to the surface, namely my decades old struggle with depression. I can recall living with bouts of depression since I was a teenager. It has ebbed and flowed throughout my life like a slow moving roller coaster. A lot of the time, it simply simmers at a low boil in the background, not presenting any major life problems per se, but it is active just enough to keep me from moving forward. However, over the past year, on most days, it takes tremendous effort to get out of bed. Some days, I cannot muster the energy to do it at all.

I want to be clear and state that I am okay. It's not that deep, harrowing type of depression. I know what that feels like, and I thank God that is not where I am. I'm just running on low to no energy, and well, the world seems like differing shades of gray and blah. I know what the culprit is, so I'm dealing with it, rather than ignoring it. Though, frankly, I would prefer to ignore it.

I'm realizing that my self image is probably a big factor behind my depression. I struggle terribly with feeling unloveable and unworthy, and with feeling desperate for the approval of others or, rather, the approval of every human being I ever cross paths with. However, I'm very passionate about certain subjects, and I often feel like I must speak up about things, and yet, this causes me so much angst. This is because I fear alienating others when doing this. It's a terrible inward battle. I feel like I'm failing to serve God and/or protect others if I don't speak up, but then I worry that I'm offending others if I do. Of course, I try to be tactful and kind when speaking up, but still. So what am I to do? Care less? Go along to get along? That does not seem right. And yet, my psychologist has told me that I act like I'm responsible for helping and saving everyone around me. And clearly I'm not. Ugh. Rock and a hard place.

Logically, I know that as a Christ follower, my worth is found only in the truth that I am created, and loved, by God. Yet . . . my heart doesn't quite seem to receive that message. I'm not sure it ever truly did.

I'm also discovering that some cognitive distortions are creeping back into my thinking, so my psychologist is working with me to start cognitively restructuring my thoughts away from automatically negative territory. In fact, she told me that we are working on a higher plane of restructuring now, than when I was being treated for the OCD. I view that as a positive thing, as it means that I did actually understand and absorb the previous CBT treatment I received.

While I know that spilling one's most private struggles and turmoils is not something that everyone is comfortable with, I have found it to be quite therapeutic and cathartic to share this. I lived with deep, dark secrets of my illness for so many years that I never want to return to that. On that note, thanks for listening.

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Gift Of Being Kind To Yourself

I'm sure I've talked about this more than once before, but it was so critical to my recovery that I feel it needs to be re-stated. Again and again.

Being nice to yourself. Letting yourself off the hook. Treating yourself with kindness. Whatever you want to call it, I'm referring to treating yourself in a way that is intentionally positive and uplifting.

Guilt and shame are good things if they bring sin (anything that separates us from God) to our awareness, and if they motivate us to repent (change our ways). However, I believe that beyond that, guilt and shame are no longer useful and that Satan (the devil, the evil one, pick your favorite title) can step in and use them to torment us with thoughts of how "bad" we are. Hey, he's not referred to as the "accuser" in the Bible for nothing! For the majority of my life, I carried guilt and shame around like I was a card carrying member of the "Beat Yourself Up Club." My perfectionism taunted me and convinced me that I absolutely had to be hard on myself, or else I would behave even worse than I thought I was already.

Finally, one day, after discussing this problem for what seemed like the millionth time over a million sessions, my psychologist asked me a question. "OK, so you are hard on yourself now. Does it help you to live and behave the way you want to live, or how you think you should live?" I thought about it for a minute and that's when it hit me. I just knew that the answer was a big, fat NO. I realized that what I was doing was obviously not working. And of course, I also knew that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting a different result. So right then and there, I decided to be nicer to myself. I figured that I had nothing to lose by trying it. It took some practice, but over time I started to talk differently to myself. Whenever I made a mistake, or sinned, I would only say to myself the same types of things that I would say to a friend who was in the same situation. Of course, if I had really done something wrong, I would apologize or make amends to the offended party, but beyond that, I made an effort to speak nicely to, and think nicely about, myself. Whether I felt that I deserved it or not.

Something strange started to happen after that. I actually felt better. Then I found it easier to behave in the ways that I wanted to behave, or how I felt I should behave. And even sweeter? Because I became less critical of myself, I found that I became less critical of others too. It had never occurred to me that the two were related.

This was one of the very best things I learned in therapy. It literally changed my life. Now, I am counting on God's grace and forgiveness like never before. I'm having to trust that He means what He says when He says I'm forgiven. If He can forgive me, then who am I to withhold forgiveness? I have not given myself a license to sin, but I have given myself a license to be the only thing I can be: human.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.                                                                                   1 John 1:9 ESV


Sunday, June 29, 2014

Fear = Lies

Recently, Jon Acuff, a witty and often funny, Christian writer and blogger, posted this on his Facebook page:

The number of people who have their lives perfectly figured out = "The entire population of the planet minus me." A lie fear tells me often.

I love this, because if you read a lot of Jon's stuff, it's easy to think he has it all together. Yet, very often, he will whip up little gems like this about fear. Looks can be quite deceiving, can't they?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Pictures From The Walk


On your marks . . .
The 1 Million Steps 4 OCD Walk that took place on June 7th was great fun! What freedom to be able to walk around openly with my family and talk about OCD without any feeling of embarrassment or stigma. I wish that for everyone suffering from mental illness.

The walk took place around the
beautiful Jamaica Pond in Boston.
It was a picture perfect day.
A sea of neon green.

Me, Jim, and Mom & Dad. My son was there
too - he took the pic. I have an
AWESOME supportive family!
My biggest supporter.
Mon amour.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Goodbye Sweet Anna

Oh that face!
Two days ago, we said goodbye to our precious fur baby, Anna. She has been a part of our lives for almost exactly 16 years.

She had such a spunky personality. The vet always knew she was really sick if she didn't fight them. Ha! That's my girl! She absolutely hated when I sang. She would often mew this really weird sound, and literally attack me if I didn't stop. But she had no problem when Jim played electric guitar. Guess that doesn't say much for my singing.

She could also be a little cuddle bug. If you stayed really still, she would sleep on you for hours. Jim moves around too much, so I was usually the lap of choice. Oh and did she purr! She was a purr machine. Jim and I always joked that she was like a living, breathing, teddy bear. Her fur was as soft as silk. It felt just like rabbit fur and smelled so sweet. She was especially beautiful and I can't tell you how many advertisements we saw through the years with pictures of cats that looked exactly like our girl. Many a burly workman would step in to our house and simply melt at the sight of her. It was quite comical at times.

We had to get a king sized bed
because she was such a bed hog!
Now she's gone, and we are so incredibly sad. The house feels really empty without her. We built this house 16 years ago, and she joined our family two months after we moved in. So this is her house. It's always been her house. I keep thinking I hear her, or feel her jumping onto the bed. Her food bowls are gone and the spot where she used to sit on her little, fluffy, white mat in the dining room is empty. Honestly, my heart is broken. It feels a little over dramatic to be this upset about a pet, but there you have it.

Pain stinks. Plain and simple. Those of us with OCD and anxiety disorders tend to specialize in running away from pain. All my compulsions and avoidance were just attempts to escape pain. I don't think you can escape pain, though. I think you can maybe delay it, but eventually it catches up to you. You can even try and cut yourself off from feeling, in order to avoid pain, but then you can't feel joy either.

It is incredibly tempting to shut down emotionally, and make the decision to not get another pet. A friend (who also lost a fur baby not so long ago) recently joked, "they don't tell you that it never ends well." It made me laugh, but it made me think too. My friend was right. Odds are, I will outlive any next pet that I get. And I will be here in this sadness all over again. But then, I would miss out on a decade or more of unconditional furry love and licks. I would miss out on the opportunity to care for one of God's creatures, and even the opportunity to fight contamination OCD, as pets certainly bring all kinds of dirt/germ challenges with them. Essentially, I would miss an opportunity to feel some happiness and more fullness to my life.

You know that Tennyson quote, "'Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all?" I think there is a lot of truth to it. In the long run, the pain is worth it.

Goodnight my precious girl. It's been 16 years of joy.


Friday, June 13, 2014

Where Is God?

The world of mental illness is filled with so much pain. Loneliness, fear, isolation. It can be overwhelming. I have heard from so many, "Where is God in this??!!??" I've asked that question myself many, many times. I often (usually) don't have ready answers, but I am convinced, deep in my heart, that God has not forsaken us. I read a story on Facebook today that reminded me to keep going back to the One who has my life and my heart in the palm of His hand, regardless of how bad my circumstances are. I don't understand. I've come to the conclusion that maybe I don't need to. He does. And that will have to be enough for me. I guess that's why it's called faith?

From the Facebook page of Long Island Youth Mentoring:

His name is Judah.

Can a broken heart coexist with extreme beauty?

This week I found it can.

Christine, my eldest daughter, went in for a sonogram one week earlier than she was supposed to. Something was wrong. She was 7 months pregnant, but looked 9 - her body so swollen with fluid she could barely walk. A doctor walked in. "Hi, Christine. I am your surgeon." Christine was taken aback. Surgeon? She had never seen this man before, and was not there for surgery. "We have to operate on the baby. When we do, he may have difficulty. If he does, do you want us to do an emergency C-section or just let him die naturally?" It took Christine a few seconds to allow the meaning of the question to settle in. "What do you mean? He has a name. His name is Judah." From that moment on, this doctor insisted his staff refer to the baby by his name. After four procedures, Judah had to be delivered. All looked like it was going well until the morning of his third day. Kay and I got the call at 5 a.m. Christine's voice: "Please pray. The next couple of hours are critical for Judah." Kay and I dropped to our knees beside the bed and begged for Judah's life. When we got to the hospital, we found that Judah was soon to be with the Lord.

The neonatal intensive care unit was buzzing. Five to six doctors and nurses were working to save our precious little Judah. Christine made it clear that if there was truly nothing they could do, she wanted to hold the baby and let him feel her warmth as he slipped into the Lord's arms. When they could do no more, they disconnected what they could and placed Judah in his mother's arms. Jason, my son-in-law held Christine as she whispered to their baby above the hum and beep of life-sustaining machines. Then Jason's tenor voice opened in that sterile room, and through strong, fatherly tears he sang:

And when I think that God, his son not sparing,
Sent him to die - I scarce can take it in,
That on the cross my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin:
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee,
How great Thou Art, how great Thou art!

I cannot describe the emotions, the power, and the beauty of that moment. I stood with my hands on my children, praying, while I witnessed them, with chests heaving sobs of excruciating pain worshipping and praising their King and their Lord.

His name is Judah, which means, "This time I will praise Him." I do not share this to boast about the faith of my children. I stood even in that moment knowing I was witnessing the impossible. I share this because I saw the power of the Spirit of God within two believers as they handed the little boy they loved to the Lord they trusted.

Only by the power of God . . .

"Call it. It is 9:47am." I knew that was the number that was to go on the certificate of death. The doctor who had been with them and performed all the surgeries walked in. His eyes were full of fear. He looked in the face of the lifeless baby and then into the eyes of the parents. "I am so sorry." Christine said, "Thank you for all you did to allow us to meet our son." The doctor took off his glasses and wept. All protocol was gone.

The next day Kay and I brought their other two children, our grandchildren, to the hospital. Christine and Jason wanted to tell them about their brother themselves. Little Jason is 5 and Abby is 3. Jason Sr. said, "Do you remember the recording of 'Jesus Loves Me' that you made for your bother?" They said they did.

"Well, when I heard Jesus was going to take Judah up to live with him in Heaven, I played it for Judah. No one on earth can imagine just how much Jesus loves them. But right after Judah heard you sing, he found out." Little Jason then asked two questions: Did Judah just disappear or did he float up to heaven? After his father answered that, he asked: Can I play with the buttons on the bed? I wish we adults could move on with the reality of eternity like children can. We instead ride a question-filled roller coaster of emotions. I am keeping a list of questions to ask the Lord. However, I am convinced that when we are in His presence, it will all make sense.

I once heard Pastor Gary Zarlengo say: "When the hand of God does not make sense, hold onto His heart." We cannot search the mind of God, nor understand how He may choose to move in the mystery of his sovereignty.
Jason, Christine & Judah
Photo from Long Island Youth
Mentoring Facebook Page

We do know the character of God, though. He is good. He loves each of us dearly. We are His children and he wants only the best for each of us. These are truths. But when our circumstances seem to contradict these truths, we can either doubt our perception or we can doubt God. We also know that we live in a fallen world. The place where the fallen world and the character of God meet is the place Jason took us in the depth of his pain - to the foot of the cross. It is only there that we can weep and still declare, "How great Thou art, how great Thou art!"
John Cragg
Executive Director

In spite of my own personal experience of living with the horror that is OCD, I can still say unequivocally that God IS good. It's just that sometimes our intense pain and suffering tries to convince us that He is not.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Preparing For Pain

Wait for it . . . wait for it . . .
It can't be done. At least I can't prepare for pain, not in a way that works effectively for me. My friend, Anna, seems to have figured this out for herself as well, and she really gave me some food for thought on the subject.

For the majority of my life, I always tried to get the upper hand on any pain that I thought might be headed my way. "What if this happens, or what if that happens?" I would try to plan out every possible scenario that I feared might happen, and I would spend hours upon hours coming up with elaborate plans that I could set in motion if this or that happened. No unexpected painful event was going to get the best of me! I was ready and waiting. That other shoe was certain to drop and it was not going to catch me off guard. Or so I thought. The problem was that a lot of those prepared for scenarios never occurred. Or if they did, they didn't happen the way I thought they would, or with the level of severity I expected. Or even worse, sometimes something truly horrific would happen, and I would be completely blindsided by it because it was never even on my radar. I could just never properly prepare myself for pain, no matter how hard I tried.

Of course the irony of all this preparation was that it extended my pain (or created it out of thin air). All that time I wasted in preparation was agony. Because, you see, while I was trying to head off the pain, I was actually giving myself the pain. I find that it is hard to think about and plan for painful events without actually feeling the pain of those events, even if they are only in my mind. I am learning that life is a LOT less painful when I let it follow its natural course. Of course, that means I willingly accept and acknowledge the uncertainty of life when I do that. Will I be unexpectedly smacked by pain? Absolutely 100% guaranteed. However, the interesting thing is that because I don't live in my own personally created "Pain Land" all day, every day, anymore, I am now much more readily equipped to deal with life's surprise twists and turns. This is in large part due to the fact that I am no longer always emotionally wrung out from the constantly imagined terrible things that previously dogged my every waking moment. I sure wish I had figured this out a long time ago. I guess you are never too old to learn something new.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Scrupulosity And My Friend

I'm so excited for my fellow blogging friend, Tina! She was interviewed for an article on CNN.com about Scrupulosity. You can imagine my shock when reading the article and seeing her name and picture along with it!

Aside from being happy for my friend, I'm also pleased that more awareness and education is being spread about this very painful form of OCD.

Monday, May 26, 2014

A Thought Shift

My friend Richelle, who is waging an incredibly courageous fight against OCD recently said this:

Instead of looking at every trigger in fear and responding by avoidance or with compulsions, I am starting to look at my triggers as opportunities for freedom. Everyday I accept that I will experience discomfort and anxiety and probably cry but I know it will go away. I know this fight will be well worth it.

And there it is. The thought shift that does indeed bring freedom. A new perspective. It makes all the difference.

Fight on Richelle - OCD is no match for you!

Friday, May 23, 2014

OCD Special on ABC's 20/20 Tonight

I'm really looking forward to watching a special on OCD tonight on ABC's news program, 20/20. They will be reporting on children who have severe OCD but have also managed to face their fears and move forward, in an episode entitled, "The Children Who Break Away." It should be moving and inspirational. So set your DVR for 10 pm Eastern Standard Time!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Rigid Thinking

"Rigid thinking occurs when an individual is unable to consider alternatives to the current situation, alternative viewpoints or innovative solutions to a problem. Rigid thinkers cling tightly to preconceptions and generalizations, and often react with fear or hostility in the face of unexpected change or challenges." www.ehow.com

Wow, this is the story of my life. I have had several conversations recently with a few different people about rigid thinking, and I've come to a conclusion. The happiest people in life are those that are able to adapt to change, let go of their expectations, and deal with each day as it comes. That is, essentially, the complete opposite of rigid thinking.

It wasn't until CBT/ERP that I discovered my struggle with, and virtual stranglehold by, this very destructive cognitive distortion. I suspect everyone fights this to some degree, or at least in some areas of their life. However, my existence was literally choked by it. It fueled my perfectionism, anxiety, frustration, and anger. Time and again I would discuss a scenario with my psychologist and explain to her how I was stuck between two bad outcomes, only to have her suggest an alternative that had never occurred to me. More times than not, I would marvel at the simple and unbelievably straightforward other possibility that I had never even considered. I would walk out of her office and think to myself, "How in the world did I not come up with that obvious idea on my own?!" Rigid thinking. All or nothing thinking. Polarized thinking. Call it what you like, but it all has the same result. An inflexibility that keeps us locked in the prison of our minds.

Like everything else in my world these days, this is a work in progress, but I have come a very long way. Whenever I feel cornered or threatened by a situation, I recognize that it can become a playground for rigid thinking. So I try to slow my mind down. I pray. I seek guidance from people whom I know are capable of seeing the bigger picture. I no longer rush to solve the problem instantly, so I can avoid making decisions out of fear. Sometimes, issues completely resolve themselves, because I no longer react in a panic before things have "played out."

If you are interested in working on rigid thinking, I found a helpful article entitled "Five Brain Exercises to Foster Flexible Thinking" at Gaiam Life.

Oh, and in case you are wondering, I believe flexible thinking is a Biblical concept. See below what Paul has to say about dealing with his circumstances in life. Sounds pretty flexible to me!
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11-13 NIV

Monday, May 12, 2014

Time To Lace Those Sneakers!

I posted this on my Facebook account last evening.


I debated about whether I should post this here as well. But, when it comes down to it, I want to spread awareness, help end stigma, and raise funds to bring hope to others, so, here it is! If you'd like to support the 5K financially, there is a link below, and that would be great. If you'd like to support the 5K with prayer, that would be great too! If you feel led to participate, then have at it! I figured that I would mention this in case someone is interested.

Oh, and if you are wondering, I made references only to the U.S. in my Facebook post, but it is just because my FB friends and family are all American. The 5K is to raise funds for the International Obsessive Compulsive Foundation.

The best part is that my husband, son, and parents have all agreed to walk with me! I'm so incredibly blessed to have such a supportive family.


Friday, May 9, 2014

Heads or Tails?

A friend of mine recently said this about reassurance:


Reassurance is the flip side of the same OCD coin, even though we don't always recognize that. If the fear is "heads," reassurance is "tails."

We seek reassurance to bring our anxiety, or fear, down. Anything that brings our fear down (in an artificially quicker way) is considered a compulsion. Performing compulsions only reinforces obsessions (fear inducing thoughts). So . . . the moral of the story? We need to stop seeking reassurance.

A lot easier said than done.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Am I OCD?

This morning, I was driving on the highway and listening to a local news radio station. I was pleased to hear the reporter talking about an upcoming NAMI Walk. It got me to thinking, though, when he referred to a woman, who was acting as a spokesperson for mental illness, by saying, "She is Bipolar."

She is Bipolar. That's like saying, "He is heart disease, or she is lung cancer." She is NOT Bipolar. She HAS Bipolar. I am not OCD, I have OCD. Even so, it's only a part of my life. It is not all of it. Just like whatever you struggle with is not all of you either.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

OCD And Parenting: My Story


A recent conversation on parenting and OCD has gotten me to thinking and I wanted to share this in the hopes you would find it helpful.

Before a few days ago, I NEVER shared this with a single soul, beyond my immediate family. I never even really completely explained it to my psychologist (though I'm sure she figured it out, she is very bright). For many years I was completely guilt ridden by it. For the most part, I have dealt with the guilt. Not that I think I deserve to be "off the hook," but my guilt was paralyzing me from getting any better, so I made a conscious decision to stop beating myself up. I still regret it terribly though, don't get me wrong. But I've asked God for forgiveness and I believe Him when He says I am forgiven.

My OCD affected my parenting and my child in ways that I have been so ashamed of, that I could never admit it before. Just before posting this, I asked my husband if I should go through with it. He asked me, "What is more important? To not post because of shame, or to post because it might help someone else?" So here goes.

I was a yeller. No, a screamer. And verbally abusive. I could scream out some pretty horrible things to my son and husband if my anxiety got set off. There were even a couple of times that I got so angry that I kicked the wall and left a mild, shallow outline of my foot in the sheet rock! I would alternate between apologizing to my precious boy and yelling at him. There were times I couldn't touch him for fear of contamination. I would many times make him participate in my compulsions. I was so frustrated all the time and I just didn't know what to do with it. I spent years being paranoid that my child would be taken away from me, because deep down, I felt I deserved that. I was caught in this horrific cycle. I should have gone for CBT/ERP as soon as I knew about it. Instead, because I was so frightened of the therapy, I waited THIRTEEN YEARS to go, until the OCD was so bad that I could almost not function anymore. It is a decision I will regret forever.

One of my main motivations for fighting the OCD when I finally got the proper help was my son. Even though he was an adult and living on his own by that point, I wanted to show him that it is never, ever too late to change and grow. So I started the therapy and it was horrible. But eventually, it started to work. And I discovered something absolutely shocking. I was never really angry, I was scared. Once the anxiety got under control, my anger dissipated like the air being let out of a balloon. Starting in the Fall of 2009, I attended therapy for 2 1/2 years. But I'm still working all the time on learning, growing, and how to continue to fight the OCD.

And here is where it comes full circle. My child has been going through some very stressful things, through no fault of his own. In the past, I would have literally been freaking out about it, being all over his back to fix it, telling him he did stuff wrong, getting mad and yelling over the phone, etc. Instead, when he calls (and there have been multiple calls for weeks), with the exception of one call the other day where I kinda blew it, I have been calm, rational, and I've kept reminding him to focus on things as they are today, right now, not how they might be. I've been trying to fight every cognitive distortion with logic. And the best words (besides "I love you") he ever said to me came out of his mouth the other day. "Wow, you really ARE better. Normally you would be all worried about me and freaking out, etc." In the past, my anxiety would have made him feel even worse. He's told me more than once now that he feels better after talking to me.

This is literally the victory of my life. As much as I desperately want to, I can't undo the past. But I can love, honor, and respect my family today, by working on the now. I'm so grateful to God for sending me to therapy. It was the most painful time of my life, but it ended up being one of the best things I ever, ever did. My life has literally changed. No matter what you've done, or how long you've been ill or struggling, there is ALWAYS hope. God bless my friends.