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, 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.

12 comments:

  1. Hi there, I came across your blog awhile back and have been looking through it for awhile. Your post today really struck me in a profound way I deal with some severe contamination issues as well, and I hate to admit it too, I have been guilty often of saying things out of anger, or being scared because my anxiety is so high. I often go into a rage because I get so anxious with my OCD, and it is usually directed at my husband. Lately I have been out of control and directing it toward my daughter and it breaks my heart. My husband doesn't understand OCD at all, and my daughter is 10 and understands much more about it than a child ever should need to. I am so ashamed the other day I screamed to her and I quote "You're a stupid kid. I hate you". I truly said that to my daughter and it kills me inside. Of course I don't hate her. She is the best daughter and I love her so much it hurts. Of course its the OCD talking and I have to explain that to her, and hope that she understands. I worry that it will affect our relationship as she grows up. I have even spanked her before I get so angry, over contamination issues. For instance the other day she was brushing her teeth and I didn't want her sweatshirt strings to get on the counter because it was wet with toothpaste. I asked her to hold her strings back and she acted like she didn't know what to do. So I got so mad I went over and pulled the strings down and screamed those things to her. Then I asked her later after I was calmed down why she didn't just move the strings, and she said because her hands were dirty and she thought I would get mad if she touched them. Breaks my heart. I know I need to start therapy. I am scared. If you would like to look up my blog it is fightagainstocd.blogspot.com. I just started it last summer and am trying to work up a network of supporters and friends. I am so thankful to see other people out there such as yourself, it helps to know that we are not alone in this fight. Of course God is always there for us, and am thankful that you share this faith as well!

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    1. Hi Hopeful! Welcome.

      Oh I'm so, so sorry for the suffering OCD has brought to you and your family. The situation you described with the sweatshirt strings is classic OCD, isn't it? It's bad if you touch them, but it's bad if you don't touch them and move them out of the way of the "dirty" counter top. Typical OCD contamination dilemma, and it's horrible for us and anyone who lives with us. Of course, I can totally relate to your feelings of guilt.

      I'm so glad to hear that you recognize the need for therapy. Oh and I KNOW how scared you are. It IS scary. But if I can be of any encouragement to you to go to therapy as soon as possible, then I'd like to be. The longer you put it off, it will probably become harder. And of course, the anticipatory anxiety would probably only get worse too. Do you have any CBT/ERP experts in your area?

      Hopeful, you CAN do this. Truly, you can. I'm the biggest wimp there ever was, and hey if I can do it, believe me, anyone can. It is amazing what we can do when certain things are on the line. Instead of beating yourself up about your anxiety and how it affects your family, try to use that to fuel the fight against OCD. You and I are moms, and if it's one thing we know, it's how to protect our kids. Tap into that "mom instinct" and fight this like you've never fought before. You're fight WON'T be perfect, so please don't expect it from yourself.

      I will be more than happy to be part of your online support system. And ABSOLUTELY, our Heavenly Father is there to guide and comfort us, while giving us the strength to get through it. Blessings to you, Hopeful. I love your screen name by the way, especially because you do indeed have every reason to be hopefully.

      Oh and I will definitely check out your blog!

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    2. Thanks so much for your very well thought-out response to me. It is amazing to me that complete strangers will reach out in this community and offer supportive words, I truloyb appreciate that. I do need help and I really look at your words of tapping into my "mom instinct" and fighting this like I've never fought before and realize how true they are. I need to fight this for my daughter! It is not fair to her to grow up with a mom consumed with contamination. I desperately want my daughter to grow up without fear of contamination, and I'm already worried I've instilled some OCD behaviors into her. I've made her scared to even touch her own dad, because I am so fearful of him. I want her to get married and have children of her own when she grows up. I need to do this for her!!!! Right now I am having a lot of problems with many subtypes of OCD, contamination is by far the worst problem. It seems like usually I can get a grip on the other things and really work on those, but I feel like I need an expert OCD therapist in my area and there just aren't any! I had what you would consider "talk therapy" a couple of years ago for about 1.5 years, but by no means did this psychologist understand OCD, I could just tell. Thanks again for your words and support.

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    3. You are very welcome. So what I'm starting to understand about OCD is that our outward symptoms may look very different, i.e., contamination, checking, intrusive thoughts, etc., but the core issue is mostly the same. It is our inability to deal with uncertainty. Although I also seem to have more success with some compulsions versus other types. Now having said that, to my understanding, contamination is supposedly one of the easier types of OCD to treat, and I believe it is because it is so easy to physically replicate the feared germy environment, and it's "easy" to do the ERP in that you either touch the feared item or you don't and there's no guessing if whether you did the ERP or not. Some fears (from other types of OCD) are harder or impossible to completely recreate, and the ERPs may have to be imagined, rather than an actual physical ERP. One thing I have discovered though, was as I got control of parts of the OCD, some other parts just sort of faded away and I didn't need to address those particular compulsions at all in therapy. I've heard others say this too.

      I certainly understand your frustration of not having a true OCD expert in your area. I cannot begin to tell you how often I hear that, and it really upsets me. There are some treatment centers that use Skype. It's not ideal, but it is better than nothing, for sure. Jonathan Grayson's center in PA does it, and I believe OCD LA does it as well. I'm sure there must be others. In the meantime, is there someone in your life who would agree to help you with ERPs? This person would need to understand that you will probably cry/scream while doing ERPs and that is ok. In fact, if they could actually do the ERP WITH you, that might be helpful. My mom and husband alternated helping me with ERPs. "The OCD Workbook," by Bruce Hyman and Cherlene Pedrick might be a good one for you to work through. Also, Jonathan Grayson's book is very, very good too, though as a Christian, I'm not crazy about his chapter on Scrupulosity. But the rest is really good. Also, understanding and working on cognitive distortions was very helpful for me, and I suspect it might be for you. But if you have to choose what to work on, I recommend ERPs first and foremost.

      Let me know if there is any way I can be of support as you move forward.

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  2. Sunny, thank you for sharing this. I appreciate your honesty. I too have taken my anxiety out on others and regret the hurt I've caused. I am so glad that you are in a better place now, as I am, though we are still facing challenges, aren't we? All we can do is keep trying and working on healing. I am sure that others reading this will be helped so much by your honesty.

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    1. Ah yes, the challenges that are always there! Hopefully we can learn to navigate them a little easier.

      Well, I'm not going to lie, it was a bit difficult hitting the "publish" button. There is still the fear that people will hate me for my failings. But I'm trying really, really hard to not worry about what others think. I can just try to improve myself a little more every day.

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  3. Sunny, Thank you for this post that I'm sure was difficult to write. I think what matters is what type of mom you are right now. What an example you have set for your son! And to have him acknowledge how much you've improved makes it all worthwhile, for sure. Your family is obviously proud of you, and I am too! Thanks for having the courage to share this post.

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    1. Thank you Janet, for your consistent support. You are such an awesome mom, and an inspiration for how moms can support their children during difficult times in their life.

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    2. You are so brave and strong. Thank you so much for sharing!

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    3. I don't feel too brave OR strong, Madison! Thank you for being so kind. It is very much appreciated. Glad to hear from you again!

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  4. I myself sometimes deal with this. I have to have things in certain spots..I cant let anyone touch my pillow..I always have to make sure my kids are clean after they eat im obsesses with rooms being in order and neat beds made certain way. I freak out when someone has moved something. Im a mess and it is out of control. I have a 4 yr old son and a 1 yr old daughter amd a patient loving husband. My son is more hyper so my anxiety is worse with him and I tend to lash out and rage at him and my husband most. I hate myself bc of this. I dont want to be a yeller or make my kids fear me. I too love our Lord amd savior and my walk with him also suffers bc of the guilt I feel and not being able to forgive myself. Thank you for sharing I thought I was crazy but now I know there is a reason

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    1. Welcome! I'm so glad you found this helpful. This was, for obvious reasons, not an easy post to publish.

      Nope you are definitely not crazy. You are filled with anxiety and often, anxious people respond with anger. Don't hate yourself because of this! Hate the OCD. And use that hate of the OCD to beat it off. I cannot recommend CBT/ERP (with a QUALIFIED) psychologist strongly enough. It changed my life. It can change yours too. It's not easy, and it's certainly not inexpensive. But it is worth it. You can get your life back, one little step at a time. And if you don't feel you are worth the time, money, and effort, I promise, your little ones are. I'm not blaming anyone else, it's totally my fault I didn't get proper therapy earlier. But I'm not going to lie. I sure wish that years ago someone had gently taken me by the shoulders, looked me in the eye, and lovingly made me face the awfulness of OCD, and then worked with me to fight it.

      Getting OCD to a manageable level is totally possible. Hey, if I'd done it years ago, it probably would not have taken me so long in therapy either. Or been as painful.

      If I can be of online support to you, I am more than happy to do so. Any time. Please come back and visit. God bless you. You can do this. You really can. And you are NOT alone.

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