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!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Book Review: "Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery" - Janet Singer with Seth J. Gillihan

Ever since I gave birth to my own child almost 30 years ago, I've often thought that it was like an actual piece of my heart left my body and was now walking around in the form of my son. I think it is not a stretch to imagine that is how Janet Singer feels about her own children. I like to think of "Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery" as a love story, featuring the selfless love a parent has for a suffering and hurting child. In this case, it is the story of Janet and Gary Singer, and their college student son, Dan, who was struggling with severe OCD.

I was excited, and a bit nervous, when Janet asked me to read and then review her book. I was nervous because, well, what if I didn't like the book? Phew. No worries there. I love this book. I mean, I really love this book. It is very well written and flows easily through what was probably one of the most painful years of the Singer family's lives. I had a hard time putting the book down and read it in its entirety in a handful of sittings.

At times, I longed to hear more about Dan's obsessions and what the thoughts were behind his particular compulsions. However, I began to suspect that perhaps Janet was protecting his privacy, or maybe she was purposely not making those things the focus of her memoir. After all, the content of obsessions and any particular compulsions are really not the important thing. No matter how you slice it, it's still OCD, and OCD, regardless of each person's individual particulars, gets treated in essentially the same fashion: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) using Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP).

What Janet did focus on was her and Gary's attempts to help their son navigate through the mental health care system so he could find healing and hopefully, a return to a more "normal" life. What a journey that was! From incompetent doctors, to improper medication, and through the difficult, but effective, treatment of ERP, Janet and Gary were there the whole time to advocate for and encourage Dan. At one point, they even picked up and moved their entire lives so they could be close to Dan when he returned to college. It ended up being a very wise decision.

"Overcoming OCD" also has a co-author, Seth J. Gillihan, Ph.D. Throughout the book, Dr. Gillihan adds thoughtful and informative commentary abut OCD, and more importantly, treatment, including ERP and medication. His input is spot-on and adds a critically important component to the book. These are not throwaway or filler remarks. They are filled with solid information that sufferers and their families can use to guide them forward through the maze of battling OCD.

Lastly, there is a "Resources" section at the end of the book listing helpful organizations, treatment centers, and other books. I always appreciate it when an author is considerate enough to include that type of information.

After finishing the book, I was left with a few thoughts:

1. Would I be as selfless if my own son needed me in this way? Oh I sure hope so!

2. It is absolutely crucial that family members advocate for a loved one who is ill and suffering, especially if the illness (physical or mental) causes them to have a decline in their ability to make good decisions for their own health.

3. Trust my instincts. I must do the homework and the research about the illness so that I can make informed and educated decisions, but at the end of the day, I need to trust my instincts.

"Overcoming OCD" is a big win for me, and I will gladly recommend it, along with my long beloved other favorite OCD memoir, "Rewind, Replay, Repeat" by Jeff Bell.

"Ovecoming OCD," ISBN 978-1-4422-3944-9, is now available in hardcover, coming in at 206 pages, and it is published by Rowman & Littlefield. It is also available for Kindle!

My only compensation was a free copy of "Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery" from the publisher, in exchange for my honest book review.

Monday, March 16, 2015

I'm Waiting

Thank you everyone for your prayers and thoughtful comments on my previous post. It so warmed my heart and reminded me of God's love and care. I'm really struggling while I'm in this time period but I know God is working behind the scenes. And I just need to wait on Him to show me what to do and what decisions to make. There are Bible verses that talk about waiting on the Lord and I never really understood them, until it was explained to me what it meant to "wait" on the Lord. It's not a passive, hanging around until He does something. It's waiting - kind of like how a restaurant server waits upon customers - responding to and fulfilling their requests. We are to wait, as in serve, upon the Lord. So I'm desperately trying to do that right now. I'm not always very successful. I definitely don't always have the right attitude. And peace is mostly still eluding me. But I'm going to keep trying. Because I know that at just the right time, God will make His path for me known.

For several years I've loved the song "While I'm Waiting" by John Waller. I find it no small coincidence that last evening, while I was really struggling with panic and depression, as we were channel surfing, we passed the movie "Fireproof" literally just as this beautiful song was beginning to play. Jim stopped and let it play out for me so I could be ministered by it. And the tears flowed. I know many of you are experiencing tough times now. Just last week, Tina, of "Bringing Along OCD" expressed similar struggles with waiting for things to happen. I'm hoping this might speak to her and to you too.

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. Isaiah 40:31 KJV

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Decisions, Decisions

Hello wonderful friends! I hope you are all doing well.

Decisions. I have a lot to make. The first decision I had to make was to be truthful here with this post. Oh how I hate posting that I am not doing well! I just feel like I am letting people down. I don't want to do anything to lessen a fellow sufferer's hope and I always feel like that is what I am doing when I show the less than pleasant side of things. But I have made a commitment to myself to be honest, and honest I shall be. I am really not doing well. And I think it is a combination of things.

I was on such an incredible emotional high after I completed CBT/ERP in the Spring of 2012. That high lasted for roughly a year and a half. The world just tasted sweeter. I was alive and every waking moment wasn't painful anymore, and the sun was shining (even when it really wasn't), and, and . . . The list goes on. But for the last year and half, I could feel depression creeping back into my life. I have no idea why.
My sweetie pie taking a nap.

In addition my beloved kitty, Anna, died early last summer. Then we got our pup Fender. I love him dearly, but it has been a big transition and his ill health causes some major stress because of how it continues to affect our lives. I've had some difficulties with a few relationships too (not my husband) that have left me hurt and confused and wondering how to move forward. I'm also working part-time again for the first time in a decade and a half. I love my job and my coworkers, but I'm still adjusting to the demands on my schedule, and the schedule itself keeps changing and that brings me a lot of stress. This has left me wondering whether I should keep the job or not.

Lastly, I did something really stupid. I was working an insane number of hours during November and December, and in the middle of all of that, I kept forgetting to take my SSRI. In early January, I realized that I hadn't taken my pills in weeks. I've always had terrible sweating and hot flashes on this medication. I mean, it truly affects my life, believe it or not. I'm constantly getting so hot that I can't think. And it's embarrassing because people around me can tell, and even sometimes make menopause jokes (and frankly, I don't find that funny). In addition, I've always had trouble with headaches, and this medication has increased the frequency of the headaches. Finally, I've struggled with weight gain on these meds as well. So . . . because I hadn't taken the pills in a few weeks, because of the side effects, and because I was already having an increase in depression while on the medication anyway, I decided, "Hey, I haven't taken any pills in a few weeks. I'm pretty much off them. So I might as well stay off them and see what happens." Well, certainly nothing good happened. Yes, the hot flashes and headaches are gone. But I'm pretty much an emotional wreck and daily functioning has become much, much harder. The depression has deepened greatly. At first, I thought that my troubles were being caused by the fact that I did not wean off the medication slowly and properly and instead went off them cold-turkey. This was a HUGE no-no. So I've tried to wait it out to see if things would get better once the "withdrawal" phase was over. But that has not happened. So now I have another decision to make. Go back on medication at all? Go back on the same medication or a different one?

I have made one solid decision. I'm marching myself right back into therapy. Yes. Again. Only this time, I really can't afford to keep seeing my beloved psychologist located in Boston. But thankfully, I've found a local CBT/ERP psychologist who is in my insurance network, and she has worked with several of my friends who have OCD, so I feel confident that she has the necessary experience. But I can't see her until April 17th. It's going to be a loooooong 5 weeks. I'm not expecting to be in therapy for long, though. I suspect it will be a tune-up more than anything else.

Yes, I am down now, but I'm surely not out. And neither are you, no matter where you find yourself at this moment.