The Voice – a poem about #OCD before I knew it was #OCD

My OCD reared it’s ugly head when I was a teenager, but I never knew what it was until I was twenty-six. I stumbled upon this poem I wrote…I’m not sure how old I was, 16 or 17 maybe? It is a very poorly written poem with forced rhyming but it captured how tortured I was. Knowing what I know now and reading this it is so clear to me what was going on, that it was OCD. But back then all I knew of OCD was hand washing, cleanliness, and order. I had no idea that OCD could be thoughts of family dying because I did something wrong, or fear of touch, or repetitive routines that took hours, or horrible thoughts of violence.

I am sharing this poem not because I think it’s great, trust me I don’t. But because if I knew what OCD really was back then I could have gotten help earlier. I share about OCD and what it’s really like so I might reach someone who is suffering and help them see why. And by knowing why they can finally seek the proper help they need.

The voice

I am the voice inside your head.
Do this.
No. Do this,
or you might end up dead.

If you don’t do this,
your sister might die.
But if you do that,
someone might cry.

Make sure you check the stove,
before you leave the house
Because if gas leaks, it’s your fault
you stupid louse!

Don’t let people touch you.
Don’t let them get close.
Even though you want it,
you shall think it is gross.

You will never have peace
cuz I’ll always be there,
telling you to do things
cuz I really don’t care.

when you’re in a small room
and nothing is wrong
you will want to get out
you can’t be there too long.

To many people,
all in one place.
You start to breathe fast.
You become a nut case.

Maybe you’re crazy.
That’s what I think.
Now you think it too.
You are crazy and you stink.

I am the voice inside your head.
I will not rest until you are dead!

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#OCDWeek #FaceYourFear Post Four

I have made a lot of progress in my OCD recovery journey, to the point where the decision making is no longer a problem.(And it was a HUGE part of my day!)  But that doesn’t mean my mind is totally silent on the matter.

From time to time my mind will still label my choices out of habit, but it no longer causes me anxiety. I just simply pick the “bad” choice because I have retrained my brain to know that nothing is going to happen. By continuing to choose the “bad” one I am just reinforcing that discipline so that it doesn’t get out of hand again.

Daily facing my “fears” is something I will mostly likely have to do for the rest of my life. The goal is that the things I’m facing no longer rule my life, I RULE THEM.

#OCEWeek #FaceYourFear Post Three

 

sweater

Sometimes we are unable to do an exposure when we know we need to.

Sometimes we are so wrapped up in our mind that we don’t recognize that we are doing what OCD wants. Caught in a cycle.

This is where your family fits in. It’s important to involve your family in your therapy process. 1) So they can understand where your are coming from. 2) So they can recognize your triggers. and 3) So they can help you in your exposures.

One particular instance I can think of is when my husband was given a sweater from a really nice lady in our church. When I would receive clothes from people, or get clothes from thrift stores or yard sales (I don’t buy brand new clothes if I can help it!) I usually had to keep them in a plastic bag for at least two weeks and then wash them to make sure I didn’t get lice. I was getting better at it but for some reason my mind just wouldn’t let me put it in the wash. So I put it in a bag. My husband saw this, went over to the bag, took out the sweater, AND PUT IT ON!

No washing.

Just straight from the bag.

My anxiety was reeling. “How can you do that?! Get it OFF!!”

But he just grinned and danced and said “I’m gonna get lice, I’m gonna get lice.”

After a few minutes my anxiety was down a bit and I could move on, but it took me a few hours to stop thinking about it.

It helps to use humor….sometimes.

 

OCD-Awareness-300x232

#OCDWeek #FaceYourFear Post Two

Welcome to post two of #FaceYourFear

My biggest fear was that I would kill my children by making the wrong decision. So anytime I had to choose something (an item off a shelf, a cup from the cabinet, the order I hung clothes on the clothes line/rack, what to eat for a snack, flavors of ice cream…literally any decision) my brain would label a dangerous option which would behead my kids and a safe option. Sometimes I had to chose things I didn’t really like to save my kids.

Eventually, my mind would label more options. So there would be my kids, my husband, my mom, and then a safe choice. Grocery shopping would take forever because with every item I wanted to buy I would have to touch all of that item on the shelf to find the safe one. As you could imagine, it was very time consuming and stressful.

It got even worse when one day there was no longer a safe option and one was labeled “me”. So it got to the point where I was “sacrificing myself” with every small or large decision I made all day every day. It was exhausting.

So to start me out, since this obsession consumed my whole day, my therapist had me start with just one time a day. One time a day I had to purposely grab the item that would kill my loved one and be present in the the anxiety. I remember how hard it was for that first time.

But I did it.

 

 

 

#OCDWeek #Faceyourfear Post One

 

It’s  OCDweek and the International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) is doing a face your fear challenge to spread awareness about OCD. The challenge involves you posting a picture or video of you facing your fears. I am not sure if I’m up to that…maybe by the end of the week…. Instead, I thought I would just post a small blog each day with an exposure I have had to do for therapy.

For those who may not know, ERP Therapy is a type of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy that slowly exposes you to your fears or what causes you anxiety. By exposing yourself to those things and not responding with a compulsion, you are re-training your brain to be ok with those things/situations. It can be overwhelming , but done with a qualified ERP therapist it can be life changing.

For my first exposure my therapist started really small. I had made a list of my fears and she started with the one I rated the lowest on the anxiety scale.

One of my fears was getting lice, so I would not sit on any fabric chair or couch. I would avoid it as much as possible. If I did have to sit in one, I would have to say a prayer to protect against not just lice, but all bodily pests. If I didn’t say the prayer right or got distracted I would have to do it again and again until I felt like I wouldn’t get lice. Sometimes, if it was really bad, I would wash my clothes and shower.

So to ease me in, she asked me to move off her leather couch and onto the big comfy arm chair she had in the room. I had to sit there during the session as long as I could and not say a prayer and sit with the statement…”you might get lice.” In one session, she rubbed her head on the pillows and chair to show me that she could get lice from them too. After doing that in just a few sessions I was able to try the exposure outside of the office by choosing to sit in fabric covered chairs or couches in other places. After a short while I was able to do this without fear.

Keep in mind that this was one of my “lowest” fears but it still caused me much anxiety, let’s say an 8 out of 10. If lice or pests were on the top of your list of fears, you would not start with that. The point is to take baby steps, to try and be present in the anxiety and sit with uncertainty as long as you can and not do your compulsion.

What are some of your exposures you’ve had to to do in therapy?

Have any questions about OCD or ERP Therapy? I can try to answer them as best I can or at least steer you to resources that might help. Feel free to comment or email me.

 

 

Happiness

I saw her

sitting in the corner

she smiled at me

 warm

 calm

and I exhaled with relief

                She does exist

I smiled back

but a single thought

a whisper       She is extinct

made me doubt my eyes

and when I blinked

she disappeared

 

© Caitlin Gramley  2019

 

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This poem was inspired by two prompts

I. Tale Weaver – #242 – Happiness  “This week write about your thoughts on the notion of happiness.”

2. Quadrille #88: Extinct ” Write a poem consisting of 44 words, not including the title. There is no specific form or topic required., but your poem MUST contain the given word or some form of the word.”

Where Has the Summer Gone??

It’s September 7th!

Summer is gone, my kids have started school, and pumpkin spice is threatening to take over the world. (Ahem… can I get apple pie or maple syrup flavored coffee please??)

I do not feel like I have accomplished anything I wanted to this summer. I look at my blog and see the last post was the end of June and I’m like “WHERE ARE ALL MY AWSOME POSTS I WROTE???” Oh, right. They were all written in my head and I never actually sat down and wrote them out.

It’s been a crazy  4 weeks for my family and I wish I had the time to blog through it. With my husband falling ill and struggling with full blown lyme disease I have had no extra me time to sit and write. (Although on a night he was feeling ok I escaped my house and joined a beginners hockey team for adults. Whhhhaaatt? High school dream of playing hockey achieved!!!!)

Honestly I have feet like a horrible wife because my depression, anxiety, and OCD gets in the way of me being a good caregiver. I promised to be there for him in sickness but I have gotten angry and impatient at times and can barely hold it together through this whole ordeal. But really, at the root of it all,  I truly hate seeing my husband so helpless and sick, unable to do the things he desperately loves to do. Some days it’s a struggle for him to hobble around the house. All he wishes he could do is go on a run or join kung fu with our boys. I’m watching him struggle with daily tasks and standing back as he pushes himself to go to work even though his hips hurt, his legs ache, and he can only hear out of one ear. And all I want to do it make him stay home and rest. He is an active person. He hates being still for long but after an 8 hour day at work all he can do is sit. (This past week has been better though, Praise the Lord! He has been able to walk short distances and had energy to do a few things around the house.)

All this to say that it’s been a struggle, that last month of summer really gave us hell. I feel like my family was sucker punched in the gut.

But we are still standing… sorta.

I Have OCD and I’m not Afraid of Germs

I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

When most people hear the term OCD, a picture of hand washing or a well-organized room comes to mind. I don’t like telling people I have OCD because they automatically assume I’m afraid of germs and am a “clean freak”.

If you were to walk into my house without giving me a week’s notice I’m pretty sure you would be disgusted. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t let it get unsanitary but it’s definitely not company worthy. There are dirty pans on the stove and dishes in the sink always. I have “clean areas” but through out my house I have piles that gather in corners, and on end tables. I have hardwood floors and a cat and three kids so there is always crumbs or cat hair. I have piles of unfolded laundry and a computer desk with piles of opened mail and kids projects. And don’t even get me started on the status of my bathroom. I am not an organized person and I hate cleaning. Cleaning actually triggers anxiety and I have to work extra hard to motivate myself to do it.

My Obsessions and compulsions are currently mostly in my head.

So let’s brake it down a little for you.

Obsessive

Obsessions are unwanted thoughts or fears that you can’t get out of your head and cause anxiety. These thoughts or fears can be about anything.

My obsessions consist of fear of harming someone I love (harm OCD), and fear that my doubts have caused me to lose faith in God (scrupulosity).

Compulsive

Compulsions are something you feel compelled to do that alleviates the stress and anxiety caused by the obsession.

The most widely known compulsions are outward and noticeable. For example: straightening things to make them symmetrical, turning off a light switch many times, touching things, washing hands or sanitizing.

Inward compulsions are less noticeable because they take place in the mind. Sometimes a person may not even recognize these as compulsions because they can become second nature.

Currently my compulsions are mostly inward, although I have had many outward compulsions through out my 16 years of having OCD. Thankfully, through recent therapy (ERP therapy), I have been able to gain control in many areas of my life.

My biggest inward compulsion, which I am currently working on with my therapist, is avoidance. Avoidance is actually very common among OCD sufferers. I reduce my anxiety by not doing the things that cause my anxiety. This has hindered my growth as a wife, a mother, and as a christian.

Disorder

“A disorder is a problem or illness which affects someone’s mind or body”

OCD is not a quirk or character trait. It is not an adjective, it’s a mental illness.  It interferes with your daily life. It can make you lose time, make you miserable, and causes stress, anxiety, and depression.

You can’t be a little OCD. There is no such thing.

 

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*Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or a mental health professional. I write about OCD and mental illness based on personal experience and research online. If you think you may have OCD based on anything you’ve read, please seek professional help. You don’t have to go through it alone. You can overcome it and gain control of your life.

I am an #OCDvocate. I write articles and poetry about OCD to spread awareness. My goal is to help you understand that OCD is different for everyone and can manifest in many different ways. ” In the United States, about 1 in 40 adults and 1 in 100 children have OCD. And according to the World Health Organization, OCD is one of the top 20 causes of illness-related disability, worldwide, for individuals between 15 and 44 years of age.”

I have chosen to speak out and to be heard as part of my healing process.

 

Healthy Doubt Versus Unhealthy Doubt

This is what I am struggling with now. As I am trying to tackle my scrupulosity through therapy, I am often caught in the obsession of “Is this OCD? or do I really think this?”

My therapist is starting me small and wants me to say “this is OCD” whenever I have a doubt concerning my faith and just sit with that realization. But I am having a hard time with even this simple task because I’m afraid a thought won’t be OCD and I am labeling it wrong. After all, as Christians we are supposed to be inquisitive and curious to deepen our knowledge. I am afraid I won’t be able to recognize an OCD doubt and a real doubt when it comes to say, reading a book or hearing a sermon that doesn’t sit right. Because right now, nothing sits right. Everything feels wrong, sounds wrong. It’s a very lonely feeling that I struggle to share. Because someone who doesn’t understand could take my questions or doubts wrong and reassure me in unhelpful ways.

I have just restarted my therapy after a bit of a break (me avoiding treatment because of the anxiety) and I already feel hopeless. Scrupulosity is so different from my harm OCD. So many uncertainties that my OCD takes and runs with. I am already exhausted.

 

This is a great little article and I intend to look into this book.

ocdtalk

crossing NYC street

This post first appeared on my blog in August 2013….

I’ve previously written about how I used to scrutinize my son Dan, trying to decipher which of his behaviors were OCD related. I finally realized my intense involvement in his life was doing us both more harm than good, and I was able to let go and just trust my son.

What I wasn’t aware of at the time is that sometimes those who deal with obsessive-compulsive disorder aren’t sure themselves if their thoughts and behaviors are related to their disorder. Because those with OCD often have good insight in regard to their illness, I just assumed they knew when what they were thinking or how they were acting was OCD based. However, from reading blogs and connecting with people, I realize this isn’t always the case.

So how do we know if certain feelings and/or actions are related to…

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Day twenty-five #NaPoWriMo

Your mind will tell you

when the voices take over

avoid what you love

your misery brings quiet

but the silence will not last

It only gets worse

so do not appease, ATTACK!

stand back up and fight

before you lose what you love

and you become but a shell

You must not forget

OCD dos not own you

you can find freedom

from the shackles that bind you

you must keep moving forward

© Caitlin Gramley

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This poem is in response to NaPoWriMo Day Twenty-five.

Prompt: “Today, we challenge you to write a poem that takes the form of a warning label . . . for yourself! “