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.

 

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#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.

 

 

 

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.

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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Forest Bathing

Here is all the entries for last week’s flash fiction challenge over at Carrot Ranch. Please take a look at all the diverse takes on the prompt. Join in tomorrow for a new challenge!

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

INTRO

We go into the forest to find quiet, solitude, and healing. It’s something we long to do, and can be healing. Researchers in Japan and Korea have established evidence of restorative benefits from Shinrin Yoku — forest bathing.

That doesn’t mean this collection of stories basks under the canopy of therapy. Writers found many different paths into the forest.

The following is based on the April 19, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about forest bathing.

PART I (10-minute read)

Grandmother’s Giftby Jo/The Creative PTSD Gal

‘I’m going to share something with you, little one. Come,’ my grandmother said reaching for my hand leading me into the woods behind our house.

‘Take your shoes off love,’ that’s when I realized she was already barefoot.

She sat me under an old silver oak and positioned my feet on the earth in front of me…

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Late Lines

It took all day to come up with lines for #3lineThursday. I saved them so I could run them by my husband before submission and then I woke up Friday morning. My first thought as I opened my eyes was,  Oh no! I forgot to submit my lines!!! What a horrible way to wake up.

Anyway, I will post them here even though I missed the deadline.

 

Photo by: Julie Jensen

Photo by: Julie Jensen

 

 

Hungry, they devoured numbers and set their sights on power

And though they rose and reigned on lofty thrones

They saw no beauty, forever veiled behind their pride

 

 

#OCDweek – My #OCD Story

ocd-awareness-week

Please bear with me as I have never really written down my whole OCD story before, so it may be a bit of a jumble. I’ll try my best. Please also know that I am sharing some very personal things, some of which I have not shared before. If you know me in person and don’t think you can handle knowing these things please, don’t read on.

My OCD started to show itself in my early teens, 14ish I think. My very first obsession was thinking that the water I was drinking was poisoned (only bottled water). The thought just occurred to me one day. It didn’t strike me as odd; it was a perfectly reasonable possibility. To make myself feel better I had to take the first sip and spit it in the sink. One was good for a while, then two, then three. Three was the magic number. It wasn’t a problem at first, then I had to do it when I was out at picnics. I was able to compromise with myself and just pour it out rather than have to spit it out, but I was still “randomly” pouring out perfectly good water. I would usually try to go somewhere out-of-the-way, to do it when no one was looking.

Then, my nighttime routine started. First check the stove, then front door, then back door, stove again, front, back, stove. wait…stove again. This could vary from night to night how many times and in what order. I just had to do it until it felt right.

Then, the intrusive thoughts started. These thoughts came out of nowhere. Horrible things I would never EVER actually do. I was so confused when my first inappropriate sexual thought came. I was just reaching puberty (late bloomer). I didn’t understand these thoughts or feelings. I was horrified. To make the thoughts go away I would repeat over and over (in my head) Jesus saves, Jesus saves. I felt like an awful person. There must be something wrong with me. I am disgusting.

One day when I was doing dishes (I was washing , my sister was drying)  I picked up a steak knife and an image of me stabling my sister entered my head. I dropped the knife and washed a dish instead while chanting Jesus saves in my head. Those thoughts came every time I washed or dried dishes. I began to hate dishes. I would do them really fast, which would cause me not to clean them well and I would get in trouble. My mom just thought I was being a normal teen who hated chores. I never told her. She still doesn’t know.

Thoughts of my family getting hurt continued with fear of fire, gas leaks, and deaths caused by me. My compulsions ranged from the noticeable ones, like checking or gathering clothes in piles by the door for emergencies, to inward ones,  like praying specific prayers before bed, making sure I covered each problem and each person and if I forgot something or started to fall asleep, I had to start all over again.

I never told my mother any of these things. She saw some of the things I did, but she would just tell me to stop or yell at me. Like when I became afraid of touch for no reason and would react when people hugged me at church, she would scold me for being rude. I became obsessed with germs getting in my cup at meal time and would cover my drink with a napkin; it wasn’t a problem until I knocked my milk over during dinner because I was rushing to get it covered when someone started talking. Lunch time at school was a nightmare, all my friends so close to me, breathing near my food.

I became depressed. I didn’t even notice it, I just was who I was. When I was 16 my mother made me go to counseling, but she didn’t know why I was depressed because I never told her anything that went on in my head. And I didn’t realize that those things were the reason I was depressed. The first counselor didn’t work out. She actually made things worse although, looking back, it wasn’t her fault. She didn’t know what I was dealing with because I never told her. My second counselor was great. I still never shared any of the thoughts or things I did,  but she respected my space and helped me through my depression. By 17 I met my (future) husband and with the help of the counselor and his support I got a lot better and she released me from counseling.

But my OCD was still there. I continued to have new fears as the seasons in my life changed. New apartment, marriage, kids. My husband saw my “quirks” but I never told him the thoughts. (Luckily, moving out of my parent’s house  stopped the sexual and murderous thoughts.) After my second son was born I started getting really depressed again. My stress levels were through the roof and I started having panic attacks. I became obsessed with thoughts that my kids were going to die and it would be all my fault. It had to do with any decision I had to make. For instance, I reach for a glass in the cupboard, the first one will cause my son’s head to be chopped off, the next one would be my husband’s death, then the next one would cause my mother’s death. I would have to try to find the one that would be safe for everyone. This would happen with everything. Grocery shopping was awful. There was no such thing as making a quick trip because I had to find all the safe items.

At some point there stopped being a “safe” option. Someone would die no matter what I chose, including me. So, to save my family, I would pick the one that killed me. Of course it didn’t actually kill me. So a logical person would conclude that my family wouldn’t die either, but it doesn’t work like that when you have OCD. (Keep in mind that I still had no idea that’s what I had) So that became my new “normal”. I would have to “sacrifice myself” 50-100 times a day. It was exhausting. My depression and stress was at it’s all time high. I had no energy, and I felt physically sick all the time.

The pinnacle moment when I realized something wasn’t right was about two years ago. I was hanging up laundry (we have drying racks in our hallway) and I have to hang the clothes on the “right” rungs. I went to hang up a shirt but there was no safe rung and there was no sacrifice rung. I had to chose between my kids’ deaths or my husband’s. I started to panic. My husband was in the other room and heard me. When he came out, he took one look at my petrified face and knew what was going on. He grabbed the clothes and pulled me away from the rack and held me tight while I cried and tried to breath again. When I calmed down my whole body got tired and cold and I had to lay down while he finished the laundry. That was not normal. Something was wrong.

Several months later I finally got help and reached out to a counselor. When the label OCD was thrown out there I was stunned. Wasn’t OCD when you counted and straitened and organized and washed your hands ’til they bled? That wasn’t me. But as I researched it and learned more about it, some of the things I read made me stop and show my husband saying, “Woah. That’s me.”

If I was educated in exactly what OCD was, I could have sought help earlier. #OCDweek is a great way to spread awareness so that those suffering can finally put a name to it and get help.

So that’s my OCD story. It’s a scary disorder full of fear, doubt, and dread. It is time-consuming, stressful, and tiring. It is not just the need to have your books in alphabetical order or your house clean and tidy. It is not a joke.

Help spread the word. Consider sharing your OCD story. Let your voice be heard.