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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#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.

 

 

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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It’s too hot in here

photo by Dan Carlson

photo by Dan Carlson

My racing thoughts burn through my mind

The heat is too much to bear

So I succumb, obey, repeat – Silence… but for a moment

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Written for Three Line Tales, Week Twenty-five 

Exposures

My mind

Holds onto fears

Folds them up and keeps them

Forever

 

I was born this way

But I can break this code

Rewire

And freely live

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Written for #wispwrit

Prompt: Born

Mental Health Monday – Scrupulosity

I had read on a few blogs online from other OCD sufferers that OCD can effect one’s faith. I did not , however, know that there was a term for it or that it was it’s own condition.

Scrupulosity : “A form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) involving religious or moral obsessions. Scrupulous individuals are overly concerned that something they thought or did might be a sin or other violation of religious or moral doctrine.” –IOCDF

When I went to my first therapy appointment recently, she asked me when I started to notice my depression coming back. I thought for awhile and said it was a year ago, when I started to doubt my faith. She asked me to explain my doubts and fears about it. As the session went on, I explained my OCD thoughts and compulsions, not realizing that the religious stuff was at all linked to my OCD.

After a while she finally stopped writing notes, looked up, and said that I definitely have OCD with emphasis on scrupulosity. After she explained that OCD is sometimes called the doubting disorder and that it lies and attacks everything we love and everything we are, it all started to make sense.

My whole life has been about God. I grew up in church, I became a christian at age 5, I was active in youth group and strong in my faith as a teenager. My whole relationship with my husband was based on our faith together and before started dating  we spent a month in prayer and seeking God’s will for our lives. If He didn’t exist, if my whole life was based on one big lie, then what does that leave me with? Does that mean my choices were all wrong? What purpose does life have? I was completely lost and alone and I felt like I could tell no one. No wonder depression had taken over my life.

Practicing my faith became very hard over the past year. I doubted everything I thought and everything I heard about God. I started tuning out the pastor’s sermons because with everything he said there was this little voice that would contradict and pick and cause doubt.

If I tried to pray, I was convinced God wouldn’t hear me because I doubted. I didn’t read the bible because I could no longer accept anything it said.

I was in the praise band and every time I played I would be berating myself inside.

“How can you be leading worship when you’re not even sure you believe what you are singing? All these people look at you and hold you to this standard that you are failing to meet. They think you are this great christian woman. You are a fraud.”

After a while I couldn’t do it anymore so I pulled myself out of praise band. I was letting everyone down and they had no idea why.

But now that I know there’s a reason for this doubt, that this is not me but my OCD, I can start to fight back.

I will be starting ERP soon. It is going to be a slow process. My therapist said it might be a while before we can address my faith based obsessions because they are huge and we need to start very small. But it gives me hope that I will one day be able to have a relationship with God again.

For now, I am going to take a small step on my own. After being out of the band for a while and not being able to play christian music, I am going to try to play a song for the Christmas season. I can’t promise I’ll succeed, but I am going to try and push through even when OCD is screaming in my head. I am not going to let OCD ruin who I am.

I know God is real. I know he sees my heart through all the doubt in my mind.

OCD lies. That is the truth that will keep me pushing forward.

ERP – A New Journey

Yesterday I had my first session with a counselor who specializes in Depression, Anxiety, and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

Confession

One of the reasons I put off going to see a specialist (besides bad experiences and lack of finances) was that I knew that getting better, truly attacking OCD where it hurt, would mean going through Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy. I follow many blogs and have read many articles and they all say the same thing. ERP is the best way to treat OCD. But the thought of exposing myself to my fears and doubts terrified me and thus I used the excuse “I don’t have the money and it’s way too expensive.” So I put it off and continued to get worse.

 

But after these recent dark weeks I knew I had to push through and take the first steps to getting better. I had no Idea how I was going to pay for it as we are currently struggling financially due to some unfortunate circumstances. But God saw the struggle I was in and even though I have been doubting Him and everything He is, (this, as it turns out, is a facet of my OCD) He has graciously provided for me through my church as well as other ways.

Sitting in that room with the counselor and listening to her explain how my OCD worked and how she can treat it was eye opening. I already knew some of what she talked about but hearing it from her seemed to help me come to terms with my disorder and be willing to commit to ERP.

I am so fortunate and greatful to have a great support system. I had my husband, a close friend, a mentor, and a few fellow Christians praying for me yesterday and I could feel it. There was such a peace when she spoke and i felt like I was exactly where God wanted me to be.

This new journey is going to be hard. I know that it may get worse before it gets better, but I have to be willing to go through the pain of demolition before rebuilding can happen.