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 

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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.

 

You can’t Ignore Me

Don’t go to sleep yet, sweet one.

Silly naive girl. You can’t ignore that nagging feeling you have.

Get out of bed and check the front door.

Again.

Again.

Again.

What about the stove? Go back down and make sure it’s off. You don’t want the house to burn down, do you?

That’s a good girl.

Lift those heavy lids, my darling. You didn’t say your prayers. You know that if you don’t say them just right your family’s deaths will be your fault.

Come on, start over. You drifted off a bit.

Start again.

No! No! No!

You said the names in the wrong order.

Start again.

That’s better.

Check the clock.

3:00am

You have to be up at six.

I’ll see you then.

 

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This story nabbed an Honorable Mention over at Flash! Friday. This excites me not only because there are so many talented writers (who, I can admit, are intimidating to compete with) every week that I consider it a privilege to be among the few chosen ones, but also because of the deeply personal subject I chose to write about. Last week was OCD Awareness Week and I submitted a few pieces to different competitions that had OCD themes, showing what it’s really like to have this disorder. I am elated that our wonderful judges Foy S. Iver and Holly Geely were able to see the true meaning behind this story. They seemed to be able to relate to it , whether it be from personal experience or second hand from a dear loved one (I don’t know for sure).

This disorder is so watered down in many cultures that it has become a joke. I am so glad that I can use my writing as a tool to spread awareness as I continue to fight the stigma attached to OCD.

Here are the judges wonderful comments on my story.

FI: I love a left-fielder! The ‘cost of obsession’ was a popular element but “You Can’t Ignore Me” sucks you in, almost convincing you that the voice is inside your skull. The syntax drives that impulse to heart-root, compelling you to get up and check the stove (did I turn it off?), or the lock (maybe I only thought I turned it). For me, it resurrected dead memories of compulsive prayers whispered in the dark, never good enough for the ears of God. Absolutely gripping, friend.

HG: You…wow…Whether or not it was the writer’s intent, this story captures the essence of Obsessive Compulsive disorder. I had to take a moment after I read this one, it strikes so close to home. Beautifully done.

 

 

 

#OCDweek Video Contest – Last Day To Vote

For OCD awareness week the IOCDF hosted a video contest challenging those who suffer with OCD to create a video that shares about this misunderstood disorder. They have it down to seven finalists. Click HERE to view all the videos. To vote, go to the video on You Tube and like it.

Here are the three I like the best. I will provide the links to their You Tube pages so you can vote too! Today is the last day for voting!

 

“What NOT To Say To Someone With OCD #OCDweek” by Hannah Zidansek

 

“OCD not me #OCDweek 2015 by Nicola Stevens”

 

“The Stranger: #OCDweek 2015” by Emma Roush

Her Daily Torment – #OCDweek

Photo by: Bruce

Photo by: Bruce

Synapses surge. Neurons meet, electric. Her mind becomes (alive)
With images that make her writhe inside [fear all consuming]
Lights: Off, on, off, on, off, ….. On. Safe, for now.

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Written for #3line Thursday Year Two: Week Three

#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.

 

Mental Health Monday (OCD Awareness Week) – What Is OCD?

ocdaw2015

“Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a disorder of the brain and behavior. OCD causes severe anxiety in those affected. OCD involves both obsessions and compulsions that take a lot of time and get in the way of important activities and personal values.” – IOCDF

Let’s take a look at each component separately.

Obsessions are thoughts or images that occur over and over.. They are Intrusive and unwanted. The person with OCD usually knows that these thoughts are not right. They don’t actually want to act out these thoughts or want them to happen and yet they continue to come and they are disturbing and cause a lot of anxiety. These thoughts also take up a lot of time and can interfere with their day to day life.

Here is a list of common, but not limited to, obsessions. (List found at IOCDF)

Contamination

  • Body fluids (examples urine feces)
  • Germs/disease (examples herpes HIV)
  • Environmental contaminants (examples: asbestos radiation)
  • Household chemicals (examples cleaners solvents)
  • Dirt

Losing Control

  • Fear of acting on an impulse to harm oneself
  • Fear of acting on an impulse to harm others
  • Fear of violent or horrific images in one’s mind
  • Fear of blurting out obscenities or insults
  • Fear of stealing things

Harm

  • Fear of being responsible for something terrible happening (examples: fire burglary)
  • Fear of harming others because of not being careful enough (example: dropping something on the ground that might cause someone to slip and hurt him/herself)

Obsessions Related to Perfectionism

  • Concern about evenness or exactness
  • Concern with a need to know or remember
  • Fear of losing or forgetting important information when throwing something out
  • Inability to decide whether to keep or to discard things
  • Fear of losing things

Unwanted Sexual Thoughts

  • Forbidden or perverse sexual thoughts or images
  • Forbidden or perverse sexual impulses about others
  • Obsessions about homosexuality
  • Sexual obsessions that involve children or incest
  • Obsessions about aggressive sexual behavior towards others

Religious Obsessions (Scrupulosity)

  • Concern with offending God, or concern about blasphemy
  • Excessive concern with right/wrong or morality

Other Obsessions

  • Concern with getting a physical illness or disease (not by contamination, e.g. cancer)
  • Superstitious ideas about lucky/unlucky numbers certain colors

Compulsions are repetitive acts or thoughts that the person uses to make the obsession go away. They will usually repeat the compulsion until it “feels right”. This will alleviate their stress for the moment but it won’t solve anything and it becomes an all consuming routine that takes up big chunks of time.

Here is a list of common, but not limited to, compulsions. (List found at IOCDF)

Washing and Cleaning

  • Washing hands excessively or in a certain way
  • Excessive showering, bathing, tooth-brushing, grooming ,or toilet routines
  • Cleaning household items or other objects excessively
  • Doing other things to prevent or remove contact with contaminants

Checking

  • Checking that you did not/will not harm others
  • Checking that you did not/will not harm yourself
  • Checking that nothing terrible happened
  • Checking that you did not make a mistake
  • Checking some parts of your physical condition or body

Repeating

  • Rereading or rewriting
  • Repeating routine activities (examples: going in or out doors, getting up or down from chairs)
  • Repeating body movements (example: tapping, touching, blinking)
  • Repeating activities in “multiples” (examples: doing a task three times because three is a “good,” “right,” “safe” number)

Mental Compulsions

  • Mental review of events to prevent harm (to oneself others, to prevent terrible consequences)
  • Praying to prevent harm (to oneself others, to prevent terrible consequences)
  • Counting while performing a task to end on a “good,” “right,” or “safe” number
  • “Cancelling” or “Undoing” (example: replacing a “bad” word with a “good” word to cancel it out)

Other Compulsions

  • Putting things in order or arranging things until it “feels right”
  • Telling asking or confessing to get reassurance
  • Avoiding situations that might trigger your obsessions

Tune in tomorrow for my personal OCD story as I continue to blog for OCDweek!