#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.”

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.

 

A glimpse of light

 

 

cobble me a picture

with moments of this broken reality

create a masterpiece

with the remnants of my sanity

let us put these rare lucid moments in a frame

display them like a memory

showing how things could be

if I move forward, readily

 

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If I could frame what my mind could be, the freedom I could have. If I could see on a daily basis what I’m working toward, I can keep moving, keep pushing, to be free.

#OCDvocate

Cobble poem for dVerse.

 

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 

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.