#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

 

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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.

 

 

 

#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.

 

 

#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

#OCDweek – My #OCD Story

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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?

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“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!

Mental Health Monday – Weekly Segment

I would like to introduce my new weekly segment, Mental Health Monday.

My goal for this weekly post is to spread awareness and break the stigma that goes along with mental illness.

What to expect

-Links to informative articles

-Re-blogged posts from fellow bloggers who write about mental health.

-Personal thoughts on Depression, Anxiety, and  Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

-An occasional poem or story with mental illness themes

 

Looking Ahead

October 11th-17th is International OCD Awareness Week. During that week I will have a post everyday about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. OCD is a widely misunderstood disorder and I want to be part of the movement that spreads awareness. Please feel free to subscribe and receive these weekly posts. Also, join the movement by posting on your blog during OCD awareness week. Be sure to tag your posts with #OCDweek.