Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Unexpected Gifts

Christmas was obviously different this year. Besides feeling nauseous and fatigued, I can't say that it was terrible. There was something serenely simple and freeing about Friday. I missed my family terribly, and wished that I could have woken up to the smell of my mom's fresh baked cinnamon rolls and my dad's pot of coffee. For a few weeks, the realization that I would be here for Christmas had been setting in. At the beginning of December, I received a care package from my dorm parents from when I was in boarding school in junior high. Among many fun things, they had sent me a tiny porcelain nativity scene. It was perfect. I set it up on my dresser in my bedroom here, and multiple times during my days would literally stop and look at it (and rearranged it just perfectly..... :) ) But seriously.... Having this beautiful visual of the Christmas story gave me an opportunity day after day to whisper a meek prayer to understand the celebration of the season more deeply this year than I ever have before. Those prayers didn't come easily, and were often accompanied by tears, but the rawness of those moments are not found often.

I went to a Christmas eve service held at the main building on the hospital grounds. It was awkward at many chairs, but only 13 people there. A husband and wife playing a guitar and flute as we softly sang Christmas carols. The husband then gave a short Christmas message. It was perfect. After reading the story of Jesus' birth, the "speaker husband" said, "Christmas is a series of unexpected gifts, but the message and promise of Christmas is hope." Oh my word......speechless......things were registering with me. I have heard the Christmas story more times than I can count. I believe in Jesus. But sometimes I find it extremely difficult to find any solace in a story that happened thousands of years before the time of iPhones, freeways, and Starbucks. I learned something new this year. I truly believe that because of the prayers of so many people, that God revealed to me how much he can relate and through the relation, how big his heart for me is. The entire situation surrounding Jesus' birth was not ideal. The societal disgrace, the loneliness, the lack of comfort and familiarity, the uncertainty. But the gift that came during such inadequate circumstances was unimaginable. The excitement, the new life, the hope, the freedom, the peace.

"Christmas is a series of unexpected gifts."

Being in a residential treatment center during the holidays was not exactly on my wish list this year. Having OCD is not exactly a detail I would have voluntarily added to my life story. The situation is not ideal. But....I'm uncovering tremendous "gifts" through this process. There are so many things I'm discovering, so many lessons I'm learning. I don't believe that God "ailed" me with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Depression. I believe he intended me to live freely. This Christmas I have a different perspective, a perspective that I may have received the most unexpected gift of my life.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


The last week seems like a complete blur. I haven't felt very well at all. My medication has been systematically doubled in dosage every Monday for the last three weeks in a row. I started to feel ill last Tuesday, but dismissed it as just a bad month of PMSing. After a couple days, I began to think that the nostalgia of the Christmas season was having more of a physical effect than I had anticipated. Into the weekend I still felt really sick, sleeping more than usual, not eating as much because of nausea, and feeling unbelievably fatigued from things as simple as brushing my teeth. I'm sure that PMS and not being with my family for Christmas affected me, but it wasn't until yesterday morning that I really began to put it together that the dosage of my medication last week was quite a punch to my system. I'm not even up to half the recommended dosage for the particular medication that I'm taking, but I am waiting another week before the next increase. All that to say, I've wanted to write everyday, but life has felt so topsy-turvy. Today was the first day that I felt "normal." LOL....."normal" is such a crazy word. :)

I have another post started about my Christmas, but will finish it tomorrow. Good-night, crazy world. :)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

More pictures from last weekend....

Eating at Applebee's. Mmmm, mmmm, good....oh wait, that's for McDonald's......both of them are favorites. Classy places for classy faces. :)

Starbucks and snow and Tracie.....these are a few of my favorite things.

....when the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I'm feeling sad.....I simply remember my favorite things.....and then I don't feeeeeeeeel so bad. :) hee, hee.

Our fancy jelly belly hats for the factory tour on the jelly belly express.

Don't know if you can read the flavors.......
canned dog food, centipede, booger, baby wipes, barf, toothpaste, skunk spray, rotten eggs...... to name a few. Tasty!!! Who's jealous?

Tracie and me.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Art in my own style.

This is the card that I was making that I referred to in the post "Blue Buttons."
Blue Buttons

Below are two more cards I've made as I've rediscovered the joy of expressing myself through art. A Beautiful Mess


The Clambering of Silence

I'm starting to feel a change. The possibilities are enough to form a list now. I don't know how I've gotten this place of simple freedom when day after day after day felt like a battering windstorm inside. There is a calm....a quietness that has shyly introduced itself. I am so familiar with the noise of racing thoughts, that the absence of them stun me. I tilt my head half questioning reality and half taking in the realization. As quickly as I am able to acknowledge the peace, the fear and doubt, the discouragement of all the things I feel like I still can't do take over. The fear is not as prominent with certain things, but it's as though my mind is scrabbling for things to still be scared of. My anxiety is subsiding.

I get extremely nervous writing about my progress, let alone thinking about it. If I acknowledge it, then I feel like it solidifies, or makes it more real, in some way, inviting the possibility of regress. If I verbalize progress, or the feeling of less anxiety, it opens up the flood gates of possible public failure, embarrassment, shame, weakness.

I will admit that there are two errors in my thinking, both of which I have been learning about during treatment.......
1. If I think something, then it makes it real.
- Not true, but hard to grasp, very hard to accept and even harder to believe.
2. If I regress, then I fail.
- Very "black or white" thinking. I'm learning how to find the shades of grey in much of life's situations.

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Weekend in Wisconsin

I didn't write anything over the weekend because my mom and really good friend, Tracie, came to visit me!!! It was perfect!! I was so happy to spend time with two people I love. Some high lights of their visit were.....

- Going to the Jelly Belly factory! Sooo much fun but ate ourselves sick with candy.
- Going to Starbucks twice in one weekend!!
- Reminiscing about memories.
- Talking, talking, and more talking.
- Hugs.
- Listening to my mom pray.
- Looking at pictures.
- Ordering the-most-delicious-chocolate-pizza-hut-dessert-ever up to the hotel room.
- Skyping in for Jessie's bachelorette party for a couple minutes.....oh you silly girls! :)
- All you can eat biscuits and gravy for breakfast.....but I was full after the first serving. Lame!
- Just spending time with my mom and Tracie..... :)

Seeing them leave on Sunday morning was hard.

As usual, I have a lot of thoughts I'd like to express out, but I still have some homework I need to do and today seemed to never "get started" the way that I wanted or needed it to. I felt as though my mind was alert, but that my body wouldn't follow suit. My body felt like an anchor. Tomorrow is a new day.

Thanks, Mom and Tracie, for coming to visit!!! :)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

15 Bans.

Here's a more technical look into what my treatment consists of....

The majority of my day is spent doing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which is the core of my treatment. CBT consists of Exposure and Response Prevention. I've talked about exposures before (facing our fears), and Response Prevention is where my "bans" come in. I carry around a tiny little pocket book with "bans" listed on the top of each page specific to my form of OCD. There is a column for "submit" and one for "resist." There are a couple purposes behind the ban book, but the main idea is to stop the automatic response that I have to my anxiety. In other words, I record every time I either submit or resist a compulsion. Exposures and Response Prevention work as a my BT puts it, it's like a 1-2 punch. The response prevention MUST follow the exposure; otherwise, I'm spinning my wheels. For example, I started a new exposure today which is placing both hands on a "low-traffic" area of the floor. I keep my hands on the floor until my anxiety subsides to at least half of where it peaks. But when I lift my hands from the floor, the response prevention is often just as hard if not harder than the exposure itself. So for my floor exposure, the response prevention is not washing my hands, not isolating my hands, doing "normal" things with my hands such as brush hair out of my face, touch my clothes, touch things in my room, etc......essentially continuing to move and use my hands so that I retrain my brain that I won't freeze or go into a catatonic state if I get "dirty." I guess it's not so much retraining my brain, as it is proving to myself that my fear is only an irrational thought and not at all likely to happen.

It would be near impossible....or at least extremely try to create a ban for every single compulsion, so my BT came up with 15 bans that encompass the majority of compulsions I struggle with. My 15 bans are:

1. Hand washing - Who's surprised? Really, lets be honest, anybody who's hung out with me in the last few years will agree that Kristen and hand washing is a 1-2 punch. :) Not only do I wash my hands more than what is probably necessary, a typical hand wash is 4-5 minutes. When I get "stuck" that time can increase to closer to 10 minutes. I have to use lots of hand lotion to keep my knuckles from cracking and bleeding. The skin on my hands completely peels every 1-2 months.

2. Barriers - This is probably where I was the "sneakiest" as far as using a tissue or napkin to touch many, many handles (doors, refrigerator, sinks, etc...) I was so "good" at doing this, that unless you were consciously watching, you probably would have never noticed. Other examples of how I use barriers is when I know I have to sit on furniture that I consider contaminated, I will often deliberately put on a hooded shirt so that I can pull the hood up around my neck so as not to be "weird and obvious" but enough to cover my neck and hair that I feel "safe."

3. Cleaning and Sanitizing - This pertains to a lot. If I drop a clean item of clothing on the ground when taking laundry out of the dryer, I rewash the item. I sanitize door knobs quite often...for no particular reason, other than that they are door knobs and seem dirty. I sanitize anywhere hands touch in my car if someone else drives my car and I didn't see them wash their hands prior. I would rarely be caught without sanitizing gels or sani wipes in my purse or car, because if I drop anything on the ground, I will use a sani wipe to clean it before using it again (pens, earrings, water bottles, cell phone.)

4. Inspecting - I look things over before sitting, touching, eating, wearing, etc.... For example, before putting food on my plate, I want to carefully inspect to make sure there is nothing on the plate making it dirty. If I see a spot, I try to determine what it is, because if I can make some sort of sense out of it....a water spot? ok, somewhat safe. .....tiny little left over mark from food even though it's been in the dishwasher.....not safe at all.

5. Repeating - Mainly pertains to hand washing. I will use 7-8 pumps of soap, scrub my hands, rinse, 5-6 pumps of soap, scrub, rinse, 1-2 pumps of soap just to be safe on my "dirty fingers." I have "dirty fingers" and "clean fingers."

6. Just Right - Just right has to do with how things feel. I struggle with "just right" when touching things like my alarm clock or light switches. When washing my hands, I will also swish water back and forth between my hands until it feels "just right." There is no rhyme or reason to's just until it feels right.

7. Left Foot - This is what I can remember as one of my most consistent compulsions for the most amount of consecutive years, besides my hand washing. I am more concerned with the bottom of my left foot getting dirty than I am with my right foot. When standing, I often roll my left foot onto the side, sometimes slightly and sometimes very drastically. I have a very hard time standing flat-footed on bathroom mats/rugs. When wearing enclosed shoes, I use my right foot to adjust or tap the back of my left shoe more as a "just right" thing. Over the years, this compulsion has caused a lot of pain in my left ankle.

8. Avoidance - Pretty self explanatory. I pretend to shuffle through my purse for something during the meet and greet time at church so as to avoid hand shakes. I stand till my legs or back are bothering me before sitting on public furniture. Even though it makes no sense whatsoever, I will turn a straw over in my drink because I get a feeling that the side I was drinking out of got dirty somehow. I know....doesn't make sense, because I put the "dirty" side into my drink.....but for some reason it makes me feel better.

9. Rubbing / Wiping Off - I rub my feet together before getting into bed. I will often rub my arms because I feel that awful creepy-crawler sensation. I rub and wipe things off quite often in an attempt to wipe off germs and dirt.

10. Ordering and Arranging - I have quite a keen sense for knowing if something has been moved from how I had it. I am not always a neat freak as you might assume, but my things are all placed very strategically because of a specific thought process.

11. Rewriting - Basically retracing letters or making marks until it feels or looks right.

12. Reassurance Seeking - This is very interesting. Many of you have been enabling my OCD by reassuring me in different ways. For example....when someone comes out of the bathroom, with very little regard for who it is, I will often ask, "Did you wash your hands?" Everybody usually answers, "yes." I am stressed about the possibility that the person didn't wash their hands. By answering me, my anxiety sharply subsides, but my fear is reinforced that "dirty bathroom hands" are dangerous and could cause my fear to become a reality.

13. Warning Others - This is the most nagging compulsion. "Oh my gosh, don't touch's dirty!" "Wash your hands." "You should clean that before using it." "Don't put your shoes there." get the point. I hate it. I hate doing it. I hate how I feel. I don't want to care what you this sense at least. :)

14. Evening Out - This usually has to do with how my clothes feel and whether or not things are happening simultaneously. Observing me, you might think I'm twitching a little, or just restless. I adjust my shoulders or sleeves or the waistband of my pants until it feels even. I'm pretty sure my sister's favorite compulsion of mine :) is how I sometime get hung up on feeling like my eyelids don't close at the same time. So, I will deliberately wink one eye at a time at different "pressure" levels until it feels "even," as if my eyes are an etch-a-sketch and I'm erasing the unevenness so I can try all over again to close both eyes at the same time. This only happens at night when I'm going to sleep.

15. Smelling - I tend to smell things a lot, and based on how I think something smells will determine its level of contamination and/or presumed danger. It's a form of inspecting that I struggle with a lot after exposures, because I want to smell my hands to determine how contaminated I got. My BT has been challenging my "smell theories" a lot lately. He says I must come from a lineage of blood-hounds because apparently I smell things that no one else does, which he says is my anxiety. I argue that smell is smell and that there is no way it is affected by anxiety.....but that's a whole other blog.

Hopefully, my vulnerability in this blog gives you a deeper understanding of why I struggle, why I'm fighting, and how exhausting this process is. I'm sure just reading about my compulsions (now bans) is completely exhausting. Now imagine each of those 15 compulsions happening over and over and over again throughout my day, coupled with crazy, intrusive thoughts.....

I'm fighting for my free spirit.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Signing off right in the middle

I've been blogging tonight, but I'm mid-flow, if you will, and I don't have time to finish my thoughts writing that is. Geez, I wish I could just sign off of the thoughts in my head as easily as I sign off of my blog..... haha. :) Anyway....I'm off to bed. Tomorrow I will post something more substantial.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Small pieces of heaven

I'm struggling to stay positive, so rather than focus on the negative, I'm gonna share a story about a moment today that made my heart smile and my free spirit soar.

On Monday's one of the therapists here (who happens to also be my personal therapist) runs a "Process Group." The group varies from week to week. Today, it was a 3 part group, and the last part of group was that we were going to go outside and play in the snow. Nothing is mandatory here so we were not forced to play in the snow, but it was a part of programming, therefore, encouraged. By the time we finished with part 1 and 2 of the group, I was struggling tremendously with racing thoughts, intense triggers, and ridiculously strong urges to that I would feel better, so that I could go out and play in the snow....because that's what I wanted to be doing anyways. I felt paralyzed by my thoughts. I stared out the window watching everybody else, bundled up and cozy cute, sled down the hill we have in our front yard. The absent colored faces that I see everyday, and the eyes that are filled with constant fear and apprehension, were alive.....their cheeks were rosy not only from the winter air, but from the movement of smiles. Their eyes were not wet from tears, but moistened from the exhilaration and the air that they cut though as they flew down the hill on a plastic sled. Warm tears tumbled down my face as I watched. I wanted to be out there. I was angry that I wasn't.

I was paralyzed by my thoughts of how angry I was that someone put their shoes up on the couch during group, contaminating it, eliminating a place for me to sit, and therefore ruining my day. This reaction is all too familiar. I get angry at an unknowing person as if they did something terribly wrong, when in reality it is my OCD....the overwhelming fear I have about a specific thing or action....and has nothing to do with the person at all. My misdirected anger jails me. I am defeated every time. I miss out on life.....big things and small.

As I continued looking out the window, I concluded that I would do the exact opposite thing that my OCD thinking would have me do.....and to be honest, I was skeptical as to the outcome, even though all the behavioral therapists swear by it. So, out of pure spite, I put on a second pair of sweats, my leopard rain boots :) , and finished pulling on my beanie and gloves as I walked toward the hill. Several people cheerfully offered a sled to me before I could even reach the snow-packed sledding track. I sat on the sled and took off down the hill. When the sled came to a stop at the bottom of the hill, I was a little fun. I walked to the top of the hill, sat down and took off again. This was pretty fun. I smiled. I was forgetting to stay angry. I sorta ran to the top this time, and when it was my turn again, eagerly hopped on the sled, this time giddy with excitement and smiled all the way down the snowy slope. I had completely forgotten I was angry, and all of a sudden the shoes on the couch and all the other triggers from group didn't seem like that big of a deal anymore. They had NOT gotten the best of me. I had broken out of my jail. I was living.

A couple hours later, I was sitting at the kitchenette table when a big, burly guy walked past me and said, "Hi Kristen. Did you have fun today?"
I said, "Uh-huh. Did you?"
He looked at me and with the biggest smile I've seen on his face since arriving here, he said, "Ya, it was the best time I've had since I was a kid."

This guy is a full grown man. A dad. A US solider.

I wish I could explain the moment better. It was amazing. I was in awe of the joy that his free spirit had brought him. It may have been just for a moment, but that moment is hope. From my own experience, I know that we have missed so many moments of joy, so many small pieces of heaven, because of the destructive power we have given to irrational thoughts. Even more than the excitement of sledding, this man's simple statement made me soooo happy. I was excited for him. For years, he fought for the freedom of his entire country.....and now he's fighting for his own free spirit.

Not only would I have denied myself the opportunity to defy my OCD, I would have missed out on the opportunity to share in this man's victory had I chosen to stay irrationally angry.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday night fun. Not so much.

It's Friday night. There's a million things I'd rather be doing. I hate the weekends here. Around 3:30ish on Friday afternoons, I start to feel panicky because I know all the therapists will be leaving soon. It's not like I can't survive on my own, so it's crazy that it affects me so much. I'm trying to figure it out.

I've been here 3 weeks and 1 day. I found out this morning that I'm at 16% on my hierarchy. I know that's good, but I feel apathetic. On Monday, I had my weekly appointment with the pychiatrist. Because of my near constant anxiety, she and the treatment team suggested that I begin taking an anti-anxiety medication. She knew that news would be hard for me to hear, because I really wanted to try to get my OCD under control without meds. I've always said that I'm not opposed to meds, and I'm the first one to console others when they struggle with taking them.....but its a little harder to practice what I preach. I've taken medication before for depression and also for my OCD when I was first diagnosed. I felt defeated then, and I feel defeated now. The independent, stubborn, and I suppose, prideful, part of me wants to do this without meds because "I'm strong enough" to. Why can't I believe the same words that I emphatically encourage others with?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Some of my thoughts

An entry from my journal on Wednesday, Dec 9th.

My days are like the tide....a million thoughts, familiar emotions, flood my head, my soul, my being. At moments the intensity of the waves seems overwhelming and knocks me down. I get tousled. I gasp for air. The destructive power of something that on other days seems so calm, so serene. Where is the peace? The waves seem to be rolling in faster than I feel like I can recover and gain my foothold again. The remarkable truth is that I'm not drowning, I'm not giving in to the movement in which the waves try to command. I'm getting stronger.

During art therapy on Monday, I came across the poem that I posted below. It caught my attention immediately and I couldn't stop thinking about it as I continued creating. I love the title....."I will not die an unlived life." My heart kinda leaped when I first read it. "Yes! I totally agree...I WILL NOT die an unlived life." The sentence prompted all sorts of memories. Fun, amazing, incredible memories of travelling, adventure, extreme and simple pleasures. I am blessed. I am fortunate. I am loved. I am loved by a person that died so that I might live. That poem got to me....If I were to die today, will my life have been lived in a way that justifies His death? What kind of life did Jesus intend for me that warranted His death? What did He foresee? Is it possible that I haven't fully lived yet? Is it conceivable that I do not understand the depth to which my life should be lived? If someone were to give his own life for the sole purpose that I may live, would not my life be lived differently.....intentionally? I struggle.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

One up, one down.

Our computers have been down, and only one is back up I have not been able to use the computer long enough to write anything substantial. I am journaling though, so tomorrow, I will do my best to post some of what's been going on.

Thank you for all the prayers, emails, letters, and brightens my days, I catch a smile, and I feel loved.

Thank you!!

Monday, December 7, 2009

I will not die an unlived life

I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
more accessible;
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance,
to live so that which came to me as a seed
goes to the next as blossom,
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit.

-Dawna Markova

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Interesting Info

I am learning so much about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as I reclaim my free spirit. I want to share some of what I'm learning, but please carefully note that I am only relaying and paraphrasing to the best of my simple understanding what professionals have strategically researched.

The exposures I work on on a daily basis come from my hierarchy that my BT and I are continually amending and adding to. A hierarchy is a list of exposures, specific to my fears, in which I rank them on a scale of 0-7; 0 being no anxiety and no urges to ritualize at all and 7 being a full blown panic attack. The goal is to have anywhere from 80-120 exposures on my hierarchy. The treatment team here will authorize a successful discharge once I have habituated to at least 70% of my hierarchy. We, as humans, habituate to things everyday....we acclimate or become accustom to our environments as the situation calls for. In the case of my OCD, I am intentionally facing my fears, allowing my anxiety to spike, and waiting it out until my anxiety comes down on its own. The goal is to have at least 5 trials for 5 different exposures every day. There is "within trial" habituation, in which I wait until my anxiety decreases to half of its peak before walking away or taking a break from the exposure. There is also "between trial" habituation in which the peak that my anxiety spikes to while doing an exposure begins to come down as well. We strive for both "within trial" and "between trial" habituation as they go hand in hand and eventually retrain my brain to remain calm while doing ordinary things. According to research, 70% seems to be the magical number for ensuring long-lasting positive results in the treatment of OCD. There is an 87% success rate one year from discharge if at least 70% of the hierarchy has been completed successfully. Research has found that even with a slight decrease to only 68% completed hierarchy, the relapse rate at the one year mark is drastically devastating. Statistics on the continued success after one year are, apparently, still being researched and at this point are not substantial enough to make any concrete conclusions.
Patients are sometimes discharged from residential treatment to intensive outpatient therapy once reaching 50% of their hierarchy. Intensive outpatient therapy consists of 3-4 hours a day, 4-5 times a week for about 3 weeks or until at least 70% of the hierarchy is reached. Once 70% is reached via residential or IOP, ongoing weekly therapy is strongly encouraged to keep working on the remaining 30%.

Again, I am currently just a patient and have done no research myself. This is just my understanding of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy as it relates to my treatment of OCD.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The parrot is cussing

Oooooo....... Sigh......... What a day.

So my behavioral therapist shared a really good analogy with me on one of my first days here. Side note: We spend the majority of our week working with our BT, hence the many references. Anyway, we were meeting and he began to compare my OCD to a parrot that perches on my shoulder. At some point that parrot made a small noise that annoyed me, so I fed it to keep it quiet so I could go on with my life. That parrot decided it was hungry again, so it squawked again, this time a little louder. I fed it again to silence the annoying bird. The parrot squawked even louder, this time hopping up from my upper arm onto my shoulder. I fed it faster to alleviate the noise and discomfort. As fast as I could feed the parrot, the darn winged creature would hop closer to my ear and squawk with even more gusto.

I'm here to learn how to not feed the parrot anymore. If anyone would like to try to fully understand what I'm going through, go to your local pet store, ask for their most obnoxious parrot, and set that sucker up near your ear and wait for it to start squawking. Guaranteed, it will send chills down your back and you'll get an instant headache, along with a plethora of other uncomfortable sensations I'm sure.

Just as the parrot learned that the louder it squawked, the faster it got fed....the opposite is also true. The less it gets fed, the less it will be interested in sticking around.....and eventually that parrot will get so sick of squawking and carrying on that its voice will get weaker and weaker until it is almost inaudible or hopefully just decides to fly away forever. However, that parrot is currently wreaking havoc likes its World War III cause it knows its time is coming to an end.

Today was super sucky. I worked on some hard planned exposures, had some unplanned exposures to work through, had a heavy therapy session (different than my BT), and just felt easily triggered. During one of my many meltdowns, my BT said, "The parrot's squawking pretty loud today, huh?!" Through my tears, my response was, "The parrot is cussing!!!!" And there may have been some expletives in guarantees. :) I worked really hard, went through many Kleenexes, and tried my best not to feed that parrot.....but oh, the temptation!

I could care less if I ever see a flippin' parrot again in my life!!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Irony Of It All

I asked my behavioral therapist today why he chose to go into this specific field.....why anxiety disorders? He was quiet for a few moments and I could tell he was trying to construct his answer before blurting out words. "I hope this doesn't offend you, but....I find it very interesting....the inappropriate reactions people have to certain situations." I laughed at his answer, assured him it was okay to say that, and completely agreed that the reactions, or compulsions, that we do are extremely interesting. What's even more fascinating is the motivation, or the key, which drives OCD.

OCD is such a multi-faceted disorder. The anxiety, the feeling of fear, the emotions, the pain, the embarrassment, the shame, is shared by all who suffer from the disorder; but the triggers and the presumed consequence of what will happen if the compulsions are not completed can be as different and unique as we are individuals. However, the presumed consequence, or the fear, is the key to understanding a person living with OCD. To complicate things, that key element is often the exact thing that we don't want to talk about. We believe it SO deeply and are so scared by our belief, yet we know how irrational and ridiculous it will sound if we say it out loud. The two opposing feelings perpetuate the silent and secret struggle.

During my treatment in LA, one of my assignments was to write out my fear. I remember feeling a pit in my stomach and beginning to panic. I had never articulated my fear to anyone in my entire life. I can't do this.... I can't think about it.... It might make it happen faster if I let it leave my head.... No one will understand.... It will only lead doctors to confirm that I'm crazy.... I'm scared.... I can't do this.... I don't want to think about it....

I started to cry as I wrote out my fear for the first time in my life. I could barely catch my breath as I read it out loud.

I'm isolated. I can't move. I stand till my legs swell up and my feet are numb. I have no friends. I never get married. I don't get to be a mom. I'm a bad mom. I can't move, and I'll never be able to move again. I go into a comatose state. I'll never live life again. Life is over even though I'm not dead. I'd rather be dead. I don't get to laugh again. I don't understand words. My life is over even though my heart is still beating. I have to be cared for otherwise my heart will stop beating. I'm a burden. I was normal once. I was a free spirit and now I'm a shell. I'm absent of emotion and feeling. I'm nothing. I'm blank.

Often, people who have contamination related OCD, have fears of contracting or spreading a disease, dying, or causing someone to die. I'm not afraid of any of those things. I'm afraid of not being able to move. As irrational as my fear is, it has become so real to me. Touching things that make me feel dirty, being too close or coming into contact with something that makes me feel dirty, causes my mind to spin so quickly out of control about how I'm not going to be able to life is literally going to stop if I don't fix this now. So I fix it. I wash my hands, I shower, I clean, I sanitize, I use barriers, I avoid "dirty" things at all costs. Not being aware of when or how, more and more things were becoming "dirty"....forbidden, if I wanted to continue to live life. The irony of it all is that my fear of the presumed consequence is the exact thing restricting my freedom.