Sunday, January 31, 2010

Crazy Kook....Toot Toot! :)

Everybody else is asleep. I'm not. As I'm walking down the hall from my room to the staff office, one of the Resident Coordinator's (RCs) pokes her head around the corner, smiles and says, "The usual?" Smiling back, I say,
I can't sleep.
I'm a crazy, anxious kook tonight.
I'm worry-McFurry.
I'm going crazy in my head, walking around my room wanting to "fix" something, clean something, do something. I just want to organize the snot out of things that are my shoes or the clothes in my drawer. My shoes are "perfectly" lined up in my closet, but the pressure to "organize" them and make them just right is almost too much to handle. Thank Jesus this day is only 24 hours long, because if it were an hour longer, I think I would cave and get caught up in a whirlwind of soap bubbles, sanitizers of all shapes, sizes, and colors, and leaving my final touch.....touch......touch.......tap.......tap......touch.....touch, "just right" as if the just right touch is the cherry on the top of this OCD Sunday." (Bada bing...haha.)

The RCs were both laughing. I caught one sort of rolling/rubbing her eyes as though contemplating whether there was some truth in my original statement of being a kook. She gave me my sleeping med, asked if there was anything else I needed, I said no as I walked out of the room, but then ducked back in to let them know that topping off my fabulously anxious evening was a gassy tummy. Toot! Toot! :)

Good night world. Sweet dreams! :)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Small steps throw hard punches.

.....being continued.....a week later. Wow.

I was talking about my depression in my last "real" blog. My depression is lifting, it feels. Finally. My behavioral therapist is seriously committed to helping people. With the exception of the weekends, for the last two weeks straight he has come in early on his own accord so that he could be here to help and encourage me to get my day started by exercising at 7:30am. And I'm not talking about just a knock on the door telling me to wake up, because my alarm technically wakes me up. Rather, he quietly knocks on my door a few times before opening the door, cheerfully saying, "Good morning, Kristen." He then engages me in very simple conversation, most of which I don't remember because of the sleepy fog I find myself entrenched in during the mornings. After asking how I slept, what I did the previous evening, and whatever else he comes up with, I sit up, often try to argue my way back into being "allowed" to go back to sleep, sigh because it's apparent his plan is to continue talking so going back to bed isn't going to be peaceful anyways, and throw my feet out of bed and into my slippers. At which time my BT smiles and says, "I'll be waiting at the end of the hall." No joke, if I am not at the end of the hall within a few minutes, that man is back at my door, softly knocking and saying, "Kristen, you almost ready?" I can't imagine that patience and encouragement are the easiest virtues to muster up in the mornings, but his display of them is literally changing my life in so many ways.

To come full circle, getting up at 7:30 and exercising for at least 20 minutes is a "task" I have to do every day regardless of how I'm feeling to help combat my depression. Pretty standard...we all know exercise increases the endorphins in our brain which help us feel better; however, the idea behind the task and enjoyment related lists is learned behavior. "Depression is as depression does." A tweaked Forest Gump-ism my BT picked up somewhere along his educational journey that he has shared with me. When I'm depressed I feel like sleeping. Sleeping causes me to be unproductive. Being unproductive causes me to feel depressed. It's a vicious circle. What my BT is doing is helping me break out of this vicious circle, and then teaching me how to increase my odds of not getting back into it. I'm likely to get depressed again, but the key is learning how to not get stuck in the life-depleting cycle.

Some other items on my task list are: showering, doing my hair and make up, brushing my teeth before group at 9am....all things that are extremely hard to do consistently when I'm depressed. So what my BT did was break down the tasks into smaller, more manageable tasks so that on my most depressing days, I am still working towards the ultimate goal of properly taking care of myself every day. For example, doing my hair was broken down into blow drying hair, then blow drying and styling hair. On my super downer days, it's hard to find the motivation to comb out my wet hair, so getting it dry is an accomplishment that goes a long way in teaching my brain that small steps throw hard punches at depression. The enjoyment related list is the same idea. Some items on my enjoyment related list are: blogging/journaling :), reading magazines, swimming, crafts, calling friends/family, emails. Like the tasks, even the things I typically enjoy doing are simplified so I can still accomplish them on my bad days. Every day I report what I did from my task and enjoyment lists and how long I did each. So basic, but so brilliant.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Just another day.

Rrrrr.....I've sat down to blog several times in the last week, but I never seem to be able to focus for one reason or another. I have two blogs started and a continuation of my last blog, and the other talking about one of my proudest accomplishments in treatment to date. I'm making it a goal to have them both posted by the end of this week. I could use the blogging therapy!! :)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I choose to do life...I want to do life.

Depression sucks the "life" right out of life. Profound statement, huh? My depression hasn't gotten a whole lot better. However, I'm working through it in a systematic way that I never have before. I had no idea there was Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for depression. It makes sense.....I just didn't know it existed. I will definitely give credit to my Mom who, when I'm in a "funk", has always encouraged me to "at least take a shower and do my hair and make up." In a lot of ways, CBT for depression is exactly that, just broken down into much smaller steps. My BT sat down with me sometime last week and explained how CBT works for depression and how we were going to incorporate it into my treatment here. My depression and OCD are definitely intertwined in a lot of respects. Although I can't always predict when I'm going to get depressed, I'm not all that surprised that I am now. Given the fact that I've chipped away at a lot of my "outside" layers of OCD and have hit on some pretty sensitive topics in my individual therapy sessions, depression is understandable to some degree. However, as many, many people can probably relate, depression affects my motivation, inner and physical strength, sleep patterns, productivity, positivity, thought processes, and my overall outlook on life and my desire to live it. It seems my mantra the last couple weeks has been, "I just don't want to do life anymore. .....As I wrote that....I kinda had a therapeutic realization..... Seeing what I just described as my recent and familiar mantra makes me realize that a "simple" counter-reply of "I choose to do life.....I want to do life" could probably go a long way in changing the way I feel. Hmmm..... I didn't intend to go off on this tangent, and on paper I'm sure it seems overly simplistic and obvious, but coming from a depressed point of view, it's as though I've had a profound enlightenment. :)

Anyway....back to CBT. As my BT and I talked about my depression, he began to make two lists. A task-related activity list and an enjoyment-related activity list. With each item that we added to the lists, I had to rate it according to how challenging it is for me to complete when I'm depressed. Based on that information, my BT typed up a formal list putting everything in a progressive order starting with the least difficult. I've been assigned four items from both the task and enjoyment lists, and the goal is to do at least three from each list every day regardless of how I feel.

To be continued...... it's late and I need to go to bed. :)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Stuggling to find solace in my surrender.

I'm really struggling with depression. My individual therapy sessions have been quite heavy since returning from Theo and Jessie's wedding. My therapist is amazing. She's helping me navigate my way through a lot of......junk. As much as I have HATED the way that my obsessions and compulsions have taken over my mind and my life, they have been so interwoven into my daily living that without them, it feels like a piece of me has died. To date, I have taken four showers completely FREE of ANY compulsions. I should be excited. I should be ecstatic. But I'm not. I feel depressed.....not specifically about my showers....just about life. I don't know who I am without compulsions....without my secret self-soothing mechanisms. I can't remember life before this hell.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Normal turned toxic.

Anxiety is an interesting thing. The best description I can think of is a toxic mix of stress, worry, and fear. You can't necessarily see anxiety, nor any of the three emotions I used to describe it. It's not too difficult to notice the effects of anxiety, but it seems that often anxiety and/or the effects of it are mislabeled, misjudged, and misinterpreted.....and probably a lot of other "" Sometimes I wish that anxiety was as noticeable as a bleeding, infected, open wound. It would be easier to explain. The pain would be given more credit.....the healing, even more. Healing is kind of a funny word in regards to regards to any mental disorder for that matter....mainly because of the way the word is commonly though we need to be able to visually prove something. However, Websters describes the word healing as "the act or process of regaining health." I love the definition because it puts perspective back into the equation, not excusing mental health. I've actually come to find something ironically appropriate and somewhat encouraging about my "condition" being called Obsessive Compulsive DISORDER. It's as if my thoughts and beliefs got a little disheveled somewhere along the way and now I need a little professional help to put them all back in order. It's not impossible, but it takes A LOT of work, if you will, to untangle the disorderly web that was tightly spun over the years.

What's really interesting about this "ordering process".....also know as treatment :) that someone completely unfamiliar with the treatment of OCD would likely walk into this facility and wonder why so many people are "doing nothing." Seriously. The contradiction between the calm persona that one might observe and the psychological turbulence taking place within is astronomical. This is where guilt, shame, embarrassment, depression begin to rear their ugly heads. I look calm...I look "put together." I feel like I'm losing it....I'm going life is ending. Sounds dramatic. Feels real.

So....if you were to walk into this house that I'm living in right now, this is what you would likely see: People just sitting on the couch reading a book or leaning their head back on the rest. Some people having a snack in the kitchenette. Someone using a knife to cut up an apple for their snack. Others watching tv or taking a walk. Someone might even be taking a shower or using the treadmill in the basement. All normal things right? Absolutely. In fact, to someone who doesn't have or understand OCD it might seem as though there are 16 people all "vacationing" in a quiet little house in the snow covered woods of Wisconsin. However, all 16 of us have stopped doing "normal" things because, for one reason or another, we have convinced ourselves that there is something very wrong or dangerous about the activity. We have given more power to our thoughts than to our itellect. Because of that, just the thought of doing normal things, or certain activities normally, induces paralyzing anxiety, not to mention actually doing them. My treatment consists of doing pretty "normal" things. Some days it feels like I'm conquering the world, like my rationale is close to being back in order. Other days I wonder if I'll ever feel "normal".....if doing "normal" things will ever come easily for me.

Friday, January 8, 2010


My most fabulous, seriously AMAZING roommate, Michelle.

Theo and Jessie had a "photo studio" set up with a crazy variety of props that all the guest could dress up in and get their pictures taken any time during the reception. Soooo much fun!!!

My beautiful Mother and me.

I will post more pictures as I get them. I don't have any pics of Theo and Jessie yet, which is why I haven't posted any. :) They looked sooo good though!!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Back in the swing of things.

I'm back....I was in California for a few amazing but very busy days. My brother, Theo, who is one of my best friends, got married this last weekend to another one of my best friends, Jessie. :) Their wedding was incredible and easily the most unique nuptials I've ever been to. I will post pictures when I get some.

Being home for a few days was so wonderful on so many different levels. It was amazing to see family and friends! Seventy-five degree weather was an ecstatically welcomed change from the minus 5 wind chill that Wisconsin sent me away with. But the opportunity to experience the change that has taken place in my life over the last few months was priceless. I felt so different this last weekend. My mind processed life so much more rationally. I know that I still have a lot of work to do, but I was able to acknowledge and measure my progress in a way that I'm not quite able to when I'm here in a "controlled environment."

I actually don't have a lot of words at the moment. There is a lot I want to the more specific "victories" that I had being home, out in the "real world," but I'll do that at another time when I'm more engaged. I do want to say how unbelievably grateful and humbled I am by the generosity of The Peace of Mind Foundation. They single-handedly made it possible for me to go to Theo's wedding. Liz, who is the founder, has OCD. She understands not only the personal struggle of OCD but the social struggle and desire to want to be a part of "normal" life as well. Liz, and all of The Peace of Mind Foundation have been a HUGE advocate for my free spirit. Thank you, Peace of Mind Foundation, thank you!!