Thursday, February 4, 2010

Exciting. Showers. Freedom. Celebration. Recovery.

***I started this post a week and a half ago and seriously have no idea why it took me so long to finish given the joyous content.***

I have some very, super exciting news!!! However, let me provide context because if I just told you, it's likely you would raise one eyebrow, pull your head back, and letting out an audible "Huh?" So stick with me so I can explain the depth of my excitement.

My showers used to be in between....I would say....20-45 minutes long. I know that's quite a range and not a tremendously long time, but the obsessions and compulsions during that time were exhausting. The time of my showers was largely attributed to the amount of stress or anxiety I was feeling at the time of the shower. When I was feeling really anxious or stressed out about something, I would often get "stuck" in a ritual during my showers. For example, my showers used to be VERY systematic and rigid. I felt it near impossible to wash "out of order" or heaven forbid, skip any part of my routine. My routine involved at minimum seven hand washes, and if any part of my body or hair touched the shower curtain or shower wall, I was absolutely compelled to wash, rewash, and scrub that particular area due to how dirty I felt. It's hard to put this all into perspective, but let me try....

Wash hands, wash hair, wash face, neck and ears, wash hands, wash armpits, wash hands, wash body, wash hands, wash um....ya know (I feel like I'll offend and make someone laugh with any term I'd use here), wash hands, wash legs, wash feet, wash hands, then wash hands one last time at the sink after turning shower off but before grabbing towel to dry off. If my hair happened to graze the shower wall while I was washing my legs, I would have to re-wash my hair, and depending on my overall level of anxiety, just start the whole process over again. Or, if I happened to lose my balance while washing my feet and my shoulder bumped the shower wall, I would scrub my shoulder, wash my hands, then re-wash all areas below my shoulder because the germs that I washed off my shoulder got the rest of my body dirty while it rinsed off. My showers were/are rarely relaxing. Even with a 25-30minute shower, I felt like I was on the move the whole time, hurrying as fast as possible, but the more I stressed about taking a quick shower, the easier I would get stuck ritualizing.

Within a few days of arriving here, I was given a list of "shower goals." It's a chart with three columns: Activity/Challenge/Anxiety (0-7). I have ten shower goals, which don't all take place in the shower, but are part of my shower process.

1. Setting towel down before shower.
2. Hand-washing before shower.
3. Wash hair.
4. Wash face, neck, and ears.
5. Wash armpits.
6. Wash booty area....(that's term I'm going with). :)
7. Wash feet.
8. Turning off shower.
9. Drying off.
10. Getting dressed.

Because my fingers would fall off trying to type out what is involved in each step or how each step came to be, I'm just going to explain the first one and the evolution of the challenge so you have an idea.

Setting my towel down before my shower. I am very particular as to where and how my towel is placed because of wanting to keep it "clean." When my anxiety was high, I used to inspect several areas in bathrooms before determining where the cleanest place was to put it. And by inspect I mean get eye-level with, examine Inspector-Gadget style, with such scrutiny that surfaces rarely passed my approval. To make myself believe that a surface was clean enough to lay my towel I would either use another clean towel as a barrier between the surface and the towel I was going to use to dry off with, or I would sanitize the surface until it felt sufficiently safe. I remember getting "stuck" sanitizing the towel bar in my own bathroom at home on several different occasions. I would use several Lysol sanitizing wipes (10ish), going back and forth, over and over the towel bar. Sanitizer would be foaming on the end corners of the bar, dripping onto the floor. I would then dry the towel bar with paper towels and spray the bar down with a sanitizer liquid. After drying the bar off again, I would still, at times, reluctantly drape my towel over the metal bar, nervous that I might have missed some germs. the beginning of my treatment here.....oh boy.....if I remember correctly, my first towel challenge (exposure) was to just tap a part of my towel on the unsanitized sink counter top that everyone in the house uses. That alone brought on significant anxiety. I habituated over time with repetition, and over the course of the last two and a half months, my BT has progressively cranked up the challenge. I am now dragging both sides of my towel....all of it....across the whole sink counter top with little anxiety. It bothers me, but I just kinda shrug it off in a "whatever" sort of fashion. Holy moly! I honestly can't believe what I'm writing, let alone actually doing! Ahhhh.....I'm really giddy! :) Anyway, that's one example of the Activity/Challenge/Anxiety progression I've made and the habituation I've experienced. Part of this whole process has been timing my showers as well, because not only was the goal to have a ritual free shower, which I did about a month ago, but to get to my goal of 10 minutes. the above to say that after literally years of my ridiculous shower routine non-sense, I TOOK MY FIRST 10 MINUTE, RITUAL-FREE SHOWER on Friday, January 22nd, 2010!!! Ahhhhh!!!! :) When I pulled the shower curtain back on that Friday morning my timer literally said 10:00min. My eyes almost popped out.....I thought I was dreaming. I got dressed as quickly as possible, and with the floppiest wet hair ever, found my BT and...half screaming and doing a jig, told him the news. The look on his face was an accolade to my accomplishment. He took me to Starbucks that afternoon to celebrate!!!

Ahhhh....I'm still much freedom and confidence has come from that milestone in my recovery. My spirit is alive and tasting freedom.


  1. I'm celebrating with you!! As I read this post celebrating your significant accomplishments, I couldn't help but remember the post that followed it (or directly preceded...since you posted them out of order) sharing your struggle with depression. I want to acknowledge the roller coaster that you're on and I will continue to pray that the "ups and downs" will get less extreme. Slow and steady wins the race, right? ;-)

    You're doing so great and I'm counting down the days that we'll be able to celebrate together in California!

    With much love and "giddiness", Deena
    p.s. good to know that your "booty" is part of your shower routine! ;-)

  2. Haha...Deena....your "P.S." made me laugh! :) Thank you...I needed a laugh today. :)

  3. Ohhh Kristen! I can just envision your little soaking wet jig...brings to mind that scene from Flashdance. :-) That dates me a bit.

    Starbucks?! I KNOW how happy that makes you. What a great day and great way to celebrate. You have come SOOOO far. I wish I could just pop over for an outing and say Hi.

    Keep these moments in mind as you head into the weekend. Ride this wave of triumph through the days without your BT and be ready to face Monday in a way that it won't know what hit it.

    Kristen, you are an inspiration to those struggling with this disease. Continue to put one foot in front of the other and there'll be no stopping those jigs from breaking out all over the place! Yay! Keep up the fight.


    Rejoicing with you!!

    I'll buy you Starbucks too, next time I see you. You and your clean little booty.

  5. This post made me cry a little. I am so happy for you, and I am so glad you are doing so great!! I hope your last days there are amazing, and I am excited to hear about your homecoming, and wish I could be there to celebrate with you. God Bless hun! :oD And Happy Birthday!!!