Sunday, February 21, 2010

Training to be a Kung-Fu Master.

I’m struggling today. Just a couple hours ago I was having a panic meltdown. It felt like I was going crazy.

I’m doing better now, but my anxiety is still high. All my muscles hurt, my mind is tired.

I have been looking forward to going home for sooo long, and the excitement was electrifying when my flight was officially booked and purchased on Thursday. However, the same afternoon my flight was purchased, I began to stress out….worry….panic. I would say I’ve done pretty well fighting off all the irrational thoughts for the last few days, but when I got back from church this morning, I just didn’t have the strength to keep fighting, and I broke down.

On Friday morning, I took a 5 minute, 55 second shower, no compulsions, with a full-body recontaminate. I let out an audible, emphatic “WHAT?!” when I pulled the shower curtain back and saw the timer. It was such a disbelieving moment for me, and I didn’t want to tell anyone. I was/am still scared that I will never be able to do that again, but that it will be expected of me; therefore, by sharing my accomplishment, I am setting myself up for failure. Yesterday, my shower was 11 minutes 30 seconds, and without even realizing what I was doing, I caught myself washing my hands vigorously. I felt soooo much shame… much guilt. “I knew I was going to fail. How did this happen? I’ve taken several 10 minute or faster showers in a row…more importantly, I’ve been taking compulsion free showers for over a month now….how did this happen? Stupid me. I should have been more in control. I should have been paying more attention. If I wouldn’t have washed my hands, my shower probably would have only been 10 minutes. One hand wash is going to turn into two, and then three, and then four, and before I know it I’m going to be stuck in a cycle of rituals that I can’t get out of again.”

I managed to stop those thoughts for most of yesterday, but it was exhausting and frustrating. Then last night I pulled out my suitcases and began to pack, in attempts of reducing the stress of packing during the week. The obsessions flooded my mind. Out of nowhere it seemed. The obsession of opening and placing my suitcase “just right”….touching my clothes “just right”… clothes because they weren’t perfect….the need to not only lay out my clothes for the next four days, but to hang them perfectly layered, the way that I will actually wear them….the need to know exactly which pair of underwear and socks I will be wearing on what day….organizing the remaining clothes in my drawers “just right”….standing back and studying my room repeatedly, just to barely….slightly…..readjust a random object like my laundry basket to subdue the anxiety I was feeling. After picking out what shoes I would wear over the next four days, I took all the other shoes out of my closet and lined them up just a few feet outside my closet. After placing them just so, I decided that I wanted them to be closer to my suitcases, so I moved all my shoes to the middle of the room, starting the process of lining them back up all over again. Picking out my four outfits and moving my shoes from the closet to near my suitcases in preparation of packing them took well over an hour. Close to mid-night, my anxiety was so high… muscles tense, my heart beating rapidly, and my body so warm that I was beginning to sweat…..that I half-ran out of my room to get a sleeping medication and just sat outside till I cooled down and I started to feel sleepy. Once back in my room, the temptation to just “fix” my shoes one last time was strong, but I crawled into bed as fast as possible and awaited sleep to rescue me.

When I walked in the door upon return from church this morning, I began to cry feeling as though the 71% of my hierarchy isn’t enough to carry me through days like yesterday and today. It’s just 71% of the 120 or so exposures on my hierarchy here….it’s not encompassing 71% of all my daily, life activities. I began to catastrophize and panic. Between the help of resident counselors (RCs) and calling my BT, I began to look at the day in more perspective, realizing that everyone has bad days, I’ll never escape the feeling of anxiety because it’s a “normal,” universal emotion, and fighting with all my might to resist compulsions to reduce my general anxiety today is just as much an accomplishment as completing multiple trials of planned exposures attacking specific areas of anxiety.

Sometimes I just don’t feel like I have enough kung-fu in me to fight all the evil villains attacking me from every direction all at once.


  1. Kristen,
    Remember what a very famous BT always says, "Just because you feel something, doesn't make it true." :-) I have felt that panic about leaving, and the panic about being home. I've only contacted our BT once, but I have 'spoken' to him daily. I begin thinking I won't get through the day without calling or emailing him and while I think about all the things I need to spill into his lap, I begin to hear his wise words. Sounds corny, I know, but our BT has talked me through plenty of panicked moments and days. I've yet to accept that it could possibly be my own wise mind talking me through, as my new therapist suggest. I think I need to hold onto his wisdom for a little while longer...kinda like training wheels. Someday I will let go, but for right now the security of all that he taught me keeps me on my feet. You too will have that inside you when you leave. There might be bumps in the road, but draw on everything you've learned, the successes you've had, and the feisty fighter that is the Kristen I know. YOU are so much bigger than this thing they call OCD. Go forth and shine!
    God bless you!

  2. Slow down those thoughts. You are disciplined and stronger than those crazy ideas about things being 'just right'. Life has never been and will never be 'just right' but that doesn't have to steal your strength to continue to think the way you have trained your mind to process these bumps in the road. Look beyond the rain and see the beautiful rainbow. You are loved!!