Thursday, April 29, 2010

6 months, 4 days.....

Six months and four days ago I entered into treatment to get help for my OCD. Some days the tunnel seemed so long, that I wondered if there was light at the end at all. Other days, the light seemed to be shining bright, giving me hope that I was progressing. With each transition through this journey.....from "residential" in L.A., to residential in Wisconsin, then back to L.A. for intensive outpatient.....I've had a whirlwind of emotions and fears.

Today is my last day at the intensive outpatient OCD program at UCLA medical center and again, I have a mix of emotions.....a beautiful mix of emotions. Ya, I'm nervous about transitioning back into "full-time normal" life, but I'm so excited as well. I feel different than I did 6 months ago. By no means am I skipping through my days living in the ecstasy of being free as a butterfly, but my overall approach to life is more relaxed. My automatic response to stress and anxiety is not compulsions anymore. I still feel anxiety, and I still have compulsions, but to such a lesser degree that it feels as though I'm a new person.

My time at UCLA was predominately spent fine-tuning the skills I had learned at Roger's. I also crossed the line from "normal" into some things that aren't quite so "normal" while at UCLA, in regards to exposures that is. :) Research has found that most patients who go through treatment for their OCD, tend to slip back a little after treatment. So turning up the heat and doing some slightly extreme exposures is necessary to allow for patients to settle into the "normal" range. That's a brief explanation, but I will address this whole topic again very soon.

My car is packed, and in just a few minutes I will be leaving L.A. and driving back down to Dana Point and unpacking and settling in at home for hopefully a long time. :) The challenge is going to be not feeling too comfortable in my home. Exposures will have to continue to be a daily part of my life. Facing fears and doing things that cause me anxiety every day is a necessity. Sounds sadistic, I know......oh believe me, I know......but it's what is going to keep me from relapsing.

My journey is not over. Just those words well up excitement within. In some ways, it seems like life may just be beginning.


Grace is what comes to mind right now. God's grace is crazy amazing, crazy humbling, and passionately gentle. I'm so thankful.

Here I go.....

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Voice of Reason vs. Devil in my Head

It's a pretty day today. The weather is nice. IOP started with me picking up my therapist and then going to the gas station to pump gas without using paper towels as a barrier.

Several years ago I was watching the evening news when they did a little blurb on how gas pump handles are dirtier than public toilets....and that marked the beginning of a new fear, another precaution that had to be taken, one more step in my already step-filled life. If a gas station did not have paper towels available, and I did not happen to have sani wipes in my car, I would drive to another gas station, frustrated at the inconvenience the first station had caused me by not being prompt enough to refill their paper towels. Obviously, the problem is mine, not theirs. The little devil in my head whines and says, "But it's so much easier to blame other people." And the voice of reason bluntly says, "This is not about other people, so pull up your boot straps and face your fears." That voice of reason is getting louder and louder and becoming more and more firm with the little devil in my head (affectionately known as OCD), because I know for a fact that about six months ago, I would not have responded so well to, "Pull up your boot straps and face your fears." In fact, I don't know that reason had a voice at all when it came to how I dealt with my anxiety.

So with my therapist next to me for support, I lifted the gas pump and maintained double hand contact as I put in $23 of gas. The cold feel of the metal. The sticky texture of the rubber. The built-up grime in all the nooks and crannies of the handle. Gross. I don't really like this. It would be nice if I could wash my hands, but I can't, so oh well. I placed the gas pump back where it belonged, got back into my car and touched everything in sight.....including the precious picture of my niece on my dashboard. :( I really, intensely didn't like touching the gas pump without a protective barrier, but I didn't feel like I was going crazy, that I might become paralyzed from the germs.

What's happening? Could it be that I'm really, actually habituating to the idea of being dirty and covered in germs all the time? I've been lifting toilet seats up and down for the last two weeks. Is my brain really generalizing all that I've learned? Where is the anxiety I have always felt? Where is the creepy crawler sensation? Why is my heart not beating rapidly, and my left ear not turning red and burning with heat?

This is weird.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Hollywood Highway of Hikers (alliteration at its best) :)

I was introduced to a fabulous hiking trail last week. A couple friends and I hiked it together and without a doubt, I was feeling the effects of it the next couple of days. But I love the hike. It's ten minutes away from Theo and Jessie's house, and it's like a luscious forest in the middle of this chaotic have to use your imagination, which I do; therefore, I truly believe I am in a mountainous forest for the 45 minutes that I am hiking. :)

Yesterday I ventured out to do this hike on my own. I needed an outlet. I needed fresh air.....even though I clean black grime out of my nose each night from the "fresh" air here in the city, I still enjoy getting outside.

Black grime in my nose. Awesome.

I love my new hiking spot.....and apparently, so does everyone else in Hollywood. During "peak" hours, its seriously like a highway of hikers. But, rush hour hiking in the Hollywood hills is much more entertaining than being in a car stuck in traffic. One of these days I'm going to eat dirt when I take a face plant on the trail from attempting to hike while staring backwards at whatever interesting person just passed me on the trail. Seriously, some of the things people wear to hike! I have to have a second look. Did they really look at themselves in the mirror and say, "yep, I'm ready to go hiking."

Oh my.

My favorite has been the lady who was hiking with her dog strapped to her chest in a fancy baby carrying contraption. Are you serious? You are carrying your dog like a baby while hiking? Really?

....only in Hollywood. :) Oh, the entertainment!

Besides the pure joy of people staring and the opportunity to allow my imagination to create vivid stories about the awesome mountain I am climbing, I love that exercise has become a more regular part of my life. I usually default to running, but I'm trying to go outside my comfort zone a bit. I'm trying not to be so rigid. I don't like being a rigid person. I don't like being confined to what is familiar and safe. I want to live with my eyes and mind and arms wide open....ready to embrace life.

Next step..... yoga in the park. Oh boy.