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.


  1. This is very cool! It really helped me with exposures to know that I didn't have to like it. I also think that reason didn't have much a voice in my life before I started treatment!

  2. Kristen, I have followed your blog for a while now and have read these posts before, but I find myself coming back to them as I am now in my fifth week of the same intensive program that you were in. It is interesting to read about the exposures you did, knowing where you must have been working and some of the therapists you must have been working with. As I may have said before in a comment or two, I find your journey fascinating and inspiring. About the time that the OCD Project aired I was in a place that seemed so similar to where you were at when on that show. I identified with you more than any other person on that show, both in type and severity of compulsions. I sometimes desperately wish I had found a way to go to a residential treatment facility as you did. I no longer need that level of care, but still, it seems like it would have been such a wonderful relief (in addition to a ton of hard work, I'm sure). Anyways, I would love to talk with you more about your experience in the intensive program and transitioning to "normal" life after, if you're interested or if you have the time - my email is

    Once again, thanks for sharing your experiences throughout your treatment. It is inspiring, since to a certain degree, I feel as if I am following in your footsteps!