Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Simple times and simple videos. (My brother's words)

The last few days have been a little rough for me. I felt myself starting to crash tonight.....as if I'm slipping into a funk. I don't like this feeling. It scares me. On Friday I noticed that I was performing rituals throughout my day more than I had in months. On Saturday it seemed to get worse. With every compulsion I gave into, it felt as if a thick river of guilt pumped through my veins. The fear that I'm relapsing has almost become an obsession in and of itself. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed.....like this curse will never leave me. When I feel like I have a handle on one set of obsessions, up springs a completely new set of fears and "what ifs." Will my mind ever rest? Will I ever truly be free?

In all honestly, the last couple of months since I've been home, I have felt different.....and in many ways and on many days, that different feeling is a good one......a liberated one. It just feels like it doesn't come easily though. It's a constant fight to feel free......if that makes any sense at all??

I just feel a little discouraged. I've been washing my hands more often for no "real" reason at all. I've been using more soap....several pumps at a time and repeating the cycle. Last night I rubbed my feet before getting into bed, and it took everything in me to stop, because it just didn't feel right yet. I am constantly shaking my right foot.....constantly. And my avoidance of things causes me to feel as though I am paralyzed. Ahhhh......the list of compulsions I've given into the last few days could go on and on...... I feel embarrassed. Ashamed. How do I ask for help? How do I explain my struggle? It's hard to come up with the words when my only explanation is a mere description of something that seems so trivial, so natural, so common. Checking the front door lock, washing my hands, rubbing "dirt" off my feet before getting into bed, wanting things to be perfect.... But, it's more than that. My silly compulsions are an eloquent masquerade for the inner distress I feel but don't know how to explain.

Visiting Theo and Jessie in Hollywood this last weekend was perfectly timed! I just love them. And I know I am loved by them. We turned life's simple moments into precious memories, and there's nothing that makes my heart smile more. On Sunday morning, I FINALLY coerced everybody into going on "the hike" with me.....the hike that I fell in love with while living with Theo and Jessie for seven weeks. For a few minutes, I think I was the least popular of the group, but when we arrived on the top of the "mountain", everyone had a great time and was glad they did it. And.....the best part about it..... :) Theo brought his camera and documented the whole thing, making a seriously awesome video that I'm pretty sure could convince anyone that hiking is the funnest (yes, FUNNEST) thing ever!!! :)

And the cherry on top..... that fabulously handsome man making up the fourth person in our group!! :)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Episode 3 - Thoughts from the "Princess."

Where do I even start.... I'm going to just quote a few lines from the episode and go from there.

These are Dr. Tolin's words:

"I'm a little worried about Kristen. She withdraws into herself. I can't tell if she's depressed. I can't tell if she's anxious. I can't tell if she's mad. I'm just not sure. I want Kristen to be so sick and tired of OCD that she is willing to be a little uncomfortable now in order to beat this OCD. If she can't drop the princess act, I don't know if she's going to be able to get better."

That's a pretty big statement. One that I think many doctors and renowned psychologists would strongly disagree with. I think the issue was more with the type of exposures and how they were being presented to me than with this so called "princess act" Dr. Tolin was referring to. I absolutely won't deny that I had an attitude at times, but it definitely was NOT because I wasn't motivated or wanting to get better. In fact, I specifically recall, on several occasions asking Dr. Tolin and the producers for any sort of literature and/or research on this type of therapy, so that I could better understand why I had to do things that seemed not only scary to me, but also a little ridiculous. Dr. Tolin's response to me was always something to the effect of, "Kristen, stop arguing and get with the program." It was frustrating to me then and it's frustrating to me now, because my intention was not to buck the system, rather it was to understand my disorder and the therapy that could help me get a handle on it. I wanted to understand so that I could be on board with my own treatment and work as a team with the people trying to help me. But, I didn't have access to internet, newspapers, tv, un-recorded phones or any form of media or literature where I could do my own research. So, yes, I was depressed. I was VERY anxious. And yes, I was mad. Those were good observations for someone who eluded to not being able to read me.

As for being sick and tired of OCD..... paaaalease. I hate OCD with every fiber in me! For goodness sakes......I don't even know what else to say about how much I hate it.....how much I wish I didn't have to deal with horrible anxiety.....or the complete embarrassment and shame I've felt for so many years because of my compulsions. I understood that exposures were going to be uncomfortable, and I was more than willing to be uncomfortable for three weeks....four months.....eight months....oh, even a few years. But there is a HUGE difference between uncomfortable and panicking. The treatment team at Roger's Memorial Hospital's OCD program said to me over and over and over again, "We want your exposures to be challenging yet manageable." Incredible, absolutely incredible! If exposures are challenging, yet manageable, then I am able to habituate not only while I'm doing the exposure, but also in between exposures as well. (For more of an explanation on this, click here.) The exposures I was being asked to do on The OCD Project were way, way, way too high up on my exposure hierarchy than what I should have been doing that early on in my treatment. They weren't effective because I was panicking, and they were never repeated enough times to allow for between trial habituation.

I felt tremendous shame when I was asked to shake hands with homeless people. It had nothing to do with the socioeconomics of the situation. In fact, my heart broke and I felt shame because I felt like we were totally patronizing the people who live on the streets of LA. We barge into their community with cameras and proceed to hand out $5 gift certificates to a fast food restaurant as we are asked to do things that from all outward appearances could easily be misinterpreted as very condescending to those living in that area. It just felt as though we were handing out $5 gift cards as a way of appeasing our conscious as we accomplished our own motives without regard for the feelings of anyone but ourselves. It just didn't feel right to me. It was hard on so many levels.... As far as my treatment was concerned, I could have reached the same end goal by shaking the hands of people in the house.

Ok, enough for now. More later.....

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The quiet of the morning.

Wow, I've been terrible at blogging over the last couple weeks. It's definitely not because I have a shortage of words. Quite the contrary. It seems like work picked up for me overnight and now my days are extremely busy, which has been an adjustment for me in and of itself. Getting back into a work routine after several months of my focus being solely on recovery has been exciting and also overwhelming.

I have soooo many thoughts on the last two episodes. I have to grab some breakfast and get ready for my day so I don't have time to do my therapeutic writing at the moment, but oh.....how I want to dive right in. Writing is such an escape for me. Sometime it's hard for me to sit down and get started, but the moment I start stringing words together, everything around me seems to quiet down. Sometimes during my days when life feels a little too chaotic, I find myself pretending to write.....composing sentences as if I were journaling or blogging. :)

Anyway, I WILL share my thoughts on these crazy episodes...... soon.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Living with an OCDer.

Watching the OCD project was extremely heart wrenching. The thought of six individuals not being able to control their life or live one “normal” day. What is normal to them? Or who is normal? For the past year, I have lived with a “normal” roommate. Kristen has a great job, fabulous family, friends and a fun social life. And as many of you know she is a little over dramatic, or is that just passion? Passion to be normal? What ever the case, I look at her for her…a friend who is normal and passionate about life. Little did I know that she has been fighting for her free spirit and struggling to live what she sees as a normal life everyday.

Don’t think that you have to cater to people with OCD, it will only enable them. I am sure she gasps when I lay on the floor where dirty shoes have been, put my shoes on the couch, on my bed…or worst of all in my PURSE. Isn't that why we all have huge purses, in case our feet hurt and we need to change our shoes? :) Kristen told me that she had OCD when she moved in, but I shrugged it off and thought, "Don't we all?" I didn't know what she meant by that. Sure she loved to wash her hands and feet and hold onto moist paper towels, but I did not cater to her then so why should I now. The only difference is now I know what her triggers are and what her rituals look like and I support her so she can get better and let go of her internal struggle.

I do have to say, sometimes it is easy to make a joke out of her rituals. The night Kristen came home from The OCD Project to spend the night and film her “coming home” episode (Stay tuned, it is an intense one), she had only 30 seconds to wash her hands. Theo, Jessie and I all stood in the bathroom with the iPhone and counted down the seconds yelling at her to go faster and yelling “only one pump of soap”. It was great to see her count down with us and laugh about the fact that she washes her hands for way to long and easily uses 5 pumps of soap at a time.

Opening up about her OCD has changed Kristen as a person. I am finally seeing that “Free Spirit” in her which she and her family have always known her to be.

Living with an OCDer,


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

My roommate, my friend....

This is Michelle.

She is my roommate, and nothing short of a complete blessing to me. I value her friendship, her support, her input, and most of all her contagious love for life. She always finds the best in people, always kind, and always loyal. I am so thankful for her!

I know she has a very unique view on me and my OCD......I mean she lives with me!!! :) She has decided to do a post towards the beginning of every month, giving some insight into what life is like "Living with an OCDer."

Monday, June 7, 2010

Episode 2

I apologize that I didn’t get my thoughts on episode 2 up on Friday. To be honest, I completely forgot on Friday, and I wasn’t home very much over the weekend. Anyway….. Here are some of my thoughts….

Episode two…..well, it was interesting to say the least….even for me to watch. I was actually pretty frustrated. The most frustrating thing about the whole episode was when Dr. Tolin was trying to figure out what my triggers are. This was my first time in treatment. I had never fully verbalized my obsessions or compulsions to anyone, for fear that I would actually be labeled crazy. And here I was, sitting in front of a psychologist who wanted me to identify….specifically…..what triggered me – what I obsessed over. Seriously?? It didn’t sit well with me then, and it seems especially unfair and unrealistic to me now. Of course I wanted to specifically hone in on what exactly triggered me, but it wasn’t realistic to figure that out in ONE “therapy” session that was under an hour long. I felt very pressured to figure it out, and somehow the conclusion we came to was male genitalia?? Ahhh…..sooo frustrating, because I knew there was more to my obsessions than that. I knew that wasn’t the basis of my fears. Although I do think it is extremely disgusting for people (men or women) to use the restroom without washing their hands……AND SMELLY!!! (My favorite line of the whole episode!! :) haha!)

After arriving at Roger’s, and spending COUNTLESS hours with my amazing behavior therapist there, I was able to specifically and accurately identify my triggers. All my obsessions revolve around three things…. hands, shoes, and urine. That realization…..or discovery…..sat well with me. It was spot on. I got stuck in my cycle of compulsions because I was obsessing about dirty hands and what they were touching, all the germs shoes spread, and urine was the ultimate “germ” that I was afraid of. It really has nothing to do with male genitalia. Just for the record. :)

To be fair, it was a TV show, so we weren’t afforded the luxury of extensive therapy sessions because that would not have appealed to TV audiences. I totally understand. It’s just a fine line because on one hand there were six people with fragile and vulnerable issues that needed to be discussed and worked through in order to come to a complete understanding of why we behaved in the ways that we did. However, on the other hand, this show needed to captivate and keep the interest of the general public, so the pace was definitely sped up and things happened a little more dramatically than they would in a treatment center that was not filmed 24-7. It makes complete sense. And that’s why I have my blog….. :)

Thursday, June 3, 2010


I just finished watching episode 2 with my roommate and another friend. I have a lot of thoughts......

I think I am going to head to bed, pray, clear my head, and jump into my "recap" tomorrow sometime.

Obsessively, compulsively.....
Yours truly.

And P.S. I am soooo extremely thankful for my roommate! She has been an INCREDIBLE support to me, learning about OCD in a non-chalant way, never treating me different than anything but "normal", and always giving me a good, firm "reality check" pep talk when I need it the most.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

More thoughts about episode 1.....

Not sure how many people have seen the trailer for The OCD Project, but it is pretty intense.....to say the least. I was somewhat frustrated when I saw it, because I thought....."That is crazy!! If I watched that trailer seven months ago, there is NO WAY I would have even considered the idea of getting any sort of treatment for my OCD!!"

So, coming from someone who has had quite a variety of treatment, I ASSURE you that what you saw on the trailer and teasers for what's to come in the remaining episodes is NOT how OCD is generally treated. Let me clarify.....the general idea of Exposure Response Prevention is accurate, but the intensity that the show portrays is very rarely used. The intensity bordered on "flooding" in my opinion, which from everything I've read on flooding, does not have a very high success rate. In other words, people who are treated by methods of flooding are very likely to quit treatment before any positive changes have taken place. I have heard numbers as high as 90% failure rate when flooding is used. PLEASE NOTE: I have done NO professional research of my own. I have just read articles, talked to people, and have gone through seven months of therapy.

Exposure Response Prevention (ERP), used correctly, is VERY effective for treating OCD. It is not a therapy that can be rushed as there are many components to it, repetition being one of the most crucial. I will talk about this more as the show progresses, and I have also written a lot about it in previous posts if you want to go back and read those.

To anyone who is struggling with OCD...... There is help. Help that is "challenging, yet manageable" as Roger's Memorial Hospital puts it. Manageable is the key.