Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Thoughts on Being Comfortable with Wanting

...Wanting what?


Lately I've gotten myself bent out of shape over wanting things. If I want to get a certain amount of tasks done in a day and I can't because there are simply too many errands and demands, I feel tension in my stomach as I try to wrestle with it all. If I want a particular task to be easy, when it's not I stress about it. If I think, "I'm coming off my medicine and I'm anxious as all hell," I get twisted up inside because I want to be able to handle stress better. It's like an internal temper tantrum, and it's unproductive. All it does is cause me physical distress.

My plan, when this happens, is to remind myself these things:
- I am wasting energy trying to control everything
- The reason I'm feeling physical symptoms of stress is because I'm too caught up in wanting things to be a certain way. I need to let go.
- "Take it as it comes." This is a mantra that, for some reason, hit home for me.
- "It is what it is." There's another mantra that just "clicks" in my mind as a way for me to let go of wanting to control things.
- I would have an easier time if I accepted the want, rather than feeling like I must succumb to it. Ex: I don't HAVE to have that sweater, even though I'm obsessing over it and I feel a real, physical pull to go buy it. Despite that, it is what it is.

When I realize these things, the tension loosens a little. I'm not saying this is a cure-all, but I think I can learn to employ this self-talk in a way that IS productive. It's like I'm taking higher ground over the desire. If I can slow down the now automatic physical response I feel when things are getting out of control (queasy stomach, rapid breathing, obsessions), I can get a better handle on it.

There is a bigger aspect to this all: I feel spiritually driven to come off my medicine at this point in my life. When I put these newly-realized anxiety symptoms into that perspective, it's easier to accept them.

Are there things that you want for which wanting has control of you? What can you let go of?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

It's Getting Sticky...

"How do you let things go?" a good friend, Carly, asked. I was embarassed that I didn't have a clear cut answer.

Now, a month after I've started stepping down off my meds and my responsibilities at work are ramping up, the "things" I'm having trouble letting go of are work-related. Work thoughts are getting sticky.

It's not "OMG someone is going to get hurt because of me," but it's trending toward the same types of thoughts. What if I make a mistake that costs more than my own time? What if we lose a customer because of me? Gotta think of all the things I need to do.

It's difficult to leave work at work, and it's upsetting that work issues are more salient in my mind than Christmas is right now. I want to be excited, not stressed. When I realize that at 6:00 in the evening after a rough 9 hours, it makes me angry. I want control of my emotions, whether they be related to OCD fears or not.

But Carly had the answer for me without realizing it. The key isn't control, but relinquishing control. That's what I need to work on.

I'll keep you posted on how it goes. Next up I'm going to think of some concreate ways that I can do it.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

I'm Coming Off My Meds!

No, it's not because I'm cured or because I don't think I need them. Because of reasons personal to me I will be making some changes. One of them is to step down off my OCD medication.

It seems like each time I tell someone new about this change I'm met with surprise! I understand. It's dramatic! Two years ago I accepted that I would need to be on medication forever. That may still be the case, but there are reasons why I want to try to go forward without them.

What makes this time different than every other time I've stopped taking medication is this time I fully recognize my need for the help they provide.

In the past when I've stopped taking my medication I mistakenly believed that I had gotten through the tough spots of my life. Things would be better. This time I realize this could be one of the toughest spots yet.

That's why I'll continue to attend my OCD GOAL group--religiously! I'll continue to seek the counsel of my friends there. (They might even see a more needy side of me they haven't seen while I was on medication!) I've also committed to regular appointments with my OCD therapist. I'll also probably need to read more OCD blogs. Finally, to battle the scrupulosity aspect of my OCD, my faith in God continues to grow, and I know my pastor and friends have my back.

...All this to say I'm fully prepared! I already know it will be worth the struggle. While it seems like I'm making a decision to go it alone, I will actually have more support than ever before.

Still, I ask that you keep me in your thoughts and prayers! : )

Friday, November 12, 2010

What I Learned from a Hypnotist

A hypnotist came to speak to our OCD GOAL group this week to address how hypnotism could be used to gain control of one's feelings and thoughts. Although what she had to say was a little too new-agey for me, I do agree with one's ability to affect one's physiology by working to gain control of one's runaway thoughts.

I didn't levitate, cluck like a chicken, or speak in tongues. At best one could call what I experienced "stumbling through a carefully scripted daydream." While the hypnotist described the ability to heal ourselves as having "all of the tools we need inside us," I really see it as having the capacity to improve the way we think.

She took us on a guided tour of our kitchens. She asked us to close our eyes and led us slowly through the motions of going to the fridge, taking out a lemon, slicing into it, and finally biting it. After we opened our eyes most of the people in the room described tasting the lemon, salivating, or feeling its sting pucker their lips. That was proof, she explained, that our bodies register everything our imaginations experience as if it actually were happening.

Do you see the direct application to OCD? When we worry that the worst is going to happen, it may as well have happened because our bodies don't know the difference. That's why it's so important to work on gaining control of what we do with our thoughts. If hypnotism can help us do that, if even only as proof that it's possible, so be it. As for me, I've gotten what I need to out of hypnotism already!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

OCD: What Happens When We Don't Stick to the Facts

You're driving in a tunnel. The only two outbound lanes of traffic are both congested, but you're moving along at a good clip, say 40 mph. You see brake lights a few cars ahead of you. What do you do?

A) Nothing.
B) Watch the car in front of you to see when he applies his brakes.
C) Slam on your breaks, bringing your car to an immediate stop.

Now you're taking a walk. Your leg starts to hurt. What do you do?

A) Nothing--continue your walk.
B) Turn around and head home--you probably strained it.
C) Go home immediately and drive to the emergency room--it's probably knee cancer.

In the first question, what if you had slammed on the brakes? You would have crashed, causing a massive pile-up who knows how long, closing the tunnel for the rest of the afternoon until the accident could be cleaned up.

That's the what part of the's the why: The reason for slamming on the brakes in the first situation would have been a misinterpretation of the facts. It's mistakenly following the logic of "brakelights mean stop." Black and white. (Or Red.) But really, seeing brakelights a few cars ahead more likely means that that car is slowing down. If that car is far enough ahead, you may not even need to take your foot off the gas!

I've said in another post that my brain doesn't often operate using linear thinking. The one inopportune time it does, though, is when I'm thinking like this, below:

The first line is a fact. The rest are interpretations of that fact, improper conclusions which are drawn from the prior conclusions, or unclear memories that I can't even confirm happened.

Fact: On Tuesday I walked my dog.
2. I put flea treatment on him a few days before Tuesday.
3. A little girl petted my dog.
4. I think I remember her petting him where the flea treatment was.
5. That little girl is going to put her fingers in her mouth.
6. She is going to get sick.
7. Her sickness will cause her to die.
8. I will be sued.
9. I will not be able to forgive myself.

Can you see where my logic fails? It happens in the space between nearly every so-called conclusion I make. By the end I've "concluded" myself into a scary situation, spiking my anxiety. If my OCD is bad enough at the time, I'll fixate on it and send myself into a deep depression.

When you find yourself thinking like this, don't jump to false conclusions. Think about the facts, and only the facts, if you want to live well with OCD.

Don't slam on your brakes.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Beauty of OCD Friends

I posted a while ago I posted about the plusses of being part of an OCD support group. In honor of my group's upcoming summer picnic, I thought I'd talk about the benefits of making friends of your support group members.

  • You look forward to seeing each other. For people with particularly debilitating OCD, or during times of intense struggle, seeing friends at my support group reminds me that OCD isn't all there is to my life. When I can look forward to hearing about what's going on in someone else's life, it takes the focus off of my own.
  • You don't always have to talk about OCD. At the group, of course, the tendency is to talk about our afflictions. But sometimes that can get old, and sometimes we just want to talk about movies, our families, or our jobs. When you're genuinely friends with the people at your support group, it's easier to relate to each other on these more personal levels.
  • You can go "way back." A number of the people with whom I attend the support group have known each other from other support groups, therapy sessions, and the like. This history creates a feeling of "I knew you when," whether the "when" was a hard time in someone's life, a good time in someone's life, or a benchmark for progress. The longer you attend support groups, the further back you'll go with the people there.
  • You can relate. I recently made a friend outside of my OCD group with whom I can share my OCD struggles. She doesn't have OCD, but she can relate. In that way I know she understands me and how my mind works.

Here's to a fun-filled picnic this weekend!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Advice on Letting Go

Driving home today I realized how many times at work I heard myself say "It doesn't matter because next week I won't be here." Uncertainty about whether a project will be completed on time, discomfort over having unanswered questions, and frustration over a co-worker treating me poorly will all be moot points.

Three weeks ago it would not have been easy for me to say this--no matter what the reason! The only thing that changed in the meantime was getting the new job. When I finally got it, all the frustration and the pain became insignificant.

I thought about this and realized that in so many of my OCD worries I could use some help letting go. At my worst I'd lie awake, so late it's neither night nor morning, and repeat the phrase "I will not be tethered to this." In my delirium I even visualized myself chained to a large block of cement, willing the chain to break so that I could be freed from the worry that wracked my brain.

In my situation at work, I have a reason to let go of the worries--my new job. That's why it was so easy to do. Like a huge pair of scissors (or in the case of the worry that caused me to lose sleep, an industrial-sized pair of tin snips) focus on the new job severed my connection to the worry and frustration of the old one. Whatever happened in the past didn't matter. Whatever happens after I leave won't matter. The new job is so salient in my mind, and it affects everything about my current job, that it makes for a sharp, powerful weapon.

My challenge for you is this: Can you identify your scissors? What can you focus on so it's easier to let go?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

New Job!

My recent posts were about job anxiety. I think that will subside now that I have a new job! But as I make the transition I'll be sure to post as to whether it spikes my OCD. I don't think it will...I'm so relieved to have found a better environment!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Holy Nails!

Nailbiting and skin picking is something I've always struggled with, even before I knew I had OCD. I have ugly hands with nails that dip way down past the quick. They sometimes bleed, and I pick and chew the cuticles and the skin around them, too. (Do you see the irony in this?! I'm a person whose OCD sometimes pertains to contamination, yet I have a nailbiting problem that leaves me with open wounds on my hands. But we already know OCD is illogical!) Perhaps it's an overlap into trichotillomania, I don't know, but there's definitely a nervousness-->compulsion-->satisfaction component involved.

Anyway, I was on vacation from work this week. That meant less time sitting at the computer, less time feeling frustrated by the people I work with, and less time worrying about whether I'll find a new job any time soon. It was simply free time during which my husband and I relaxed, went bicycling, paddled down a river in a canoe, and had lots of good dinners. All of this added up to the longest fingernails in a long while!

I'm hoping I can keep them growing. If anyone else out there has the same issue as I do, be it OCD-related or not, here's the most helpful advice I can offer: interrupt your fingers! While it's hard sometimes to interrupt your thoughts, it's easy to interrupt your fingers. To do so I stop and "play" a C scale on my trumpet (air trumpet, of course). The only enemy of this distraction is inattention; the air scale will work for me as long as I focus hard enough on it.

Wish me luck! : \

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Three Ways I Handle Job Anxiety

"Whew." That's how I feel after every day at work. I've got a lot of stress at my job right now, so I thought I'd discipline myself enough to recognize three things I can do to handle it when it gets bad. Maybe it will help you, too.

1. Eat a good breakfast. On top of that, eat a good dinner! Today was particularly stressful. I'm talking crying-in-the-bathroom stressful. I didn't sleep well last night, which probably amplified my emotions. I didn't sleep well because I didn't eat well yesterday. To top it all off, I didn't recover by eating a little more today to even it all out. It sounds silly, but I know my body and my mind get a little bit off kilter I dfon't eat well enough.
2. Take time to pause. I have a pause button, and it's my husband. Today I called him to vent, about to react inappropriately to something. Just that little bit of time speaking with him diffused my frustration a little. It didn't take the frustrating issue away, it just helped me to step back and take a break.
3. Know where to find a friend. In the middle of a bad day at work, I know I can trust my friend to "meet me in the second floor bathroom." There we hash it out away from the rest of the people in my office (we're on the 5th floor).

If tomorrow is like today, I'm going to keep these things in mind.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

OCD and Embracing the Grey Areas

I realized something this week about my OCD that I've never noticed before. I'm uncomfortable with grey areas.

It's true in so many ways: I fear that I've done something wrong, and strive to always do right. I'm obsessed with knowing; not knowing is bad, and knowing is good. I want to know that something either will never happen, because the only other option is that it absolutely will. (I'm over-simplifying in every example, but at the core of nearly every issue is tension between extremes.)

If, after assessing each issue in question I fall on the less-desirable side of the grey, I have to do whatever it takes to traverse the expanse. When I can't, I'm wracked by anxiety. If I've done something wrong, I have to apologize and try to make it right. Sometimes I even try to reverse what I've done. If I don't know something, I feel guilty out of some obligation to know. And we all know what happens when a person with OCD has trouble with the uncertainty that a worst fear may come true.

To further complicate things, I'm impatient. I can't wait to decide that something falls on one side of the grey area or the other.

This impatience comes out in the real world, too (vs. the world of fear inside). Say I'm waiting for a boss to make a decision. Is he going to decide that we're going to take this job, or not? If we are then I have to start working right away because the deadline is approaching. If not then I can do other work. I'm either all in, or I'm moving on.

There's a responsibility issue all wrapped up in this, too. Something is either all my fault, or I'm 100% in the clear. Say I'm driving to work. I see a man coming out of the woods. What if he just got done burying a body? If I don't say something then when the murder is uncovered, the death will be all my fault.

I thought about it wonderment and asked why this hasn't come to me sooner; it would be the perfect exposure to practice in my GOAL group, but I'm not even sure I know how to approach it.
People aren't all good or all bad. There is such thing as only half getting it. The very antidote to fear is living in the grey area. Any ideas for helping me see that?


If you have any ideas for exposures to tackle the discomfort of grey areas, post them here! If you don't know what an exposure is or are new to OCD and ERP, a good place to start is wikipedia, with the search term "exposure and response prevention."

Sunday, June 6, 2010

A Blogger's Homecoming

Man, it's been a while...

But I'm making a concerted effort to come back here. Often.

I've been noticing the little things creep up for me. I think I'm fine, but it's the seemingly insignificant checks I'll do, or the few minutes too long I spend thinking about something, that reminds me that OCD is always with me. I need to be here, writing, logging, reflecting--monitoring my progress.

Today I was reminded that I need this in my life. The more mental energy this blog takes up, that's just a little less for OCD to occupy.