Wednesday, April 11, 2012

OCD: An exposure I didn't plan

In my last post, I said I was going to do some exposures that I would write about.
In that same post, I also wrote about some physical health issues I’ve been having.
This post is about an exposure, but not one I was planning when I wrote that post on Sunday.
And it involves those health issues.
I wasn’t going to write about this. It was too personal, I thought, and my readers might not like it.
But this blog is about my life with OCD and the accompanying issues. I decided to share this exposure because it was about real life issues.
When I saw my family doctor last Friday, she ordered blood tests, a urinalysis, and a stool sample.
That last one got me. I could feel my mouth draw up a bit. I thought, doesn’t she remember that I have OCD? I just told her I was having anxiety from starting cognitive behavioral therapy. And she asks for a stool sample?
The doctor, of course, was interested in finding out what was causing my stomach pain and problems that have been ongoing for a while. So she went on talking to me, continuing to tell me what the course of action would be. She said that the nurse would give me what I needed to take a stool sample to the lab.
After my appointment, I walked out to my car and sat there while I talked with my husband on the phone. Then I realized that the nurse hadn’t given me the stool sample kit.
I admit, I wanted to just forget it. I wanted to take that as a sign that I really didn’t need to do it. Obviously, it wasn’t that important if the nurse forgot to give it to me, right?
But my husband said I needed to go back and get it. He was right. And I did.
Back inside, as the nurse told me what to do, I again could feel my mouth turning up.
“I think I’ll just wait until after all the blood work results come in,” I said.
The doctor had told me it would take about two weeks, so I thought that was a safe reprieve. And—this was my really, really good reason for waiting—the blood work results might reveal something that could be taken care of and I wouldn’t even have to do the stool sample.
The nurse gave me a look. She was probably thinking that I was a very weird woman.
“OK,” she said. “But you need to call me and let me know when you’re going to do it so I can fax the orders to the lab.”
All weekend, I ate very carefully, wanting to get better quickly so, again, maybe the stool sample wouldn’t be needed.
The nurse called me yesterday and said my white cell count was elevated.
“When are you going to do the stool sample?” she asked.
I guess she had forgotten my “wait until all the blood work comes back” excuse. I decided that I would try to make myself look a little more compliant.
“I’ll wait until after the urinalysis comes back,” I said.
It was going to be another couple of days, so I could continue to avoid the problem. Avoidance can be so sweet.
The nurse called me today. The urinalysis was negative.
“Then what’s wrong with me?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” she said. “That’s why we want to test your stool.”
I asked her to fax the orders to the lab.
Then I agonized about what to do. With my bathroom and contamination issues, I knew it would be a nightmare.
And there was the logistics matter. I had to get the sample to the lab within the hour of producing it. The lab was a good 45 minutes away.
I just wanted to forget all about it.
But I went to the doctor in the first place to get help. If I wanted help, I needed to follow through. Was I going to let OCD stop me?
I decided very quickly that I had to do it. I wouldn’t think about it anymore. I finished up some work and then went home.
It was not easy. I pretty much freaked out at one point. I wanted to clean the bathroom from top to bottom. I wanted to take a shower.
I didn’t have time, though. I had to get the sample to the lab, or—horrors—I’d have to do it again.
I made it out of the house after washing my hands only twice. I was feeling anxiety at a scale of about 9 all the way to the lab.
I kept glancing at my car clock, calculating how much time I had left. I worried about possible detours, or doing something that would cause a state trooper to pull me over. That would delay me. Then I figured I would just wave the biohazard bag at him, and he’d let me go.
I finally arrived at the lab, in time, and hurried inside, eager to get rid of that bag.
Ah, but there was a problem.
The woman at the front desk looked through the paperwork and said they hadn’t received the orders. Then she didn’t say anything.
I internally freaked out again, thinking I’d have to do all of this again and come back.
“Can I still leave it?”
“Yes,” she said. “But make sure your name and date of birth are on the cup.”
“It is,” I said, pointing to the label on top.
“It has to be on the side of the cup,” she said, and handed me a marker.
So I had to take the cup out of the biohazard bag and write the required information on the side of the cup.
I doubt if the outside of the cup was contaminated, but I did not want to touch it again.
I followed her instructions and then used the hand sanitizer at the door to the lab. I hoped that since it was in a lab, it would be extra sanitizing.
I thought later that I should have just asked where the bathroom was so I could wash my hands there. Anxiety makes you forget vital things.
Back in my car, I could feel my anxiety going down. I had done it. The worst was over. I didn’t have to do anything else but wait for the results.
I’m very tired, but I’m glad I did it.


  1. Tina,

    It sounds like you've been very brave recently. I'm so proud of your success and conquering this big challenge! It's definitely not easy to face anxiety at a 9 or 10, but you did it!

    I also applaud you for sharing the story with your web audience. I know I wonder sometimes about whether my OCD stories will seem overly maudlin or strange to my readers. But, when I read about your struggles, it makes me feel heartened to know that there are others who share my experiences, and that it is possible to overcome OCD symptoms.

    Keep up this awesome work!


    1. Thank you, Sarah! I am blessed, too, by knowing that others share my experiences. OCD is so weird, it's easy to think we're the only ones.

      It is possible to overcome OCD symptoms. I'm working on it, and I know you are too. We'll get there!

  2. Oh Tina, you so did the right thing sharing this! I know it was really hard, but you know, it's human and we've probably all been (or will someday be) in this same situation. It's good to hear about dealing with even these types of things for all of us who struggle with contamination. It's especially helpful for someone who has never been able to discuss these types of things with anyone else. Thankfully I have a psychologist who I can pretty much discuss anything with, but it was not always easy to do so. When my husband had his horrible Crohn's flare about a year and a half ago, I had to carry his "specimen" to the lab. Ugh, that was tough.

    I think it is incredibly awesome that you went ahead and took the test. Very, very proud of you. You should really be proud of yourself too. Every time you do a new exposure, you can think about this one and how you were able to push yourself through it. If you can do something this difficult, you know you are capable of other tough stuff too.

    I hope the test comes back ok. In the meantime, sleep well. You've earned it!

    1. Sunny, you are always so encouraging, and it means so much to me. Thank you! You're one of the people who inspires me!

  3. SOOOOOOOO proud of you, Tina!! NICE WORK!!!

  4. Great job going through with it! It is definitely an unpleasant thing to do - I don't blame you at all for wanting to avoid it. BUT you followed through excellently! Hope the tests come back okay.

    1. Lisa, Thank you! I agree--it's not a pleasant thing for anyone to do. Avoidance seemed easier, but then it actually was causing me continued anxiety, worrying about doing it.

  5. My anxiety was up just reading this post. I'm not even kidding. Especially where you had to take the cup out and ugh...

    I am just like you and when I am doing something that is making me super anxious and I need to drive somewhere, I watch the clock and am on high alert.

    I'm glad you followed through. You have given me courage to continue on with my medical tests because I too asked for help and need to follow through.

    1. Thank you, Elizabeth. You helped point me in the right direction!

      The clock is sometimes an enemy. When I'm trying to get somewhere or do something in a limited amount of time, it seems to move at a faster pace. I felt like I was in a race.

      Hope you are feeling better!

  6. Congratulations on your progress & willingness to raise awareness of OCD issues. I hope test results will be helpful.

    1. Carolyn, Thank you. I hope the test results reveal something--I don't want anymore tests!

      It's my hope that by writing about OCD issues, it will help others going through it feel less alone, and will help family and friends understand OCD a little better.

  7. Way to go Tina! You did what you needed to do and should be very proud of yourself!

    1. Thank you, Janet. I am just so relieved to have that hurdle over with! I knew that if I didn't do it, it would continue to worry me.

  8. Tina, not only were you brave enough to do what was needed to take care of yourself, but you were also brave enough to share. You are making it safe for others to heal.

    Many years ago I had to to the sample thing. While I didn't have a problem with that part of it, my anxiety manifested with my decision that I had "made up" my problem, so I didn't go back to get test results. Fortunately, the doctor's office was next door to where I worked, and one day they came running out to get me to tell me that I had a serious infection that needed to be treated. So...I'm really glad you found a way to do what needed to be done. It had to be horribly difficult. Hugs.

    1. Nadine, Thank you for your kind and encouraging words. I truly hope others can relate to what I write about my life.

      You hit the nail on the head. I thought, too, that maybe I had exaggerated my symptoms. But hearing that my white cell count was up and the urinalysis was negative made me think perhaps more checking needed to be done. I knew if I put it off, I would just obsess over it.

  9. Hip hip hooray! Way to go Tina!! You are making excellent progress and dangit, I'm proud of you. :D

    1. Alfonsia, Thank you for your encouragement!

      I went to that site you used for the cartoon last night and created one. I don't know if it looks much like me, but it was fun!

  10. Tina,
    Good for you...I know that was NOT an easy thing for you to do, but guess what You did it! Do you realize how huge that was for you? Are you allowing yourself to take in and be pleased with yourself? I do hope so because WOW! I am very proud of you...please keep me posted...

    1. Thank you, Tracy. I don't think I've really taken it in until today because I was so tired. At lunch today, my husband, who had just read this blog post, laughed and said he was so surprised that I wrote about my experience. I think blogging about it was part of the hurdle for me. I had this experience, but I felt shy and uncomfortable about sharing it.

      Looking forward to your next post! What will "L" be?

  11. You have done great Tina. I don't know much about OCD although I have been told I have some of the symptoms, but just the fact that you could overcome the anxiety is just perfect! Good luck with the results :)

  12. Nikky, You are so kind! Overcoming anxiety is one step at a time, don't you think?

  13. Congrats on your exposure and i hope that the results will be good!

    This is one more thing i'll add to my list of 'things i never want to experience' but if i do, i'll remember your post and try to be as brave as you were!

    1. Oh, Karin, it's definitely on my list of things I never want to do again! I don't think it was bravery on my part as much as determination.

      You have faced so many monsters and gotten through. You're one of my inspirations!

  14. Could feel your relief at having accomplished (go Tina!) getting the sample to the lab and scratching that one off your list. I am glad you wrote about this, sometimes the process of writing my experiences down can be therapeutic for me and hope it is for you as well.
    Last time I had to do a urine sample, the clinic had a panel with a little swinging door connected from the bathroom wall to the lab, so I could put the sample in there and swing it on over, instead of having to bring it out of the bathroom with me. Genius invention. It still pains me to have to do the sample at all but at least I don't have to worry about carrying a vial of urine out of the bathroom with me. I didn't want to set the vial on the floor while I washed my hands and I was always worried some urine got on the outside of the vial, so there were all sorts of logistical maneuvers on my part - what a nightmare.
    Hope tests come back good and you start feeling better really soon!

    1. Krystal, Thank you! I do feel better about things when I write about them. It helps me clarify my thinking and even come to some realizations.

      I am so glad, too, for those little doors! I hated carrying around the vial of urine. I had to laugh at your description of "logistical maneuvers" when doing a urine sample. I'm not laughing at you. It just reminded me of some of the things I've done to try to avoid germs while doing a urine sample that probably looked pretty strange from afar.


  15. I think anybody would have anxiety issues having those tests, especially the stool sample. It is natural.

    I find it is always better to get it out there and write it down. It stops stuff from mulling around in my brain.

    1. Hi, Jen--I am finding out more and more that it's true for me too--writing things down helps me.

  16. First of all, I hope you feel better very soon. Second of all, I am really amazed at your courage - I've never managed to do one of those tests. The doctor tries it every year at physical time, gives me all the things I need to take care of it at home, and I just toss them in the garbage. Never done one, not sure when I will. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one freaking out over the idea.
    Adventures in Anxiety Land

    1. Thanks for commenting! I've thrown away the kits before too. And I have no desire to ever do it again. I guess this time, I knew that I would have a lot of anxiety if I didn't do it, since I knew something (don't know what yet) was wrong.

  17. What an ordeal. I'm so glad you're past the worst of it now. I hope the tests come back showing what's wrong. And that whatever it is, it will easily treatable. Bravo for sharing.

    1. Grace, Thank you! Yes, I think I am past the worst of the testing. Still no results, but I guess I'll hear something next week. I am still working on my own to adjust my diet to be kinder to my system.


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