Monday, November 26, 2012

Taking a week off

This is just a note to let you know that I will be taking this week off from blogging.
My focus is scattered and my creativity feels low, which I’ll write more about at a later date.
I am looking forward to a week where I can regain that focus and the flow of creativity.
  I’ll still be reading your blogs and keeping up. And I’ll be back here writing on Monday, Dec. 3.
  Have a wonderful week!

Friday, November 23, 2012

A change in plans, and more OCD in the kitchen

Thanksgiving cooking ended up differently than I thought it would, and I had more exposures for my OCD than I had planned for.
We had plans to eat with one of Larry’s relatives. So I was going to do some light cooking, just a cake and maybe a side dish or two.
Then on Tuesday, Larry’s relative had to cancel the dinner because of illness.
Early Wednesday morning, before work, I was at the grocery store with my list, picking out items to fix the dishes I had chosen to cook for Larry and me on Thanksgiving.
Later that day, Larry got a turkey breast to fix with some dressing, and I got a vegan fake turkey product to try.
I admit I was not looking forward to getting in the kitchen to do a lot of cooking. OCD was making me dread the stove and the cleanup.
Wednesday night I made a cake and a congealed salad with cranberry sauce.
This round of cake baking was a little easier than my last adventure. I put the eggshells on a plastic bag so I could scoop them up easily and not contaminate the counters (though I did clean them good afterwards).
And I did OK with turning the oven off. I stared at the knob on the stove for a minute or so, but I didn’t turn the stove on and off.
My anxiety level during the cake making process was at about a 60, lower than last time.
I can’t say the same for when I used the stovetop. Once I turned off the stove, I turned it back on and then off twice. I hated giving in. My anxiety was at a 75 or 80 during that episode.
I also had some anxiety about using the can opener for the cranberry sauce. I always meticulously clean the opener after I use it, and I worry about getting off any food residue, even if I don’t see any. But I got it done.
On Thursday morning, Larry woke up with vertigo and didn’t feel like cooking the turkey breast. So we put that off until today.
On Thursday I cooked a hearty vegetable casserole and fixed some mashed potatoes. I found myself having an anxious moment when I turned off the oven, turning it on and off once after initially turning it off.
I’m not sure why I had this problem Wednesday and Thursday with the stovetop and then the oven. It may be that I was just generally anxious about the extra cooking I was doing.
  A good point was that I didn’t ask Larry to check the stove behind me. I wanted to, and even started to at one point. But I knew it would not be good for my exposure and response prevention attempts.
All in all, my cooking anxiety Thursday probably averaged a 70. Once the food was eaten and the cleanup finished, it dropped rapidly.
We had no meat Thursday, but we still enjoyed our food and were grateful for it.
Thursday afternoon? I took a nap. I probably slept more than I ordinarily would have because of the anxiety.
And today, Larry is fixing the turkey breast and I will probably cook a corn pudding.
I realize that a lot of people cook everyday and have little to no anxiety doing it. But that’s just not me at this point.
But despite my ongoing battle with the question, “Is the stove really off?” it’s getting a little easier.

  Does your anxiety get worse when your plans suddenly change? How do you handle sudden changes?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Giving thanks for things I often take for granted

  In a continuation of my posts on giving thanks, I’m writing today about things that I’m thankful for that I often take for granted:

  • I always have enough to eat. I have gone though financially difficult times, but I have never gone hungry.
  • I have access to clean, safe, healthy food.
  • I have plenty of clean, safe water to drink.
  • I live in a solid, warm, safe house. I have never been without a place to lay down my head at night.
  • I have access to health care.
  • I have the means to pay for my health care and prescriptions.
  • I am able to get treatment for the health problems I have.
  • I am in good health overall.
  • I had the opportunity to get a good education.
  • I have a job, and I like it.

To those of who celebrate Thanksgiving, have a safe and happy holiday. And to all my readers, may we always be grateful for the gifts in our lives.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Giving thanks for good treatments for mental illnesses

In honor of Thanksgiving on Thursday, I’m writing some posts about what I’m thankful for.
In my last post, I gave thanks for my husband. In this post, I’m giving thanks for some of the things that have helped me with OCD, depression and anxiety.

I’m thankful for:

  • My first therapist, who recognized the depression I had and referred me to a psychiatrist.
  • My first psychiatrist, who diagnosed me with OCD and depression and started medication treatment.
  • Anafranil, the first medicine I took for OCD and depression. It lifted me up enough to begin to have hope in life again.
  • The books Brain Lock, by Dr. Jeffrey Schwarz, and Freedom from OCD, by Dr. Jonathan Grayson, which have helped me to help myself.
  • My family doctor, who treated me for depression and referred me to my current psychiatrist.
  • My current psychiatrist, who also diagnosed me with generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder and who gave me hope that I could feel better.
  • The medications available to help.
  • My current psychologist, who is helping me with my chronic depression with an active, intense therapy.
  • Exposure and response prevention therapy, which I’m doing on my own right now and which is helping me with my OCD.
  • Researchers who are working to help people with depression, OCD, anxiety and other mental illnesses.
  • Fellow bloggers who have taught me about living a fuller life.
  • Readers of this blog who have supported and encouraged me in my journey.

  What are you thankful for in helping you in your own journey of recovery, healing and working for a better life?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Giving thanks for my husband

The winner of the $10 Amazon gift card is Elizabeth. I have emailed you the code for the gift card. Congratulations, and thank you and all my readers for your support of this blog!


I’m going to use this time before Thanksgiving to give thanks for some of the many blessings in my life.
Today I’m giving thanks for my husband.
Larry and I recently celebrated our ninth wedding anniversary. I am forever thankful that I married him.
Words that describe Larry include stalwart, dependable, honest, intelligent, trustworthy, generous, kind and capable.
He had a long career with state government, and he’s now enjoying retirement.
He’s been busy with some renovations to the house, and he’s doing a great job. He’s meticulous and creative in his work. When he’s come up against obstacles, I haven’t worried and I’ve told him not to worry, because I know he’s going to figure out the problem. And he always does.
Larry is smart and analytical. He is also very softhearted and kind. He loves the cats as much as I do and willingly and wonderfully shares in the care of them.
He is a quiet man, and when he speaks his mind, I listen, because I know he has given the subject a lot of thought.
Larry is very supportive of me in my struggles with OCD, depression and anxiety. He has willingly learned more about the disorders. He’s patient with me sometimes beyond measure. And he can make me laugh when I need to laugh.
He’s not perfect, as I’m not, but he’s my best friend and my beloved husband.

Who is one of the persons you are thankful for and why?

Friday, November 16, 2012

I baked a cake

Yes, I baked a cake. A sheet cake, not from scratch, but from a mix, with bought icing. Still, I baked a cake.
And why did I do such a thing? The churches in my area serve a lunch once a week called Second Helpings for those who might not get a good meal at other times, or who just want to socialize with others over a meal.
It was my church’s turn to cook, and my United Methodist Women circle got the dessert assignment. I volunteered to bake one of the cakes. I did so more than a month ago, so it seemed fairly safe at the time. As the time drew nearer to actually do the work, though, I got anxious.

Cake batter in the disposable foil pan I used so I wouldn't have to worry about getting a pan returned to me.

Cooking on the stove is a 98 on my fear hierarchy for checking. But I found out that cooking something in the oven was less anxiety producing than cooking on the stovetop.
I think that may be because the eye on the stovetop seems more dangerous to me than the oven. It’s so hot and so “right there,” and if I don’t turn off the stove properly, my husband could get burned by touching it, or a paper towel or something that rests against it could cause a fire.
Years ago, I let a pot run over and a fire started on the stovetop. I was able to put it out, but it scared me and made me even more anxious about cooking than I already was.
Also, cooking on the stovetop can produce splashes of food. That bothers my contamination OCD.
Cake right out of the oven.

I would put my SUDs score for cooking in the oven at about a 90.
I felt that 90 when it was time to turn off the stove. I turned it off just once, which was a lot better than some incidences in the past when I’ve turned it off and on and off and on over and over.
I did stare at the on/off button, with my reading glasses and without. And I did stop when I got a “right” feeling. But I didn’t ask my husband to check behind me, even though I really wanted to. I knew that I needed to take care of the matter myself.
My anxiety level stayed up for probably about an hour after turning off the stove, slowly ebbing away to about a 40. And I was able to forget about whether or not the stove was off.
I think I was helped by all my recent work on my checking compulsions.

Cake with icing.
I also had some contamination OCD anxiety with the whole cooking thing, more than I thought I would.
One reason was because I had to use eggs, and I am weird about eggs. I’m so afraid of spreading salmonella or some other disease if I don’t clean up after the egg use.
In other words, I worried about the spot in the sink where I set the eggshells once I cracked the eggs, and I worried about any splashes from the mixing bowl on the counter.
So I cleaned with soap and water and with disinfectant cleaner after I had the cake in the oven.
The funny thing is, I have no qualms about eating cake batter, which has uncooked eggs in it. I’m not afraid of getting salmonella—just afraid of spreading it to others.
Then I thought about the quality of the cake. I worried aloud about what if the cake didn’t taste good.
My husband replied, “Well, you’ll never know.”
And I won’t. I wasn’t present when it was eaten, so I won’t ever know people’s reactions to it. That reminder from my husband helped that worry to dissolve.
  The next morning, as I prepared to take the cake to the drop-off site, my husband said, “That cake sure looked good.”
  He sighed.
“But I didn’t get to eat any.”
  So it looks like I’ll be making another cake soon. For my husband.

  Do you have any anxieties about cooking?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

One year of blogging

Today marks the one-year anniversary for Bringing Along OCD.
In my first post, I wrote the following:

“I have never talked a lot to others about my OCD, at least not specifically. With this blog, I hope to finally be truthful about the effects of OCD on me and on those around me.
I also want to use this blog to consider the questions I ask myself about OCD. I hope by writing and especially by receiving comments from you, I will gain some understanding.”

Those are still my goals, to be truthful about OCD and to gain understanding by listening to others and making connections with them. I am trying to do the same with depression and anxiety.
  I appreciate you so much, dear readers. I appreciate that you read my posts and make comments and come back for more.
To show a little of my appreciation, I am offering a $10 Amazon gift card to one reader chosen at random.
To be in the drawing, you just have to leave a comment by Friday night (Nov. 16) at 10 p.m. EST.
If you win the drawing, I’ll email you the code for the gift card. And I’ll announce the winner in a post on Saturday (Nov. 17).
This is not a requirement for the drawing, but if you haven’t already joined the blog through Google Friend Connect (at the top of the page on the right, beside my photo), I’d appreciate it if you did.
I love blogging. I love interacting with you and learning along the way. I love knowing that I’m not alone in having OCD, depression and anxiety. And remember: you’re not alone either.

  What is your favorite thing about blogging and/or reading blogs?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Memoir: The jug of water

She set the jug of water on top of the toilet.
It was a plastic milk carton being re-purposed for a lesson.
She said something like, “This is all the water you can use today. You can’t run the water. You’ll have to use what’s in the jug.”
There was no convincing her to do otherwise.
And I thought I was going to die.
I was about 13 at the time, which would make it 1976. We were living in the country, in the house my parents built after they sold most of our farm and the farmhouse.

I understand now where my mother’s anger came from. I ran water long and fast, washing and rewashing my hands, trying to get them clean.
I usually used the bathroom just off her and my father’s bathroom, instead of the larger one in the hallway, because it seemed more private and less contaminated. So they could hear the amount of water I was running.
“You’re going to run the well dry,” she warned me.
My parents had told me to stop running “so much water.” But I had disobeyed, something that wasn’t done lightly in my home.
I didn’t understand why I felt compelled to wet my hands, soap them up, rub them together for a certain time, then rinse, and then do it all over again, again and again. All while running the water.
My hands and wrists were red and raw looking. But I thought I was just doing what everyone should be doing, washing my hands thoroughly.
I hadn’t heard of obsessive-compulsive disorder, and I don’t think my parents had either.

With the jug of water, I had to pour water out, just enough to wet my hands, then lather up with soap, then pour water on my hands again.
I hated getting soap on the jug when I lifted it to pour out the rinse water.
I worried about so many things: was I getting all of the soap residue off? If not, and I touched a plate or something that someone else might touch and then eat from, then that person could get diarrhea, because I had learned from my mother that eating from dishes not properly rinsed could give people diarrhea.
What if my hands didn’t get clean from the cold water? What if I had germs on them and spread them to others and made them sick?
What if I used all the water in the jug and there was none left, and I still had to wash my hands?
Oh, I hated the jug.

  My mother made me use the jug for a few days, but gradually, I started running the water again, warm water, hot water, to get my hands cleaned well and rinsed well.
  And the jug went away. But nothing else did.

  If you were reading more about this 13-year-old girl, what would you like to know about her?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Unmet goal: Running in the 5K

I won’t be running in a 5K on Thanksgiving Day.
Back in June, I stated publicly on this blog that I had set as a goal to run in the Giblet Jog 5K. I stated it again in August.
But I won’t be able to participate.
The reason I won’t be able to participate is quite simple: I didn’t prepare.
I allowed my procrastination to get the better of me and kept putting off starting an exercise program that would have gotten me on track to run the 5K.
I would occasionally take a walk, and I could recognize how out of shape I was, but I kept thinking, I’ll do it later. I’ll get in shape later. I still have time.
Well, the time has come. The race is in less than two weeks. And though this week I have walked three times, I have done no training in running, and my walking is full of huffs and puffs.
That’s because I’ve also gained weight over the summer.
I know it does no good to beat up on myself. But I am very disappointed in my behavior. I haven’t exercised regularly and I haven’t eaten in a healthy manner.
I’m trying to make changes in my eating habits now, and I plan to keep on walking. When I’ve lost some weight, I want to start jogging.
And maybe I can run in the Giblet Jog 5K next year. Or maybe there will be a race I can run in before then.

How do you stay on track with your exercise and eating plans? Do you have any motivational tips you could share?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Hit-and-run OCD

When I was in graduate school, when my OCD was at is worst, I drove certain streets in my college town a lot.
If I hit a bump in the road, or if I even thought I might have hit a bump, I turned the car around and drove back to look for bodies. Or I stopped in the road to look behind me and try to see if I had hit anyone.
I drove up and down some streets enough that I started to get worried that someone was going to call the police and report someone casing the neighborhood.
My long trips on visits home could turn into nightmares. I remember on one trip, while traveling around Columbus, Ohio, I frantically tried to find a local radio station, listening for any reports of an accident on the freeway that I may have caused.
In reality, I knew I hadn’t caused an accident, but I felt like I may have.
Over the years, the obsession lessened, but I still go through time periods when I obsess over whether or not I’ve hit something or someone with my car.
On my checking hierarchy, hit-and run-OCD is a 70. It causes me some distress, but not as much as numerous other things on my hierarchy.
Here are some recent driving experiences I’ve had:

·  I actually turned around my car to drive back over an area to make sure I hadn’t hit anyone or anything—even though I knew that I had hit rough spot in the road.
·  On a positive note, I drove for about 192 miles round trip recently to attend a church meeting out of town. I didn’t turn around and drive back at all, and I looked in my rear view mirror only occasionally to check the cars behind me.
·  I offered to drive a co-worker to a work related workshop in a nearby town.
·  I drove along a street crowded with trick-or-treaters rather than drive the long way around to avoid them.

The difference between the “bad” driving experience and the successful ones? My willingness to put up with the anxiety until it subsided.
Something that has helped me tremendously is something that Dr. Jonathan Grayson said in his book Freedom from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: A Personalized Recovery Program for Living with Uncertainty.
In laying out the rules for doing ERPs for hit-and-run OCD, he says the rules for not driving back and not looking stopping the car to check “may only be violated if you have no doubt that you hit someone—if you have the slightest doubt, continue driving” (p. 162).
This helped me tremendously. I have started applying it to other checking compulsions. I tell myself that if I’m not 100 percent sure that there’s a problem, if there’s any doubt of there being a problem, then I’m not checking.
Sometimes I’m more successful than others, but that mindset is helping me be successful more often. I feel the anxiety of not checking, but I have discovered that it dissipates fairly rapidly once a few minutes have passed and I become focused on something else.

  Do you have anxiety about driving? How have you dealt with it?

Monday, November 5, 2012

My fear hierarchies

In last Friday’s post about my obsessions and compulsions, I mentioned the fear hierarchy.
In his Freedom from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: A Personalized Recovery Program for Living with Uncertainty, Dr. Jonathan Grayson defines what that is: “A fear hierarchy is a ranked order of the situations that cause you anxiety, ranked from most to least anxiety-provoking. This hierarchy will be the blueprint for your exposure and response prevention program, guiding your decisions about what to expose yourself to and when” (p. 67-68).
He suggests using a rating of subjective units of discomfort (SUDs) to rank the anxieties (p. 68). Sunny at 71 & Sunny wrote an excellent post about SUDs, and I urge you to check it out.
I’m using a SUDs scale of 1 to 100, with 100 being the worst anxiety, 1 being the least.
I created a fear hierarchy for every type of OCD I experience. The hierarchies help me organize what I want to work on. I am trying to work on exposures from more than one hierarchy each day.
Grayson suggests starting with the lower ranked items, the ones with the lower SUDs (p. 68).
Here are some of my fear hierarchies, which reflect what I'm working on:

Contamination Hierarchy

Toilet in public bathroom 95
Shower walls and floor 90
Rinsing dishes 90
Washing dishes 80
Home bathroom door open 80
Rinsing recyclables 80
Cleaning off stove 80
Floor in public bathroom 70
Toilet seat in own bathroom 70
Sticky substances 70
Greasy substances 70
Kitchen floor 70
Walking in house with no shoes or socks 70
Walking in house with just socks 70
Cleaning off kitchen counter 60
Eating utensils in restaurants 60
Water faucets in public bathroom 50
Brushing teeth 50
Door handles in public places 40

Checking Hierarchy

Cooking on stove 98
Leaving office without checking lamps 90
Leaving home bathroom without checking lights 90
Checking for sharp objects, contaminated objects on floor at home 90
Checking coffeemaker after using 90
Writing without checking/reviewing 90
Reading without going back and rereading 80
Making sure others know of potential dangers 80
Going upstairs without checking basement lights 80
Checking area around dryer for lint 80
Using bath soap/shampoo bottles without rinsing them afterwards 80
Checking dryer vent 80
Checking between washer and dryer 70
Water taps in laundry room 70
Paperwork 70
Checking to be sure razor is on medicine cabinet shelf 70
Making sure others know of recalls 60
Driving 70
Checking food bags to make sure properly sealed 60
Car brake set 50
Mail slot at post office 50
Car doors locked 40

Perfection, Movement and Magic Hierarchy

Nodding my head 90
Being perfectly understood in written words 85
Saying things perfectly 80
Being perfectly understood in spoken words 80
Rewriting words or letters to make them perfect 50
Only buying items that are perfect 40
Counting steps 30

Mental Compulsions Hierarchy

Praying 90
Knowing or learning everything about a subject 80
Checking memory to determine if harmed in past 80
Doubting religious beliefs 80
Analyzing thoughts for appropriateness 70
Past actions, possible sins 70

  Do you think using something like the fear hierarchy would help you make changes?  Have you ever used anything like this before?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

November river

  Here are some photos of the Staunton River on a cold November morning:

  What is November like where you live?

Friday, November 2, 2012

Obsessions and compulsions: The worst ones

As I’ve previously written about, I am doing exposure and response prevention therapy on my own through Dr. Jonathan Grayson’s book Freedom from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: A Personalized Recovery Program for Living with Uncertainty.
Part of this work in fighting my OCD involves completing checklists to arrive at a list of the obsessions and compulsions that are most troublesome to me.
I like having such a list because it provides me with an idea of what I need to work on the most. And it was eye opening to realize how much OCD affects my daily life.
This list is not a fear hierarchy. As Grayson writes, “A fear hierarchy is a ranked order of the situations that cause you anxiety, ranked from most to least anxiety-provoking” (p. 67).
Rather, this list is a general overview of what my OCD looks like.
But I did use the list to help me come up with my fear hierarchies.
Below is a partial list of my obsessions and compulsions from the checklists that rated a five (highest rating) and a four. In other words, they are the obsessions and compulsions that take up more of my time and attention than others.
I’m providing this information for two reasons. If you have OCD, maybe you’ll see your own obsessions and/or compulsions here, and you will be reminded that you are not alone.
If you don’t have OCD, you will get a sense of some of the obsessions and compulsions that can occupy the life of someone with the disorder.

Obsessions rated at 5

  • An accident, illness or injury happening to someone else
  • Causing harm to others through my own negligence or carelessness
  • Doubt about whether or not I have harmed or injured others in the past
  • Bodily waste or secretions
  • Perfectly understanding what I have read
  • Perfectly communicating my thoughts through writing
  • Questioning whether I have told the truth perfectly
  • Questioning whether others perfectly understand what I have said
  • Doubting my faith or beliefs
  • Fears of having acted sinfully or unethically
  • Wanting to do, think or say everything (or certain things) perfectly
  • Wanting to know everything about a specific subject or topic

Obsessions rated at 4

  • Dirt or grime
  • Grease or greasy items
  • Sticky substances
  • Repetitive questions which are unimportant or for which there are no answers
  • Excessive awareness of normal bodily functioning (breathing, eyes blinking, heartbeat, etc.)
  • Being rejected by a loved one
  • Being deliberately sinful or blasphemous

Compulsions rated at 5

  • Handling or cooking food
  • Using public restrooms
  • Electrical appliances
  • Stoves
  • Light switches
  • My paperwork or writing for errors
  • Reading or rereading every word in a document to avoid missing anything
  • Rewriting or writing over numbers or letters to make them perfect
  • Questioning others, or my own memory, to determine if I have harmed or insulted someone (recently or in the past)
  • Collecting or removing objects from the environment that could harm others
  • Having difficulty using sharp objects
  • Checking on the whereabouts of others to be certain that harm has not come to them
  • Trying to limit the activities of others to prevent harm from happening to them
  • Repeatedly warning others of potential harm or danger
  • Saving excessive quantities of informational matter (newspapers, old lists, magazines, junk mail, etc.)

Compulsions rated at 4

  • Bathing or showering ritually and/or excessively
  • Avoiding specific people, places or objects that may be contaminated
  • Excessively questioning others about contamination
  • Washing dishes
  • Washing clothing
  • Driving situations (to verify that I did not hit someone or something with a vehicle)
  • Objects dropped accidentally
  • Container tops or lids for closure
  • Remaking decisions to ensure picking the perfect one
  • Moving my body or gesturing in a special way
  • Asking others if they will be safe or if things will turn out well for them