Sunday, August 21, 2011

Logical Brain vs. OCD Brain

It's so easy to backslide. And to make excuses. And to be in free fall before I even know what the hell hit me. I am becoming more adept at putting the brakes on. And it never ceases to amaze me how something that has me at a 95/100 on the ocd fear scale can lose the power to frighten me if I simply encounter something else that puts me into fear mode. That realization is helping me get some perspective on the degree to which ocd has control over my thoughts and feelings.

Blood and anything which looks skin-like are the two things I struggle the most with. Well, those and public areas which are wet. If I am in public and suddenly part of me gets wet, the fear that grips me is crippling. My most recent blood freakout exposures were a used item I ordered and a bag from the grocery store. There was a drop of what could only be (at least in my mind) blood on the ordered item, all rusty and droplet-shaped and there as if to challenge me. And second, what appeared to be a light smearing of blood on the grocery bag. I'm absolutely ashamed of how many groceries I threw away. I can fight a lot of things, but blood isn't one of them. The ordered item also found its way to the trash. This disorder, between cleaning supplies, ruined clothing from cleaning solutions and excessive washing, and things that just don't pass inspection and end up garbage, is a sickening financial burden.

I miss my life. I think of how I used to be, all of the things I used to do. Now, simply getting some sleep is a challenge. I often stay up all night because dealing with the bedtime routine where I simply wash my face and hands and brush my teeth is something which can turn into an hour-long mentally torturous mess if I do the least little thing wrong. And while I know that ERP is the absolute surest way to freedom, it is so counter-intuitive. Instinct is a damn strong thing. We are hard-wired for self-preservation and avoidance of danger. The stupid ocd is sending false messages to the danger centers of my brain, which in turn alert every other part of me, so the whole sensation becomes extremely real. And very powerful. Fighting my whole body as it screams DANGER feels like holding my breath when I need to breathe and expecting that I will receive all the oxygen I need by doing so; there are very real physiological urges there, and my brain doesn't seem to be able to easily make sense of why it should ignore these particular signals. My brain does not know they are false. Well, my logical brain knows they are false, but the part of my brain that is in charge of the fight-or-flight response doesn't know.

Nothing like realizing people have had two babies in the time you've spent mostly inside your house doing nothing at all because you're too afraid you might get contaminated if you do anything else. I think part of me is still waiting for this to go away, just the same way it seemed to sort of happen all at once. I don't believe that will happen, but it sure would be nice.

For now, I fight on.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Another Casualty of OCD

Nearly 10 years ago, I opened an account on eBay. I had no idea what I was doing, but a lot of people I knew were making a few extra bucks selling items there and I thought I'd give it a try. Within a short time, I turned my curiosity into a business with nearly 4,000 customers. That figure still boggles my mind.

The past couple of years have been overtaken by ocd, and just attempting to survive in a somewhat normal life. I didn't sell much of anything on eBay, until the end of last year. When I did, because I was having serious contamination fear issues, I did carrier pick-ups and did not actually go to the post office. Long story short, someone stole packages I put out overnight for our carrier to pick up in the morning, I was not aware of it, and the first I heard about it was through some very angry negative feedback. I did my best to compensate buyers with refunds or replacements, but a couple of people just weren't having it and the negative feedbacks stood.

As a result of the negative feedbacks, eBay's new DSR system, and my low selling volume, my seller account was permanently suspended. After learning this, I opted to close my nearly decade old account with almost 4,000 feedbacks. It no longer exists.

While eBay has become a shady place where I don't want to do business, there is still a part of me that mourns something I once worked so very hard to achieve. If not for ocd, I would have simply gone to the damn post office and there would have been no need to leave my packages out for the carrier to pick up. My customers would have received their items. My account would still have 100% positive feedback, and would still exist. Nearly a decade of effort and work is gone.

And that makes me kind of sad.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Can I Just Stop?

Sometimes, when I start thinking about how normal my life was just three short years ago, I wish so desperately to go back to that time. I wonder if it will ever feel like that again, if it's even possible. My mind wanders to the many people living that way right this very moment, and I wonder, why can't that be me? And then I think...yes, why can't that be me? And I wonder, between my handwashing ritual and the ritual where I need to bleach a spot on the floor over which I opened a piece of mail which seemed especially contaminated, if I could just do it. Is it that simple?

About 8 years ago, I was a smoker. A smoker who had long before decided that she would never smoke as a parent (because mine smoked around me and I was always sick and hated the smell). A smoker who suddenly found herself pregnant after being told it was unlikely to happen. So, after much deliberation on how I would quit, I realized that I was making it much more complicated than it needed to be. And I quit. I literally stopped mid-cigarette and just quit. Done. Was it easy? Oh, for the love of all that is holy, no. By the third day, I seriously thought there was no way in hell I could ever quit for life. But I never touched another cigarette again, not even once.

I wonder sometimes if it is like that, giving up the ocd. Painful, scary, empty in all of the places which used to be filled by old habits...but eventually it becomes normal again. Would it be possible to just do that? Has anyone ever done that?

Of course, logic tells me it has to be possible. Prior to my development of this mind-warping fear of contamination, I did live without all of these restraints on my life. I lived free, outside of this mental cage. I was happy. I did not wash my hands to the point of pain or even bleeding. I did not use so much chemical cleaning solutions that my nails were literally eaten right off. I did not have to wash shoes before entering the house, only to remove them anyhow. I did not check everyone I came into contact with for signs of contamination. I did not have a fear of opening packages mailed for fear of what kind of contamination might be on or inside of them. There were no "safe" places and "risky" places. And the worst part of going out of the house was poor weather, not the 3+ hour ritual to get back in the house.

I've never tried this. I've attempted it in bits and pieces, but never with full level commitment to doing it. Typically, it just takes one small sign of potential contamination to send me spiraling instantly into a cleaning frenzy which lasts hours and leaves my hands painfully raw and often bleeding. I just keep trying to imagine my mother, and all of the pointless stupid shit she did - all in vain - to appease her own ocd. None of us did those things, and strangely, we were cleaner and healthier than she was. It's amazing, that. The ocd rituals tend to bring more risk than just living.

I fucking hate this disorder. It takes everything. And while it is possible to get one's life back, I deeply resent the fact that I have to struggle painfully with shit that is completely normal for everyone else.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


The jist of my former lost post was this:

The goal is not the absence of fear, but the acceptance that things can happen and that life goes on anyway.

Living my life in fear of what might happen is not living my life. These things may never come to fruition. Or they might. But either way, giving in to ocd means trading the possibility of something undesirable happening for guaranteed misery.

Acceptance. Not the absence of risk, but the healthy acceptance of healthy levels of risk. Yes, a few shitty things happened to me a couple of years ago. Some of them could not be prevented with any level of effort on my part. The things that could have been prevented required no extraordinary risk avoidance, I just failed to do the bare minimum. I put myself in a situation that was very likely to end up badly (not by ocd standards, but by actual standards). And considering the level of risk, what happened was pretty mild. The fallout was not, but that was all ocd.

Yes, my intellect works just fine. But the other part of my brain, the one which operates on more primal urges like fear, is having a much more difficult time catching on.

Acceptance. That is my mantra. Reasonable risk. Acceptance. Not absence of fear. Just acceptance.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Would You Like Scabs With That?

Oh, ocd, you tricky bastard.

It's become clear to me time and again that ocd does not want me to enjoy my life. It's like having a bully 24/7. Mostly, I am regaining control, but there are times when all hell breaks loose. One of those times was Monday, when some clothing items I ordered from a favorite store arrived in the mail. I opened the package, thoroughly (to the point of ridiculous) inspected each item, and placed them in the "safe" pile. And then it happened.

As I was unfolding a pair of pants, something was inside of the last fold which looked exactly like a chunk of scab picked off of a wound. I froze, broke into an instead sweat, and felt paralyzed with fear. Of course, everything in the bag was then considered contaminated, and every item was returned. I have no idea what that actually was, but it was disgusting. My ocd tells me there aren't many things which look exactly like a scab, but in reality I'm sure there was a perfectly logical explanation. But ocd wouldn't have it. I will not be able to order again from that store for a very long time.

(Edit: this entry was about three times as long, but when I published it, Blogger ate the rest of my f#%king post. I'm not pleased. I'm also not re-writing it, because I spend enough of my life redoing shit because of the goddamn ocd. I'm not doing it here, too.)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Band-Aid Success

My kitchen is clean. Boxes are dealt with as they arrive.

And today I removed a band-aid which has been in place since 2009. I cried the tears of a person being released from prison. Because, in a way, I was.

My progress hasn't been without difficult days, nor has it been particularly fast, but it continues to move forward.

Oh how my brain craves certainty. But nothing in life is certain, except possibly that one can drive oneself mad seeking it.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Some Big Stuff

Typically, when groceries come into the house, it is mandatory that they (the containers) are cleaned with bleach. This results in a nasty bleach odor, runny nose, and raw or even bleeding hands and fingers. But even soap was not acceptable. Well, no more. I started with washing just half of the groceries with soap, the other half with bleach. Now, I am washing pretty much everything with regular soap. Eventually, I would like not to wash my groceries at all, but this is huge progress.

In addition, I am now no longer using gloves to handle the laundry. At all. And while that went easier than I expected, I had a really difficult step backwards immediately after. I found something on my daughter's pants that I was sure was something awful. I went on a massive cleaning spree after that, including discarding the pants. Not proud of that. And it totally took the joy right out of my accomplishment (I have not handled all of the laundry glove-free in approximately a year and a half).

I am beginning to feel present again in my life. I'm not where I want to be, but I am feeling happier. I am beginning to enjoy things I used to enjoy before I hit rock bottom. I spent hours today listening to music and singing, and even dancing with my son. It was great. Smiling genuinely feels so good!

There is still the matter of my not leaving the house in quite some time. Oh, I have plenty of excuses, but none of them really justify it. The difference now is that I really would like to go out, and I am nowhere near as fearful as I was before. The weather just really sucks.

Oh, and I don't have nail fungus. I have nail psoriasis. Heh. Either way, my nails look like shit. One of these days I will polish them and take yet another step toward feeling like my former self. Not there yet, but working on it.