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.


  1. Yeah, I wish it would just go away like it came.
    And I like your description of how hard to ignore ocd "danger" signals is. Keep going!

  2. I am so sorry you are having such a difficult time. You describe so well the anguish that you feel, though of course I'd rather be reading about your successes......I have posted a link to your blog on my blog...actually thought I had done that already, but see that I hadn't.

    You are in my thoughts....and I am glad to hear you are still "fighting on"!

  3. Wow! i've been reading your blog and you are a great story teller!

    I've tried to comment on yr blog before but couldn't because i could only do it under anonymous, which you didn't have. I have finally figured out the problem and so i'll introduce myself. I'm karin and i live in Ontario, Canada. I had a baby a few yrs ago and with her came this contamination brand of ocd. I knew i had ocd tendencies- checking out the rearview mirror or retracing my route if i bumped over something i didn't recognize- but had no idea that i'd had pure o at different times in my life. I couldn't figure out where the thots came from or why they refused to leave for years at a time. Well, now i know. OCD. i used to be able to do laundry without cleaning the machines each time or showering afterwards. I used to be able to have a shower in less than 20+ minutes. I used to be able to wash my hands without it becoming a 20 min problem. Now i have a great therapist and some good meds in my system and am working on reclaiming my life back.

    OCD is a most frustrating illness. The worst of which is that i don't LOOK ill, so no one can tell. This has it's good and bad points. So while i try and do things that 5 yrs ago were a no-brainer (like doing laundry) now they are a major deal and when i finally get a bit of life back, i am also sooo proud of my self but who are you gonna tell???? Who wants to know (besides close family and therapist & bloggers) that i can touch my mailbox without fear now? So my hearty and heartfelt congradulations to your accomplishments against ocd (the air conditioner guy at the house).

    I havent' read all of your posts yet, so i don't know if you are taking meds for this. If so, maybe you need a change or new dosage? I was on one drug for a year and thot that was all that could be helped and when i saw a new psychiatrist (we'd moved) he put me on a different drug and the difference was just amazing. I didn't know it could be better, so i never told my old psych. that it wasn't working well- because i thot it was. It was 'better' than nothing. It didn't stop everything. Now i have to do that erp stuff.

    I read some of your blog to my husband ( the air conditioner guy story) and he said it sounded like i wrote it -except it wasn't the air conditioner guy at my house. In fact, nowadays i still have to leave the house and let dh deal with the repair guys. if i'm not there, unless i SEE a mess, i can believe everything is ok. I remember wiping down the door handles, posts etc. years ago when the first repair guy came to the house after i 'caught' this contamination brand of ocd.

    I too have a 'colour' problem. Mine is black. A black spot means mouse droppings or mold. If it is on clothes it is mold and anything the item touches must be washed of with vinegar (my bleach of choice). Unless of course i recognise the stain as paint or a marker on dd's shirt. I threw out a few towels last week because they had black spots on them and then had to dispose of the 'ocd-dirty' garbage bag. Then clean up the garbage can, the floor around it. Big job. Blech. Black on the floor or in a drawer is mouse droppings. Well i'm getting better at realizing they are just fuzz off our cheap sox, or dead insects. We live in the country, so thank goodness i'm not ocd-ish about bugs all over the house. I can now tidy up the carpet of all toys and stuff without having to shower because i ''might have' touched something black and unidentified. Unidentifiable black markings in a book could be either mildew or mice. Esp. a library book. It took years before i was comfortaable going to a library and borrowing their books. But a black mark can still send the anxiety skyrocketing thru me. And then i go wash my hands :( and stay away from that spot and keep reading. :)

  4. People whom have never dealt with OCD really don't understand the whole "logical brain" and "ocd brain". They really just don't get it. I do, however. I'm sorry you are suffering. It really truly is pretty crappy.