December 27, 2011

ERP is derailed by major family issues and disappointments.

How many of you would say that you have a “happy family”?  I mean, no family is perfect – but how many of you would say that overall – your family is pretty normal and healthy?  I’m curious to know.  And – to add to that – I’m not sure what “healthy” means either so it will be interesting to see your comments about this. 

I just had THE MOST horrible Christmas EVER.  But, I also had a few real “light bulb” moments, and I actually – weirdly enough – feel pretty free. 

I’ve written in the past about my family dysfunction.  And it has just gotten substantially worse in the last two months since my Mom died.  I’ve written about how my Mom is the “rock” of the family.  Well, never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined how much my life would change without the influence of my Mom. 

My Dad and I have always had issues.  I don’t know why.  We mix like oil and water.  I don’t like what he stands for, and I think I intimidate him because he is a HUGE bully......and I actually stand up to him.  For as long as I can remember – I have been scared of my Dad.  But I’ve never actually been able to figure out why exactly.  What exactly is it – as an adult – that he could do to me?  My Dad and I have had MAJOR disputes – one that actually resulted in me asking him and my Mom to leave my house.  I didn’t speak to them for over three weeks.  He wrote me an “apology” letter saying how much he loved me and a bunch of other crap. 

I have no idea what it looks like to be in a “healthy” family.  Which, I’m sure is one of the reasons I have ROCD and HOCD.  What does that even look like?  And how – as someone who hasn’t had “healthy” modelled to me as a child – do I even learn how to “do” healthy??????  Anyway – I digress. 

Everything that has transpired between me and my family in the last few months could fill a thousand page novel, and is WAY to much to write about here.  The details would take many posts.  I am tempted to do that though – so you get the full affect of what has actually occurred so that you understand why I actually did what I did in the end.  I just don’t have the energy for that now though.  Sorry.  (So OCD of me!)

It started with my father informing me about a week before Christmas that we would not be allowed to mourn Mom over the holidays.  That Christmas was to be a “happy time” and nothing else.  Interesting.  So – this is the first Christmas without my dear, giving, wonderful mother, and we are not allowed to feel sad. 

But the major issue that happened is that on Christmas Eve – with about 15 guests over at our house – my sister-in-law informed me that my Dad was officially in an intimate relationship with a supposed “friend” of my Mom’s (very long back-story here too), and had been for several weeks.  For those of you who aren’t well-versed on the situation THIS MEANS THAT WITHIN ONE MONTH OF MY MOTHER DYING – MY FATHER HAD EMBARKED ON ANOTHER INTIMATE RELATIONSHIP WITH A WOMAN. 

I was crushed.  I had seen it coming like a freight train, but wanted to believe that my father would make better choices than that.  Obviously not.  I then looked at my brother who said to me: “You have a choice.  You can accept it or suffer the consequences.”  REALLY????? Not "I'm sorry - it sucks that you had to find out this way.  I'm sure it's hard for you to hear that." or anything like that.  Just a threat.  Go figure.  He's cut from the exact same cloth as my Dad. 

I removed myself from the situation, and my brother followed me up to my bedroom and proceeded to tell me that I am a drama queen and push everyone away.  What ever gave him the authority to give his “expert” opinion on that – I’ll never know. 

I was beside myself with sadness, anger and disappointment. 

After the company left – my Dad came up and told me for himself.  He confirmed exactly what my sister-in-law told me.  I told my Dad that I wasn’t happy, and that I was very uncomfortable with the situation for many reasons.  He proceeded to lose it and tell me that I could either be happy about him and his new woman – or leave the family. 

That’s the “Coles’ Notes” version.  And really – that’s the important stuff. 

I left my parent’s house on Christmas morning at 6:30 AM.  I left a note for my Dad on the kitchen table, and I went to my Aunt and Uncle’s house. 

You see – for as long as I can remember – this has been my Dad’s M.O.  If I ever confront him about something that is upsetting me – he threatens me.  He threatens to “disown me” or just says “accept it or else”.  No wonder I’m scared of him.  My Dad said to me on Christmas Eve night that I am “too vocal”, “too emotional” and “that I need to learn when to keep my mouth shut”. 

The light bulb finally came on.  I am just not meant to be a part of my family anymore.  I can’t live with my Dad’s veiled threats anymore.  I am sick of being held hostage by his abuse. 

And I am glad to be free. 

I’ve been pretty consumed with emotions though since this happened, and really don’t have the emotional energy for ERP.  I realize I need to get back at it – but I think I will wait until next week.  I have a session with my therapist next week (though I emailed him and let him know what has transpired) and wow – I have A LOT to plod through here. 

But I feel free!!!!  I feel free from my Dad and sibling’s threats!  They can no longer control me!  And it feels so good. 

My Dad has never acknowledged my OCD.  But he always conveniently calls me the one with the “emotional problems” when I don’t properly fit into his nice little box of expectations.  It’s so funny – because my sister has gone to therapy for over 15 years but for some reason she still has credibility in his eyes.  Not sure why. 

I am angry.  And sad.  And oh so disappointed.  And I have moments where I doubt myself and think “what am I doing to contribute to this relationship?  What have I done to make him treat me like this?”  But I just have to turn to my good friends and they quickly remind me that I HAVE DONE NOTHING TO DESERVE this. 

I’ll probably write more about this later.    

December 23, 2011

Mid-Week Update

Just a quick update.  This week has been going really well!!!  I have been doing my ERP scripts almost everyday.  I had my therapy session yesterday and my therapist said that after a few weeks something will "click" in your mind and the stuff that my mind comes up with shouldn't bother me as much.  Well - I THINK it's working!  (knock on wood!!)

I'm sure it's a combination of a few things:  determination, regular ERP, "time of the month" (ie: NOT pms), and a number of other external factors. I am also trying to be very mindful of not enjoying it too much.  This too shall pass, and I am sure I will be faced with some OCD challenges soon.  Especially because I'm going to my Dad's house for Christmas and being around my family is ALWAYS very stressful. 

I'll take it for now.  I'm sitting on my couch enjoying sipping on a coffee and Bailey's just before I have to go get ready for work.  I think the key to maintaining some of my gains is to be consistent and continue to do my ERP with every opportunity that I have. 

I've been reading a book called "The Mindful way through Anxiety" (I think I mentioned it in a previous post?) which is great.  I've highlighted a number of words that have provided me some great insight, and I will write some of those down soon. 

This Christmas is going to be a very difficult one for me - the first Christmas without my Mom.  Last night I had several dreams about her - some with her well and happy - others with her sick and dying.  I will get through it but it's not easy. 

I hope everyone has a peaceful and relaxing time for the next little while

December 20, 2011

An OCD Concept I struggle with.

I’ve done pretty well facing a lot of stuff lately.  I’m feeling pretty motivated and determined.  But these days – with the holiday season – I am feeling pretty down.  I’m lonely.  When I think of last Christmas – it was spent with my Mom and Dad and my ex-boyfriend and my brother and family.  I don’t think I’ve had a single Christmas without my Mom.  I really just want these next couple of weeks to be over so that I can “start fresh” with 2012. 

I’ve started a “wins” check list to help keep myself motivated, because I’m certain that I also suffer from SAD.  I get to put a tick on my checklist every time I do one of the positive things that I’ve listed....things like “eating a healthy breakfast”, “doing ERP”, “taking the dog for a walk” and “spending time with friends”.  My goal is to be able to tick ten things off per day.  I’m sure I’ll get there. 

Despite the fact that I’m doing a lot of ERP, I am still struggling to let myself go there with the anxiety and other feelings (depression etc).  I find that frustrating.  In fact, to be completely honest, I find it very discouraging. 

The other thing that I am struggling with BIG TIME is my compulsion to “analyze and figure out”.  This compulsion - in my opinion is the hardest thing to stop doing.  What’s behind this NEED to analyze and figure things out?  The MASSIVE FEAR that I’m in denial and that I should not be in therapy for OCD, but instead for gay denial and other psychological issues.  That unless I quit CBT and ERP and go to a psychoanalyst,  I will NEVER get better, because even though I might have OCD, there are real reasons for this anxiety and that I will continue to struggle and be unhappy for the rest of my life. 

This is a really tough one for me because it seems like whenever anyone struggles emotionally in life – no matter what the problem – people are always so quick to blame it on their past (usually family upbringing and experience).  Whenever people on television or the media speak of “therapy” they speak of psychoanalytic therapy – not CBT/ERP.  I can’t deny that I have a dysfunctional family and that my up-bringing was less-than-ideal.  I don’t really have a lot of respect for my Dad.  I’m sure there are many people who would say that I have “Daddy issues”.  And my OCD is VERY quick to tell me that unless I solve those issues FIRST – I’ll continue to struggle with heterosexual relationships and someday I’ll just get fed up and say “to hell with it – I’m becoming a lesbian”. 

Stopping “analyzing and figuring things out” feels COMPLETELY against what the rest of the world does in order to grow and progress emotionally in life.  Isn’t that EXACTLY what other people DO in therapy????  It feels like a BIG RISK to not do this.  In fact, by not doing this, I feel like I am PURPOSELY telling myself to "stay in denial" and that just FEELS WRONG AND SCARY.  So on the rare times that I do say to myself "I don't need to figure this out right now", the next thing my OCD screams at me is "Denial!  Denial!  Why wouldn't you want to get to the bottom of this??? You really are in denial!!"  Ugh. 

“Analyzing and Figuring Out” is such a habit and part of me that very often I don’t even notice that I’m doing it.  I analyze EVERYTHING – not even things related to my OCD.  I suppose it’s just another word for ruminating.  I HATE IT.  This compulsion is what fills up my mind and drags me down.  I don’t even know how to stop doing it to be honest. 

Does anyone have any comments about this compulsion and how you stopped? 

December 18, 2011

Acceptance & OCD

Brief ERP update:  I went to my friend’s party last night – the one where the lesbian was supposed to make an appearance.  I was actually quite calm, because I was determined.  But – I felt “weird” the whole night.  I stayed for almost six hours.  I was sooo tired.  She didn’t show up.  I finally left.  I don’t know if she showed up after I left or not.  Then this morning, I realized that I left my purse at my friend’s house.  So I texted her and asked if I could swing by to pick it up.  Of course my mind said to me: “I wonder if she will be at A’s house when you go to pick up your purse? Maybe it’s fate – you were meant to meet her.”  I purposely DID NOT ask my friend if anyone was at her house and I went anyway.  No one was there.  There is a part of me that wishes that A’s friend showed up last night.  I wanted to put some of my determination into practice.  The thing is – that’s not really the point of ERP I don’t think.  The point of ERP is to live your life in the way that you normally would without doing any safety behaviours.  I will have another opportunity to not avoid a party because a lesbian may be attending I am sure.  I will just have to wait for next time. 

Anyway.....

When I started doing my ERP scripts, my therapist said to me that I may start to feel depressed and sad.  I really think that I’ve been doing quite well this week with disciplining myself and making the choice in the moment to do the opposite of what my OCD wants me to do – at least most of the time.  But I still have a really long way to go. 

I think one of the concepts that I have struggled with is the notion that in order to not struggle with OCD, I am going to have to make the difficult (sometimes it feels almost impossible!) choice to turn towards the anxiety and other yucky feelings.  It’s kinda like that saying “short term pain for long term gain”.  There are times when I start to feel sorry for myself that I was dealt the “OCD cards”.  There are days when I am depressed that in order to be healthy and happy, I have to continuously and consistently put myself in uncomfortable situations.  Some days I really just want a break, and want things to be easy.  The other day I was reminded of a line in a song....I think it’s by Cold Play....”nobody said it would be easy”.  So true.  And I think even more true for those of us who have OCD. 

For some people who have OCD and have gone through ERP - they seem to not struggle anymore.  I wonder if that will ever happen to me.  I suppose I need to accept that it might not.

Ann from The Beat OCD Blog wrote about acceptance on one other blog posts last week.  It got me thinking – what exactly do I have to face/accept about my OCD themes in order to get better?  Do I have to accept that I may actually be a lesbian in denial?  Do I have to accept that someday, despite the fact that I meet and man and have a relationship, that I might suddenly find myself in love with a woman or even another man (one of my ROCD themes)? 


December 15, 2011

OCD Fights back with a "one-two punch"

I think I’ve been doing fairly well lately with really taking an active role in fighting to beat my OCD.  I really am just fed up with it all.  But wow – OCD is stealthy.  It has a way of really hitting you with surprise attacks.   

I hate how I can be doing really well, on a great roll with exposures, and really feeling like I am gaining some control over my life and the situation.  I can always tell when that is happening because I have time and energy for exercise.  I went to the gym for my first time in weeks the other day.  It felt really good.  I start thinking about how maybe, just maybe there is a light at the end of the dark, dark tunnel.  Maybe there actually is hope for a life where I have control over OCD, not vice versa. 

First of all I want to tell you what I’ve been doing for ERP.  Everyday I’ve had to write a detailed script about the fact that I really am a lesbian and I am in denial and one day, after failing over and over again in heterosexual relationships, I am going to meet another lesbian and the sky is going to open up and we are going to fall deeply in love and everything is going to make sense and all the OCD thoughts and doubts are going to wash away.  It hasn’t been easy, but after the first few days I started to find it not so bad.  However, yesterday I had a session with my therapist, and I did say to him that I'm finding it really hard to go to a really graphic place.  To really let myself ramp up the details and hence, the anxiety and discomfort.  He replied that it will happen.  To just be patient. 

Something else happened with my therapist yesterday too though.  He said something that triggered me.  Has this ever happened to anyone?  If so – I’m curious to know how you handled it. 

Here's what happened:  I was explaining to my therapist that I’m getting really good at facing the thoughts, and writing it down on paper is a great exercise because it helps to create distance, while still looking at the thoughts that I’m having.  I suppose that’s really the epitome of mindfulness.  My therapist agreed, that the first step is accepting that I’m having the thoughts.  He then said: “After you accept that you’re having the thoughts, you can then decide if they require psychoanalysis.”

Huh??????????

This sent my OCD on a tangent.  What?????  What does he mean by that?  After all our sessions that I’ve expressed my doubts that perhaps I’m in the wrong kind of therapy.  Maybe I REALLY AM A LESBIAN IN DENIAL AND THEREFORE I SHOULD BE IN PSYCHOANALYSIS.  He says that.  My OCD went crazy.  See – he does think there’s a possibility that you’re a lesbian.  He thinks you should be going to psychoanalysis.  He sees that you clearly have issues that he can’t help you with.”  My anxiety sky-rocketed.  So I asked him if he meant to trigger me.  He had no idea what I was talking about, so I explained it to him.  He replied to me with some response (to be honest – I was so anxious that I don’t even remember what he said.).  After our session, I emailed him and told him that I was still obsessing about what he said to me and gave him my rationale.  He replied with (and I’m paraphrasing) “you will need to learn to live with the uncertainty about what I’m thinking.”

Ugh.  It’s true.  I know that.  But it’s soooooo hard. 

I did manage to go on with my day though, and attend a concert with some friends and basically put it out of my mind.  At least for the time being. 

Then, last night OCD hit me out of nowhere, when I least expected it, when I was my most vulnerable......in my sleep.  I think that is the WORST thing OCD can do to me – is hit me in my sleep.  I think I’ve written before about having lesbian-themed dreams while sleeping.  It really is the worst.  A lot of times I can’t remember what actually occurred during the dream, all I know is that I wake up in a panic.  I usually can remember small snippets like a woman seduced me, or I was at a gay bar (for what reason???) or a woman was kissing me.  Last night I think what was happening is that I decided to actually experiment with a woman because at one point I said to her that I didn't want to continue anymore!  Ugh - it's HORRIBLE.  I literally wake up sweating, my heart racing and breathing like I just ran a marathon.  And right away the thoughts start:  OMG – did you enjoy that?  Why are you having dreams like that?  What does it mean?”.  HELL.  And I try sooooo hard to remember exactly what happened in the dream.  I’m sure you all know how futile that is. 

I realize this is all part of recovery....learning to live with not knowing what this stuff means.  Learning to be able to tolerate uncertainty.....for me in the area of my sexuality. 

THIS IS HELL. 

But it’s what I must do.  I emailed my therapist this morning and he is very supportive.  “Keep up the good work” he says.  I’m telling you, this morning all I wanted to do was crawl into a hole and stay there all day. 

December 12, 2011

Ramping up the ERP

I just got through another hellish PMS time.  I go through it every six weeks or so, and every single time it feels like hell.  I don't know why - when it arrives - I can't just accept it, let it be there and know that "this too shall pass".  Then, one day it just gets better.....drives me nuts. 

Does anyone else notice that their anxiety is so much worse in the mornings?  Geez – some days it is all I can do to just get up out of bed.  As soon as I am conscious enough to be “awake” my mind starts racing.  In fact – I think it starts before that. 

Anyway, after struggling for a few days, after a few really great days, my therapist thought it was time to ramp up the ERP and really kick OCD in the teeth.  So, he had me write an exposure script during our therapy session.  It was really hard!  But also felt soooo good to really slam OCD.  So, my homework for this week is to write a different exposure script every day and email it to my therapist (accountability).  I think it’s exactly the type of ERP that really hits home for me. 

And.....the other day, Lolly from “Lolly’s Hope Blog” commented that she saw an episode of “Say Yes to the Dress” that was about awoman with OCD, so I decided to check it out.  I didn’t find that episode, but during my search on my PVR, I found an episode about a lesbian couple who were getting married.  I taped it.  I’m going to watch it tonight. 

So, the good news is that I’m doing fairly well.  I’m almost scared to write that because I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop so-to-speak. 

December 5, 2011

Two steps forward.....and one small step back.

I had a really good week last week.  I faced a number of exposures - felt VERY anxious, but got through it and actually got to see the "other side"!  Here's what happened:

1. My cousin writes a blog as well, but her blog is to promote her developing wellness retreat.  Lately, her blog posts have been about the grieving process, since she is not only grieving the recent loss of her Auntie (my mom), but the loss of her father a couple of years ago.  A few days ago, she wrote a beautiful post that mentioned my Mom, and I commented on the post.  NOT REALIZING that my name would AUTO FILL as Pure O Canuck.  I published my comment as Pure O Canuck, and then went to bed.  The next morning I woke up to a text from my cousin that said: "You're Pure O Canuck? I had no idea!".  I just about vomited.  Due to my carelessness, I was "outed" to my cousin!  Not exactly how I would want her to a) find out that I have OCD, and b) find out the theme of my OCD!  Not only that, I write this blog (mostly) annonymously, for very good reason.  This blog is like a diary to me - extremely personal.  Only my ex-boyfriend knows about my blog, and though at the beginning, I didn't plan on keeping it annonymous, I really do like the fact that I can write anything I want and not have to worry about any of my close friends or family reading it. 

Soooooo......I was VERY anxious when I found out that not only had my cousin found out about my blog and that I had OCD, but that I was basically advertising to the REST of my family (they read her blog too) that I am Pure O Canuck!!!  Anyway - I wrote to my cousin and asked her to remove the comment.  I also explained to her that my blog was like my diary and I really didn't want people that I knew reading it.  She was fantastic - and completely understood. 

That being said - DO I KNOW FOR SURE that she's not reading my blog?  Nope.  DO I KNOW FOR SURE what she THINKS about finding out that I have OCD?  NOPE.  We didn't discuss it.  What needs discussing?  I need to live with the uncertainty of not knowing.  (If you're reading dear cousin - I love ya.  LOL.)

2. My good friends A & Y have been talking lately about inviting some of their friends up to our town for a little get together.  The thing is - one of these friends is a lesbian.  Last week - my friend emailed me and invited me over for the little get together.  Normally, I wouldn't have gone.  No way.  OCD started barking at me: "They think you're gay and they are trying to set you up."  Despite those thoughts thous, I said YES.  Just saying yes was exposure enough!!!  The party is in a couple of weeks, and no matter what - I will be going.  I am terrified though. 

For several days, I felt like I had fantastic control over my OCD.  Those quotes that I wrote in my last blog post went through my head so many times.  I reminded myself of the choice that I can make in that SPLIT SECOND that will either help me gain control over my OCD or continue to let OCD control me.  AND I DID IT.  MANY TIMES!!!  Yesterday though - something happened that has stuck with me and it is really bugging me.  Here's the story:   

I have had one of my best friends visiting me from out of town for the last few days.  She's married and has two kids.  Of ourse, one of my fears - since I am almost 40 years old and single - is that most of my friends think I'm gay.  Another fear - connected to that fear is that I am in denial, and that all these people around me think I'm gay and that someday I'm going to come out of the closet and everyone is going to say "I knew it!".  So.......somehow - on Saturday night - my friend and I got into the discussion about someone that she thought is gay, but actually isn't.  I said "maybe she's bi-sexual".  Anyway - she told me that one of her friends in her home town is bi-sexual, and I made a comment "maybe I'll decide to be with a woman someday" (exposure for me saying that!).  My friend reacted kind of funny.  She didn't say "yeah right - you???" or anythig like that.  She kind of said "Yeah - maybe you will".  Of course since then I've been obsessing about the fact that she really does think I'm a lesbian!!!  I have been resisting the urge to ask her, and also resisting the urge to talk TOO MUCH about men etc etc.  But now I kind of feel as though she's testing me.  I'm obsessing.  I know it.  And I'm struggling to let it go.  I've tried to remind myself that I have to live with the uncertainty.  Maybe she does, maybe she doesn't.  But either way - what does she know anyway?  I am trying so DARN HARD to let go of the spinning and AMAZINGLY STRONG DESIRE to find certainty about this.  Does she think I'm gay?  I suppose I'll never know.  I'm sure if I asked her - she would probably lie to me - if she thought I really was gay.  But my OCD keeps saying to me "maybe she knows something you don't.  You better investigate this further." 

My friend left today and hopefully as time passes this obsession will go away.  At least until I see her in the spring when we meet each other in Palm Springs for our 40th birthdays.  Hmmmm....Palm Springs - a "gay mecca" - maybe I "subconsciously" chose Palm Springs because I knew that it's a great gathering place for gay people.  Maybe SHE thinks that too.  Oh well.  Somehow I have to find a way to live with that. 

P.S.  Just publishing this blog post is an exposure for me because I still don't know if my cousin knows the theme of my OCD, and if she is by chance reading this blog, or anyone else from my family who inadvertantly found out that I'm Pure O Canuck - they will know now!!! 

November 25, 2011

OCD & Motivation

I don't really have a full blog post....just a few things to "comment" on. 

Lately I've been feeling very un-motivated to fight my OCD.  I don't know what it is - just the stress that I've been under lately or maybe it's just the fact that I STILL DON'T WANT TO ACCEPT THAT I HAVE OCD.  I don't know. 

The other day I discussed this issue with my therapist.  Basically since we've started working together last spring, I've been "dabbling" in ERP.  Nothing too extreme, and certainly on days when I found the anxiety difficult - I would want to back off. 

Which leads me to believe that I just haven't had the right attitude.  Maybe I really am not ready to face these fears head-on.  Like I said to my therapist on Wednesday - "My OCD isn't going to go away suddenly from this epiphany that we have in session."  Nor am I going to find the magic drug that takes it all away.  How I will overcome and learn to manage my OCD is by purposely, courageously and adamantly making the choice - in every minute and every second of my day - to face my fears and NOT do what my OCD wants me to do. 

So last night I set out on a quest to find some motivation.  I know that reading "helpful" books definitely keeps me motivated.  (Right now I'm reading "The Mindful Way through Anxiety".) I also know that it is helpful to look at my "wins".  While doing some research on the web, I also found these two quotes:

"You cannot solve a problem with the same mind that created it." - Albert Einstein

"Between stimulus and response there is a space.  In that space is the power to choose our response.  In our response lies our growth and freedom." - Victor Frankl

So these are the things that I am going to do in order to mindfully motivate myself:

1. Create an acceptance script (as per homework from therapist).
2. Continue reading helpful, educational books.
3. Keep a log of "unhealthy" behaviours (compulsions and other reactions such as eating junk food, not exercising etc), and then keep track of all of my "wins". 
4. Remind myself of these two quotes as needed. 

It's amazing how many times today I had to remind myself of that Einstein quote.  It really hit home with me.  How can I expect things to change if I'm going to continue doing the same thing????  OCD isn't suddenly going to go away.  One other thing - I have to remember to have compassion for myself.  Something else I am working on. 

I would love to hear how you stay motivated to fight your OCD......

November 21, 2011

Book Review: "Present Perfect"

I am not sure where I found out about the book “Present Perfect” by Pavel Somov.  I read it for the first time a few months ago and so much of it resonated with me, I knew right away that I would write about it on my blog.  Since then, I’ve read it two more times, and I really feel like I could probably read it another three times as a good reminder, and a way to gain some inspiration and motivation.    

The premise the author takes with perfectionism is that it applies mostly to people with Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder.  This is probably the only thing about the book that bothered me.  Why is it that so many people – professionals included – assume that if you are a perfectionist, you have OCPD?  Why do people assume that we actually ENJOY being perfectionists?  Anyway – that was my small critique and rant.  Aside from that “miss” – I would say that Pavel Somov characterizes people with perfectionism very well.  At least he described me very well. 

“Present Perfect” is a self-help book that provides a mindfulness approach to letting go of perfectionism and the need for control.  The book discusses inwardly focused perfectionism, and outwardly focused perfectionism, and offers small exercises in each chapter. 

Here are some exercises and quotes that really struck me as being helpful:

For “approval hungry perfectionism” the exercise What’s Eating Me? With the quote:  Ask yourself: Whose stamp of approval am I striving for and why?.......Then ask yourself: Who promoted this person/these people to this special status?  How did they earn such clout, such influence in my life?”

By rejecting the perfection of the present, you’re also rejecting the perfection of the past.  When you reject what is, it’s because you think that a given slice of reality could have been better.  You believe that what happened didn’t have to happen and what didn’t happen should have.  This kind of thinking is a false vision of history in which you believe that there could have been two equally likely versions of events:  the one that actually took place and an alternative one, a better one that should have taken place.  As a perfectionist, you believe that this alternative version of history had the same (if not even better) odds of taking place as the actual version of history.  As a result you feel frustrated, befallen by misfortune, and unlucky.”

Guilt vs. Regret – Exercise: Shrug Off Undue Responsibility – Next time you feel guilty, do guilt check.  Rule out malice by asking yourself, “Did I do something that I wasn’t supposed to do, or did I not do something that I was supposed to do?”  Once you conclude that you didn’t do anything wrong (even though something unfortunate did happen as a result of your participation), shrug off the feeling of undue responsibility.  Think “It’s a matter of regret, not guilt.”  Remind yourself that you did the best you could in a  given situation.  If your best wasn’t good enough for a successful outcome, then that’s just how it is.  The situation is regrettable, but nothing more.  Say: “I regret that my efforts weren’t enough, and I’m very sorry that you’re upset.” (the sorry here conveys compassion, not an apology.)

As a perfectionist, you are guilt prone and thus vulnerable to exploitation.  A guilt-trip is when somebody sells you on a particular should or shouldn’t, and off you go on a journey of guilt avoidance.  Just because somebody else thinks that you should do something, that doesn’t mean that that you must.  You don’t have a responsibility to take their should and make them yours.  Let’s say somebody’s trying to shame you and guilt-trip you into helping them.  Tell them no.  Dispute any residual guilt by reminding yourself that there is nothing morally or ethically wrong with your own pursuit of well-being at the moment.  After all, your well-being is no less important than theirs.”

*The last sentence is HUGE for me.*

A choice is an act of conscious selection of one of two or more options.  The option you select is the one you prefer.  Thus, a choice is an expression of preference.  Any choice is.  Even if you are choosing between two very bad options. “

Each should masks a want.  Let’s say you’re examining the following choice: to read or to clean.  You think, “I know I should clean the house, but I don’t really want to do that.  I’d rather read a book.  But if I read the book and don’t clean the house, I know I’ll feel guilty later when I look at all this mess.”  As you go back and forth between something you feel  you should do and something that you want to do, you are actually choosing between two wants.  Your no pleasure/no guilt plus possible approval from others for being dutiful (if you clean instead of reading). “ 

Has anyone else read this book?  What did you think? 

November 10, 2011

OCD and Core Beliefs

For those of you who have gone through treatment of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, you will have heard the term “core beliefs”.  In my definition, core beliefs are beliefs about yourself that are deeply rooted and very difficult to change.  The other day, I read another blogger’s post about core beliefs and it really got me thinking.  (You can read the other blogger’s post here.)

Some of the core beliefs that she listed REALLY resonated with me.  In fact, most of them hit home, and it inspired me to print them off, so that I can review them on a regular basis, in order to remind myself that I DON’T have to believe these unhelpful things about myself and the world. ....that I have a CHOICE about what I believe about myself and I have the power to change these things so that I can live a happier, healthier life. 

Things have been particularly difficult for me these days, and many of these core beliefs have been triggered, especially due to the extensive amount of time that I’ve been spending around my family.  I spent over a full week in the same house with my sister, and we ended up having a four and a half hour fight to which there was no resolution.    The dynamics in my family are so unhealthy and complicated that it is impossible to explain it all here, but one of the key patterns that has developed is that my Dad and sister have formed an “alliance”, and my Mom and I stuck together.  My brother, for the most part, stayed out of it all.  Now that my Mom is gone, well.....let’s just say that I feel pretty alone and vulnerable.  My Dad blames me for the issues with my sister (why can’t I just let it go?), and if my sister says the sky is pink – he will automatically start thinking that the sky is pink. 

I’ve always been the more sensitive, emotional person in the family, and that has always bothered my Dad.  I suppose he looks at it as a weakness, though he would never admit that.  Couple that with the fact that I was closest to my Mom of us kids.....and I am really struggling to let go.  She only died over two and a half weeks ago for heaven’s sake!  But my Dad wants to get rid of her things.  He wants to get rid of her clothes, her books and a lot of her other personal items.  I wasn’t ready and this really angered my dad.  I think he looks at me as a “road block” to moving on.  Anyway – all last week my Dad and sister spent time clearing out my Mom’s things.  I’m sure you can imagine how this made me feel. 

On Sunday, the day after my Mom’s memorial service, my sister left to go home and my Dad and I got in a major fight.  I was simply attempting to share with him my feelings about how he was handling getting rid of Mom’s things, and of course it escalated to a very abusive experience.  He yelled, and blamed and criticized and didn’t hear a word I said.  I ended up packing up my things and leaving. 

Things are very bad in my family right now and I hold a lot of the burden of responsibility.  You should have held yourself together – just look at what your Dad is going through.  It’s your fault that things are so bad with your family.”  “You should forgive your sister for what she did to your Mom.  It’s over.  Your Dad can let it go, why can’t you?” “What’s wrong with you that you can’t understand where your Dad is coming from?”  When I left my parent’s house on The Island on Sunday I thought that I couldn’t care less if I ever saw my Dad again.  Or my sister.  Right now I am trying to just be quiet, focus on myself and take a break from them all.  I feel bad that my Dad is going through such a difficult time facing his life all alone after having my Mom around for 49 years.  I feel responsible for helping him through this.  And I know he is still very angry with me. 

Here are some of the Core Beliefs that really resonated with me:

I have to please other people all the time,
I have to put others first or they will reject me,
if I argue or disagree, people will not like me,
If I upset someone, I am a bad person,
If someone criticizes me, they must be right. 




November 2, 2011

Attitude and OCD


I’ve been feeling sorry for myself lately, and I hate when I feel sorry for myself.  But “hating” the feeling of self-pity doesn’t make matters any better, does it? 

One thing I’ve really noticed that fluctuates for me is my attitude towards getting up every day and battling my OCD and depression.  I find that when I am positively sick and tired of it all and am truly able to say to myself “I don’t care anymore if I become a man-hating lesbian – come get me!” – things miraculously change.  I suppose I am garnering the resolve to TRULY fight back.  And what is interesting, is that the horrible, sick feeling, and yucky rumination almost completely disappear. 

In all honesty though – most of the time my attitude is more one of “Ugh – I don’t think I can handle another day like this.”  At least that’s how it has been lately.  And that definitely isn’t an attitude of acceptance. 

How do I change that?  On one hand I feel like it’s not helpful to be coming from a “victim place”, but on the other hand I feel like it’s helpful to accept my feelings just as they are and not try and change them.  This is all very confusing for me.  Does anyone else have any helpful advice on this?

Someone wrote something on a message board (yes – in my OCD, depression desperation I was reading message boards – which – has been rare for me these days) that I found quite poignant and thought-provoking.  They said something like:  Don’t expect there to be a cure for your anxiety.  And recognize and be thankful for every opportunity to grow.  Realize that every storm you weather, and every challenge you meet is a part of the recovery process.”  Wow.  That really shook me. ....because usually for me – I LOVE the times that I am free of OCD and anxiety.  I cherish them greatly.  I feel STRONG, and hopeful and......normal.  And on the day that I have an OCD spike, after a period of peace my thoughts aren’t “Thank you OCD – you are giving me another opportunity to grow.”  My thoughts are more like:  “Really?  Again?  Will this EVER go away?  Will I EVER have peace?  How am I going to get through this?”  And on and on it goes. 

I think it really is about attitude.  But how, how, how, how, HOW do I cultivate that attitude on a daily basis so that I can achieve more progress?????? 

November 1, 2011

OCD & The most stress I've experienced in my entire life.

I need to vent.  And to be honest – I need some validation and support.  You know how they say that OCD gets worse with stress?  Well, that is an understatement.  But you know what?  OCD  – at this moment – is the LEAST of my problems.  On top of all the OCD hell I have going on in my head is the extreme grief I am feeling about losing my mother, and – even worse – all the horrible family dynamics that have taken place since my Mom – the rock of the family – has left us. 

There are enough destructive, unhealthy dynamics in my family to write a psychology text book.  And in the last few weeks it has become extremely evident to me that my dear, sweet mother fulfilled one very important role – she held us all together.  She prevented the proverbial “shit from hitting the fan”.  I don’t know how she did it – but whoa – what a burden to carry your whole life.  And - the shit HAS hit the fan – in record time....my mom has only been dead for eight days.  Though – to be honest – things have been “percolating” for several months now.    

At the moment – I am dealing with two major issues.  The first is my crazy, hypocritical, bullying sister.  (Actually – my brother also used to be a big bully, but he has come to his senses due to some difficult life situations he has had to face recently - one of them being the death of our mom).  My sister and I have had issues for about a year.  And the reasons are FAR too many to get into in this post.  Suffice it to say that – probably due to my OCD – I have done EVERYTHING I can possibly do to avoid conflict with my sister.  (Because what kind of person would I be if I couldn’t work things out in the perfect way, or if I actually hurt her feelings or if I just couldn’t take it anymore and got angry?) But yesterday I reached my breaking point.  I FACED THE BULLY EYE TO EYE.  And it felt REALLY good.  My sister likes to think she’s a psychological expert because she has a masters degree in special education, and because she has been in psychotherapy for over ten years.  Well yesterday I fought fire with fire and threw some psychological terms right back at her.  I called a spade a spade when she tried to say that it was ME who was avoiding connection with her.  Overall – I called her on her bullshit.  And then she cried.  My sister NEVER cries.  But I am so tired of her being mean to me that I didn’t get sucked into feeling guilty.  Honestly – I felt SO GOOD about standing up to her.  I can honestly say that I am proud of the way I have conducted myself towards her and my family in recent times, and I don’t have any regrets.  I went to bed last night feeling exhilarated. 

But of course today I feel guilty and the self-doubt has set in.  Perhaps you were too hard on her.  Did you handle that OK?  Are you really a critical person?  Was it OK that you voiced your opinion on that issue?  Maybe you’re just too judgemental.”  And on and on it goes.  Interestingly, despite all of that – I am SO TIRED of all of her crap that I JUST DON’T CARE IF I’M WRONG.  I will have to live with the guilt and doubt that I’m feeling right now because in all honesty – though I love my sister because she’s my sister – I don’t even really like her as a person. 

The second issue is related to my dad and a female friend of his that has recently become a widow.  My parents used to spend time together as couples with these friends (I’ll call them Jenny and Frank) quite a bit.  The relationship started with my dad and Jenny meeting at their Rotary Club.  And then both couples became close friends.  But the relationship was mostly based on my dad’s friendship with Jenny.  Do I think my dad had an affair with Jenny? No.  Do I think Jenny wished (wishes) for something?  I’m starting to wonder.  Frank died about a month ago.  And in the last few months it has come to the surface that Frank and Jenny didn’t have a very good relationship.  And during the last few months of my Mom’s life there were many times that I wondered whether Jenny was trying to “weasel” her way into my Dad’s life.  Again – there’s WAY TOO MUCH to elaborate on in this post, but suffice it to say that now that my Mom is gone – a lot of weird things have been happening that have made me very uncomfortable.  And I’m angry.  Angry that my Mom died just over a week ago and the situation is being muddied by all of these horrible politics.  I’m angry that I even have to deal with any of this crap.  I am so disappointed with people.   

I had a feeling this might happen.  Like I said, my mom really held things together in our highly dysfunctional family.  But I suppose I didn’t think it would happen so dramatically, or so quickly.  I am scared.  I have no idea what is going to happen to my family. 

I know there’s nothing any of my blogging friends can do.  I just so badly don’t want more disappointment in my life right now.  I so badly need hope right now.  But I’m struggling to find it.  I never thought that OCD would be number three or four on a list of issues that I’m struggling with.....but right now it is. 

October 27, 2011

Update

My Mom is gone.  She died on Monday October 24 at 6:45 PM.  I was able to be there, to hold her hand while she took her last breath.  The last couple of weeks have been immensely difficult.  Now I am in the midst of planning her service, with the rest of my family members which is presenting many challenges - mostly of the emotional type.  Ooooooo.....all the politics that exist in my family.  But that's for another post.  My mom was my rock.  She was the most forgiving, non-judgemental person I know.  I miss her like crazy. 

So - the stress continues at least until next Saturday November 5 - the day of her "Celebration of Life".  After that, the grieving will really begin, but at least I will be able to get on with my life. 

October 16, 2011

OCD and "The Backdoor Spike"


I’ve commented about this before, but I find it quite amazing that OCD is so similar from person to person and really, the content of the thought is irrelevant.  This realization came to me from reading other OCD sufferers blogs, and belonging to the on-line Yahoo Support Boards.   However, I do think that those of us with violent and sexual obsessions have one additional disadvantage which I can’t really sum up into one word or sentence.  But it has to do with “desire” and “denial”, and this relates to The Backdoor Spike. 

The Backdoor Spike essentially relates to those of us who have been “reassured” by the fact that we don’t enjoy or are disgusted with our obsessions.  Of course, the idea of ERP is to become habituated to our obsessions so that the thoughts no longer bother us.  So, we do ERP, and start to become habituated to our bothersome thoughts and then suddenly OCD starts telling us that there must be something wrong PRECISELY because we are no longer upset with our thoughts.  For someone with fear of contaminating others with germs, I don’t think the Backdoor Spike is really an issue......is it? 

For example – I’ve been doing ERP and have habituated to a lot of the work that I have done.  I have been watching short music videos of lesbians together, kissing and having wonderful, fantasy relationships.  Watching this stuff no longer really bothers me.  (My therapist said that he thought the actual act of becoming disgusted by watching it was actually a compulsion by the way.) But OCD won't let me off the hook.  It has now started with:  “This doesn’t bother you anymore.  Does this mean that you are in the process of coming out of the closet?  Maybe you’re starting to accept who you really are.  Are you sure you don’t actually enjoy watching these videos?” It is very frustrating and discouraging. 

The other day, after reading another blogger’s post I became inspired about how she actually attacks her OCD with tenacity and even continues to PLAN exposures into her life on a daily basis.  This, to me is amazing – and – I think how she maintains recovery from OCD.  I started feeling more determined and thought to myself: “Screw this.  I’m going to attack this OCD and face this stuff.”  To which my OCD said: “Hmmmm....you’re actually planning exposures.  Actually looking forward to doing ERP.  Are you sure this isn’t just you finding a reason to expose yourself to lesbian content?  Maybe you really WANT to do this stuff because deep down inside you’re gay and you’re just slowly realizing it. 

I can’t win. 

I just can’t win.  Does a hand washer get these backdoor spikes?  And if he/she does, what form do they take?  Hmmm....you’re looking forward to giving germs to everyone – you must be some kind of evil person?  I don’t know.  I suppose it doesn’t matter – my theme is my theme and feeling sorry for myself isn’t going to change anything.  But it really, really, really frustrates me.  I hate OCD. 

Another example:  a few days ago I was thinking about how I look forward to a day when I didn’t isolate myself from relationships because of fear that new female friends might be gay, or that becoming close to a woman will cause me to spike and wonder if I’m falling in love with her and coming out of the closet.  My goal is really to be able to have friends of all kinds, no matter what their sexual orientation because that is what truly fits with my values.  I was thinking to myself that I look forward to  a day when I’m not afraid to become friends with whomever I want to become friends with, lesbian or not.  Of course my OCD jumped in and said: “Aha!  Are you sure it’s not that you can’t wait for a day when you can become friends with lesbians?  When you can truly be yourself and come out of the closet? 

OCD is relentless.  It is beating me up.  No matter what I think, it finds a way of turning it around and shocking me into abiding with its rules.  I long for freedom. 

October 13, 2011

Have Mercy OCD

I spoke too soon.  I’ve been hit with a tsunami of OCD.  I feel as though something just “switched” in my brain and all the peace that I was experiencing washed away.  I’m sure that’s not really what happened, in fact I KNOW that’s not what happened, but I DO know that I am in a very yucky place. 

When I wrote my post yesterday I mentioned that OCD had mercifully stayed at bay for the last few months.....at least until a few days ago.  I’ve been doing some ERP while simultaneously going through a family crisis and I have been handling it quite well.  I don’t know what it was.....perhaps the perspective of watching a loved one die.....but it gave me courage.  I was able to do my ERP and face my OCD with an attitude of acceptance and strength.  Plus, the fact that I had so many other REAL PROBLEMS on my mind prevented me from doing mental compulsions. 

But then I was hit with a few unexpected spikes that are further up my hierarchy.  One....after another....after another....after another.  The first one was bad enough.  I reeled with anxiety and tried very hard to keep the compulsions at bay.  You know – the analyzing, mental checking, and mental reassuring.  I think I did OK.  But then the next one hit me.  And the next one.  And then, finally, JUST after I finished my session with my therapist, I was hit with a BIGGIE.  I inadvertently read someone’s coming out story and I was caught off guard.  And of course my OCD loved to point out areas of the story that I could relate to (even down to the fact that we both have dogs!). 

WHAM! 

Panic.  And I haven’t been able to stop analyzing, mental checking, mentally trying to reassure myself and all the other things that I do to try to make the thoughts and feelings of anxiety/panic go away.  I feel as though I slid down Alice in Wonderland’s rabbit hole. 

And then the guilt set in.  Guilt about EVERYTHING.....that I’m not taking good enough care of my dog (and I’m a bad mother), that I’m not eating well enough (and I’m going to get fat and be unhealthy and no one will love me), that I’m spending too much money (and I’m going to end up homeless because I can’t take care of myself), that I’m not working hard enough on the COCDN (and people will realize how useless I am), that I’m not working hard enough on combating my OCD (and I am somehow a flawed human being that will NEVER be able to reach the goals I have in life) and the list goes on and on.  I am tormented. 

I woke up this morning with horrible morning anxiety.  I cried.  I wonder how I am going to get out of this one.  I feel paralyzed.  I feel hopeless.  I begged for OCD to have mercy on me right now.  But I wonder....will OCD EVER allow me to achieve my goals and dreams?  I truly have no doubt in my ability to do this - if OCD would just LEAVE ME ALONE.  I've come far enough in accepting this horrible disorder to know that I will most likely always have to cope with OCD, but I DEPLORE how it latches on to EVERYTHING that is so important to me and robs me of the joy of pursuing my dreams. 

Today I am going to work on accepting this place that I’m in right now; to not fight it because that will just make it worse. I am going to work on letting the very disturbing scary thoughts be there and I will try VERY hard to not react. 

Wish me luck. 

October 12, 2011

Cognitive Restructuring & OCD

First off I will start with a couple of updates:

1.       I think the problem with commenting on others Blogger blogs is the security settings.  Something to do with cookies.  In my very limited knowledge of computers, IT etc, I googled it and played around with my security settings and allow more cookies and it seems to allow me to comment now on your blogs.  I hope you can even make sense out of what I just wrote there!  Anyway – you might want to try it and see what happens.  Thanks to everyone who has commented anonymously. 

2.       My Mom is still here.  She weighs barely 75 pounds, sleeps all day, is completely jaundiced (even the whites of her eyes), hallucinates, and isn’t eating.  I woke up this morning with anxiety that she is going to pass very soon.  Honestly, I hope for her sake that she does.  It has been very difficult witnessing her valiant effort as she so courageously goes through the end of life process.  But now.....it’s time. 

As I’ve said before, I’ve got a few ideas for some blog posts that I’ve wanted to write for a long time, but I’ve been so busy, and just haven’t felt inspired.  You know how they say that OCD can get either worse or better during times of stress?  I’ve had it go both ways, depending on the source of stress.  But right now, with my Mom dying, I have to say that OCD has mercifully backed off.  (At least until the last few days.)  I’ve been speaking with my therapist about this, and we both think it’s just because most of my rituals are mental, and I’ve had way too many other REAL problems to think about. 
                                           ~~~~~~

Cognitive restructuring and OCD is a topic that I’ve wanted to write about for awhile.....the “C” in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.  I have mixed feelings about traditional Cognitive Therapy as treatment for OCD (thought restructuring).  For a time, many people in the therapeutic community thought that thought restructuring was the best treatment for people with Pure O.  In fact, many thought that ERP wasn’t necessary, especially many psychologists who live around me.  This is due to a researcher by the name of S. Rachman, who actually did his research at The University of British Columbia (and I think trained a lot of the doctorate students).  Rachman did a lot of research on the nature of “maladaptive thinking” and how that relates to OCD.  The summary of his research goes something like this:  “obsessions are caused by catastrophic misinterpretation of the significance of one’s thoughts (images, impulses), and the obsessions continue as long as these misinterpretations continue, and diminish when the misinterpretations are weakened.”  (You can click here for one of Rachman’s studies.)

For those of you who read my blog regularly, you know that I have gone through the revolving door of therapists (many of them Cognitive Behavioural Therapists!) in an effort to try and find someone who knows how to treat OCD with mostly mental compulsions.  Several years ago after my first “OCD breakdown”, I was desperately looking for someone who knew what to do with me.  Heck, I knew that I had OCD (well, as much as a person with OCD can be sure!)......all the reading and researching I had done validated that for me.  I just needed to find a therapist who agreed that I had OCD (not GAD), and knew how to help someone with primarily mental compulsions.  (In those days, people thought that Pure O’s didn’t actually have compulsions.)  In my desperation, I went through an outpatient program through one of the local hospitals.  When I was going through intake, the psychiatrist who assessed me said that I clearly had issues with my father, and that if I was ever going to get any better I would be smart to spend time trying to resolve that problem.  I even remember mentioning to him that I thought I had OCD.  He dismissed my concerns, and very kindly (all sarcasm intended) agreed to put me in their one-night-per-week treatment program with their psychiatric nurse.  After completing this program, my OCD was even worse (go figure) and I was madly trying to find some support.  I came across a study being done at the University of British Columbia offering twelve cognitive therapy sessions for people with Primary Obsessions.  Perfect! 

I participated in this study, and had a very compassionate, kind therapist who helped me.  She was a graduate student, and had very little experience in treating anyone with OCD, let alone someone with Pure O.  But the treatment seemed to help.  It taught me to challenge my thinking.  To look alternative options for reality.  Maybe what I think might happen isn’t going to happen at all.  Maybe there are other ways to look at my fears and scary thoughts.  I left our sessions feeling great!  Now though, I realize what was really happening.  I was leaving our sessions feeling REASSURED. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I think there is a place for cognitive restructuring in the treatment of OCD.  But in my opinion, it takes someone who really understands the nuances and insidious nature of OCD to know how and when to apply this tool so that it doesn’t just become another compulsion.  The therapist that I am seeing now uses ALL of the tools – ERP, mindfulness, cognitive restructuring.  But he is great at helping me realize when my cognitive restructuring has become a compulsion – a skill that I don’t think a lot of therapists have developed.    I am now starting to understand why even the several Cognitive Behavioural therapists that I saw over the years couldn't help me with my OCD.  It's because though the model of CBT seems very simple, it takes a lot of skill and experience in order to apply it to the various disorders in such a way that it is effective.  Many therapists learn CBT in university and don't continue with their training.  And we all know that treatment for OCD is highly specialized.  
Nowadays, cognitive restructuring is a ritual for me at certain times.  By thinking about alternative, more rational options for reality, I feel reassured.....maybe the worst case scenario won't happen.  The problem is that cognitive restructuring doesn't help me with the ultimate goal - to learn to live with uncertainty.  Dr. Jonathan Grayson also discusses the fact that cognitive restructuring can become a compulsion in his book "Freedom from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder".  
I'd love to hear other's thoughts on this topic?  Do the rest of you struggle with cognitive restructuring that has become a compulsion?  What do you do to overcome this challenge?