April 27, 2011

Mental Health & OCD Rant

I am so tired of the shame and stigma that goes along with having a mental health problem.  As I said in a previous post titled “Are you out of the OCD Closet”, there are very few people in my life who know that I have OCD, even though it is a large part of my life and who I am as a person.  I suppose I’m not doing a lot to further the mental health movement, but I am trying to change that – for myself, and for others who have OCD. 

Recently I have been paying attention to the types of “special interest” groups that receive attention from media and our society.  Drug addiction is one example.  I watched a show that profiled a couple who became addicted to heroin, and then their children became addicted too.  These people were portrayed as victims, who needed help and it was society’s responsibility to provide help to them.  The show also interviewed a heroin addict who talked about attempting to give up drugs.  He said the hardest part is the first week of detox – the anxiety, and sweats etc.   I couldn’t help but think of what it’s like to endure ERP – the anxiety, constant ruminating, discomfort and at times inability to function.  But ERP typically lasts months.  It started me thinking that there is probably more money (time, media attention etc) invested in drug addiction in Canada and the US, than in chronic mental health problems like OCD.  Don’t get me wrong.  It’s not that I don’t have compassion for people who struggle with drug addiction.  I realize there are often other issues (most likely mental health issues!) contributing to someone choosing to take drugs.   But something like drug addiction is openly discussed in society and receives a lot of compassion and attention.  People with mental health issues are still told to “smarten up” and move on. 

Another example is something like cancer.  Cancer is such a common disease, most people have either dealt with it themselves, or they know a close friend or family member who has had to deal with it.  If you read my blog, you know that my mother is currently battling stage four colon cancer.  It’s horrible.  The amount of money that id donated towards treatment and efforts towards finding a cure are staggering.  Why is that?  My guess would be that one of the reasons is that there is no stigma associated with having cancer.  People with cancer receive support and sympathy – exactly what they should receive.  But why isn’t it the same for people with serious mental health issues? 

In my opinion, Hollywood does nothing to help remove the stigma of mental health problems.  I just finished watching a recent episode of Oprah with Michael Douglas as a guest.  For those of you who aren’t aware – his wife – Katherine Zeta Jones recently checked herself into a treatment facility for Bi Polar II.  When Oprah asked Michael Douglas if he knew that she had this condition, Michael replied “no”.  Interesting.  Then Oprah asked “How is she doing now?”  To which Michael replied something about how great she is doing and that she is in the process of making a movie somewhere in another state.  Really?  Is it really that easy after suddenly being diagnosed with a mental health problem to just check into a treatment facility, and walk out a few weeks later “all better”?  After watching Oprah, I started ranting to my friend.  Her reply was that it was too bad that Katherine Zeta-Jones was “outed” about her Bi Polar II by the media.  Hmmmmm......Michael Douglas has cancer, and the whole world knows.  They send him support and prayers etc.  He has no shame in sharing that information.  Katherine Zeta-Jones has Bi Polar II and she wants to handle her problem “privately”.  That indicates some level of shame if you ask me.    

Sorry – I just had to rant.  I’m finished now.  What does everyone else think? 

P.S.  One day later - after I wrote this post and went to bed all I could obsess about was whether or not I was going to offend anyone with my post.  And "Did I say anything wrong?"  Sheesh!!!

April 23, 2011

Negative Emotions and OCD

Wow - today I just feel horrible overall. I feel anxious, sad and most of all irritable.  I think irritability and anger are my primary emotions.  And I have no idea why!!  I could just scream at the entire world today.  (I’m even inpatient and cranky with my dog!!!)  I don’t really have any OCD thoughts racing.  It’s a beautiful, warm, sunny day.  And I feel pissy.  And then I start beating myself up for feeling this way on such a gorgeous long weekend – especially when there really is nothing wrong.  I feel like I need to have a REASON for feeling this way.  I have to justify my feelings.  The whole notion of just being in a bad mood is foreign to me.  I suppose I’m still under the impression that I should somehow be able to control my feelings. 

Then I start obsessing.  Analyzing and trying to “figure out” why I’m feeling this way.  Am I suppressing something?  Am I mad at someone?  Is there some sort of stress in my life that I’m not coping with effectively?  WHAT IS IT????  I know what my feared consequence is.  REJECTION.  I am scared of feeling and expressing negative emotions.  Why?  There are a few reasons, really.  The first is that I was taught by my parents that negative emotions are “bad” and that I should always just put a smile on my face and stop feeling [insert negative emotion].  I am a very emotional person and if I ever expressed any of the “bad” emotions I would get in trouble or shamed and I would feel rejected.  The second reason, closely related to the first, is that even outside of my family, I have felt rejected from close friends and boyfriends when I express my feelings.  In my opinion, there are very few people who are comfortable with emotional people.  They don’t know what to do or say to people like me, so they either do the same thing that my parents did and say “you shouldn’t feel that way” – or – even worse – they avoid me or run away.  
Due to these experiences, my OCD latches on to bad days like this.  I don't want to reach out to anyone - for fear of rejection.  I don't want to tell people how I really feel.  Who would understand?     
Does anyone else ever just feel crappy for no “good” reason? 
I wish I could just cry. 
I really could use a hug. 

April 14, 2011

ERP - Part Deux

I have started exposure therapy again.  I haven’t written for a little bit, not because I have been busy with ERP, but because on top adding ERP to my list of "things to do", I have also been very busy with life.  It took me a little while to get over the obsessing and anxiety that came as a result of my family visiting, but I did get over it.  Phew!  I actually felt pretty good for awhile.  I’m starting to realize that there are a lot of peaks and valleys when one commits to dealing with OCD – A LOT of them.  If I can find a way to accept the valleys, and know that a peak is around the corner I’m sure that will help.  I would assume that as I get better at dealing with my OCD, the peaks and valleys will smooth out somewhat and they won’t be so extreme.  Here's hoping.   
I started ERP about nine days ago.  We started with a very low level exposure.  In fact – it was hard to not berate myself for doing something that “should” be so easy.  Want to know what it was?  My assignment was to watch “The Talk” everyday.  For those of you who have never seen “The Talk” – it’s a talk show modeled after “The View”.  It’s got five hosts, all women.  Leah Remini, Julie Chen, Holly Peet Robinson, Sharon Osborne, and……..Sara Gilbert.  Who – in case you didn’t know (why would you unless you have HOCD?) – is a lesbian.  I used to avoid this show not because I didn’t actually enjoy it, but because the fact that I enjoyed is scared the crap out of me. 
OCD Dialogue:
Why do you like this show?  Is it because Sara Gilbert is on it?  Maybe you are secretly and unconsciously attracted to her.  Make sure you check and see what she’s wearing and compare it to what you would wear – your taste.  Watch your feelings – do you agree with what she says?  Do you like her?  And on and on it goes. 
The very sad thing about how OCD limits our lives is that I REALLY LIKE Leah Remini (she used to be on the show “King of Queens” and I loved that show) and Sharon Osborne.  But because of having OCD thoughts that scared the crap out of me, I lost sight of the perverbial “forest through the trees”.  Instead of being able to watch "The Talk" without checking, analyzing, and reassuring myself – and just enjoying the show FOR THE SHOW – I ended up in an anxious ball of OCD mess. 
I’ve watched "The Talk" for about seven out of the nine days since I started.  Most of them have gone well.  I had one really bad spike while watching one episode.  But last night I was able to do my homework and experience very little anxiety.  I actually really enjoy the show!  Are the thoughts gone? Not really.  Some days they are, and some days OCD wants to pipe in and tell me that there’s an emergency.  Something dangerous ahead of me that needs resolving RIGHT NOW.  I am trying to resist the call from the devil. 
As an aside - I have to send a shout out to my very committed and supportive therapist.  I can’t imagine how anyone could actually get through ERP without someone willing to provide ongoing support and coaching.  The way I look at it is – facing our fears is like standing on the edge of a cliff.  When we are caught up in the throws of anxiety and OCD, it is so important to have someone on the “outside” who can be objective, and encourage us to move forward.  Anxiety is such a powerful emotion.  There have been many times in the last few weeks when I thought to myself “I can’t continue feeling this way.”  I have had to send him emails outside of our therapy sessions when I am struggling.  He replies with excellent advice, and most importantly - he encourages me to continue moving forward.  If you have OCD and do not have the support of an excellent therapist, please know that they are out there!  The therapeutic relationship is of utmost importance when dealing with OCD.  And it is possible to find a good, compassionate, supportive person to help you treat this horrible disorder.   

April 3, 2011

Alone with OCD

I have this thing.  Well – it’s more like a feeling.  I don’t know if it’s a “lonely” thing or what.  But – very often I feel like an outsider in the world.  I feel like no one "gets" me.  It starts with a “yucky” feeling – I just don’t know how to describe it.  Then the checking and comparing sets in:  I just don’t feel like I really totally click with anyone in my life.  No one really gets me. I feel like an outsider.  Look at so-and-so: they have kids.  I'm not in that club.  (A little side obsession starts - do I even want kids?)  Look at so-and-so: She loves to ride bikes.  I don’t really have a passion….do I? What would my passion be?  And then starts one of my arguments with myself to prove or disprove what a weird person I am and should life be different?  Do other people feel this way in life?  Or – am I perhaps doing the WRONG thing?  Should I maybe be joining some Bhuddist Temple and becoming a Bhuddist monk?  Would that be the answer to everything?  Would I FINALLY feel normal and like I fit in?  Like someone “got” me? 
I find this frustrating because I don’t know if it’s OCD playing tricks on me or if it’s something else.  My OCD says “maybe it’s the fact that you’re a closeted lesbian and you’re repressing your true self and inner most desires.  If you weren’t such a coward you would be a completely different person.”  Isn’t this OCD so fun? 
So here I am again....."spinning".  (Another blogger uses this term and I think it is very fitting.)  Trying to figure it all out so that I never have to have any negative feelings again.  One of the small things I’ve learned about myself recently is that I compulsively try to figure out why I’m having negative feelings so that somehow I might be able to avoid having them in the future.  Is this even really possible?  Maybe this would be considered the epitome of LEARNING FROM OUR MISTAKES?  I’m not sure.  My OCD says: “I need to analyze things so that I realize what caused me to feel this crappy feeling so that I can avoid the mistake happening in the future so that I never have to feel shitty.”  Where’s a healthy balance with this stuff????  I don’t get it.  Aren’t we SUPPOSED to learn from our mistakes?  Aren’t we supposed to use our feelings as a guage for what is going on in our life so that we can make appropriate changes? 
And this “you can’t stop feelings” notion…..I just don’t understand that either.  Where is the balance between stuffing feelings and feeling them while still functioning?  How does one do this?  Today I dropped one of my best friends off at the airport.  She had been visiting for a few days and saying goodbye made me feel sad.  I started to cry and then I forced myself to stop.  Once I said goodbye I got in the car and all the compulsive analyzing started:  Why do I feel so crappy?  What is wrong with me?  Nothing is wrong with you – you just feel sad because your friend left.  Are you sure?  Maybe it’s because you feel lonely because you don’t feel like you have any good friends out here where you live.  You don’t even really feel that close to her anyway – you live totally different lives.  True.  Let’s think about how different our lives are.  She has kids.  Aha!  Maybe you feel like you don’t fit into the married with kids crowd and there’s no hope for that anymore.   Eventually I realized that I wasn’t allowing myself to FEEL my feelings I was just trying to rationzliae them away.  So I let myself cry.  But I was on my way to the store, so how was I to really feel sad when I had to go to the store????? 
I would love to hear what everyone else thinks about this.  I’m really stumped.