June 29, 2011

Here we go Again - More OCD ERP experiences.

I started a new ERP assignment today.  I have to watch the documentary “Women in Love” by a lesbian filmmaker.  It basically documents her journey in finding love.  Once watching 10-15 minutes worth of the film, I have to write a script exaggerating my thoughts about how I’m in the process of coming out, and how I’m going to tell my family etc.  THIS IS HARD. 

Watching the film isn’t giving me as much anxiety as it would have in the past I’m sure.  After the last few exposure homework assignments, some “lesbian-themed” stuff has become fairly benign to me.  But there are two things that are bugging me:
1.       After becoming habituated to my last assignment I was feeling GREAT!  The thoughts were virtually gone, and the OCD bully was cowering in the corner.  I was really enjoying that feeling, but I knew that since I was in ERP that it was going to be short lived.  What I find happening when starting a new ERP exercise is that the thoughts start again in FULL FORCE.  They don’t just occur when I’m doing the homework, they endure throughout the day.  AND I WANT THEM TO GO AWAY.  After my last experience I think I’ve learned though, that they might not go away and I need to just welcome them and let them stay as long as they want.  

2.       I am now exposing myself to some pretty sexually explicit stuff.  Lots of nudity, some lesbian porn, and even some female threesomes.  This brings out a whole other realm of rituals and obsessing. 

Wish me luck.  I think I’ve learned a thing or two since my last few exposures.  Hopefully I can apply my new-found “OCD wisdom” to this experience. 

June 25, 2011

Round Two....or Three....or is it Four or Five in my battle with OCD? I’ve lost count but it really doesn’t matter.

I was going to write a separate post on OCD and PMS, but I think I will incorporate it into this one.  I can’t help but think that the obsessional piece of my OCD fluctuates with my menstrual cycle (and then of course the compulsing increases too).  The bad thoughts get A LOT worse during certain times of the month.  The problem is – I can’t quite pin it down to an exact science – and of course that starts even more obsessing and doubt.  You see, my menstrual cycle is not like “clockwork” – it is usually about six weeks long, but can be up to eight weeks.   And though I know that I do start to feel really crappy sometime after ovulating, sometimes I feel great just before I get my period, and sometimes it takes a few days until after my period is finished to start to feel better.  So is that really PMS?  Who knows.  Of course my OCD latches onto trying desperately to figure it all out in an effort to make it all go away. 

Any other women out there who experience this? 

I had a breakthrough on Tuesday.  I had a good cry in my therapy session, which was very helpful.  And I have no idea what happened, maybe it was the ending of my period, maybe it was just that I was completely fed up, but I SLAMMED OCD.  My therapist suggested that I start exaggerating the thoughts when I have them.  I think I mentioned this in a previous blog post, but I was engaging in a lot of thought stopping (of course it took me forever to realize this).  It was SOOOO very hard at first.  The anxiety was incredible.  Horrible feelings.  But eventually it got easier!  On Tuesday I actually said to myself “screw it – I’m going to dress as lesbian – like as I possibly can.”!  I came out of the gates FIGHTING LIKE CRAZY. 

This week I think I’m winning the battle.  I haven’t WON the battle yet – I am still battling every day.  But I feel like I’m getting that elusive control back.  I’m starting to get the upper hand.  I’m so much more aware of my compulsions and I’m not letting myself get away with any of them.  In fact – I’m CHALLENGING the OCD with “come on – hit me with your best shot!”. 

As an example of how insidious my compulsions are – this morning I was packing for an overnight camping trip with a whole bunch of people that I don’t know.  THIS in itself is an exposure for me.  Will any lesbians be there?  Will the people there think that I’m a lesbian?  Etc etc.  Of course one of my compulsions in reaction to my fear that people will think that I’m gay is to “be” as feminine as possible.  I put “be” in quotation marks because it’s not like I wear skirts camping, but for example I went to my closet to pick out a beach towel, and I had three choices – the pink one, the red one or the turquoise one.  As I was deciding my OCD said to me “pick the pink one – the red one is too masculine – if you pick that one – people will think you’re a lesbian.”  Initially I chose the pink one.  Then I realized what I had done, and I marched right back into my closet and grabbed the red one. 

YAY FOR SMALL VICTORIES. 

June 23, 2011

International OC Foundation Conference

I know I've mentioned the conference before, but I'm going to mention it again. 

I'm really looking forward to attending - it will be my first time.  Someday I would also like to go to the OCD conference in the UK.  (Call me an OCD geek!)

There are many sufferers out there at different stages in their recovery, but one thing that has helped me so much since I started on my journey of (true) recovery about a year ago is the people.  So many people who have helped me to feel less shame, who have supported me, and who I have been able to support.  I think I get as much out of helping others with OCD as I do when I practice my own therapy. 

I know not everyone can attend the conference for various reasons.  But I really hope that if you are able - you will go. 

Find all the information you need regarding registration, accommodation etc here. 

June 21, 2011

I don't get to choose to take a "day off" from OCD.

My good days are so fleeting at the moment.  I am still struggling with accepting the fact that I have OCD – which means – accepting my thoughts.  I am doing a lot of thought stopping.  Today I woke up feeling quite depressed.  Luckily I had my therapy appointment, and I was able to talk to him about my frustrations.  I feel quite resentful these days.  Resentful that I have this awful disorder, and immensely resentful that I’ve had it for soooo long without a lot of success in battling it.  It’s hard not to look back.  Couple my feelings of resentment with the fact that I have so many compulsions, and so many things that I’m scared to do and voila – a BIG feeling of discouragement ensues.  So lately I’ve been trying to “rush” through my treatment.  I just want to get it over with, so that I can get on with leading my life.  But it doesn’t work that way.  There are also some days when I truly just want to pretend that I don’t have OCD.  I don’t want to exaggerate a thought in my mind....I’d rather just push it away.  I don’t want to NOT avoid something, I’d rather just go home and curl up in a ball and be safe.  Wow – this is hard. 

This is what I’ve done so far for exposure:

Watched “The Talk” – love that show now – and really like Sara Gilbert (can’t believe I actually said that).
Read “Room” by Emma Donahugue (lesbian author – not lesbian content) – book was awesome – I highly recommend it.
Looked at various articles on AfterEllen.com
Watched videos on AfterEllen.com
Read extreme feminist blogs.

This week for homework instead of just letting the thoughts “be there” – I am to actually exaggerate them and write them down.  This is for two reasons – firstly – as I said before – I am not just “letting them be there” – I”m actually doing a lot of thought stopping.  And secondly – we are preparing for my next exposure assignment, writing a nasty exposure script about truly realizing that I’m a lesbian and coming out of the closet etc. 

As a side note – today I challenged myself to watch Fran Drescher and her ex-husband (now gay) on “The Talk”.  It was really hard.  Thoughts like “What if this is you?  How do you know?  Did you feel this way when you were with your high school sweetheart? “ etc etc were going through my mind.  I responded with “It might be me – but I’ll have to live with not knowing for sure and move on.  I’m not going to try to figure out the answer – that’s compulsing”. 

And on I go. 

June 19, 2011

My OCD Compulsions.....Pure O Style

I’ve been meaning to write my compulsions down in list form for awhile, so that when I’m in an OCD anxious moment, hopefully it will help to separate the obsession from the compulsion.  So – here goes:

1.       Avoiding – I avoid things that will bring up OCD thoughts, or negative feelings.  This one is pretty easy to “spot” and one that I’ve been working on a lot.  Avoidance can take very subtle forms.  For example – I work in a bank, and if someone comes in who “looks” like she might be gay, and she comes up to my teller wicket, I will just be less friendly with her, or try not to make eye contact.  Some days I even struggle touching the money or items that she gives me. 

2.       Reassurance – I don’t seek reassurance from anyone else because so few people know about my OCD.  However, I reassure myself constantly, and many times without even knowing it.  An example of this might be reading the article about Fran Drescher and her husband in People Magazine, and then telling myself “this would never happen to me because.....” or “I don’t have to worry about that because I’m not at all like X.” 

3.       Analyzing/Figuring Out – This is another HUGE one for me.  Trying to find the meaning in why I have certain thoughts or feelings/reactions.  I do this a lot, but not only with my sexual orientation OCD, with relationship OCD, and anytime I have negative feelings about anything or anyone.  This compulsion is the hardest one for me to stop, and I’ve written about it in past blog posts.  My OCD lures me in by saying “Analyzing and trying to figure out the answer to why you are feeling a certain way or having thoughts about your sexuality is the way towards the answer.  Most people don’t analyze and figure out ENOUGH.”.  This is the scariest compulsion for me to let go of. 

4.       Checking – I don’t usually physically check things, but I definitely do mental checks.  I have a little mental checklist for what makes someone a lesbian.  (Of course I’m learning in therapy that this list is bunk now, but anyway....) I’ll check my physical and emotional reaction to certain things.  I’ll “check” for stories in the past, which also works into the reassurance compulsion.  For example, I can spend many hours thinking about my past....for times I may have acted “gay” or had thoughts that might be construed as “gay”.  I remember in girl guide camp when I was 14, the two camp leaders were two women.  For some reason I’ve fixated on whether or not one (or both?) of them were gay.  I remember having a lot of respect for them, and really liking them at that time, but I can spend hours trying to remember exactly how I felt about them.  Was it a lesbian “like”?  Or just a young girl looking up to two older women in a position of leadership. 

I think those are the main ones, though I’m certain that I’m missing some.  These compulsions happen for me almost AUTOMATICALLY.  I have been performing them for almost thirty years.  They are hard to stop, but I am working hard on it!!!!

Do any other Pure O sufferers have any other compulsions to share? 

P.S.  My Mantra the last few days has been “F-YOU OCD.....YOU’RE NOT GOING TO WIN AT THIS GAME.”

June 17, 2011

Oh right - I have OCD......

My therapist has said to me numerous times “by compulsing, you are giving your brain the message that your sexuality is up for debate”.  He’s said that to me.......probably 30 times.  But when I am in the throws of an OCD anxiety attack do I want to take the risk and stop compulsing?  Well – many times I don’t.  Many times I haven’t.  Which is what takes me down that darn OCD rabbit hole yet again. 

Whenever I start a new exposure on my hierarchy my OCD comes up with new messages to send me....all along the same theme.  New questions that MUST be answered, new possibilities for something horrible to happen.  And it gets my attention.  And I get tired.  My first reaction is to ritualize.  To analyze....to question something in my head....to check my reaction.....to reassure myself.....well, you know the drill. 

Right now the hardest part for me to deal with regarding ERP is that it FEELS so dangerous.  I can imagine a person who has violent images OCD, when she starts to expose herself to things that trigger her OCD, she must FEEL like she’s going to become a murderer.  My therapist has told me this SEVERAL times as well.....that the “feeling” like I’m becoming a lesbian is the same as someone who has scrupulosity fears and “feels” like they are going to hell because they have done something bad to God.  But once again, when I’m in the throws of OCD anxiety, it just doesn’t register for me.  I forget that it’s OCD that I’m dealing with – not a sexual orientation crisis. 

I had a small break-through the other day.  I suppose the dark comes before the light doesn’t it?  I hesitate to even write about it because I’m scared I’m going to jinx myself, and I have such a loose grip on my insight that I am scared that I could lose it at any time.  I just suddenly had the realization (that I’ve had many times, and I seem to lose so often!) that I am dealing with OCD.  I am being treated for OCD.  I am not MEANT to spend time thinking about what all of my thoughts and feelings mean about me right now; why I’m not getting disgusted enough at my exposure, or why I had a certain thought.  If at some point after I am out of OCD hell, I suddenly realize that I’m a lesbian, well then I’ll deal with that then.  But right now – I’m learning how to deal with my debilitating OCD.    

It is still SO HARD for me to recognize many of my compulsions.  My therapist pointed out that analyzing what my thoughts and feelings mean about me is one of my BIGGEST ones, and I think it really is one that I struggle with the most.  The other day, while I was on my lunch break at work, I picked up a People magazine for some mindless entertainment, and I came upon an article about Fran Drescher and her ex-husband.  The story was about how they were married for over 20 years, and he then went to her and said that he is gay.  MY WORST NIGHTMARE.  I started to analyze and compare myself to Fran’s ex-husband.  I started reassuring myself that we’re not similar, and I started analyzing the situation to determine if this could ever happen to me.  Then I realized what I was doing.  I told myself: “You are compulsing.  You have OCD and you need to stop.  This stuff might happen to you, it might not.  But what you are doing now is not helping you prevent that from occurring.”  So I stopped.  But HOLY CRAP did I feel anxious.  I felt literally COMPELLED to keep thinking about it.  I felt short of breath.  I felt “funny” in my head.  But I did it.  And I went back to work, and life continued on as normal. 

And onwards I go.   

June 15, 2011

A HUGE shout-out to my OCD Blogging Friends

THANK YOU SO MUCH. 

I mean that from the bottom of my heart. 

I can't tell you how lucky I feel to be part of a "club" of such brave, supportive, kind people.  As I've said before, I don't really have a lot of support in my "real life" becuase no one really knows about my OCD.  I am so thankful that I stumbled across Expwoman's blog last year, which morphed into discovering so many more great OCD bloggers with fantastic insight and inspirational stories.  It's not only the comments that you post on my blog that are so helpful, it is reading about all of your stories and experiences as we continue to battle OCD together. 

**BIG HUGS**

June 14, 2011

Trying to Plough Forward

I don’t know why, but OCD is still winning in the “boxing ring” of my life.  I am trying to be hopeful, and realize that this is all a work in process, but I just feel so demoralized.  (As a side note – there is also a part of me who is beating myself up for feeling bad.  The OCD voice says “people who read this post are going to think you’re a whiner – most of your posts are about feeling sad, not about progress.”)

My therapy session today went fairly well.  My therapist was able to point out some spots that I wasn’t making the connection, and therefore not able to deal with my compulsions.  This was helpful.  I am just really frustrated with my lack of progress, in fact – I feel like once again – I’ve taken a step backwards. 

These days I hate going on Facebook.  I see photos of my friends with their families, and I feel such an incredible sense of jealousy and aloneness.  I feel like a failure.  I feel like I can’t even be part of “the club”.  What do I have in my life aside from a cute dog and a horrible enemy (OCD) following me around all day? Not only that but I feel like I am hiding something that at this point in my life - is such a big part of who I am.  I feel like a fake. 

I am so stuck in an OCD life, and at this point it feels like it is going to be FOREVER till I dig myself out.  I am realizing that there are many layers to my OCD and it just won’t get better overnight.  In my mind, I have to get to a certain point in dealing with my OCD before I can have a relationship and “be happy”.  I feel stuck.   
It’s times like this that I feel most alone.  It’s not like I can reach out to a friend and say “I feel crappy because I’m having horrible OCD thoughts and they are scaring me and depressing the crap out of me.”  
I could really use a hug.   

June 12, 2011

Really? My OCD talk with my parents......

I had a very interesting weekend, and at this point I can’t even put a finger on how I am “feeling”, but I had to blog and sort through it all.   

My parents were on a little road trip down to Oregon and they suggested that I meet them in Washington for the night.  Great idea, I thought.  We can do some shopping and have a little visit.  If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know that my relationship with my parents in the past has been strained (especially with my father), but for the most part lately it has gotten better.  I suppose we’ve come to a level of “understanding” or perhaps “acceptance”.  Our relationship is very surface, and we don’t have a lot of intimacy, and that still makes me very sad at times.  In addition, spending extended amounts of time with them can still be a huge trigger for my OCD.  This weekend was no exception. 

We met yesterday and had a nice enough afternoon.  As I said, I’m quite guarded with my parents, and don’t give them a lot of information about my life.  (However – they are two of the few people who actually know about my OCD, and know about the content of my fears (ie: that I am or will become a lesbian)).  In the evening, we stayed in the hotel room and had some snacks and watched some TV.  As the evening progressed, my dad started asking questions.  They started like:  “How have you been feeling lately?”  I replied “some good days, some bad days”.  He kept prying, and I got sucked in.   

Let me be clear that I am VERY guarded with my father.  Why?  I usually refrain from using labels, but I am going to come right out and say it – he was emotionally abusive to me.  We were never allowed to have any negative feelings, and if we did, we had to quickly “put a smile on our faces” or “suck it up”. I was called a “wimp”, “difficult”, “bossy”, and many, many other hurtful terms. My dad and I had HORRIBLE fights, which were never resolved.  They usually ended with us screaming at each other, him saying incredibly hurtful things to me, and me leaving the room.  But most of all – I never, ever felt like he loved me unconditionally.  I also never felt like he really liked me as a human being.  My dad has to be one of the most emotionally inept people that I know.  I’m not sure why, but I think it has to do with the fact that he had an emotionally abusive mother.  He would rather ignore anything to do with emotions or conflict than face it head-on.  Which is why – even though I know that my dad knows that I have OCD, he has done NOTHING to educate himself about the disorder.  He would rather pretend it doesn’t exist. Or, perhaps he doesn’t know how to deal with it himself.  Probably the more likely case.  Anyway – in my opinion that is incredibly WEAK and a massive COP OUT and very disappointing to me. 

My Dad’s (and mom’s as well – don’t get me wrong!) inability to have any compassion or empathy for anyone is what prevents me from even trying to help him understand what goes on in my OCD mind.  Plus, I can’t help but think: “I’m your daughter – why don’t you take some time to read about it and find out how you can support me????  Isn’t it the least you could do?”  And last night’s conversation is exactly WHY I just don’t go there with them. 

This time I decided to take more of a risk and give them some more information (note that my mom was listening on the side, but purposely staying out of the conversation because she would NEVER want to disagree with my father and cause conflict).  I let them know that I feel like I am making progress, but that treatment is hard because it involves confronting your fears.  My Dad just didn’t understand.  And the thing that really pisses me off is that I am certain that I’ve sent them the link to this article, and asked them to read it.  I’m sure he didn’t.  I tried to help him understand, but I really don’t think my dad even BELIEVES that people who have these thoughts really aren’t going to act on them.  When I used the example of someone who obsesses about becoming a pedophile, he said “and none of these people ever actually do these things?”  He’s just so ignorant.  And there’s really no excuse for that. 

We spent about 15 minutes discussing it, and after trying to help him understand exactly what OCD is, and what took place during the process of treatment, he said to me: “So years ago – you thought you were a lesbian – do you still think that?”  REALLY???????  I almost spit in his face.  I wish I could have.  He clearly doesn’t understand OCD.  What was my response?  “No dad.  I have OCD.”  I lay in bed after our discussion, stewing, and thinking about things that I WISH I had said.  I really wish I had said to him: “Would it matter?” or “I don’t know – I guess time will tell.”  But I didn’t.  Oh well. 

I am going to re-send them this link  We’ll see. 

I still have times of immense feelings of bitterness towards my parents.  This was one of them.  Of course – this bitterness towards my father, who fell seriously short in the father-department also feeds right into my OCD.  I have an EXTREME sensitivity towards people "pushing things under the rug" or "ignoring problems" because that's exactly what happened in my family with MANY, MANY THINGS. 

Are there really men out there who are decent and won’t end up disappointing me?  I seem to pick the ones who consistently fall short of my expectations.  And of course I wonder – am I being too perfectionistic and I have to face the fact that all men are emotionally inept jerks, and I just have to accept that?  Or – have I just not met the good one(s) yet?  See how this can trigger my OCD?  I was hurt VERY badly by my father.  I REFUSE to put myself in a situation where that will happen again. 


June 1, 2011

Back up on the OCD Horse

I am fighting back.  I was knocked down by OCD, but I’m back up and fighting back again.  I don’t feel super strong at the moment, but I had a great session with my therapist, and I have a new perspective.....once again I am starting to “smarten up” to the OCD tricks.  Don’t get me wrong – throughout this latest “blip” over the last couple of weeks, I haven't TOTALLY given up.  I have continued to do my exposure homework.  But the compulsions have been there like crazy – which has put me in a constant state of anxiety and discomfort.  I HATE that feeling.  I need to learn to accept that feeling of disquiet as well. 

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of finding a therapist who SPECIALIZES IN OCD.  Today alone, my therapist pointed out a several instances in which I was compulsing and I didn’t even realize!  It drives me crazy when I read about OCD, and the author of the article proceeds to list of examples of rituals.  The majority of the time the examples are washing and checking.....way too simplistic really to accurately portray how complicated and – as I said a few posts ago – insidious this disorder can be.  For example, today during my therapy session, my psychologist and I were discussing how in my OCD world so many things have to be black and white in order to maintain my “safety” - all lesbians are “man like” with mostly male characteristics and interests.  I could always reassure myself that way because I knew for sure that I could never be attracted to a “butch lesbian” (please excuse me if that is insulting to anyone).  Now that I am doing exposure, I am realizing that lesbians – just like all people, come in all shapes and sizes and they all have different characteristics and interests.  This of course has made my OCD sky-rocket.  If I might have something [insert interest here] in common with this lesbian – I MUST be a lesbian!” I didn’t even realize that very subtly I was reassuring myself.....thank Goodness for a highly skilled OCD therapist.  :o)

Another example of how I reassure myself are days when I dress more femininely.  In the past, these days are reassuring to me because I could always assure myself that lesbians don’t dress femininely!  Of course I knew logically that this was incorrect.  But OCD doesn’t care about logic as we all know.  So now that I’m exposing myself to lesbians of all shapes, sizes, etc etc – my OCD really enjoying saying “You dress similarly to some of these women – you MUST be a lesbian!”. 

I love my therapy sessions.  My therapist so calmly, supportively and skilfully points out so many things that I miss when I am slogging through ERP on my own.  I just hope that one day I will be as skilled at he is at catching OCD’s tricks, because these days I feel as though I’m fighting a bully that is 10 times my size.