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?    

October 5, 2011

Problems Commenting?

I'm wondering if people are still having troubles commenting on my posts?  I've been having trouble commenting on other's blogs - specifically the Blogspot ones.....but it seems to come and go. 

Perhaps later today I will do some Google research and see how to fix this problem.  If I do I will post it here.  If not - I look forward to a time when I can hear from you again!  And I will keep trying to post on your blogs!