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 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.