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!!!