May 21, 2012

The Pain is a sign of Growth.....Part Two

I can’t express enough how the last couple of weeks have been a massive growth experience for me.  And I am taking it to be exactly that, and I am grateful for it.  It’s amazing – the shift – to be honest.  In the past, two things would happen:  I would be angry, and I would be obsessing.  Don’t get me wrong, the obsessing is still happening.  But the anger has really subsided. 

It’s amazing how things really do change, every second of every moment.  It really is impossible to predict the future.  For those of us with OCD who like to “think” we can predict the future (ie: answer), I am learning that that habit provides a false sense of security.  Letting go of this security is definitely not easy, but it is necessary for me.  I suppose truly learning to live in the moment is key, and that really takes discipline. 
I’ve had some comments on my last post, expressing negative opinions about the man that I wrote about and the experience that I had with him.  I am grateful for your care and concern, and believe me, there were moments that I wanted to persecute him too, and label him as a “bad guy”.  In reality though, I think he is a man with some very wonderful qualities, and a man with some baggage, but I am avoiding labelling him as “good” or “bad”.  We all have baggage, heck, I’ve got a ton of it, and he is just doing his best to navigate through this world, while still taking care of himself, and protecting the parts of him that he has to protect.  At this point I don’t know if he (and his “stuff”) and I (and my “stuff) would be conducive to a healthy relationship, and I may never find that out.  But really, at this point, none of it is about him. 

It’s all about me. 
  • It’s about me learning how to take care of myself and stay focused, even when I am slammed with uncertainty and the anxiety that comes with it.
  • It’s about me learning how to remain in the moment and not be attached to any sort of outcome. 
  • It’s about me learning to feel the real feelings underneath the anxiety and anger, and process them and move forward. 

I’m working on that right now.  If it wasn’t for this man, I wouldn’t have had this opportunity.  I am grateful for him for that reason. 

May 17, 2012

The Pain is a sign of growth.....

If emotional pain is any indication of emotional growth, and I believe that it is – then I would say that I’ve done my fair share of growing in the last.....let’s say....year or so.  For the first time in my life, I’ve put some genuine, concerted effort into facing my OCD demon, I was side-by-side with my mother through to her death, dealt with grief, and the family dysfunction that has resulted.  I can’t believe the lessons that I’ve learned, and there are days when I honestly do feel as though I’m coming out on the other side.  I don’t tend to be a super spiritual person, but if I had to label my spiritual beliefs, I would say that they lean more towards Buddhism.  The other day during my session with my therapist, he made an interesting comment to me.  He said: “In order to really conquer OCD, you have to let go of attachment to any outcome.”  Without sounding too dramatic, this was a profound statement for me. 

There’s been some recurrent “themes” that I’ve been noticing in my life lately, some of which I wanted to share with you. 

1.       Avoidance of emotions – especially the difficult ones.  This is something that I’ve become a master at over the years.  You see, in my family, we weren’t allowed to have feelings, especially the “negative” ones.  So, I learned to avoid feelings such as anger, sadness and frustration.  Even worse than that, certain feelings were labelled as “bad” and certain feelings were labelled as “good.  So feeling lazy was a “bad” feeling because of course BEING lazy was a bad thing.  It’s only in the last several months, through working with my therapist and reading many books on meditation that I have started to realize and accept that feelings aren’t good or bad – they just are.  And if I allow myself to feel them without judgement, they will pass.  But wow – this is still so difficult for me, especially when triggered by strong emotions.  And in all honesty, some of it just has to be about discipline.  I am learning to start to ACCEPT and BE OK with difficulty.  I need to be less “addicted” to “good feelings” and less “averse” to difficulty.    

2.       Letting go of attachment to outcome.  In other words – living in the moment.  For those of us with OCD, heck, even for those who don’t have OCD, our minds can be torturous to us.  I think it’s especially worse for those of us with OCD though, because of our creativity (and, perhaps our high level of intelligence? ;o).  We seem to have an incredible ability to create so many possible outcomes in our minds.  Now, I understand that everyone wants to have control, no one likes feeling out of control.  But for someone like me, if I have the ability to think of some scenario (whether it’s really horrible, or really good), then I seem to want to do everything in my power to make that happen.  The problem with this is that it takes the sincerity out of things.  I’m not being my true, genuine self.  And it creates a lot of fear and anxiety. 

I’ve had my eye on a guy for quite awhile.  I’m sure I’ve probably written about him before on the blog.  Let’s just say that I’ve had a HUGE crush on him.....and since I have ROCD I will say that at times it was obsessive.  I would only see him periodically, whenever he came into the bank and I would serve him.  We would chat for awhile, and every single time I saw him he would ask how I was doing after the loss of my mother.  I felt “head over heels” in love.  Now, I’m rational enough to know that it wasn’t true love, it was just deep infatuation created by my mind.  I don’t know this guy really at all.  That’s not true love.  But it sure FELT like it.  Anyway, without getting into all of the details, one day I finally decided to give him my number.  Eventually after several weeks, he called me.  He called me just last week.  I was ecstatic!!!  I had already created in my mind what would happen next.  We would go out on a date, then another, we would fall head over heels in love, and we would go down to the orphanage in Mexico that he volunteers at, and live happily ever after.  You know, all that fun stuff.  Fantasies.....not reality. 

Our phone conversation was brief and pleasant.  He didn’t ask me out.  I was stuck....anxious.  WHAT SHOULD I DO????  Finally after a few days, I texted him.  We immediately launched into a very intense flirting texting conversation that lasted from 9:30 AM until 2:30 AM the next morning.  The energy and attraction was palpable.  We laughed.  We talked about a lot of things.....life, my Mom, etc etc.  It was fantastic.  But it was intense, and sometimes it crossed lines that shouldn’t have been crossed.  Already, I felt out of control...........obsessing.  Does he like me?  Is he a nice guy or just playing me? What does he want?  Am I going to get hurt?”

We discussed the situation the next day.  He said that he wasn’t ready for an intimate relationship (for various reasons).  I didn’t know what to do.  I didn’t know what to say.  We continued texting for the next four days.  I told him that I wanted to actually see him face-to-face.  He seemed to avoid that.  I felt incredibly vulnerable.  I felt frustrated.  I REALLY like this guy.  And I was trying to control things too much.  I wasn’t hearing him.  I wasn’t listening. 

On Sunday night while we were texting, he crossed a boundary again – a boundary that he had set.  I got angry, because I felt frustrated with where we were at.  The situation wasn’t healthy.  I was trying to respect what he was telling me he needed, but he was giving me mixed messages.  The thing is though, that I was giving him mixed messages too.  This man had clearly told me that he didn’t want a relationship.  I clearly told him that I did....and I didn’t have the strength to walk away. 

I haven’t heard from him in two days.  I think that’s for the best in all honesty.  I am mature enough to know that healthy relationships don’t start that way.  But it’s amazing how much I still have the urge to try and control it – to “fix it”, when in reality I just have to let go....let go of any attachment to any outcome.  Maybe someday in the future I will see him again.  Maybe someday in the future I will be able to contact him while coming from a healthier place.  But at the moment, I am struggling with intense compulsive urges......The urge to text him......the urge to drive by his house.....the urge to compulsively search the Internet in order to learn more about him so that somehow I’ll learn how he ticks and I will feel better about the situation.

It is all very painful.  I was obsessed.  Plain and simple.  I created something in my head that I wanted to see through to fruition.  And that didn’t happen.  I’m disappointed – that it didn’t go any further (because I really do like this guy), and disappointed that I didn’t behave in a healthier way right from the beginning. 

May 9, 2012

What does "recovery" from OCD look like?

I often wonder what being “recovered” from OCD would look like for me. 

Are there any of you out there reading this who would say you’re “recovered”?  If so – what does that term mean for you?  Do you not compulse at all anymore?  Do you have any obsessive thoughts? 

I suspect that “recovery” falls along a continuum that is different for everyone.  At this point, I would definitely NOT say that I have “recovered” from OCD.  I am still seeing my therapist every two weeks (I cut back from weekly ONLY for financial reasons.), I still have obsessive thoughts (some weeks/days are worse than others), and I am still doing some compulsions. 

All of that said, I know that I have made progress.  I have faced a lot of my fears.  I am avoiding a lot less.  Things that, this time last year, I couldn’t imagine myself doing, I do with ease. 

But my mind can still scare me to death.  It can still catch me off guard.  And, it seems, once I have “mastered” one of the many permutations and combinations that my mind can throw at me regarding my OCD themes, my mind twists that theme into a new and different “what if” and we start back at square one.  It’s frustrating and discouraging. 

I know I still have days when I don’t want to accept the uncertainty, which of course drives it all.  In fact, I would say that only half of the time I am skilled enough to catch my mind in action and stop the OCD in its tracks. 

The other day I went to get a tattoo as a memorial for my Mom.  It’s a long story...but I went to a tattoo artist who was recommended to me by a guy (let’s call him Mark) that I have a huge crush on (who doesn’t seem to really know that I exist).  When I got to the tattoo shop, the artist’s wife was there.  I had spoken to her on the phone and she seemed really nice.  Right out of the blue – WHAM! – the thoughts hit me:  You just had a weird reaction when you saw her – you think she’s hot.  Do you want to have sex with her?  Do you like her that way????”  And then the checking, reassuring and overall anxiety sets in.  I start trying to figure out why I reacted the way I did when she walked in.  DO I like her that way???  Maybe there’s some sort of cosmic energy connecting the two of us and she picked up on that weird energy.  Am I exuding “lesbian vibes”??????  Ugh.  Of course that all then spirals into questioning my real attraction for Mark: “Maybe you only like him because you know he’s not available and you never have to worry about having to get close to him because you’re really a lesbian in denial.”

And we’re off to the races.  OCD is currently winning. 

OCD robs me of the ability to enjoy my crush.  It robs me of enjoying the entire process of “courting” with someone.  It robs me of my femininity and my ability to flirt.  It robs me of so many things. 

But what is even more frustrating is that I’VE BEEN HERE BEFORE!!!!!!!!  Why do these thoughts, after all of the ERP that I’ve done, still have the ability to bring me to my knees? 

May 3, 2012

I'm booked! IOCDF Conference #2.....

I am officially committed to the IOCDF Conference in Chicago this July.  I am so excited!  Last year was my first year attending, and it was quite anxiety provoking.  I remember telling my therapist, who was also at the conference, that I felt like I was walking around naked!  Never before had I been in one place, surrounded by so many people, who knew that I had OCD.  But it was also a wonderful experience, meeting all of the wonderful, compassionate people - OCD sufferers, treatment providers, and family members.  I made some great friends and fellow bloggers, that I still stay in contact with.  Overall, it was a WONDERFUL EXPERIENCE, and I highly recommend attending if you can afford to. 

If any one would like to meet up while at the conference, I would love to have lunch, or coffee or tea or whatever.....

We are such a fantastic group of people.  :o)

May 1, 2012

ERP and this week's OCD triggers.....

I’m religiously doing my ERP.  Pat on the back for me.  I’ve been doing really well with it. 

But I’m into PMS – mode again.  It-just-gets-harder.  That’s all there is to it. 
A few days ago I was watching lesbian movies and mini-clips on You Tube with barely any affect on me at all.  Yesterday – not so much.  The anxiety pulsed through my body.  The thoughts ramped up. 

I wanted to avoid doing my ERP homework today, but I refused to let myself.  So, I went on to Netflix, and looked among the selection of Gay & Lesbian themed movies and found a new one to watch. 
To say that the theme of the movie hits home with the theme of one of my biggest OCD fears is an understatement.  The movie is titled “Gray Matters”, and here is a synopsis:

“Gray and her brother Sam are inseparable – people often mistake them for a couple, sometimes to the frustration and embarrassment of their relatives.  The siblings agree to help each other find a boyfriend and girlfriend (respectively), which leads to Sam meeting and marrying the sweet, lovable Charlie.  There’s just one problem:  Gray finds herself attracted to Charlie in a very physical and emotional manner.  Gray comes to the painful and confusing conclusion that she herself may be a lesbian (which would explain her solitary life and inability to connect with men), and seeks advice on what to do.”
I have watched twenty minutes of the movie, and my OCD wants me to watch the whole thing to find out what happens – so that I can reassure myself that this in fact isn’t what is going on with me.  I feel the tightness in my chest.  My cheeks are hot.  My breathing has changed.  Ugh.  My OCD says: "Maye this is you!  You haven't dated anyone in over a year!  You've struggled with relationships with men!  You're guarded with men!  You're not thrilled about dating, getting married etc.  Just face the facts, this movie is really about you."

I had another big trigger today, too.  A former friend/colleague of mine contacted me.  There’s nothing particularly threatening to me about my friend, per se, it’s just that she has a lot of lesbian friends.  So, immediately, my OCD said to me:  This is a sign.  You’re going to start hanging around with Niki again more often, and you’re going to go to a party that she has, and you’re going to meet a lesbian and fall in love just like all of these movies that you’ve been watching.”
I wanted SO BADLY to not text her back.  But the thing is, that I really like Niki – we laughed A LOT.  (Ironically, she has OCD too, but her themes are very different than mine, and I never shared my theme with her.)  I miss her.  And I don’t want to let OCD stop me from living the life that I want to live.....from having friendships that mean a lot to me.  So I texted her back.  We are going to get together for lunch soon.  And who knows what will happen after that. 

Those URGES are back.  The urges to figure it all out, reassure myself, avoid, and MAKE ALL THE UNCERTAINTY GO AWAY.  I HATE this feeling. 
Just as soon as I start to feel like I'm one step ahead of the OCD monster, it ambushes me and reminds me who is boss.