January 29, 2013

You have to be willing to face your worst fear....every minute of every day......

......and that’s the hardest part.  We really don’t ever get a break from our OCD fears.  Wouldn’t you all just love to wake up one day and truly NOT be afraid of your worst fear coming true?  I’ve definitely had days, weeks, even months where I thought to myself “if I find myself in love with a woman one day I will deal with it” – but that “theme” was always in the back of my mind.    

I try to say to myself “what’s the big deal?  If you someday fall in love with a woman why would that be such a bad thing?” and all the other stuff that people who don’t have HOCD probably tell themselves.  I really WISH I wasn’t scared of that.  But we all know that wishing doesn’t change anything. 

I just returned from an amazing holiday in Mexico.  My aunt lives there for four months in the winter.  My cousin/best friend met me there.  But OCD was with me every step of the way.  I suppose I have “slipped” a little, which is frustrating, but I am trying not to battle that fact and just accept where I am at today. 

I’ve managed to allow myself to avoid some things.  I've also been ruminating and mental checking - a lot.  I’ve had a few pretty big anxious moments, which have led into days.  It really is all about being willing IN THE MOMENT to do whatever is necessary to accept and face the possibility of your worst fear coming true. 

Travelling alone is really good exposure for me.  (As a side note – I really resent this fact.  Why does a holiday have to be exposure for me?????)  I’m exposed to situations, people and places that are all uncertain.  Who knows who I will meet and where? 

For some reason I think I’ve “backed off” of my willingness to face my worst fear.  I think it all just became so overwhelming.  Luckily it’s a moment-by-moment thing and we always have new opportunities to kick OCD in the ass.  I just know that right this second - I am so overwhelmed that I don’t have that wholehearted commitment to being willing to do whatever it is in order to face my worst fear.  In my opinion, this type of discipline is required for all of us if we are to avoid getting swallowed up in OCD.  How do the rest of you do it?  I would love to hear from some who have ROCD/HOCD. 
I had a few opportunities while in Mexico to really kick my OCD in the teeth.  One of the ways I do this is to purposely be friendly and smile to everyone - even women who look like they might be gay.  I just couldn't do it.  The voice in my head said "If you do that these women will think you're coming on to them and they will come up to you and try to meet you.  They will think you're a lesbian.  And THEN what will happen?????"

I had an experience with a man while I was in Mexico.  We met at a restaurant, and I thought he was cute.  We obviously felt a physical connection.  Without going into all of the details, we ended up meeting each other, and spending some time together.  He is from Mexico, so I knew that whatever transpired between us was only going to last for the duration of my trip and just be light and fun.  But as soon as we started spending time together the obsessing (and MASSIVE anxiety!) started:  How do you feel about him?  Why are you feeling so anxious?  What’s the big deal?  Maybe you don’t like him.  Marian said that she once dated a guy who would cry every time they were intimate because he was really gay.  Maybe that’s why you’re so anxious.  WHY CAN’T YOU JUST ENJOY THIS?  WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU? Do you want to kiss him?  Do you feel attracted to him?  I just couldn’t wait to get out of it.....to get away....it wasn’t fun.  In all honesty, it was hell.  And then the "Maybe you're just afraid of facing who you really are....a lesbian." thoughts start.  We didn't sleep together, and of course that was a source of obsession as well.  Why didn't I want to sleep with him?  Is it because I wasn't really attracted to him?  Was I scared that I wouldn't like it?  If I didn't like it - that would obviously mean that I'm gay. 

Now that I’m home and I have 20/20 hindsight, I can see that I was wrapped up in thinking, thinking, thinking.  I couldn’t stop.  I tried so hard to just be with the anxiety, but my mind wouldn’t stop.  And then the urge to avoid started.  I wish I could have just enjoyed it more.  It drove me crazy that after meeting me for two hours he was constantly telling me how beautiful I am, and how much he loves me.  I used that as an excuse to “back off”.  Why couldn’t I just have enjoyed the compliments knowing that it was only going to last for a few days anyway?  Instead I had to spend my time TRYING TO DECIDE/FIGURE OUT IF I LIKED THIS GUY.  Or justify why I DIDN’T like him – because making a choice to not like a guy means that deep down inside I’m probably a lesbian.  No, I didn’t love the constant doting, and I was suspicious of the compliments.  But in the end it really didn’t matter.  Of course I wouldn’t have had a “real” relationship with this man.....so none of that really mattered! 
Anyway, I’m in a spot of “yuck”.  I’ll get through it.  I know I will.  I’m not sure where I go from here, but I have a session with my therapist next week and I’m sure we’ll come up with a plan.  I need to find a way of switching on that willingness....willingness to feel the anxiety, the doubt....the panic.  I’ll find it.  I know I will. 

January 16, 2013

The Problem with OCD....

I’ve had many days, weeks and months that have been relatively “OCD free” recently, and it’s amazing how clear thinking my brain is when it’s not clouded with all of the obsessive thoughts, ruminating and trying to “figure things out”.  I like to call it my “Moments of Clarity”.  I love those moments.  I suppose one might also call them epiphanies.....sprouting me forward in growth.  From a Buddhist perspective, these moments might be called getting in touch with our “inner wisdom”, or “Bhudda nature”.  The truth. 

As we all know, OCD tends to latch on to that which we feel is most important to us.  For me it’s relationships and my sexuality.  (And if you read my previous post, it’s my aging body!) A few days ago I had a big HOCD spike.  Probably the biggest that I’ve had in awhile.  Rather, I had a few in a row, and it caught me off guard.  In all honesty, it knocked me down.  I’m working through it, but I’ve been a bit overwhelmed. 
So I’ve been anxious for a few days.  And I’ve looked for some support.  No, I wasn’t “internet searching” – for the answers.  I was looking for support – as we all do when we are experiencing difficulty.  Anyway, I found this fantastic blog about a guy who suffers from ROCD, and is “recovered”.  It’s got fantastic tips and insight.  I highly recommend reading some of his posts. 

As I was reading one of his posts, it occurred to me that (particularly with my type of OCD) obsessively looking for answers really is counter-productive.  When really hit with a bad spike, our minds go on and on with mindless, useless, VERY unhelpful banter, that really gets us no closer to the “answer” anyway.  We are lured into believing that if we just thought about it for a few more minutes, or just reviewed yet one other incident from the past, or just solved this one problem  – that we would figure out THE ANSWER once and for all.  It’s such a trap. 
But – it’s hard to stop.  It’s SCARY to stop.....and just feel the anxiety.  Scary to sit with the uncertainty...that our worst fear may be coming true.  To endure the tightness in our chests, the sick feeling in our stomachs, the “tingly” feeling in our bodies.....and worst of all the obsessing....the thoughts that say that our worst fear is about to come true....or that we are crazy for not doing SOMETHING to try to stop our worst fear from coming true.   
Some days I really feel courageous.  Some days I feel like I could face my worst fears and be OK.  Some days I really don’t.  (My therapist says feelings aren’t facts and it deosn’t really matter how I feel right now - that if I am faced with my worst fear I would deal with it.)

But I do know that even if I DO have intimacy problems when in relationships (and who doesn’t?) for example, when I am obsessively trying to figure out if I am in the “right” relationship or if I am a lesbian in denial – I am not effectively able to deal with the REAL problem at hand.  I am not effectively able to concentrate on the things that I need to concentrate on in order to grow and evolve as a person.  When in a relationship, I’m not able to deal effectively with the REAL problems and issues that inevitably come up with two people when in an intimate relationship.  I just don’t have the head space for that clarity/inner wisdom to come through. 
I know that I am not my OCD, but sheesh – on some days – days like this where my mind is going, going, going, and I have a sick feeling in my stomach all day – it sure feels like it.  I look forward to having more of those epiphanies.  This too shall pass. 

P.S. There is something wrong with my spell check....of course I had to let you know that.  Wouldn't want you to think that I would publish a blog post with spelling errors.  :o)

January 12, 2013

The Many "nuances" of OCD.

I can tell that I’ve come a long way in my battle with OCD, because now I can laugh at it – at least most of the time.  As I sit down to write this post and let all of you know OCD's latest "antics" in my head....I am chuckling to myself....at the absurdity of it all.  Thankfully I have some friends who have OCD too – and we always joke “it takes one to know one”.  Now I’m at the point where I can just laugh about how ridiculous it all is.  Don’t get me wrong – in the moment – it FEELS as urgent as usual.  But wow – it is just so absurd – isn’t it? 
You won’t believe my latest.  No, it’s not relationships.  No it’s not my sexuality. 

It’s my chicken/turkey neck.  (Now I completely understand the notion of “OCD Spectrum Disorders”.....can you say BDD????)

Though this past year has been bittersweet for me in many ways, and I have grown tremendously, I also became immensely aware of my own mortality.  And my age.  Ironically, I think all of this is what helped me to finally muster the courage to face my OCD – after all – what am I waiting for?  I’m not getting any younger!  On the other hand, being so blatantly aware of my mortality has created a breeding ground for new and different OCD (BDD?) themes to emerge.  Great. 
I don’t FEEL forty.  And most of the people that I spend time with are in their early to mid-30’s.  In fact, since gaining control of my OCD, I feel so much younger!  Many people tell me that I don’t look 40 at all.  I hear that all the time.  I am in better shape than I’ve ever been – both mentally and physically.  I am happy.  I am excited about life.  But the other day – I started inspecting my face....just a little longer than usual.  And that voice – THAT DAMN VOICE – popped into my head: “Your chin is a bit saggy isn’t it?  Do you see that skin on your neck?  It is pretty wrinkly....”.  And WHAM!  The anxiety set in.  The thoughts.  The checking.  The ruminating.  All of it.  All....about my turkey neck.  I was getting a turkey neck and something had to be done - NOW. 

Mom was pretty wrinkly, but Dad wasn’t.  I wonder who you’re more like?  Hmmmm....what age was it that Mom started getting wrinkly?”
And then....going back to the mirror.  Inspect.  Shift angles.  Do I see wrinkles or is it just the angle of my face?  Look again.  And again. 

Panic set in.  This can’t be happening!  I am at the prime of my life.  Feeling better than ever.  Starting to get excited to date!  Feeling confident in myself – in all aspects of my life!  And now suddenly.......not only do I feel like I DON’T LOOK YOUNG – LIKE EVERYONE TOLD ME – but I feel like I look OLDER than my age! 

For about four days I couldn’t stop obsessing about my turkey neck.  I mentioned it to friends (yes, I know that’s reassurance-seeking).  “Are you crazy?!  You don’t have a turkey neck.” They would say.  Of course that wasn’t good enough.  I actually spent about two hours one day at work researching turkey necks and what to do about them.  (In case you’re wondering – the best procedure for this is surgery and it costs $10,000.  Not going to happen.) After doing that research I rushed up to the spa to purchase a tube of $60 retinol face cream!  (Lord, I hope that helps!) I even booked an appointment for a cosmetic surgery consult – as consideration for Botox.  I could go on and on.....
The worst part of it is – I KNEW I was obsessing.  I knew I didn’t have perspective or any objectivity.  But I was in a panic.  I felt horrible.  It FELT like an emergency. 

Those moments have passed and I think I now have some objectivity.  Realistically, though, I am sure that my chicken neck is an area of OCD vulnerability for me.  I might as well work on accepting that. 
Crazy what this disorder does to us.