To Delete Or Not To Delete Irrational OCD Fears

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The most difficult thing with OCD, is resisting the urge to follow through with a compulsive behavior.  It is so emotionally painful, that the need to obtain immediate relief from the emotional torture is too much, and you are forced to just give in.

But, the remarkable sensation that courses through my body when I finally do take a leap of faith and fully resist my OCD bully brain – is undeniably amazing.

At first, it stings, a lot, like getting a massive emotional shot to the heart, but then it gradually feels better, to the point, it doesn’t hurt anymore.  It’s as if the fear was worse than the actual experience.  Once released from the agonizing grip of OCD, clarity sets in, and the mind is at ease again.  I believe that remembering such an experience, helps develop self-confidence, and the more confidence you build, the easier, over time, it is to overcome your OCD bully brain!

The Dreaded OCD Crutch

Earlier this year, we bought a vehicle dash camera for the family car.  Surprisingly, not for the purpose of my OCD, but more so, for my husband to use on his long drives into the city.  Anyway, I knew when I bought it, I feared I would back-track on all my progress overcoming my irrational OCD fears about driving.

In my opinion, a dash camera is an OCD crutch used as reassurance for the OCD brain, allowing one to calm their anxiety while driving and later check to make sure all, in fact, was well.  Overall, it’s a bad habit that doesn’t benefit anyone suffering from OCD.  It makes OCD worse, because you lose all confidence in yourself.  Confidence in which your OCD bully brain doesn’t want you to have- because self-confidence is power against the OCD bully brain.

My OCD Itch 

For a long time, I managed to keep the dash camera nicely tucked away in its cozy case in the glove box, going on with my business without an OCD care in the world.  But, I guess you can say, I eventually got the OCD itch….

I really didn’t start using the dash camera for my OCD, until I began driving my kiddo back and forth to school.  There is just so much anxiety having to drive through a school parking lot surrounded by kids, teachers, parents and pets (oh yes, pets- who brings their pets to school?).

Kids on bikes scare me the most, because they are the most unpredictable.  They tend to pop out of no-where, as if they just came through an unexpected worm-hole!  Teachers stomp through the parking lot as if they are invincible to cars.  And, then there are some parents recklessly driving through the parking lot with places to go, people to see, and jobs to get to on time.  So, it’s quite understandable that my quirky Fight or Flight Response System is on high alert, sounding off a constant emergency alarm!

So, like any rational person with an irrational OCD brain, I began using the dash camera.

A Destructive Decision

At some point, my sneaky OCD bully brain convinced me that I should probably use the dash camera as a “precautionary” measure against “crazy in-a-hurry drivers” who don’t know how to drive.  IT WAS A LIE!   My OCD bully brain wanted to strip away self-confidence and replace it with self-doubt!  That’s it’s evil plan!

Using the dash camera on a daily basis was a destructive decision against the war effort on OCD.  After a few days, I started to become dependent on the dash camera.  No matter where I went, whether it was driving a few miles to the school or just around the corner to check the mail, I needed it!  

Without the dash camera, I find myself circling parking lots to reassure myself everyone is safe.  I will waste gas to double back to reassure myself that I didn’t cause a wreck or something.  But, the worst, in which I finally realized I had a problem, is when I began lying to my family, about the need to go somewhere when there really wasn’t a need to go anywhere- I just wanted reassurance.  Or, lying to my husband, after getting back from the grocery store, that it took me longer to get home, because “the car sounded funny and I just wanted to drive around to make sure it wasn’t anything serious;” when in fact, I was just doubling back to ease my OCD brain.

I shouldn’t have to lie.  My husband knows I have OCD.  But, after overcoming so many OCD fears, I am a bit embarrassed when I regress like this; even though, it is okay to take a few steps back sometimes.   I am not perfect.

When All Confidence Is Lost

What is certain, is that I must knick this in the butt as soon as I can, because once all my self-confidence is lost, my OCD bully brain wins.  Self-confidence is extremely important in overcoming my OCD fears.

When all self-confidence is lost, extreme self-doubt will attempt to distort reality-it’s scary and emotionally exhausting.  It doesn’t matter what anybody says, the OCD bully brain takes hold and does a remarkable job of convincing you that you are terrible person.  Self-doubt can be so powerful, nothing is reassuring, not even real footage on a dash camera.  You eventually begin to question your sanity, as you dwell over and over on what it was that might or might not have happened.   Not knowing for sure, increases all the emotions inside, building anxiety, and causing overwhelming emotional suffering.

My first two years with OCD was like this and I NEVER EVER want to have such an experience like that EVER again!

Difficulties Letting Go 

The memory card for the dash camera is completely full and yet, this weekend, I was unable to delete it, in fear, something of great importance was on it.  “What-if” thinking set in.  What if something bad happens, if I delete it?  

Of course, I can just let it be, for that new videos will eventually override the old videos, but that often corrupts the memory card and memory cards are expensive- at least this one was; I later learned that I totally overpaid for it.  The memory card (SD card) for the dash camera, cost me about $30, and is the size of my thumb nail (and I have tiny thumbs)!   That’s crazy!

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Massive Dose Of Exposure Therapy Today

This weekend, I made an executive decision against my OCD bully brain, that I was going to limit the use of the dash camera.  The initial plan was to stop using the dash camera every time I drive somewhere; unless, it is somewhere, where I should probably use it, like trips to the school, because, that’s rationally reasonable, considering all the crazy traffic.  Also, I planned to completely resist the urge to do any checking, when I do use the dash camera.  Well, that plan backfired on me this morning- because I had no dash camera to use!

This weekend, like every other weekend, I had brought the dash camera inside the house to re-format the SD card (delete files) to start fresh for a new week.  I failed miserably of course, due to my OCD fears.  However, this morning, rushing out the door to get my kiddo to school, I forgot about it and I didn’t have time to go back inside and search for it- because it wasn’t where it was suppose to be (figures, right?).  So, I had to drive my kiddo to school without the comforting reassurance of a dash camera.

I was super anxious at first, but I reminded myself to breathe (deep breaths) and reassure myself everything is going to be okay.  Then, one by one, practice the 5 most important things I have learned so far about overcoming my OCD.

  1. Self-Confidence: I reminded myself that I am a good driver and a good person.
  2. Acceptance:  I must accept the situation of not having a dash camera and also, make the best of it with a positive attitude.
  3. Faith:  I must believe in myself.  Also, there is always a reason as to why things happen.  The Universe doesn’t want me to use the dash camera; obviously, otherwise, I would have had time to find it.  The Universe is helping me overcome my OCD fears.
  4. Stress-Management:  Breathe.  Deep Breaths.  There is nothing to be anxious about, for that I am familiar with the road and the usual traffic.
  5. Mindfulness:  When the brain goes on auto-pilot while driving, we sometimes forget what happens between Point A and Point B of our trip.  Sometimes, not remembering our drive (even though there was nothing significant to remember) can trigger an OCD episode.  Today, I knew I had to be 100% in the moment with my driving, so that I didn’t later question my driving.  Every time the mind began to drift, I redirected my full attention to my driving.

 

When I got back home….I was okay!  I had no need or urge to double back to make sure the world was still okay.   I also found the dash camera and finally deleted the files to start a new week.

In the future, I still intend to use the dash camera, but only if I am driving to places with a lot of traffic.  I also plan to resist the urge for reassurance with the dash camera (no compulsive checking).  It will take time and practice, but I am confident in myself, that I got this!!  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hairy Blob Monster From The Drain

Today, I decided to deep clean the kitchen, well, okay…the entire house.

If I clean the kitchen, I gotta clean the living room, and if I clean two rooms, I gotta clean all the rooms.  AND, the worst room in the house, the room I always dread cleaning the most, is my husband’s bathroom!  He’s just gross!

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Tackling my husband’s bathroom requires a hazmat suit and all the harsh chemicals my OCD doesn’t allow me to use.  My OCD is so bad, I can’t even keep any harsh chemicals (toilet cleaner, multipurpose cleaner, or even floor cleaner) inside the house, with the fear, someone will get hurt.

I hate OCD. 

However, I have no problem keeping other types of cleaning products in the house, such as disinfectant wipes, glass cleaner, and environmentally-safe (to the sewer monsters) dishwasher soap.  But, it’s taken me years to allow those inside the house.  I do not like them, but they do not bother me as much as the harsher products.  Silly, I know, but it is a work in progress; one day, I hope to not be bothered by any cleaning products in the house- like a normal person.

MY OCD EPISODE 

Today, I managed to deep clean my house, with harsh chemicals, without having an OCD episode.  Unfortunately, the chemicals, it seems were the least of my problems.  IT WAS THE HAIRY BLOB MONSTER IN THE SHOWER that triggered an OCD episode!

My husband is hairy, well, except for his head.  He is slightly (to be nice) balding, however, I do not think the hair on his head is technically falling out.  From my perspective, it just seems as if its relocating to other parts of his body…to fall out.  This, is a problem for the shower drain.

I love my husband. 

Anyway, I decided today, since I am already in deep cleaning mode, I would unclog the showers.  Generally, some vinegar and baking soda does the trick, because for the most part, it’s just shampoo and body-wash clogging the drains.  Plus, who doesn’t like watching vinegar and baking soda react!

Unfortunately, my husband’s shower drain was being stubborn.  I went to the store and got this handy little stick thing (because I do not like chemicals) to try to unclog the drain.  Now, if you have never bought one of these, you are totally missing out on all the fun!

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Simply, it’s a stick, with ridges, that you shove (takes a bit of work) into your drain, and with all your might (with two hands), pull out the most gross, nastiest, hair ball in the world!!!

The coolest thing, is that it works!  The downside, is if you have OCD…  The gunky gross hairball touched me! 

Gloves couldn’t save me, for that it touched the exposed portion of my arm!  My OCD bully brain had convinced me that no matter how much soap I used, no matter what type of soap I used, or how hard I scrubbed my arms, we were all going to get super sick and it was going to be my fault!

It also touched my sweater, that I threw into the dirty hamper, that my kids later knocked over on to the floor….oh mymy world was upside down!  Now, I had to disinfect the floor!

Irrational intrusive thoughts flooded my brain like crazy!

Stopping Intrusive Thoughts

Fortunately, my intrusive thoughts were interrupted by a phone call.   Earlier today, we dropped the car off for an oil change and it was ready for pick up.

Distraction can be an effective way to stop intrusive thoughts.  The drive to the car shop, cleared my mind, and acted like a reset button.  Just like dealing with a bully, sometimes, you just have to walk away.

When we came back home, I was fine.  I even managed to unclog the other shower without my OCD bully brain getting in the way (exposure therapy).

If this would have happened a few years ago, I can tell you…our shower drains would not be hair-free.  I would have broken down in tears.  I would have thrown away my sweater.  I would have scrubbed my hands and arms until they bled.  I would have disinfected the monkeys out of the floor where the dirty laundry touched.  I would have stopped using the shower all together.  And, I would have dwelled and dwelled and dwelled on my thoughts until I felt as if my heart were about to burst.

As silly as this story is, for some, the emotional fears stirred up by OCD can be super real.  It takes a lot of work to overcome the OCD bully brain, but with practice, I promise, it does get better!

 

      

 

 

 

 

 

Overcoming OCD: A Theory

What good is a blog about overcoming the suffering of OCD, if there is no straight-to-the-point information about overcoming the suffering of OCD?

Available now, in the menu to the right, is a new tab: Overcoming OCD: A Theory.   

This page contains a personal theory of mine about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and thoughts on how I believe one can overcome the suffering of OCD.

Please feel free to check it out.  Comments always welcome.

 

The Power Of Self Confidence: No More OCD Crutches

The OCD brain loves to devour self-confidence; so much so, that it can leave one drooling with self-doubt.

In my opinion, I believe self-doubt to be the ultimate objective of an Obsessive-Compulsive bully brain.  Self-doubt can cloud judgement, distort reality, and make us feel weak, insecure, and sometimes questioning our sanity.  The OCD bully brain feels pretty good about kicking our self-esteem in the gonads, leaving us to feel like, well, totally not in control and less like our wonderful selves.  Once you begin to doubt yourself, game over, the OCD bully brain has won!

Cannot Beat OCD With Crutches

Unfortuantely, you cannot defeat an OCD bully brain with crutches.  You might be able to wave them around like a dork, swinging at your OCD like crazy, but eventually, you’ll lose your balance and fall hard on your butt.  Crutches are not good at fighting back against OCD.

An OCD crutch is something we can lean on to help us bounce back quickly from a bad OCD thought, feeling, and/or compulsive behavior.

  • It can be a person who can reassure us verbally that all is okay in the world, instead of working through our OCD episodes ourselves, convincing ourselves all is okay in the world.
  • It can be a dash-camera used to rewind and check back on an anxious drive, instead of compulsively wasting time and gas to drive back to redo the drive over again.
  • It can be checking a security camera to make sure the stove is in fact turned off, instead of having the compulsive need to drive all the way back home to check the stove.
  • It can be wearing gloves 24-7 to ease the mind from having to worry about germs.
  • It could also be using medication that was meant to be short-term while learning how to cope with OCD, yet it eventually became a long-term solution instead, because it was easier.

OCD crutches are things that typically accommodate our OCD needs, making it easier and faster to move on with life without having to really work through our OCD problems.  They come in all different varieties, it just largely depends on how you use them and for how long.

Although OCD crutches help us better cope with our OCD, they are not very effective against overcoming the emotional suffering of OCD.  OCD crutches, by themselves,  just makes us feel a little less “OCD.

Having an OCD crutch isn’t terrible though.  In fact, it is a step forward towards overcoming the emotional suffering of OCD.  They are great to use as a short-term solution, easing your mind long enough to develop and practice a better, more effective, long-term game plan in conquering OCD; such as allowing yourself to focus on practicing CBT techniques, anxiety and stress management, recognizing and understanding OCD triggers, and working on a bit of mindfulness- all things required to overcome emotional suffering of OCD.

Taking A Leap Of Faith Away From OCD

To truly free yourself from the emotional suffering caused by Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, you must first drop the crutches and take a leap of faith into uncertainty.

Think of the movie, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusades, where Indiana Jones ends up at the temple of the “The Treasury” in Petra, Jordan, seeking out the Holy Grail.

Remember the scene where Indiana Jones must take a leap of faith across a bottomless pit to save his father. (Clip of this scene is below)  He really has to just dive right in and take a step into thin air (uncertainty), in which to his surprise, after minor heart failure over the fear of the unknown, realizes there is in fact a solid “invisible” bridge across the bottomless pit.

This entire scene, from the moment of extreme uncertainty to the heavy sigh of relief, is exactly what it is like dropping the OCD crutches and overcoming the emotional suffering caused by the OCD bully brain.  In fact, Harrison Ford expresses the exact emotions (just look at his facial expressions), that I feel when I finally muster up enough confidence to take a leap of faith to overcome self-doubt from my OCD.  I am the Indiana Jones of my own OCD! 

Stopping Compulsive Behavior 

It’s an odd sensation; resisting a compulsive behavior.

At first, when the mind is overwhelmed with emotions and OCD thoughts, it is difficult to even imagine resisting against the OCD bully brain and so, it is just easier to give in, following through with the compulsive behaviors.

Interestingly, through trial and error, we find things (OCD crutches) that allow us to sort of “compromise” with the OCD bully brain, by giving in to compulsive behavior or making ridiculous accommodations to avoid compulsive behavior, as best as we can, to better ease our experience with OCD.   However, OCD still wins.  The only way to successfully overcome the emotional suffering caused by OCD is by not giving in to OCD; however, I will be honest, the mere thought of taking back control can be really scary.

For me, resisting compulsive behavior is like fighting back against an invisible force field.  BUT,  like in every sci-fi movie, there is always a giant red shut-off button every villain doesn’t want you to find, but also seems to be in a dumb place for the hero to find anyway.

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OCD Bully Brain with a Self-Doubt Ray-gun

Yeah, the OCD bully brain is manipulative, not smart, just like a sci-fi movie villain.  🙂  It is amazing what a little self-confidence can do!

TAKING BACK CONTROL: Give it a Try

It never hurts to try to overcome our OCD.  Below is how I take back control from my OCD brain.

  1. I let OCD triggers happen.  Avoiding them is often futile.
  2. It is important that I recognize the moment I start to have an OCD episode.  It’s much easier to work through an episode when I understand my brain is just being, well, OCD.
  3. I then allow the OCD thoughts and feelings to linger like a stinky breeze on trash day.
  4. I learned to never dwell on “why” these thoughts have come to mind.  I am going to think about all the “why” questions anyway,  but I know I must not start a debate with the OCD bully brain, because the OCD bully brain LOVES to debate with the logical brain.  I cannot let this happen, because the OCD bully brain often wins by using ruthless manipulative tactics to create self-doubt.
  5. I hold my confidence.  I know I am smarter than my OCD bully brain.
  6. I always take in a deep breath (or two or three); however many deep breathes it takes to keep me calm and bring myself closer to clarity.  I am not looking to reach clarity, just enough clarity to keep my understanding that this is just my brain being OCD.
  7. Then, the heavy need to perform a compulsive behavior comes…
    At this point, it is important to remember that I cannot control my thoughts or feelings, but I CAN control my physical actions.  I can control how I chose to respond to my OCD bully brain.
  8. As the thoughts swirl and the emotions build, pushing me to perform a compulsive behavior….I slam down on that imaginary red shut-off button instead!   I take a leap of faith by confidently telling myself:
    This is ridiculous!  Nothing will change if I waste time and energy by performing a compulsive behavior.  I have good faith in myself that all is well.  Everything was fine before this OCD thought came along and everything will be fine long after this thought leaves.  I am in control.”
  9. AND I REFUSE TO GIVE IN!  Instead of performing a compulsive behavior, I look for a distraction to flush that lingering stench of a bad thought out of my brain!
  10. Then, at the end, I wait until the bad OCD thought(s) are gone and my emotions have subsided before picking at my brain cells about “why” I had an OCD episode.  I reflect on how I felt when I refused to perform a compulsive behavior.  I also take note on how long I had to work through my OCD episode.  Did I learn anything?  How can I do better next time?

 

Everyone’s OCD is different, so what works for me, may not work for everyone else.  But, it never hurts to try something new.  In the beginning, refusing to perform a compulsive behavior was difficult, but with practice, it got a lot easier.  Trial and Error is a huge part of overcoming the OCD bully brain.

Distractions Are Good For The Brain

I use to think distracting my OCD bully brain was just another OCD crutch, but it’s not.  Distracting the brain is a healthy way to push lingering thoughts away.  Our brains (so-called normal brains too) do it all the time.

It’s part of normal brain function.  Our brains are constantly collecting input and we only take notice when something of interest sparks our brain and causes us to focus and think more deeply about it.  If the thought doesn’t have a deep emotional attachment to it, we can easily let the thought go.  However, when our OCD brains our anxious, our “Fight or Flight” Response System goes a bit haywire (frayed wiring I’ve talked about before) and our OCD bully brain tends to be extremely sensitive to thoughts and latches on emotionally, especially, to intrusive bad thoughts creating an OCD episode.

The Dash-Cam Is Back, But It’s Not For OCD 

In the beginning, before I started to find ways to overcome my OCD, I used a dash-cam to record all my drives.  I often wasted time and gas to drive all the way back to work or school, just to make sure I didn’t cause any accidents.  The dash-cam, saved me time and gas, but it was still an OCD crutch.  I relied on it for reassurance when self-doubt from my OCD consumed me.

It’s been 6+ years since I last used a dash-cam in my car.  As of two months ago, the dash-cam is back in my life, but this time, it is not for my OCD.  I bought a new dash-cam for my husband to use during his long trips to the big city.  I was hesitant at first to buy a dash-cam, for that I was afraid I would become dependent on a dash-cam again for my OCD.

I have not used the dash-cam for my OCD, yet.  In fact, the dash-cam has been sitting on my desk since last week.  I’ve been driving without having the need to have it in the car.  I don’t want it in the car!  To be honest, I want to conquer my OCD all by myself and thus far, I’ve been doing pretty good at overcoming my driving anxiety.  It just takes confidence and practice.  🙂

Take Away From This Post

In case there was too much blah-blah-blah talk, I just want to say, no matter what point you are at on your OCD journey….

  • Stay strong
  • Be confident in yourself
  • Have faith that all is well in the world
  • Lastly, you got this!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Being A Biology Student With Contamination-OCD

As a student passionate about learning Biology, developing Contamination-OCD felt as devastating as a surgeon losing his ability to work with his hands.

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What Is Contamination-OCD

Contamination-OCD is the fear of germs and diseases.

Those experiencing Contamination-OCD often avoid objects, people, and places that they feel might get them sick.  Contamination-OCD can include some of the following compulsive-behaviors:

  • Avoiding touching certain objects handled by other people (like door-knobs, elevator buttons, pens, phones, etc).
  • Avoiding sick people.
  • Avoiding crowded places, bathrooms, or places like hospitals and clinics.
  • Avoiding bodily fluids such as mucus, blood, saliva, urine, etc
  • Avoiding food & beverages prepared by others.
  • Excessive hand-washing.
  • Throwing away things that is thought to be contaminated.
  • Wearing protective gloves and facial masks to avoid germs.
  • Excessive health tests in fear of having contracted a disease.

Well, that is just to name a few; for that individual experiences vary.

My Contamination-OCD Fears About Cleaning Products

Although diagnosed with Pure-O OCD, I occasionally experience a bit of Contamination-OCD with cleaning products, as it falls under my OCD’s common theme: The irrational fear of having harmed others through some form of negligence.

An example of my Contamination-OCD would be the time I kept throwing away sugar.  We used to keep a sugar bowl on the counter to sweeten our tea.  One day, my husband left an open-box of powdered dish detergent on the same counter as the sugar bowl.    Intrusive thoughts flooded my mind that somehow the dish-detergent had gotten into the sugar bowl and I was convinced the sugar bowl was then contaminated with dish-detergent (because both were white and similar in texture).  I always assumed it was best to be safe than sorry and so, I always threw away the sugar whenever my husband forgot to put away the dish-detergent.  Let’s just say, I ended up wasting a lot of sugar, before realizing it was just my OCD brain being OCD.

My Contamination-OCD Fears About Germs & Disease 

However, I did go through a short phase where I was afraid of every known disease in the “Universe.”  It was so bad, that it even made me uncomfortable standing near a moon rock, displayed in a glass case at NASA.  Seriously, You don’t know what unknown terrible alien-brain eating, glass deteriorating, diseases are on the moon!   It was a terrible experience, because I absoultely love science!

Sadly, the worst part, was being a Biology student who was about to begin a semester of lab courses; where not only was I going to be exposed to sheep brains and twitching dead frogs, but also human bodily fluids like urine and blood.  I was also signed up for mandatory volunteer work at a hospital as a transporter (transporting sick people from one department to the other).  I wasn’t sure I could handle it!  But, hey, the things we do for science, right?   

Talk About Effective Exposure Therapy – Lab Class

In the beginning, my science lab classes barely involved any “lab” work at all.  Chemistry 101 was more math than test-tube experiments.  Geology lab was full of rocks.  Physics dealt mostly with physical objects.  Biology; well, Biology in the beginning was a snore.

The first couple of Biology lab classes consisted of long boring lectures with plastic model body parts.  The only thing in my earlier lab classes that totally set off my Contamination-OCD, were the students bringing in their drinks and food into the lab.  All different kinds of lab classes took place in this lab, so who knows what gross dead thing or toxic residue was left on the tables before we came in for a boring lecture.  

However, I remember a very particular and extremely uncomfortable lab session in which we had to work with blood and urine.   At the time, I was completely afraid of bodily fluids. Unfortunately,  I couldn’t ditch one lab assignment, for that lab assignments were a big chunk of our final grade.  Instead, I had to force myself through it…

The first lab assignment was more-so gross than terrible, as it involved testing protein concentrations in urine.  One person from the group had to urinate in a cup and each of us had to test his/her urine.  Although gloves and masks were required, touching someone else’s “pee” is really gross, even without OCD.

The second lab assignment was called ABO blood typing to determine blood type.  It bothered me more than the urine.  It involved us pricking each others fingers to draw blood into a tray where we then had to mix our blood with antibodies to determine our specific blood type.  Really neat stuff, when the OCD brain isn’t being so OCD.  Intrusive thoughts of all the different kinds of blood-transmittable diseases flooded my OCD brain and of course, I was extremely worried about leaving lab class with a disease or tracking diseases home on the bottom of my shoe!

Knowledge Is Power Against the OCD Bully Brain 

My OCD brain took full-advantage of my ignorance about how germs and diseases can affect the body.  I was uncomfortable sharing my drink with someone, holding hands, or even pressing the elevator button (try getting your foot up that high).   However, for me, Contamination-OCD didn’t last very long after I began my studies in Human Anatomy and Physiology.  Learning more about how bacteria and viruses actually work and how our body protects itself against their attacks, largely put my OCD brain at ease; furthermore, the lab classes and volunteer work at the hospital was great exposure therapy.

It is important to understand that germs and diseases do not transmit as easily as they do in the 2002 zombie-horror movie, “28 Days.” (I hate that movie!)   In fact, our bodies have an amazingly strong defense system in which requires extremely specific circumstances and conditions for diseases to “successfully” transmit to a person.

BUT, that doesn’t mean jump straight into surgery without gloves, go days without washing your hands, pet a rabid dog, stand in the mucus spray of someone’s sneeze, or go protection-free on your next date; that just isn’t very smart nor hygienic.  Just because the body is designed with a good defense system, doesn’t mean it is 100% effective.

Keep in mind, that on a microscopic level, our bodies are constantly fighting a war against bacteria and viruses; we just aren’t aware of it.  So, regardless how much we try to protect ourselves, we are always at risk of getting sick; but we can largely reduce the risk of getting sick by following the recommended simple precautions to stay healthy.

My point is, staying healthy doesn’t require extensive protective measures, like lathering up on the antibacterial hand sanitizers, scrubbing your skin raw, or avoiding people who are living with preventable diseases.  In fact, some excessive precautions can be bad for your health, (like scrubbing your skin raw that could lead to bacterial infection), something you were trying to prevent in the first place.   Remember, you are the first line of defense, not the cavalry.

Bacteria and viruses have a negative reputation for being the bad guys when it comes to our health, but not all bacteria and viruses are bad.   Each can play beneficial roles in our health.  Click Here To Read More: sciencemag.org.  Microbiology is such a fascinating field of study!

 

Downside To A Smart OCD Brain…It Thinks Too Much

Unfortuantely, the downside to feeding your OCD brain with factual knowledge, is that the OCD brain thinks too much.   The OCD brain likes to debate and if you are not confident with what you know, your OCD brain is likely to win.  You don’t have to be an expert to convince your OCD brain that you are right; instead feel confident that you know more than your OCD brain.  Your OCD brain knows you are smart, but it doesn’t like the way that makes you feel- feeling good about yourself.  The OCD brain is a bully that wants you to feel bad and doubt yourself.  Don’t let it! 

You Can Beat This!! 

Don’t let OCD take away the things you love.   Contamination-OCD was an obstacle I had to overcome to enjoy what I love~ science!  I hope my experience encourages you to beat your own OCD challenges, especially, if it is getting in the way of something you love or enjoying doing in life.  ❤

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Faulty Fight or Flight Response System: Hit and Run OCD

“…my Fight or Flight Response System, it is more or less like a very old, overdramatic, senile emergency dispatcher who can’t seem to remember all the facts and misinterprets the danger levels.”

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In the beginningI counted traffic lights, memorized traffic light patterns, and wasted gallons of gas driving back and forth to reassure myself that I had not caused any accidents with my car.  This is how my brain decided to rewire itself after my stressful situation with a faulty blinker on the freeway.  For me, it was the beginning of insanity…

Different Forms of OCD With One Common Theme

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder.  There are many different forms of OCD and not everyone experiences OCD the same.  What is truly fascinating about OCD, is that a person can experience more than one form of OCD; however, each of those forms of OCD all tend to share a common theme.  For me, I have been diagnosed with  Pure “O” Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (no compulsive behaviors); yet, I also experience what is called “Hit & Run” OCD (with compulsive behaviors).  For me, both forms of OCD share a common theme:  The irrational fear of having harmed others through some form of negligence.  Unfortunately, for me, my Pure “O” OCD amplifies my Hit & Run OCD, almost to the point I thought I was going insane.

Hit & Run OCD

Fortunately, there is nothing insane about my membranes, except for a little OCD bully brain.  “Hit & Run” OCD is when the brain responds inappropriately to a stressful situation.  Instead of recognizing and appropriately dealing with the true source of anxiety, the OCD brain twists thoughts and emotions around causing a person to doubt not only their true character but also events associated with their anxiety.

An example of a “Hit & Run” OCD episode would be like an OCD driver driving in an area crowded with pedestrians (like New York City).  It is absolutely normal to feel nervous, because people are unpredictable.  You never know who might run out into the street or step out of a parked car into passing traffic.  It is truly a stressful situation.  The purpose of anxiety is to keep the driver alert, but the driver’s OCD brain, kind of goes on double high alert and begins to misinterpret the situation.  The driver runs over a pot hole that triggers an OCD episode where the driver begins to have irrational fears that he may have ran over a person. The bad case of “what if’s” begin to affect the driver’s self-doubt and then worst case scenarios cross his mind making him feel like a terrible person.  To relieve his fears, compulsion sets in, where he may turn around to check for an accident, check his car for damage, or read the newspaper everyday looking for a report of an accident.  A mix of guilt and paranoia could also set in from extreme anxiety.   He might even think he has gone insane, because the thoughts and emotions feel so real, not only doubting reality, but also his true character.  The driver is a good person, who in reality, would not drive away from a true accident.  Unfortunately,  OCD loves to mess with good-minded people and the driver with OCD endures a long period of extreme emotional suffering.

The good news is that those experiencing “Hit & Run” OCD  or any form of OCD have not gone insane.  OCD is all based on feelings and emotions and as I have been told a million times before, “the truly insane do not feel insanity.”  It’s just a little faulty wiring with our Fight or Flight Response System causing false evidence to appear real.

F. E. A. R. The result of my faulty wiring

I often refer to my OCD episodes as “OCD fears,” because my OCD episodes generally focus on some kind of irrational fear about something.  Thus, my favorite OCD acronym is F.E.A.R., in which cleverly means: “False Evidence Appearing Real.”  At first, I didn’t really understand what it meant, because everything was too real to consider any of it as false.  However, I know now that F.E.A.R. is the result of my faulty wiring in my OCD brain.  So, what is going on with this faulty wiring?

The autonomic nervous system in our body controls all those amazing things our body does without the need of us having to think about it.  This includes breathing (automatic), heart beating (automatic), digestive system (automatic), and hormone regulation (automatic).  This system is broken down into two parts: Sympathetic and Parasympathetic.  The faulty wiring lies within the sympathetic part of our autonomic nervous system; also known as the “Fight or Flight Response System.”

The Fight or Flight Response System is responsible for anxiety.  Anxiety is actually a good thing when it functions properly.  In stressful situations, anxiety tells the body something is up and to be on the look out for danger.  Kind of like a safety alarm system, prompting us to immediately assess the situation.  From there, we are forced to make the decision to either Fight (stay and deal with it) or Flight (run away from it).  Below is a Caveman scenario from college about how our Fight or Flight Response System works: 

My Cave Man Scenario:  A hairy caveman comes out from his den to play with fire; something him and his friends have recently discovered by accident (funny story by the way)…anyways, while walking along the beautiful plains of the Palaeolithic era, he comes across a large saber-tooth tiger sleeping peacefully among the high grass.  The caveman’s sympathetic nervous system is going off!  His heart begins to beat faster, his palms start to sweat, and his body starts to shiver in fear.  His body is screaming DANGER! DANGER! DANGER!

There are only two options: FIGHT or FLIGHT.

This caveman valued his life very much and of course FLIGHT took over.  He quietly took a few steps back, turned, and quickly ran back to his den.  Later, around the community bon-fire with his buddies, he told them about his encounter with a vicious saber-tooth tiger.  Instead of telling them he had ran away;  he told man’s first epic hero story of man vs. beast and man won.  🙂

Faulty Wiring In The Fight Or Flight Response System

OCD is an anxiety disorder, because the OCD brain has faulty wiring in the Fight or Flight Response System.  Stressful situations trigger the Fight or Flight Response System; however, the OCD brain is like a rotten school kid who likes to pull the fire alarm when there is no fire.  The Fight or Flight Response System is wired in such a way that it triggers on false alarms.

For me, stressful situations trigger anxiety, like it should, but my OCD has taken over the Fight or Flight Response Division of my brain and is now, more or less, like a very old, overdramatic, senile emergency dispatcher who can’t seem to remember all the facts and misinterprets the danger levels.  Instead of appropriately responding to a stressful situation with normal Fight or Flight Response protocols, my OCD brain triggers an irrational fear creating self-doubt, extreme guilt and worry; forcing me to deal with F.E.A.R.: false evidence appearing real.

Detective of OCD Related Incidents

Over the years, I have become quite the Sherlock Holmes of OCD related incidents; especially those episodes pertaining to my “Hit & Run” OCD.  To get over a major OCD episode, I have to write it all down.  Basically, take down my own official statement of events.  After recognizing the trigger, I can work on collecting all the false evidence that appears to be real.  Then, logically prove such evidence is indeed false.  I say, my dear Watson would be extremely proud.

Eventually, writing is no longer necessary when one begins to immediately recognize triggers, a powerful tool used to defuse OCD before it can even start.  Today, I experience very little driving anxiety.  In fact, I love to drive!  Pedestrians and other drivers do make me slightly nervous, but that is completely normal.  The important thing is that I do not allow my OCD to make it more than what it really is by being a confident driver.  Also, if I drive with an anxious mind, OCD episodes are prone to happen.  I also know I am good person and I refuse to let my OCD convince me otherwise.

For those suffering from Hit & Run OCD, please remember that you are not crazy or insane and that you are a good person despite how your OCD makes you feel.   ❤

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My First Major OCD Episode In 6 Years

It has been 2,190 DAYS (six years) since the last time I suffered from a major emotional OCD episode.  Unfortunately, that ended about a week ago.  As of today, it has only been 4 DAYS since my last major emotional OCD episode.

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My OCD Brain Fighting Against My Logical Brain

Over a week ago, I had a major OCD episode; one in which I couldn’t shake from my brain for at least an entire week.  My OCD brain was preventing me from blogging about OCD in fear something catastrophic would happen if I did; but I realized the catastrophic fear is just a  thinking error triggered by the real emotion of embarrassment.  So, after overcoming the embarrassing fact that I had a major OCD episode, my first one in years, I can semi-comfortably blog again.  I am no longer embarrassed over it, just relieved it is over.  This experience was slightly different from any other experience I have ever had with major OCD episodes.  In fact, it felt like a mental war going on in my head between my OCD brain and my logical brain.

Usually, it is just a war between my emotions and my OCD brain, but this time, my “logical” brain was not going to have it.  Six years ago, my logical brain was confused, insecure, and well, just not very helpful against an OCD bully.  However, this time, I was completely confident with my logic.  Instead of a constant period of emotional suffering, it was an on and off period of emotional suffering.  It was a bizarre mental tug-a-war experience that lasted an entire week, all because I knew exactly what was going on in my OCD brain.

My Kids Are OCD’s Kryptonite 

I can tell you exactly why my OCD struck me so hard when it did; it is because I didn’t have my kids distracting my brain and I was in an anxious mood.

Ever since I became a mom, I have been, essentially, OCD-free.  I still have an OCD brain, but I rarely have any OCD episodes, and when I do, they are extremely minor little episodes that don’t bother me at all.  Last week was the first time in years, that an OCD episode not only lasted forever but also had caused me severe emotional suffering.  In short, it was an OCD episode that totally messed with my happy.

Although my kids help keep my OCD at bay, I don’t usually have any OCD episodes when they are away visiting family.  I am not entirely dependent on them as I do a pretty good job controlling my OCD on my own, but I guess when they are gone, it is like having an extra defense shield down against OCD.  Thus, without being entirely mindful of my anxiety, OCD episodes are more likely to occur.

Overcoming My OCD 

Thinking about last week, I strongly believe the mental tug-a-war I experienced with my major OCD episode was me fighting back against my OCD.  The bizarre part of it all, was that I wasn’t even trying to stop my OCD brain; my logical brain just automatically took over.  My OCD brain tried to get me to doubt myself, but it didn’t work.  To me, I feel as if that was a sign that I might actually be overcoming OCD after all.  Unfortunately, catastrophic thinking still got the best of me; but in the end, I know I had successfully won that OCD battle!

Encouraging Others To Overcome OCD

The emotional suffering I felt last week deeply reminded me of the suffering I constantly endured my first couple of years with OCD and how it greatly motivated me to find a way to conquer my OCD.  I may not be able to cure my OCD, but I can certainly overcome the suffering it causes me.   I strongly believe if I can do it, others can do it too!

I hope my blog encourages others to overcome their OCD or at the very least, bring comfort to those suffering from OCD.  I have seen the ugly side of OCD and have stood in many OCD shoes.  Perhaps not an exact fit in shoe, for that everyone experiences OCD differently, but an enough fit to understand how badly OCD can affect a person’s life and overall happiness.

May the path to OCD-freedom lie just around the corner.  ❤