Tag: OCD

Overcoming Intrusive Thoughts

There were times when I was bombarded by dark heavy intrusive-thought clouds.  I used to think that focusing on the intrusive thoughts themselves would make the intrusive thoughts go away.  I always dwelled on one specific question: “Why am I thinking such horrific thoughts?!”  Unfortunately, that question only opened a flood gate of other disturbing irrational thoughts that would only intensify my anxiety and emotions even more, ultimately resulting in hours or even days of extreme emotional suffering.

Turns out, I just wasn’t asking myself the “right” questions?  

What Are Intrusive Thoughts?

Intrusive thoughts can be nuisance little buggers.  They are unpleasant thoughts, mental images, or ideas that involuntarily pop up in the mind.  Everyone experiences intrusive thoughts, it’s not just an OCD thing.

See, the brain is constantly scanning and processing information, thus why some junk information may end up in the processing line with thoughts that actually matter.  For the most part, our brain does a pretty good job at pushing intrusive thoughts through without us taking notice.  However, we tend to dwell on thoughts that are attached to emotions; so if an intrusive thought just so happens to pass through our mind at the right time, like during a period of anxiety, we might accidentally lock onto that intrusive thought by attaching an emotion to it.  

Generally, intrusive thoughts don’t linger around for very long and cause little to no emotional distress, because the fight or flight response system quickly realizes these intrusive thoughts are harmless and doesn’t require an emotional response; thus, releasing the emotional attachment allowing the intrusive thought to drift away from the mind.

However, for me, my faulty fight or flight response system doesn’t exactly know what to do with an intrusive thought and keeps me emotionally attached to my intrusive thought until it can be processed appropriately.  Almost like, when a customer service representative encounters a questionable problem, but has to wait until their manager comes back to lunch to resolve it.  Yet, with OCD, instead of waiting for the manager of my faulty fight or flight response system, I get the moody on-call supervisor (my OCD) to try to handle it for me, in which, we all know just makes matters worse causing emotional distress.  I wonder if I can sue my OCD for emotional distress?  

None Shall Pass, The Never Ending Thought Loop 

Imagine you are stuck running in a loop and there is a toll booth.  If you ask the right questions at the toll booth, you are free to leave the loop.  If you ask the wrong questions, you continue running in an endless loop, dwelling more and more on your intrusive thoughts.  Also, think of the loop as a dirt-road track, because the more you go round and round in your loop, the deeper the track gets from continuous tread from your shoes. Overcoming intrusive thoughts is a bit like that…at least for me it is. 

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I learned that the more I dwell on trying to analyze my intrusive thoughts, the more my anxiety and emotions intensify, leading to self-doubt.  Once self-doubt kicks in, that is it!  My OCD bully has nailed me in the gonads and I am just left to wait it out until my OCD episode ends on it’s own.  This is because self-doubt is much more difficult to overcome than the emotions attached to intrusive thoughts.  Self-doubt makes the intrusive thoughts personal and without cognitive practice, self-doubt is emotionally painful.

When intrusive thoughts become stuck, you just can’t not think about them….

Asking Different Questions

It’s all about changing tactics.  If you do the same thing over and over again to try to solve a problem, you always get the same results.  Usually, if you change your point of view, you discover a new way to tackle your problem to gain different results.  So, if dwelling on the same questions is making anxiety worse, why not try asking different questions?  Here are some examples: 

  1. Instead of asking yourself, “Why am I thinking about these horrific thoughts?”
    Ask yourself, “Why do these horrific thoughts bother me so much?”
  2. Instead of asking yourself, “Where did these horrific thoughts come from?”
    Ask yourself, “Am I anxious about anything that could have triggered these thoughts?”
  3. Instead of asking yourself, “Why can’t I just let go of these thoughts?”
    Ask yourself, “Are these thoughts really worth my time and energy to think about?”
  4. Instead of asking yourself, “Who am I?”
    Ask yourself, “Who am I not?”  Remember, intrusive thoughts do not define you.
  5. Finally, ask yourself, “What emotions am I attaching to these thoughts?”
    And then, begin defusing those emotions.

Try to think outside the box!  Ask questions that are constructive and positive to help lead you away from intrusive thoughts.  And, always remember to take a deep breath!

It’s Not Always Easy

There is always more than one way to release yourself from your anchored thoughts, you just need to find which way works for you.  The OCD bully brain wants to take advantage of intrusive thoughts to make you feel like a bad person.  Don’t let it!   You may not be able to control your thoughts, but you can for sure control how you respond to your thoughts.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Intrusive Thought Clouds

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Illustration by Ginny 

 

Sometimes when it rains, it pours.

Dark heavy intrusive thought clouds can be overwhelming, but clearer skies are on their way.  Like all massive storms, intrusive thought storms seem to last forever.  They can be scary, especially, when the storm intensifies with emotion causing more anxiety.

Whenever a storm threatens a perfectly good day, one can either seek shelter and wait it out in comfort or learn to dance happily in the rain.

It is completely up to you, how you choose to respond to your intrusive thoughts!  ❤ 

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.

 

My Weirdest OCD Ever: Whale Poo

This Memorial Day weekend, I took my girls to Sea World…all by myself.  You would think my OCD brain would have been on fire with anxiety.  Surprisingly, I was okay.  It wasn’t as stressful as I thought it would be; plus, I wasn’t the only brave (insane) parent who decided to bring their kids to a crowded amusement park all by themselves.  Sure, I was a bit anxious (who wouldn’t be), but having fun and making memories with my kids was way more important than getting stuck on a worrying-spree.  I tell ya, my OCD brain didn’t know how to handle that, and thus, I got the weirdest, most ridiculous, silliest OCD episode EVER, about whale poo!

Allowing OCD Thoughts & Feelings To Just Flow

I rarely “suffer” from OCD anymore.  I have OCD, so what I mean is that the intrusive thoughts and feelings from my OCD rarely ever cause me emotional “distress” anymore.

For me, my OCD is just there.  OCD is just something my brain does and I have accepted the fact that there is nothing I can do about the wiring of my OCD brain; however, I do have full-control on how I respond to my OCD.

Being able to recognize when my brain is “OCD-ing,” gives me better control over how I respond to OCD and thus, reduces the emotional distress caused by my OCD.  With lots (LOTS) of cognitive practice, I have learned how to let my OCD thoughts go, laugh at them even, and do my very best to move on with my life.  Of course, there are some OCD thoughts and feelings that are more difficult to let go than others, but in the back of my mind, I understand all my OCD episodes are triggered by real sources of anxiety, in which my OCD brain misinterprets, and holds on to by strong emotions.  In this particular case, I recognize the real source of my anxiety to be my kids.  I was anxious about the crowds and worried about how my kids were going to do at the park.  Understanding the real source of anxiety also gives me control over my OCD.

Allowing OCD thoughts and feelings to just flow, is an interesting experience.  It is almost like watching a suspenseful action-adventure movie, where you are on the edge of your seat, with your heart-pumping with adrenaline, excited for the next scene, but you have no worries at all, because that is totally not you in the movie being chased by bad guys or something (simply not your problem-kind of feeling).  When I am aware of an OCD episode, my OCD thoughts and feelings kind of just play in the background.  It’s really quite an interesting experience.

A Biologist’s Busted Dream

I love the ocean!  In high-school, I studied Marine Biology and I was set on becoming a Marine biologist; sadly, there just isn’t much marine life in a hot, dusty, and dry desert.  I did have the opportunity to learn to scuba-dive in a swimming pool, but I never finished my certification due to having Asthma.  My marine biology dream bubble was kind of busted by my physician who is a retired Navy physician.  He kindly explained to me that divers with Asthma are at high risk of collapsing their lungs due to the high pressures underwater.  Unfortunately, asthmatics often suffer from the “Bends” aka “decompression sickness,” more often than non-asthmatics.   So, the closest I am going to get to deep-sea marine life is in an Aquarium.

 

Please Don’t Blackfish Me

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How dare I bring my kids to Sea World, haven’t I ever seen Blackfish? 

Yes, I have!  “Blackfish” is a very heart-breaking, eye-opening,  documentary about the Sea World Amusement Parks and their alleged mistreatment of their Killer Whales (Orcas).  And, yes, I am very angry at Sea World!

Honestly, I find it extremely inhumane to keep not only one, but several massively large  marine creatures in a large swimming pool.  It is especially wrong, considering that each Sea-World park has a man-made lake for their water-skiing / boat shows that is 1000 times bigger than their Orca habitats.  Seriously, I would expect the Orca and dolphin habitats to be as big or even bigger as their man-made lake.  Basically, I just think captive Orca and dolphins deserve acreage in their tanks not square-feet.

So, why take my kids to Sea World?  Well, for the experience and to also learn about ocean conservation.  Sea World, I must give them that, has a decent ocean conservation program.  Although they teach the public about how to protect marine life in the wild, their undesirable captivity program (animals in the park) kind of makes me want to protect marine life even more in the wild; especially, if it could result in keeping animals in the wild instead of having to end up in captivity for rehabilitation or even for entertainment purposes.   Just a thought.

To be honest, I had no intention on dragging my kids to any Sea World shows.  When I was a kid, the trainers swam with the Orcas, in which was super fun to watch; however, due to tragic incidents where Orcas have attacked and drown trainers, trainers no longer swim with the Orca (highly understandably).  Unfortunately, the Orcas rarely do anything during the shows anymore.  Spoiler Alert: The entire show is sitting in front of a large tank listening to trainers recite Orca facts.  The Orca jump out of the water maybe once or twice during the entire show and at the end, they splash the audience.

OCD-ing About Whale Poo

My oldest was intent on seeing a whale, so, of course, I was going to make sure she saw a whale (mommy reflex).  BTW, Orcas are not technically whales, so I should have taken her to see the Beluga Whale instead, but that is a debate for when she is much older. I have learned to never argue with a preschooler!

When we arrived in the Orca stadium, my youngest dragged us all the way to the bottom (Splash Zone) to watch the Orca circle the tank.  They circled around the tank like sharks.  Although sad, they were still magnificent creatures to look at.  Anyway, as one swam by us, it pooped.  It was super gross!

We watched the entire show and at the end, we got splashed by 3 large Orca’s!  OMG, it was a lot of water!  A lot of cold, super salty, and in the back of my mind, poopie water!    My OCD brain was totally focused on the whale we saw poop in the water before the show.  That was just one Orca…there were 3 Orca’s in that tank!  That means, there were 3 large pooping Orca’s in that tank, splashing their toilet water all over us!

Before I saw the Orca poop in the water, my brain was content with the ignorant idea that Orca just don’t poop where they swim.  It’s just something I never really thought about before.  It didn’t ruin my day or anything, but the thought did linger in the back of my mind all the way home.

I thought about our drenched clothes, covered in Orca toilet water, have now contaminated the car seats.  Then, when we got home, we all went to bed without showers, because it was late and we were all exhausted!  I had a lingering thought that now our beds were contaminated with whale poo too!

I did have the compulsive need to wash everything as soon as possible, but, I didn’t, I was too tired to worry about whale poo.  We had to just live with it and surprisingly to my OCD brain, we survived without having to scrub everything clean.  Although we all took showers the next day, the clothes are still in the dirty laundry waiting for their turn to get washed.  The car seats need to be washed too, but not because I fear they are contaminated with whale poo, but mostly because they smell extremely salty.  3.5% salinity, to be exact.  Wow, I actually remember something from high-school. 🙂

So, that was my weirdest, most ridiculous, silliest OCD episode EVER!  If anything, it has taught me to think twice before sitting in the Splash Zone ever again.  🙂

Do you have any weird OCD stories, please feel free to share with us!  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.  ❤

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Secret To My Clean House Is Not “OCD”

As I write this, I am sitting in chaos.

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Due for fresh flowers

Towering piles of dirty dishes in the sink are conquering new territory over the counter tops.  Trash, lying just mere inches away from the empty trash can, look as if they were too exhausted to complete their journey.  My bathroom floor looks like a game of “Lava” with a trail of clothes leading to an empty hamper.  My living room is an endless mine field of toys, snack wrappers, and half-eaten snacks protecting the entrance to the kids room.  Lastly, my desk is completely covered in a blanket of white crumbled up tissues from a night of horrible allergies.  There is nothing about this scene that says, “OMG, you are so OCD!”  But, oddly, my husband is convinced otherwise!

I clean my house everyday.  Okay, allow me to rephrase that…I “pick up” my house everyday.  95% of the time, our house is pretty much clean, in which is saying something considering we have two little sticky and extremely messy kids.

Personally, I enjoying waking up to a clean house and I enjoy going to bed to a clean house; however, during the day is free game.  There are messes, spills, unexpected discoveries of old food in the couches, and toys in places I would never have thought to look.  My point is, our house looks very much “lived” in during the day,  but this is a side my husband rarely see’s, for that he often comes home to a house that looks as clean and organized as a museum.

Perfection is an Illusion

My husband thinks I am an “OCD clean freak,” because in his eyes, the house is generally always “perfectly” clean.  My OCD has nothing to do with my cleaning habits and surprisingly, my OCD has nothing to do with perfection.  I was raised in a world where everything had to be perfect; perhaps, that is why I despise perfection so much.  I just grew tired of it.  In my opinion, perfection is nothing more than an illusion.  What I may consider as perfect may be different than what another person may consider perfect, thus can create unachievable expectations.  Honestly, that doesn’t seem healthy, so I do not strive for perfection.  Sure, I have my moments when I want something to be “perfect,” but I do not allow the idea of perfection to consume me.  I usually just end up with, “eh, that’s good enough for me,” and move on.

Although I live a somewhat minimalistic lifestyle (except for my kids, they own everything), I do not feel the need to strive for order and cleanliness; instead, I “value” order and cleanliness.  For the most part,  I try to keep my house neat, clean, and organized, but only because it makes life so much easier.

Keeping A Clean House Is Part of Stress Management

If it doesn’t have a purpose or serve a function, out it goes!” is my motto for living a somewhat minimalistic lifestyle.  It has nothing to do with being frugal, environmentally friendly, or OCD; its just makes life easier and reduces stress for everyone.  My husband and I both have anxiety disorders, so I do my best to create a somewhat stress-free environment.

Here are some of my core beliefs about keeping a stress-free environment:

  • Waking up to a clean house is refreshing whereas waking up to a messy, dirty house can immediately impact a persons mood and create anxiety with an overwhelming thought of must-do’s.
  • Everything has a designated place to make it easier to find things and avoid the anxiety of having to look for something, especially in an emergency.
  • Clutter can clutter the mind as well as make excellent hiding places for things we’ve lost.  Plus, clutter is home to annoying little dust-bunnies!
  • Clothes are washed and put away in a timely manner to avoid the anxiety of not having anything to wear for work.
  • Clean dishes encourages a home-cook meal, instead of going out for fast food.
  • Going to bed to a clean house puts the mind at rest for better sleep.

Just A Little Everyday Work

There is no extreme labeling, perfect organization, or even a strict chaotic routine I follow everyday to ensure the house is maintained to create a somewhat stress-free environment.  Living a minimalistic, clutter free house cuts down majority of the work for me and after that I have only four everyday tasks:

  • Laundry (if any)
  • Pick up and vacuum the house before husband comes home
  • Clean kitchen after dinner, take out trash, and do dishes (cheat with a dishwasher)
  • Pick up the house just before bed

But of course, I do deep clean the house once or twice a month, but the rest is just kept up with daily maintenance.  This allows me to feel guilt free when I encounter days where I just don’t feel like doing anything at all and leave the house a mess for a day (because even the messiest of days are not that bad).

OCD plays no role in keeping my house clean.  Well, maybe, if you factor in that I keep my house clean to reduce anxiety, in which greatly helps my OCD, but OCD itself is not the reason my house is clean.  My only actual goal is to pick up the house at the end of everyday before my husband comes home.  Where then, it is my husband’s personal idea of perfection that makes it seem our house is maintained by an “OCD clean freak.”

Can your cleaning habits be mistaken for OCD?  

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.  ❤

 

 

 

The Big OCD Question…Is OCD Genetic?

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Genetics are funny.  Probably so, because it wasn’t my strongest topic in Biology.  I remember trying to predict genetic traits using a square chart diagram, called a Punnett square.  It felt like rocket-science, but without the cool rockets.  Turns out, I am a terrible psychic when it comes to genetics; however, I do find genetics absolutely fascinating; especially when it comes to mental health.

Is OCD genetic?

What wonderful ancestor do I have to thank for passing down this unpleasant mental health disorder called Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?  I’d like to go back in time and give them a lovely piece of my OCD mind!

Unfortunately, geneticists can’t answer that question, at least, not yet.  It appears they’ve  only just begun to explore the surface of genetics affecting mental health.  OCD does have a genetic component as they have supposedly discovered a couple of genes causing OCD mayhem.  However, the inheritance pattern of OCD is unknown, as OCD genes, like many other kinds of genes, seem to be largely influenced by environmental factors too.

Basically, not everyone carrying OCD genes will experience OCD.  There is a chance those genes will be activated at birth with symptoms gradually appearing throughout childhood into early adolescence.  Or, some OCD genes may lay dormant until triggered by some sort of trauma or some other environmental factor.  It is really difficult to say, who will get OCD and when it may occur in ones life.

Dormant Genes Waiting It’s Turn To Express Their Wrath 

Genes are fascinating, because not all the genes in our DNA master code book (genetic genome) are entirely expressed (activated/turned on/ used) all at once.  Obviously, we do have a lot of genes activated at birth, like those for basic human anatomy and physiology, touched with traits that make us unique and give us some resemblance of our parents.

But we also have genes that remain dormant.  For the body to function properly, our cells have the incredible ability to turn certain types of genes on and off, and they do so on a regular basis.  We don’t notice when new genes kick on and off, because they are primarily genes that are important to the body’s function to maintain homeostasis (balance).  So, no, your cells aren’t going to switch your eye color on ya; although, that would be kind of cool!

We also have some genes that will never be activated at all, because we are just “carriers.”  Basically,  we carry the gene to the next generation (our kids).  Depending on who we “mate” with and other biological factors; if the right conditions to activate a specific gene are met, then the gene will be expressed in one of our kids.  It’s complicated probability process can make it difficult to predict whether your kids will get certain genetic traits, diseases, and disorders.

But wait, there is more, we also have some genes that just lay dormant, patiently waiting for their chance to express their wrath, in which are generally activated by trauma.  Any kind of trauma (emotional or physical) has the potential to trigger gene activation.

My OCD was triggered by trauma, I am sure of it!

I am not a geneticist or a psychologist, nor any kind of expert for that matter; I am just a geeky science nerd pondering the inner-workings of my OCD brain…

Looking back, I am not aware of having any childhood OCD tendencies.  If I did, they weren’t worth remembering.  I do know for sure that I was in my mid-twenties, when I first began to experience true horrific OCD episodes with severe emotional suffering.  It felt as if my OCD was turned on like a light-switch.  I just woke up one day with an entirely different brain, with negative thinking patterns, bombarded with irrational and intrusive thoughts, and an overwhelming sense of self-doubt.  I thought I was going insane!

Of course, my therapist tried to pick my brain apart to figure out how my OCD suddenly came about, but we couldn’t figure it out.  I think my therapist was fascinated by the sudden onset of my OCD, especially, since I had been OCD-free my entire life, or at least I was pretty confident that I’d been living an OCD-free life.  According to my therapist, back then, it was unusual; not unheard of, but unusual to experience a sudden onset of OCD.  Today, it doesn’t seem so unusual.

My personal theory on what may have triggered my OCD…

Today, I am convinced a very traumatic, intensely stressful, scary moment on the free-way woke up my slumbering OCD genes.  I was driving home on the free-way one day after work, when I had to slow down to stop for a tiny fender-bender in my lane (far left lane).  Usually, no big deal, because you just turn on your blinker and impatiently wait for a break in traffic in the next lane to move around the accident.  Unfortunately, that day, my blinker was not working!

I was unable to signal to the other drivers in the next lane that I wanted to get around the accident.  Because I was stopped so close behind the fender-bender, without my blinker, one could easily think I was part of the fender-bender and had no intentions of moving around it.  It was rush hour and traffic in all the lanes were busily moving fast.  I had but one choice, or at least what my brain calculated to be the best choice, to cut in front of traffic!

I waited for a good size break in traffic, but let’s face it, when you are sweating bullets on the verge of a major panic attack, your judgement starts to become a bit cloudy.  I can still vividly remember the sound of a loud angry car horn as I quickly and recklessly cut in front of moving traffic in the next lane to get around the tiny fender-bender.  Fortunately, I didn’t cause a wreck, but I was shaken up like one of James Bond’s classic martini’s.

I am almost certain that was the moment that triggered my OCD, because my first noticeable episodes of my OCD were irrational fears about driving.

Future of Mental Health and Genetics

Anyways, that is just a personal theory of mine.  Who knows how or why I got OCD, just lucky I guess (total sarcasm).  Anyways, genetics in mental health is exciting.  Not just for OCD, but for other mental health disorders too.  I am curious to see what genetics will do for mental health.