Change Is Not Without Challenges: Stay-At-Home Orders

How has your daily life changed since the coronavirus pandemic?

It is my understanding that the entire United States is under “Stay-At-Home” Orders (restrictions may vary state-to-state), where the only places open are those that are “essential” and “necessary,” like the grocery store, pharmacy, doctors, and a couple of restaurants that offer “drive-thru” only.

Where I live, we can still go outside, drive around, but social gatherings of 10 people or more are not allowed and we must keep a distance of 6 feet or more away from each other.  I don’t know about you, but I have no idea what 6 feet looks like; however, I gather it would be the length of my daughter X2.  In my opinion, that isn’t much, for that not everyone sneezes the same.  I’ve seen some gross sneezes in my lifetime! 

Life At Home
As a stay-at-home mom/housewife, my life hasn’t changed very much.  I mean, I still wake up every morning, enjoy a cup of coffee on the patio, read the horrifying news and check emails & stuff.  Then, I embark on my daily mommy/housewife duties.  The significant change to my daily life, is that my husband is working from home now, my Kindergartner has online schooling, and I must cook every night.  Yay me!

Our Place Is Too Small For Messes
We live in a very small space, in which, is more difficult to keep clean now that the entire family is constantly home.

Generally, I deep clean on Sunday and the rest of the week just requires a bit of tidying up, because it’s really just me and a pre-schooler hanging out all day.  But now, our place is a constant disaster zone!

Everyone is bored.  Projects come out, every toy imaginable comes out, and food crumbs everywhere.  Every couple of hours, we have to stop, pick-up, vacuum, and then resume.  Not fun.  Of course, that’s all part of adjusting to change and eventually, we’ll get into a better routine.

Online Schooling Is New
How does a Kindergartner do online schooling?  Well, we (including the teachers) are about to find out!

Last night, I was sent the schedule for daily lessons.  It’s a bit overwhelming.  I felt like I was in college all over again!   Good thing, I am not the one who has to do all this school work, but I can tell you, it sure is going to take a huge amount of work to convince a Kindergartner to do all this school work!

Creative Cooking
Due to people excessively hoarding food at the grocery store, we are pretty much limited on what to cook every night.  It’s always an interesting surprise!

Mostly, I try to do casseroles, so that I can stretch a meal for a couple of days.  Unfortunately, there is only so many casseroles you can throw together with just a few ingredients.

My husband went shopping yesterday and he brought home ground “chuck.”  I am not exactly sure what to do with ground chuck.   Is it like ground beef?  Is it even beef at all?

Although cooking is an adventure, I absolutely, hate doing dishes!  Everyday there are piles of dirty dishes and everyday I have to clean those piles of dishes, so that I can cook again the next day.  For me, dishes are the most dreadful part of my day!   

OCD Moments
My OCD isn’t going crazy.
I really thought I would be a super clean freak, but instead I am pretty 
comfortable in my own home.  However, every so often, I do disinfect our entry-way.  I wash the jackets hanging up, disinfect the floor and doorknobs, spray the shoes too, and then, spray the air with disinfectant just as an extra precaution.  It makes me feel better.  

So far, my largest OCD quirk has been the shoes.  I have this irrational fear that viruses and bacteria hitch rides on shoes and it drives me crazy whenever family forgets to kick off their shoes at the front door when they come home.  They are great at washing their hands as soon as we get home, but they are always so eager to play in water, they forget to take off their shoes.   And for some reason, our youngest doesn’t want to take off her shoes at all.  I couldn’t even get her to relinquish her shoes at bed-time the other day.  So, sometimes, even when OCD is at it’s worse, you still have to pick your battles with a pre-schooler.  At that point, you either wipe the shoes off with a wet cloth or suck it up and face your OCD fears (exposure therapy).

This Is The First Week
Anyway, this is our first week together!  There will be challenges here and there as we try to adjust to this new way of living.  It’s going to be interesting!   It’s going to be an adventure! 

I hope everyone is well and I wish everyone the best of physical and mental health!

How are you holding up?  Are you stuck at home too?   How is your OCD doing?  

 

 

How Viruses Work: Show Concern, Not Fear

This post is an OPINION.  Although the author tries to provide content based on facts, every reader is strongly encouraged  to do their own research.  The author is not an expert.     

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On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declares COVID-19 a pandemic.

I am staring at the world in disbelief, as everyone races to stockpile hand-sanitizer, wash their hands excessively, cover themselves in gloves and masks, as well as distant themselves socially.  It’s as if the entire world has Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder!

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Hi Brains!!  How are you holding up?  Hope all is well!  

As a person with OCD, who has asthma, with children with asthma….
I am extremely concern, but not technically afraid.  Which is strange…

Generally, my OCD contamination fears would be kicking in about right now, but for the moment, I am okay.  Maybe, it’s the mom in me, overriding my OCD brain.  For that mom’s have a super-power of not showing fear in times of crisis.   Perhaps it’s knowing a bit of biology and having an understanding about how viruses work that ease my OCD brain, allowing me to reassure others that the world will be okay.

To be honest, I am more afraid of people irrationally panicking than I am of the actual virus.

Why Is The Public In A Panic

It is unsettling to a person with an OCD brain, to see those (normal brains) who we rely on for reassurance, go into panic mode.

In my opinion, the public is in a panic, because we are being told facts that are difficult to understand without a medical or science degree.  Scientists are notorious for not explaining things in layman’s terms (simple, to the point, easy to understand terms).

Unfortunately, the experts don’t have to time to explain it and the media doesn’t have time to understand it – they just report the facts.  And facts and statistics without further explanation can be scary and often times misunderstood, potentially, creating panic and fear.

If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.

-Albert Einstein

Show Concern, Not Fear

I totally agree with the experts, that we should show concern, not fear. In my opinion, based on personal experiences battling OCD contamination fears, is that knowledge is a strong foundation for reassurance.  

Unfortunately, the media seems to be pushing statistical facts, without providing further information, onto a society who lacks general knowledge of viruses.  I mean, it’s not like everyone took high-school biology.  In fact, most of our knowledge about viruses come from apocalyptic movies that deal with zombies or spy movies.  Last night, I watched Hobbs & Shaw (Fast & Furious) movie, which was entirely about saving the world from a deadly virus that, Ryan Reynolds, so elegantly put it, “melts your insides.”

So, in effort to reduce fear, I want to share with you what I know about viruses.  Of course, I am not an expert and I do encourage you to do your own research.

Our Bodies Got This

There is no doubt that COVID-19 is a serious and “potentially” dangerous virus; but in my opinion, doesn’t seem to be no more serious and potentially dangerous than any other virus on planet Earth.

Not to worsen fears, but did you know that viruses are the most abundant microbes on the planet (like billions of them) and that there is an estimate of 320,000 viruses that can infect mammals (that includes us humans)?

If that is true, why are we not constantly sick?
Well, although my microbiology is a bit rusty,  the simple answer is that the human body is AMAZING!

Although some viruses spread much easier than others, it still takes a lot of work for viruses to make healthy individuals sick, especially, if we take precautions like practicing good hygiene, washing our hands, and keeping ourselves distant from sick people.  In the event, we do get sick, symptoms are generally mild, even if we feel absolutely horrible, which is all thanks to our bad-ass immune system!!

Many people think when the body gets sick, it just gave up and the immune system is compromised, but that is FAR from the truth.  In fact, all viruses have the potential to do some pretty nasty harm, but it is our amazing immune system that ensures symptoms are not as bad as they could be…

What Is A Virus:  Extremely Short Basic General Version

The following is my understanding regarding viruses based on biology classes taken many-many moons ago…okay, throw in an extra moon or two in there for good measure.

Viruses are non-living things, meaning, they cannot live or reproduce (spread) on their own.

Viruses need to infect the cells of living organisms (such as us) to survive.  This is because, living cells are metabolic power-houses that constantly produce cells within the body.  Our body is made up of trillions upon trillions of cells which are constantly making new cells to replace old cells.  It’s absolutely fascinating!

If a virus cannot get inside a living organism, they slowly die or basically become “inactive.”  Scientists use the word “inactive” instead of “dead,” because viruses are non-living things and only living things can technically die.  I know, scientists are so technical.

So, viruses pretty much lay around all day waiting for a host (us) to pick it up and IF and only IF (because the body has lots of different defense mechanisms) they do get inside, they must then face an army of fierce defenders called, white blood cells.  Good luck! 

White-blood cells (among other things) play a major role in our immune system, for that they attack and destroy foreign invaders, such as viruses and bacteria.  Unfortunately, not all first attacks are successful, for that a virus may overwhelm our immune system and become successful in attaching to our cells.  Once they attach to our cells, they assume full control of the cell and start to make copies of themselves (reproduce and spread)- which then, makes us sick.

However, even then, it is short lived (duration of illness), as the body has many other defense mechanisms in place to help fight against a virus attack.  Such a cool defense mechanism is a fever, where the body purposely heats up in attempt to fry the suckers (the virus).  That essentially, levels the playing field, eliminating enough of the virus, for the white-blood cells to finish off the job.  This is when we start to feel better.

 

Antibodies & Vaccines

Now, although we are feeling amazing, getting back to work, and enjoying life again, our body isn’t finished yet with the virus- no way!  

Our body then, produces antibodies, which are like little battle ships that lay and wait for the next attack from the same virus.

Antibodies contain specific indentification information (like a warrant poster) that helps them quickly identify and destroy the virus in the event it comes back.

It is my understanding that antibodies become the first line of defense against an old enemy (a previous virus), where they fight off the virus while the calvary (white blood cells) make their way to the battle field.  This is why, symptoms are generally less severe the second go around with a virus.  The more times a virus attacks the more antibodies are produced to prevent future infection- eventually producing immunity.  Essentially, this is how vaccines work.

Vaccines contain a tiny bit of “inactive” or super-duper weak viruses that signals the body to create antibodies to help boost the immune system.  If your body has ever encountered the virus before, additional antibodies from the vaccine, generally do a good job at preventing having the illness again.  However, if your body encounters the virus for the first time after getting a vaccine, you may still get sick, but the symptoms will always be less severe than it would be without antibodies (vaccines).

Because many people do not understand how antibodies produced by vaccines work, they often refuse to get a flu vaccine, because they have heard of people still getting sick despite being vaccinated.

To them, they believe vaccines don’t work.  However, those who do get sick after being vaccinated, may have never been infected with the virus before, so they don’t have the extra antibodies from a previous encounter to join ranks with the antibodies produced from the vaccine.  Also, not all antibodies stick around forever either.  Some vaccines offer a life-time immunity whereas others are just good for about +/- 10 years.

In short, it takes a lot for a virus to get us down.  In fact, our body does all the hard work.  It is our job to take the necessary (don’t go crazy) precautions to avoid getting sick.

COVID-19

Now, that we know a little bit about viruses in general, lets talk about COVID-19…..

First, COVID-19 is not a zombie apocalypse virus.  According to the CDC, which by the way, I believe to be the most accurate source of information regarding all kinds of viruses, states COVID-19 is a “respiratory virus” that may (not always) cause pneumonia, similar to the flu.  Ugh, the yucky flu!

Viruses often mutate into different versions of itself, producing different “strains,” in effort to survive.  Not all mutations are successful for that some mutations are weaker than others, but occasionally, they may mutate into a strain that has the potential to pack a powerful punch (such as COVID-19).

COVID-19 is 1 of 7 different strains of the virus called, “coronavirus.”

Although 4 strains of the coronavirus are nothing more than a common-cold (which everyone is expected to get at some point during their lifetime), it also has 3 other nastier versions of itself: MERS, SARS, and now COVID-19, which is a version of the first SARS outbreak.  These nastier versions (mutations/strains) of the coronavirus, cause severe respiratory issues; thus, it is important to try to stop the spread of them.

It is my understanding and opinion, that COVID-19 is extremely serious, because it poses a large health risk to those who have weak immune systems and/or underlying conditions that may cause complications.   The word “complication,” generally means, “making symptoms worse.”   The more severe that symptoms become, the more difficult it is for the body to fight off the virus.

Those who are generally healthy, may experience (if any) mild symptoms similar to the flu.

COVID-19 GAME PLAN

How do we stop the spread of a virus (whether it be COVID-19 or any other virus)?   Well, we quarantine, practice social distancing, and practice good hygiene.

The general idea is to not spread the virus to others.  The virus that is left hanging around on surfaces and people’s hands, are either washed away, disinfected, or left alone long enough to become “inactive,” and thus, not able to reproduce and spread.  However, that is quite a challenge for large populations.  I mean, Life still moves on.    

So, really the ultimate goal is to SLOW down the spread of the virus so that hospitals are not overwhelmed and become short of supplies.  This will make our health care system better manageable and reduce the mortality rate, until an effective and safe vaccine becomes available.

"Flattening the Curve for COVID-19"

Also, because COVID-19 is a virus that quickly and easily spreads, there is a good change that herd immunity will take effect and pretty much wipe out the virus out.

When a large portion of the population becomes immune, the virus has a less chance of survival.  Herd immunity is what often protects our elderly, our children, and those who may have trouble fighting off a virus.  Herd immunity also plays a major role in eliminating viruses – such as smallpox.

So, That’s My 2 Cents 

I am not sure if explaining the basics of viruses was helpful, but I do wish everyone the best of health, including your mental health!

If you are experiencing OCD contamination fears over COVID-19…BREATHE, learn the facts, and if you don’t understand something, ask questions.  Knowledge is extremely helpful when dealing with OCD fears.


  

 

 

 

My OCD Is Just A Thing

So…how is my OCD holding up with all this stress in my life??     

It’s flipping the monkey’s out!  But, it’s just my quirky brain being…quirky.

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By Ginny (Nature Photography) 

Anxiety triggers my OCD, so I tend to experience more OCD episodes when I am stressed and anxious; especially, if I am not practicing stress management.  Stress management helps me prevent annoying OCD episodes from occurring; however, when an OCD episode does occur, it is the practice of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Techniques that allows me to easily breeze right through them without emotionally falling apart.


Emotionally Numb To My OCD 

My OCD bully brain no longer bothers me.  Personally, my OCD (Pure “O” OCD) is just a thing that happens…

My OCD is comparable to hiccups.  They come and go, and there is nothing I can do about it.

I can’t really explain it.
Although I am not emotionally attached to my intrusive thoughts, intrusive thoughts still flood my brain and get stuck on repeat due to the faulty wiring of my brain (OCD).   I still have moments of “what if?”   I still feel the strong emotions.  I still have irrational OCD fears.  BUT, the difference, is that I am 100% self-aware that my thoughts and feelings are OCD.

I often, nonchalantly, tell my friends and family when I am currently experiencing an OCD episode.  I am rarely ever embarrassed anymore.  I also do not ask for reassurance from anyone,  because I can now recognize and acknowledge that my own thoughts are irrational and/or silly.  I know who I am as a person.  I also know I am a person with a quirky OCD brain.

More importantly, I no longer dwell on the question, “Why am I having these kinds of thoughts.

I think it’s the “why” that causes so much emotional suffering, because “why” questions our own character, making us feel like a bad person (when we aren’t), and it fuels self-doubt.

Control Anxiety, Control OCD

In my opinion, stress & anxiety are the root cause of OCD episodes.  I practice a mix of Stress Management and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Techniques to keep my OCD under control.

First, I had to learn to accept I have an OCD brain.  Because the truth is, there is nothing we can do about how our brains are wired (well, not yet).

Also, it is important to understand that our intrusive thoughts do not define us.  When we realize our OCD has nothing to do with us, we can begin to release the emotional ties we have with those lingering intrusive thoughts.

Thoughts are meaningless without action. 

Sometimes, intrusive thoughts can be so overbearing, we may have difficulty recognizing that those intrusive thoughts are OCD related.  So, it’s important to identify and understand the triggers to our OCD episodes (everyone is different).  The reason for this, is not avoidance, but acceptance.  Acceptance is a big part of stress-management and we must accept that nobody, not even normal brains, can control their own thoughts. 

Recognizing triggers is a start to self-awareness, that gives us the power to make a choice.  The power to be in control of our OCD.   Either we avoid something that we know is going to trigger our OCD (which kind of limits our happiness) OR we accept our OCD is going to be triggered and we work through our OCD episode (if it occurs) fully aware of our thoughts and feelings.  Being  self-aware with “Hey, it’s just my quirky brain being OCD,” reduces our emotional attachments to intrusive thoughts and allows us to move on with our lives.

It is important to note, that everyone experiences OCD differently.  Some are fully aware when they experience OCD episodes, they know all their triggers, they know everything there is to know about their own OCD, yet they are still emotionally suffering from their intrusive thoughts and feelings.

In my opinion, I believe emotional suffering continues, because we end up asking ourselves the wrong questions.  It’s analyzing our thoughts and emotions to death that fuel our OCD.

Before I understood the relationship between my OCD and anxiety, I was asking myself all the wrong questions.  Those questions led to more questions and eventually, I found myself dwelling deeper and deeper on my OCD thoughts and feelings, until I was completely consumed by self-doubt and thinking I was going insane.

I eventually learned, if the questions I am asking myself over and over are leading me in an endless circle of doubt, perhaps, I am just asking myself the wrong questions….

Questions That Are Perhaps Fueling OCD

  1. Why am I having these kinds of thoughts?
  2. Does this make me a terrible person?
  3. What if?
  4. Where are these fears coming from?
  5. Are these thoughts real?

Perhaps Questions To Ask Instead

  1. What am I anxious about?  (Think about everything going on in your Life)
  2. What are the facts?
  3. Are these thoughts rational?
  4. What triggered my anxiety?  (A change, even a slight change in something new)
  5. Is this something I can control?

Everyone’s OCD is different, so, this may be helpful or may not be helpful.  My point is, when you’re not getting the results you want, it’s probably time to change up tactics.

If you find yourself walking in circles, STOP, and point your feet in a different direction; then start walking again-perhaps you’ll go somewhere new for a change.

You Got This!!

There was a time in my life, I thought I would never be happy.  I struggled to imagine how anyone could ever get over such horrendous thoughts and feelings.  There was a time in my life, I thought I was going insane.

Today, I am glad I took a stand against my OCD bully brain!  It’s wasn’t easy.  I am not cured of OCD, but I did manage to overcome the emotional suffering of my OCD.   Hope does exist.  It is possible, to live happily with OCD.  It just takes a lot of work, understanding, and some OCD bully brain ass-kicking!

To everyone who has OCD, you got this!!

 

 

 

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!

 

      

 

 

 

 

 

My OCD “Phantom” Quirks

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I still have some lingering OCD quirks; OCD habits that seem to have been engraved into my brain, in which no longer serve any OCD purpose.  These are behaviors that I perform without even thinking.  There is no compulsive need or emotional suffering behind any of these left-over quirky behaviors; they are just simply habit.

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My brain is very much OCD wired, but I am in control.  I no longer allow my OCD brain to cause me “emotional” suffering.  Sure, on occassion, I still experience some OCD episodes, but they don’t last very long and are always triggered by stress.  For me, stress management has been the key to living comfortably with an OCD brain.

Today, I often experience, what I call, OCD “phantom” quirks (compulsive-like behaviors with no OCD meaning or purpose), lingering around from a time when my OCD brain was in full control.  For whatever reason, these quirks developed into routine habits.  I am guessing, as an ingenious way to beat my OCD brain to the punch.  Over the years, as I began to conquer my OCD brain, I became so focused on eliminating “emotional” suffering, I seemed to have failed to change some of the physical OCD behaviors (quirks) that morphed into habits.

My 5 Best Phantom Quirks

  1. When shopping, I always take the product behind the first product on the shelf.  There is no compulsive need to do so, it’s just a matter of habit.  Most of the time, I grab whatever is in front of me- I do not care, unless the product looks damaged or something.  But if I am in rush, I automatically grab the product from behind the first product- it’s just habit developed from an old OCD quirk.
  2. Vigorously Checking the Door To Make Sure It’s Locked  Before, I would wiggle the monkey’s out of a doorknob to make sure it was in fact secure and locked; sometimes, unlocking and locking again to be extra sure.

    Today, I do it out of habit.  The other day, in fact.  While running through my mental checklist – backpack, lunch, homework,  my hands were automatically checking the locked doorknob.  I didn’t even realize what I was doing until my daughter loudly interrupted my mental thoughts with “Mommy, it’s locked!”  Obviously, something I have to work on.

  3.  Not Reusing a Spoon For Coffee  I used to experience OCD contamination fears.  If you put down a spoon on a surface (even a known clean surface), my OCD brain was convinced it was then contaminated and I was forced to get a new clean spoon.  

    Today, after stirring my coffee with a spoon, I generally just rinse it off and put it back in the drawer.  Sometimes, I leave it on the counter for later and just rinse off and reuse.  But, if I am not fully in the moment, when I go back for more coffee, I will automatically get a new spoon- even though, I notice a perfectly good spoon sitting next to the coffee maker.

    Fortunately, I have successfully broken my habit with cups!  I used to never use the same cup twice.  Man, now I use the same cup all day!  Just rinse and re-use!

  4.  Counting Traffic Lights  I used to count how many traffic intersections were between point A and point B.  I don’t know why I did this, but I had some compulsive need to do it.

    Today, I am guessing it’s habit or perhaps it’s been embraced as a navigational skill.  Although I no longer actively count intersections,  I can still generally (not always, like before though) tell you how many intersections you have to pass through to get to your destination.  It’s a great party trick!

  5. Using A Knuckle To Press The Elevator Button  Not all OCD habits are worth breaking; especially,  those that are probably better for your health anyway.

    As I mentioned before, I used to have contamination fears.   One OCD habit I acquired was pressing the elevator button with my knuckle, rather than my finger, to avoid germs.  Then, I would immediately (as if it were an emergency) wash my hands or use hand santizer afterwards.

    Today, I prefer to use my knuckle instead of my finger to press the elevator button, because it’s a healthy habit (kind of like, sneezing into your elbow rather than into your hands).  I rarely have a compulsive need to wash my hands after pressing the button, unless, of course, it was noticeably icky or sticky.   Flu season is also an exception, I might seek some hand sanitizer afterwards, just because I really do not want to be sick with the flu.  Nobody likes having the flu!   

Maybe My OCD Brain Is Controlling Me From Behind the Scenes And I Don’t Even Know It!

Maybe, my OCD brain is subconsciously triggering compulsive behavior?  Oh, that sneaky OCD brain of mine….

No, my OCD brain is not controlling me subconsciously.   The OCD brain is a bully that is driven by emotional suffering.  If you aren’t experiencing emotional suffering, your OCD brain is not winning, thus, definitely not in control.

I truly believe compulsive behaviors are physical responses to emotional suffering caused by obsessive irrational intrusive thoughts.  If I am not experiencing any emotional suffering with my OCD quirks, then I am pretty confident these quirky behaviors are nothing more than just simple habits left over from years of actually performing compulsive behaviors due to frequent OCD episodes.

If you think about it, a habit is something you do routinely, and practiced enough, it is very difficult to break.  So, it is certainly reasonable to assume, compulsive behaviors due to frequent OCD episodes, done routinely, and practiced enough, could develop into normal everyday habits.

In my opinion, if you aren’t emotionally suffering from a habit, it’s not OCD (anymore).

Am I Just In Denial?

Of course, I am not a professional expert or anything-experty.  For all I know, I am just in denial of my OCD and I am still “suffering” from OCD.  But, if I am, am I really suffering?  Isn’t the entire point of overcoming OCD, overcoming the emotional distress caused by OCD?

I’ll always have an OCD wired brain (or, so I have been told),  and if I can re-wire my brain to be truly OCD-free…how long is that going to take?  Baby-steps, please!  Baby steps!  

If there is one thing I have learned on my OCD journey, is that OCD is personally unique to each individual.   Although no two bully brains are the same, every bully brain causes emotional suffering.  If you can free yourself from the emotional suffering, then that, my friend, is what I call progress in my book!

It’s truly okay if you cannot re-wire your brain back to normal!  Normal is so boring anyway.  The important thing, in my opinion, is overcoming the emotional distress (suffering) caused by the OCD bully brain.  After that, any OCD “phantom” quirks left behind, embrace them!  Embrace them like OCD battle scars!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.