Thursday, December 9, 2010

A New Chapter

Wow! Seems I've been away from the OCD blogging for quite a while. Honestly, it is a sign that my OCD has not been bothering me. Also, that I've been swept up into a bit of a whirlwind.

First, all my medical results came back fine. I still have not gotten my mammogram, which I am late for. For some reason, I feel I will not get breast cancer. Too common and curable. I go for things like ALS and other rare, less hopeful maladies. In the meantime my 51 year old cousin was just diagnosed with breast cancer. Still, even on 20 mg of SSRI, it isn't penetrating. I do need that mammo, though. I need to take care in a responsible way to prevent obsessions about my health.

The new chapter is about my professional life. Many of you are aware that I am a physician. I worked as a pediatrician for 11 years after residency. All together, the education, training and work, was a 20 year segment of my life. The last few years I was feeling pulled away from medicine and more towards my creative life. A year and half ago I stopped practicing and dedicated myself to my art - intricate stitched beaded jewelry using the tiniest of glass beads. In early November, my seed bead teacher and bead store owner decided to close her store. I made a spur of the moment decision to buy the store and revamp it. That's what I've been working on during my absence. It it has been a busy busy time. More details about how I've been "dealing" with all the changes in my next post.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Medication Update

Thanks for all your support, fellow bloggers. I am still on my lower dose of SSRI, and all is well. I feel I have a slightly thinner skin when it comes to some of my usual triggers like cat food in the sink, raw meat, expired food. But, I've been able to take a deep breath and just "act as if" it is ok -- ignore my brain, and know it is the OCD.

I did see my PCP and she did some lab work. I don't have the results yet. I made a decision not to put any energy on obsessing about them. If a doom and gloom thought comes up, I just let it sit on the sidelines. I don't join in. The good news is that although my GYN isn't scheduling pap smears until April, my PCP will do one, and I got an appointment with her for early next month. So I will have that taken care of. I will also get my mammogram.

Looks like I am working that fine line between taking care of my health needs and obsessing about my health. It feels good to hold myself to the normal standard. Perhaps if I do this I will have less obsessions of the "you have a fatal illness" which is really my better brain saying "get your ass in gear about your health maintenance appointments."

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Living In The Gift

Sometimes everything seems hard. I was at an Al Anon meeting today where some people were sharing about feeling awkward, ungrounded and out of sorts. I've learned that in my life of recovery, the hard times are when growth and change have their opportunity. If I allow myself to stay with the discomfort I will learn something. This is true for staying with the pain of not doing a ritual, as well as not masking or numbing out through distraction, food, alcohol, etc. What I've found these past 5 - 8 years in recovery (for alcohol and OCD, respectively) is that I inevitably emerge on the other side of the distress. Something shifts. There is a resettling and then relief and respite. That is the gift. Today I am living in the gift.

Medication Change

Sixteen days ago I decided to try to wean down my citalopram (Celexa). At one time I took as much as 60 mgs, synergized with clomipramine (Anafranil). For about 2 years I've taken 30 mgs, which is a pill and a half. Twice in the past, I had tried to wean down to 20 mgs. But, I would start having powerful and disturbing obsessions. I didn't want to tolerate them, so I went back up to 30 mgs, and they went away. Yesterday, was day #1 of symptom "pop thru". I've been worried about accidentally contaminating my food. I have felt "not clean enough" after washing. Last night I felt bloated and my mind brought me to ovarian cancer, stage IV, of course. I was already planning my goodbyes.

Here's the gift, the fruits of doggedly trudging my cobblestoned paths of recovery. I told myself
1. It is probably your OCD and not cancer. 2. There are many reasons to be bloated, and all are more likely than ovarian cancer. 2. I am late with my gyn annual exam and mammogram, and cholesterol screening. Perhaps it is me telling myself to get on the ball with that and stop procrastinating. 3 - and here's the real change in me, the spiritual recovery - Even if I do have ovarian cancer, i will make the most of it. If this is the place my higher power has put me, then it where the gifts are for me. I will suck the marrow out of whatever life I have been given.

With my head on my pillow and my arms wrapped around my sleeping beloved, I felt at peace, despite my concern. I know I am loved by my partner, my parents, my children, and the Great Spirit. I know that everyday people face, accept, and shine under conditions of great duress. Somehow, somewhere, deep within me is a peaceful core. Last night I tapped into it and drifted off to sleep.

This morning I know in a "non-OCD way" that I need to make those appointments to take care of my health. I know that I probably don't have ovarian cancer. I also know that one day I will face a health crisis, I will face my mortality, and I will pass on, leaving loved ones behind me. It is not something I need to ward off with rituals. It is a reality I can accept and live with.

For someone like me, with a history of years of ferocious hypochondriasis and an intense fear of death, it shocks me that this is my reaction. I think I may make it through this med change.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Sometimes It All Just Gets To Me

I had a fabulous weekend. I felt great this morning....and then, over the course of the day I became deflated and demoralized by a situation with my ex husband regarding my children. I feel very helpless about the situation, and fearful for my children's emotional well being. I felt sad and scared. I decided not to stuff those unpleasant feelings, and not to mask them with any addictive behavior. I just let them be, alongside me. I let myself acknowledge how difficult the situation is for me. I felt compassion for myself. I decided not to add to my struggles with unnecessary self-denigration. And, I went about my day and did the best I could.

And then the OCD hit. I just KNOW, it is because of the fear that I am in about my kids and my utter lack of control about their irrational dad. It is almost like a genie that pops the cork out of the bottle and goes a little nuts casting spells on me.

Here's the obsession: I took my daughter to the pet shop and we were holding rabbits. One of them scratched me. Then later, while I was feeding my snake, the prey (a mouse) peed on my hand. Some of the urine got on the scratch. It took just an instance for me to KNOW that I was going to die from some "mouse urine disease". I started to get that swirl of anxiety. The one that lifts me off my feet, unhinges me, and threatens to blow me out the window.

I am sorry if this is gross for some of you. But, hey, think of it as an exposure. In any case, a few years ago I could not even pet a dog or even be in the room with an animal, for fear that I would catch some horrible disease. Now I own 2 snakes, a frog, 2 cats, and have a fish tank. I clean up after all those critters. I deal with rodents to feed the snakes and frog. Clearly, I have come far. I love my animals. Plus they are an ongoing exposure for me. Nonetheless, that OCD gremlin is waiting for me... and is happy to seize upon my insecure moments.

I washed the urine off my hand. I told my partner about it and he gave me reassurance. And then, just like I did earlier in the day, I gave myself a break. I silently acknowledged my tough situation, my OCD, and my belief that I am good enough, just as I am today. I forgave myself for all of it. And then, I went on making dinner and being a mom. Right now I feel a little better. It has been a hard day. Sometimes, it all just gets to me. Thanks for being there, my OCD peeps!

Monday, September 20, 2010

An Anniversary of Sorts

Today is the 13th anniversary of my wedding. I've been divorced for 5 years, or is it 6? Every year on this date, I want to do something special. But what? My ex-husband is the sand in my oyster - A constant irritant that helps me grow into a pearl. So, in a buddhist way - I am grateful for our union. The truth is, our wedding led to the birth of my 2 children. That is something to truly celebrate. And because of them, I do have a sacred bond with my ex.

Truth be told, it was a very destructive marriage that replicated a very destructive dynamic that I grew up with. In this marriage my OCD got very very intense. I had the constant obsession that my husband was going to give me AIDS. Today, I believe this was my OCD letting me know that he was unhealthy for me (see my previous post).

When I was well enough (mentally) to leave the marriage, I became very resentful for the way my ex had treated me and the things that I felt he put me through, both in the marriage and afterwards. When I finally got into recovery in 12 step programs, I heard the expression "If you don't want to be a door mat, get up off the floor!" That was mind blowing. It implied that I had a part in being abused.

Today, in honor of my anniversary, I led an Al Anon meeting. The theme I chose was "If you don't want to be a door mat, get up off the floor."
I am proud to say, that today, despite my ongoing struggles with my ex husband, I've forgiven him for all that I let him do to me. I am still working on forgiving myself. I have forgiven myself for a lot, but not everything. There's always more "work" and more growth. Today, I am a lot better about healthy boundaries. It is scary for me to set them. But I get a lot of good direction and support from AA and Al Anon, and from my sponsor. Today I have choices about who I get close to. I don't have to choose people who trample my boundaries. I don't have to let people abuse me.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Speaking To Myself Through OCD

I have found that sometimes my OCD is actually trying to get my attention. It is an unhealthy response to me ignoring my better self. It is complicated to sort out and I can only do it when my OCD is at a low level. Otherwise there is too much OCD noise and not all of it has meaning behind it. Here are 2 examples.

I adopted a cat that was put out on the street by her owner. It happened gradually. First just feeding her outside, then letting her sleep in the house when it was cold. Eventually I got a litter box. I knew who her owner was, but I had never talked with him. I was afraid to go over to his home and discuss adopting the cat. I guess I felt guilty for how far things had gone, and I was also afraid he'd say no. Then I started to obsess that the cat had rabies. I really thought I had contracted rabies. It was my OCD telling me to "take care of business". Talk to the owner, then take the cat to the vet. As soon as I spoke to the owner, who was happy to see her go to a good home, my obsession went away.

Another example is this nose piercing. I am supposed to use cotton balls to soak it in salt water 10 minutes everyday. That is not happening. I even skipped a few days. Then I developed an obsession that I had a life threatening facial infection. It is NOT infected at all. I committed to myself to do the salt water for a few minutes everyday, no matter what. As soon as I did that, the obsession went away.

It is tricky, because I don't want to give the OCD a foothold by giving credence to the obsessions. But, what I find is that while the obsession itself is irrational, there may be something real fueling it. Sometimes my better brain is trying to get my attention. While I need to extinguish the obsession through ERP, I need to try to understand why it popped up in the first place.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


I am so grateful today. To all of you who commented about my recent struggle about my nose piercing -THANK YOU! Your support helped me tremendously.

As expected, my parents are disgusted by my piercing. But they still love and accept ME. It is like I am an adolescent - learning how to be myself within my family of origin. Finally, after all these years of therapy, recovery, and hard work on understanding myself, I am finding some strength to do this at the core level. It is hard, but it's the best.

My parents went grocery shopping while I was at my therapist. My mom and I cooked all day for our holiday dinner in the evening. My dad picked up my daughter from her school and took her to the aquarium for the afternoon. All of it happened with smiles. Is that not love? My invited guests were 2 single moms with family far away, and their kids. We were 13 in all. We said blessings, ate apples dipped in honey to symbolize a sweet year, and shared good food.

Eight years ago my parents were in my home on the Jewish New Year. I was so ill with OCD that my mother cried while lighting the holiday candles. I was in bed, obsessing and delusional. There was no holiday dinner.

A cure is not important. What we have is the potential to heal. Without the support of other wounded healers, I am not sure I would have the fortitude to stay on the path. My kids took it all for granted - friends, family, a holiday dinner, a smiling mom, love. They don't have a clue about what a miracle last night truly was. But I do. And for both those facts, I am truly grateful.