Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Overwhelmed By Obsessed

I have very mixed feelings about the TV show "Obsessed" that profiles people dealing with OCD. I tried to watch last night, but ended up crying and turning it off. Once, I was as sick as those extreme cases. The pain of full-time, all consuming OCD is unimaginable. I feel so much compassion for fellow sufferers. It overwhelms me, and angers me, to think of the huge number of people who are homebound or living in terror, shut off from the world. I literally 'cannot watch'.

I wonder what people who've never experienced OCD get from watching the show. Is it a form of voyeurism? Are they thinking how "together" they are by comparison? I am sure there are some people who have OCD and finally see themselves reflected here. Perhaps they will be inspired to get help. Perhaps some viewers are educated by the show and will respond to OCD'ers with more compassion and understanding.

Finally, I wonder, why are these individuals agreeing to go on the show? Is it that they are desperate for help, but can't afford it, otherwise. If that is the case, it's an example of exploitation. I had so much shame about my disease and the thoughts it put in my head. I can't imagine having to reveal myself at my most vulnerable moments in order to satisfy a probing director.

Interestingly, I don't have this reaction to Intervention, even though I am also a recovering alcoholic.

So, my fellow OCD companions - How do you feel about this show?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

I'd Rather Have Worms

I am glad to be back in the blogosphere. It has been a busy time here with adjusting to the "back to school" routine. I also had to deal with ex-husband nastiness. It was emotionally consuming.

Shana recently posted about the lengths people will go to survive. It brought me back to my early days of OCD recovery. My daughter just celebrated her eighth birthday. After her birth I was catapulted into an escalation of OCD that reached psychotic proportions. That doesn't generally happen with OCD. Although we may feel crazy, we generally don't completely lose touch with reality. But in the post-partum period, anything is possible.

Losing my facilities was an unimaginable ordeal. One month after the birth, I was ready to end my life in order to relieve the suffering. I didn't want to leave my children, who I knew needed me. So I asked to be brought to a local ER. I was so weak and distressed that I could hardly walk. But I made my way to the window, and told the receptionist that I have post-partum depression and I need help. I am pretty sure I looked awful. I was up-triaged and they took me right in, without making me wait in the busy waiting room.

Asking that woman at the window for help was my first surrender -- an expression of hope. I had no idea what would come next. I spent 7 days as an inpatient on a locked psychiatric ward. I received tremendous compassion. I got my label (You have OCD) and started to learn about my illness. When I was well enough to read, my doctor handed me a Y-BOCS with a list of all the varieties of obsessions. In that moment, my whole life made sense. I had been dealing with OCD for 28 years, thinking it was "just me". This was the start of my healing. In the end, being that ill was a blessing. The extreme disease I experienced motivated me to take my recovery with the utmost seriousness.

Exposure and response prevention is painful and just plain hard. But, for me, it has been the key to my recovery. Sometimes it is hard to know how far to take an exposure. I remember being fearful of eating spaghetti, because I had the notion that the sauce was dangerous. I remember thinking, "I am going to eat this, even it if it kills me." I did, and as usual, nothing happened.

I tackled my handwashing early on. I made the decision that while doctoring I would wash once before and once after each patient. This is the standard. No re-washing, because they still "seemed germy." However, when I was not at work, I decided to stop washing my hands under all circumstances (except when dealing with my children's food and bottles). It may seem a little extreme, but it took the guess work out. I knew that I could "catch something." But, I felt an urgent need to get well and be able to be a good mother. I had been so impaired that I was willing do anything to survive and beat the OCD.

I didn't die. But I did catch pinworms. It took about a month for those critters to take up residence in my lower GI tract. I called my doctor, got a prescription, and got rid of it with a pill. I started washing my hands after using the restroom and before eating. Once. No re-washing. By that time the obsession was extinguished 99%. I could wash normally without worrying. Was it worth it? Definitely! OCD or pinworms. That's easy. I'd rather have worms.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Making Peace With Water Fountains

Does anyone with contamination obsessions use water fountains? Do you let your children? The pediatric infectious disease specialist at the hospital where I trained dropped this seed in the fertile soil of my OCD brain. Ever since she talked about how germy they are, I've avoided them and wanted my children to avoid them also.

As a mom with a lot of OCD recovery, I try hard to make peace with some of my obsessions so that I don't pass on this kind of neurosis to my children. I figure they are already genetically primed, let's not make it more likely. I realized however, that every time my daughter went to drink from a water fountain, I cautioned her against it. She didn't like that, and would sneak away to drink, despite how I felt. I don't want to argue with my kids about things like this.

When we were flying home from our recent trip she snuck off to a water fountain right after I told her not to. I was through. I decided to make peace with my daughter's decision to drink from them. I explained to her that I was going to let her make her own decisions about them. I explained why I don't like them, but that I was backing off. If she wants to drink from them, it is up to her (she is eight years old).

I decided to use my AA training of "not running the show"and take a spiritual approach to "Let Go and Let God". My daughter has her own "Higher Power" and I am not it. These are common 12 Step approaches to accepting things we cannot control. On a cognitive level I realized that as my children get older, I need to relinquish control over their exposure to "risks" in the environment. I'd rather they get some community illnesses than grow up with a neurotic mother.