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.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Nose Piercing and Fear of Being ME

I am in the throes of OCD anxiety. I got my nostril pierced 2 days ago. I've wanted to do this for a while. I went to a very clean, reputable place. I got a tiny silver ball and I really like the way it looks. Now I am worried I have contracted HIV. Last night I started feeling a sore throat coming on. That's all it took.

I don't obsess in this way often anymore. So when I do, there is usually an underlying psychological conflict that is manifesting through my OCD. I know this obsession is related to fears about what others think of me, particularly my mother. My parents are coming to visit tomorrow to celebrate the Jewish New Year with me. They will absolutely HATE the piercing. When I was in high school (30 years ago) I got a few piercings up my ear. My mother hated it. She was always saying "Just don't get your nose pierced."

So perhaps I am a 45 year old woman who moved 2000 miles away, has her own family, her own lifestyle, and is still struggling to individuate from her mother. This has been a BIG issue all my life. I felt unloved and fearful starting at age 4. I was not allowed to express my feelings growing up. I tried very hard to please my mom in order to win her love. I also spent a lot of energy dissociating from my feelings. As an adult, I married a man who was mean to me. I relived the dynamic with him. I finally did leave him. This winter will be 7 years that we are apart - though we are still connected through our children. I am also still trying to individuate from him.

Through my recovery and ongoing therapy I've worked through a lot about my relationship with my mom. We do well together today. My biggest issues have been finding my voice with her, being honest about my feelings, and accepting her limitations. I can never "get" the love that I wanted as a child. But I can enjoy the love that she does have for me as an adult. My ex husband is another matter, but I am making progress there, too.

I do believe my fear about HIV - in my mind, a death sentence brought on by recklessness and self expression - is all about this historical baggage with my mother. I've been through it before in my life when I was going through changes and "breaking away" from her expectations of me.

I must say that sharing this with you compassionate OCD'ers (my peeps!) has helped take away some of the intensity. I still feel the obsession. But I also feel the healing potential from letting it just be OCD and not the truth. I also have compassion for the little girl that I was who struggled so much and who is still here struggling. Perhaps, this is an opportunity for her to grow up and let go a bit.

Happy New Year y'all - Shana Tova V'Mtukah ( A good and sweet year). And thanks for "listening". I really need you.