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.


  1. Thank you for this inspiring post! It reminds me, once again, that I just need to keep going and do the best I can with where I currently am!

    I am intrigued by the fact that you can so noticeably associate an increase in OCD symptoms with a decrease in medication. I am currently taking sertraline at a very high dose, and even though I think it probably helps, there has never been a point, as I titrated up, that I could discern a clear, noticeable difference, a cessation of the powerful urge to do rituals. It seems like it would be so nice to see that sort of clear difference, but on the other hand, I guess there is the downside of having to face the obsessions when reducing medication.

    Good for you for sticking it out! I, too, feel like I can learn a lot from the hard times, and I have certainly learned a lot from the past year I have spent battling OCD!

  2. That's so awesome! Glad you were able to find some peace amid the worry.

    Unfortunately, you also reminded me that it's time for me to see my gyn. Dang it! lol

    I too have noticed a marked difference when tapering off meds. It's not a fun place. Keep up the good work - and may the blessings follow!

  3. Fellow Sufferer: Thanks for your comment. Initially, it took a lot of meds to get me to a place where I could actually follow through with ERP. I was on zyprexa, an atypical antipsychotic with an SSRI. I gained about 25 lbs on it. But, I would say that the feeling of well being that I had was ESSENTIAL to my recovery. During each day I would have moments when I felt absolutely fine. This was a completely new experience for me. I hadn't ever really felt fine since my OCD hit, when I was a child. It gave me a reference point. I remember thinking, "Ohhhh, so this is what normal feels like." I am a big fan of the synergistic cocktail -- using various meds together to obtain a therapeutic effect. What's the point of taking meds if they don't really do what you need? I have accepted significant side effects - weight gain, anorgasmia, dry mouth, and tremor - because life sucks when I can't think right. To me, all these things pale in comparison to the torment of OCD. Weaning down has been a very slow process for me, always. But, I have done it successfully. I thought maybe I had hit my biologic base line and I would always need this dose. But today I feel really WELL. So, I am hopeful.

    Shana: Thanks for your support. I just called my gyn and the next appointment for an annual is.....April! Not sure if that's the scheduling situation where you live.

  4. Kinder Brain--Well done! I always have stage iv ovarian cancer when I am bloated. . .a few years ago my sister-in-law was diagnosed with stage iii ovarian ca, and my OCD had a field day with that, since I was already sensitized to that health fear, and yet, like you said, I realized that to truly live the life I have, I will have to take the risk that something bad will happen at some point in my life, and ritualizing steals whatever time I have.