Friday, April 29, 2016

Time after Time

Innocuous household item or ultimate source of terror?
One of my major OCD fears is about cheating people out of money.  I really do not want any money that I don't deserve.  I mean don't get me wrong, I'm very pro-lottery and other instant influxes of cash... I  just don't want to get overpaid at my job or steal from anyone.

For this reason, I am very scared of clocking in and out at work.  Yes, I am afraid of the clock.  Dun dun DUNNNN! 

Getting to and leaving work can be a stress fest.  I always want to make sure that I get there at least a couple minutes before I'm scheduled to begin and leave at or after my scheduled time.

Yesterday night I was released early, so I left work at ~7:27 pm instead of 8:00 pm.  I know because I texted my sister and have a time stamp (and I did this specifically because I knew I would worry about marking my time sheet wrong because of this deviation from the normal schedule).  

So when I got home, I naturally marked my time sheet for 7:15 pm.  Totally logical!

Why did I cut out those 12 minutes?  Maybe because 7:27 is a weird in-between numberFor sure because if I texted my sister to say I was done, I wasn't working anymore at that moment.  I was texting.  So when did the work really stop?  

See, I can feel absolutely sure I was still at work at 7:15.  And there's nothing better to assuage anxiety than absolutely sure.

What exactly am I worried is going to happen if I get paid for a few extra minutes?  I can tell you what I'm not worried about: getting fired, going to jail, going to hell.  This isn't a fear of punishment at all: the anxiety just surrounds the idea of being a dishonest person.

Cheating myself to assure that I didn't cheat someone else is something I really need to stop.

But probably not today.  Thinking about changing my time card to say 7:27 pm or even 7:20 pm makes my insides cringe.   

Today is the tragedy of 12 minutes.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Gus - The Dog With Anxiety

A tortured little soul.
This is probably the cutest tragedy of all: my family dog was recently diagnosed with anxiety by a behavioral specialist.

My family did not understand why Gus would get so irritable.  He's the sweetest thing around his family and friends, but then the vicious switch gets turned on around anyone or anything he doesn't know.  He barks at every stranger. He hates bicycles. He hates children.  Deer? Horrible.  And don't even get me started on squirrels.

We had to do something about it, so my mother took him to see a behavioral specialist.  Apparently, the reason he gets so upset is because he has high anxiety! (Welcome to the family, bud.)  

She recommended anti-anxiety medication.  My dad was skeptical, not wanting to fundamentally change his personality.  Me on anti-anxiety medication?  Fine.  But don't mess with a man's dog.

What the behavioral specialist reminded him was that it is not pleasant for Gus to have all these negative feelings.  He isn't barking and snarling out of happiness, but out of fear.  It is upsetting to Gus just as his behavior is upsetting to us.  

Dad gave in, and Gus has been put on anti-anxiety meds and things do seem to be improving, but now he sleeps all the time!  Sometimes he goes upstairs to take a nap in bed in the middle of the day.

What's nice is that he and I can take anti-anxiety-medication-induced-fatigue naps together.  It's a bonding experience.  Together we will get through this.



Monday, April 25, 2016


The other day I had brunch with a friend.  Rather than stick to fluffy brunch talk, we actually got into a serious discussion about mental health.  She's very successful and lovely, and I learned on top of being fabulous also suffers from some depression and anxiety.

As I explained to her some of my OCD, she was very sympathetic and understanding.  She told me about some of her struggles, but noted that she was always very functional.  She would get her work done, and then worry when she got home. 

I loved her use of the term.  It reminds me of a a refrigerator that's missing some trays and lightbulbs, but still keeps food cold.  Even if things are messy, it still works.  It gets the job done

I have also generally been surprisingly functional.  Despite huge amounts of anxiety, I have always focused on doing what was necessary in my life and not letting things slip.  I kept my grades up, I would go into work, etc.  One time when things were particularly bad and my anxiety was extremely high, I went to the emergency room for a mental health consult, hoping to find some help to carry me over until I could get in to see someone.  They said that they could keep me for 72 hours if I felt like it, to which I replied, "I can't, I have work in the morning."

That's a true triumph for a Monday: being a functional member of society.  

Not letting OCD or anxiety be the priority is tough.  OCD and anxiety are insistent.  They often refuse to be ignored.  Sometimes it is easy to feel like a total crazy person and a failure for having mental health problems.   Celebrating small victories can help you keep some perspective. Appreciate your functionality.


Friday, April 22, 2016

OCD Intrusive Thoughts

Today, I'd like to clarify a part of OCD that for many people will be unfamiliar.  One of the worst parts about OCD is the phenomena of intrusive thoughts.

Dr. Seif, a clinical psychologist and anxiety treatment specialist, defines intrusive thoughts as "frightening thoughts about what might happen to you or someone you care about, or what you might do to yourself or another person. They seem to come from outside of your control, and their content feels alien and threatening."(1)  I have noticed that my intrusive thoughts can extend to animals as well (who I generally consider as people too!)

Now, everyone has intrusive thoughts sometimes, the problem is when they become totally consuming.  Dr. Hannah Reese for Psychology Today notes that, "When someone becomes very distressed by their intrusive thoughts, goes to great lengths to get rid of them, and prevent them from occurring, this can become a form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). People with this 'bad thoughts' form of OCD often avoid things that could trigger these thoughts or being in situations where they might be at risk for acting on a thought."(2)

An example of intrusive thoughts and their repercussions is how my fear of plagiarism has stopped me from writing in the past.  I have the "bad thought" that I might be a cheater, and the anxiety surrounding the thought is so great that I have often avoided writing simply to avoid the thought.

These thoughts can be much more sinister than fears of cheating, and can also include fears of violence and other disturbing deviance.  When I was younger, for example, I was convinced when I passed knives in the kitchen that I might stab myself.  I didn't really want to do it, I was just so scared that I might want to do it that I could not tell the difference between my real thoughts and the OCD thoughts.

One of the worst parts about the anxiety surrounding intrusive thought OCD is that it can blur your memory.  Sometimes, rather than just worry that you might do something bad, you worry that you already have.  You can question the past, every action and every motive that surrounds the worry.  This can be one of the most debilitating parts of the disorder.

I really consider intrusive thoughts to be the ultimate tragedy of OCD.  Intrusive thoughts can make you feel like a terrible person.  When you can't stop thinking about horrible things, it can make you feel like that is what you want to be thinking about.  I hope that as more information comes to light on this phenomena, more people will realize that this is not the case.  These thoughts cause anxiety and suffering rather than joy or pleasure. 

If you or someone that you know is dealing with intrusive thought issues, I highly recommend going to see a therapist to help work through the problem.  Know that you are not alone!  There is no reason to continue suffering in silence. 



Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Fear of Plagiarism


My name is Laura and I'm an Obsessive Compulsive.  

I've decided to blog about my journey through life dealing with this disorder because I believe that it is commonly misunderstood and generally misrepresented in the media.  Everyday with OCD is a struggle with more than just cleanliness or whether or not I left the oven on.  There is so much to this interesting disorder.

I'm hoping to use this blog as a way to help others with OCD connect and feel less alone.  Each post will focus on either a triumph or tragedy of the day.  Like most things, OCD is something you have to take one day at a time.

Today, for my first post, I'd like to start with a triumph

Today's triumph has been over my fear of plagiarism.  One of the reasons that I have never really worked on an OCD blog before or pursued my love of writing has been an OCD fear of plagiarizing.  I have a completely irrational phobia that when I write, I am stealing someone else's work.  I could literally be writing about something that happened to me that day, and I would still worry that somehow I was dishonestly poaching someone else's ideas.

I am currently working on a book, and today for the first time I searched to see if anyone else had written similarly about the topic.  Until now I had been totally petrified of even seeing another title, out of fear that I would honestly believe that I was stealing ideas just by having read them.

When I say fear, I mean that I could mull and worry about it all day long.  I could sit, feeling intense chest pain from worry, unable to think about other things that are much more important (like that my mom just got out of the hospital).  

I told my dad that I was upset at having looked up the topic at all, that now I felt like I couldn't continue on with my book without feeling horrible.  His response was simply, "Don't be stupid."

Now, some would say that this was a little harsh... maybe too strong for someone struggling with mental illness.  But honestly, that's what OCD is: stupidDumb.  You have to not even allow yourself to get into an argument with it.  Focus on other things instead., baby.

And today, by making this blog and publishing my first post, I am triumphing over that OCD urge to cower.  That urge to listen to stupidity and stop following my own desires.  That urge to give in to anxiety.

Well, not today.  Today was a good day.


P.S.  Okay, so I've had OCD for as long as I can remember, but I have been blogging for less than a day on Blogger.  Bear with me as I figure this out.