Sunday, December 30, 2012

Princess and frog

Some friends gave me a gift card, which was really so, so nice, because I can spend it on something "beautiful" like they told me to without feeling guilty that I'm not spending it on gas or something else that isn't even sold at that store. So I got a flower ring (on a really great, more than half off sale).

Before that, my aunt gave me the frog ring for Christmas time.

Together, they can be the princess and the frog story.




And I'm really into jewelry just now, which, by the way, isn't exactly normal for me.

I got a necklace from Target that is their "Be Brave" necklace, with the engraving, "I am always with you Be brave have courage and love life". The box is even better, if such a thing is possible. It says, "With the courage to live life comes the gift to love life." You can look it up on Target's website. I don't want to include a link, because that seems like the equivalent of an invitation for spam.

Today, I'm wearing the necklace and the flower ring (which I think of as my princess ring, also). This morning, the depressed thoughts stopped in for a visit. Good old "wanna die" junk, that comes sometimes without even being an honest feeling. So I keep quoting my necklace to myself; "Be brave, have courage, and love life." Of course, I don't exactly feel loving towards life right now. It's more like, "Be brave, have courage, and embrace life." And I am banking (emotionally) on the idea that "with the courage to live life comes the gift to love life" from the box.

So it is its own Princess and the frog story. I'm the princess, life is the frog, sometimes cute, but sometimes ugly. And I'm gonna embrace it anyway. And I'm counting on life changing from the ugly toad into something attractive and enjoyable. Please, please please please please. And if for some reason, it doesn't, I'll count on the after life being absolutely great.

And I'm trying to figure out what caused this down-turn in my mood. The messed up schedules with the Christmas time holidays? The cold I got (that is almost gone)? Too much time alone? Too messy of a house?

I think I'll go for trying to spend some in-person time with people (now that I've just about finished blogging for the day - maybe). And meanwhile, I'll keep embracing life.

Friday, December 21, 2012

My Christmas experience

Let me give the disclaimer/warning: You may or may not agree with me as I talk about what is controversial to some people. But you don't have to agree with me; it's a free country and OCD doesn't rule. So have a Merry weekend, whatever kind you choose to have. And if you want to skip this blog post, that's fine, too. :)

My mom got pretty upset as a child trying to figure out how to celebrate Christmas in a way that served Jesus. So she and my dad and some others decided to celebrate it differently when I was little. They had a birthday party and we made a gift for people in need or did some service project, to be our "present" for Jesus. And as a kid, birthday parties are fun, but when you reach your teens, it isn't the same. And when the friends who used to celebrate the birthday party with you leave... and then when my church fell apart, part of it during Christmas time... And then Christmas was a painful thing for me.

But I still had to deal with the Christmas carols, because people at church are determined to sing them. And when I was helping with music at church, I got to play them. And I still remember a fellow musician telling me to "get over it; make new memories." Thus, "make new memories" became the nice way to say "get over it" in my mind, and I tried to keep part of my sadness under wraps at Christmas time.

And my parents tried to figure out how to adapt the birthday party thing for teenagers.

Then we started helping with community dinners on Christmas day. I.e., put on festive hats, walk in a crowded room amongst Christmas music and decorations, and for me (remember the OCD), well, there was the part about trying to have a right heart, because what good is a gift for Jesus without the right heart...

And then I moved out, and then finally, I rebelled.

But actually, it seems that having your teenaged rebellion when you are in your twenties and don't live in your parents house, it is no longer considered a rebellion. But you know OCD; it sometimes takes a different view on technical matters. Okay, maybe I should leave OCD out of this part. But I feel rebellious when I make my own traditions, even though it is fine with my parents for me to be an adult and make my own choices.

I decided to fall off the other side of the bridge. Because for me, Christmas time had come to be associated with being an outcast. Being "different" from the rest of the world. And I suppose that Christians have the privilege of being outcasts when they do things trying to serve God that people around them disapprove of.

And I didn't like the whole "Jesus' birthday" thing, because it seemed too much a semantics game.

So I guess I played my own game. Forget the roots of the word Christmas; let's go back in time to my vaguely and perhaps inaccurately remembered world history knowledge.

Like that it used to be a pagan holiday, but when the "Church" came along, it Christianized things, putting remembrance of Jesus' birthday at the time of the pagan holiday. The tree? Pagan roots (not positive, but I think it's true).

So, I guess I forgot the pagan part, and decided it to celebrate "Christmas" as a secular holiday. Very freeing. I didn't have to worry about being spiritual enough. I could just celebrate a holiday. Granted, it might not be with family, but it could be fun, associated with being in the party, in the brightly lit room, not being an outcast looking in. So for one or two years, I've gone to a movie on Christmas. At least once with a sister. Maybe only once.

And this year, I even got a stocking! Which, by the way, I have indeed started opening, but I haven't finished. I opened my relatives' additions (i.e. small Christmas gifts) when I was feeling down earlier. And today, with the end of work for the long weekend holiday, I opened the mystery Playmobile toys (I loved Playmobile as a kid and still do). One is a swimmer in a towel with a blow drier and a hairbrush. The other is some weird person I still haven't figured out. She looks like a combination of a dancer, a swimmer, a rock star, and a super hero. I guess there's lots of room for imagination there? It probably is something recognizable that I just don't know of, though.

This year, I've determined to enjoy the holiday. I don't want to miss out any more. Though I'll probably miss out on my Christmas afternoon movie, since my family decided to celebrate their family holiday (including gifts, but not Christmas) on the day that happens to be Christmas, for logistical reasons, since they can get most of my siblings together that day. I sing Christmas carols and Santa songs. I enjoy the lights, and my Christmas tree. I have nativity scene window stickers up in my classroom at work in one window, and Santa and other secular Christmasy and wintery stickers in other windows and on a mirror. And I'll celebrate my family's holiday that "isn't Christmas" on Christmas day. I'll play semantic games and perhaps be a bit materialistic as I enjoy "things" in my stocking. I know that if the OCD monster woke up with it's former ferver and energy and deceiving ability, this would qualify as potentially sinful on many points.

But hey, OCD doesn't run my life any more. So at the risk of being sinful (because, sorry people, doing ANYTHING or NOT DOING ANYTHING, I am stuck risking being sinful), I'm enjoying this Christmas. Around dealing with normal life, anxiety, and it's shadow, depression. But I'm not living Christmas as an OCD minion.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

late for an appointment but it turned out fine

Well, the answer is, no, I can't wear my frog ring on my finger for more than a couple hours without it starting to bother me. But it is a really cool ring, so I'm trying to tough it out.

Yesterday, I was late for my psychiatrist appointment. Really late.

But it wasn't so bad.

I first started running late when I saw that getting my mood chart ready for the dr was taking me longer than I expected. Then I started pushing it on allowing plenty of time (typically an hour, as that is a nice round number). Because I worked SO hard (well, actually just plain hard) on my chart thing, I wanted to print it, so I cut 6 minutes into my hour getting it printed. Probably still okay, but snow was falling, and my "premonition" was to skip printing and just start driving. So maybe I was going to be guilty. I didn't know yet.

Then, of course, I came to "road work" signs on the highway. But I assured myself that wouldn't hold me up long, since I had passed that earlier in the day coming home from work. So we passed that. But people were still driving slowly. And there was an accident on the opposite side of the highway (divided highway), so I knew for sure it was slippery.

Then came the gap in the weather. No snow, okay roads. Maybe I would make it in time after all.

Then came the sign saying there was a "collision" ahead, so watch for stopped traffic. So I pondered why they used the word "collision" on a light up sign that had limmited space, and how it sounded less disturbing than "crash," but why didn't they use the word "accident." Meanwhile, I counted the miles to said "collision" and hoped it would be gone when I got there.

And then, I got near there, and had the priviledge of driving 2 miles per hour on the freeway. This continued until I was pretty positive I couldn't possibly get there on time. Then I called.

Thankfully, the receptionist said I wasn't the only one caught there. Well, not thankful that someone else was experiencing bad traffic, but that I wasn't the only one who didn't leave early enough to avoid it? Okay, the thankfully is just that maybe it meant I wasn't so guitly.

Well, by the end, I was just trying to make it to the office in time to pick up my patient assistance medication before they closed, as I had already passed both the start and the end of my scheduled time.

And then the dr. called to see where I was (in the parking garage at that point), and he told me to come on up. So he saw me half an hour late, when the office would normally close. I am definitely thankful for that.

Though I was also mentally prepared for just picking up my medication.

Anyway, it was a good appointment. He thought I was doing even better than in September, at least depression-wise. And I'd agree.

My anxiety has been worse sometimes recently (worse than I wish, not necessarily worse than in September), and sometimes simultaneously with my anxiety my depression spike. But the depression typically drops again when the anxiety does. And I don't feel equally anxious all the time; sometimes I feel pretty good and other times it goes up.

Well, now, (as usual for when I'm blogging), I'm hungry.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

a pattern

Well, it seems to be a pattern. I write a really upbeat blog post, and then something goes wrong. Actually, things "go wrong" all the time. Anxiety is good at finding me here and there, even when it has receded enough to give me a good day or even a good several months. I suppose this is perfectionism faced with a challange.

I'm not going to be perfectly happy. I'm not going to be perfectly healthy. I'm not going to go about my life perfectly. The perfect is in heaven and I'm not there yet. Rats.

Of course, you already know that anxiety comes back. You already know that mental illness has ups and downs. So maybe it is just my OCD telling me, you'd better make sure your friends know you aren't cured, because A., that would be a lie, and you know how OCD feels about anything with the slightest possibility of being a lie, and B., if you say you are healthy, all your support system will melt before your very eyes, and you will have to struggle with the rest of your mental illness all by yourself.

Never mind that this has been proven to be not true over and over again. Never mind that it defies logic that your friends would disappear when things were going well in your life and only be there for you when life is terribly difficult. Never mind that all or nothing thinking is almost always wrong. In this latest case, strike up the adrenaline band. Sound the physical alarm through yourself and prepare to fight or flee from the terrible shadows cast by the OCD monster.

Same song, just another verse.



On other topics, I am very happy that last night I chose not to park in my parking lot just in case it would snow too much so that I'd have to move my car for them to plow or risk being towed. I wanted to sleep in without worrying about it. So I did, and was awakened when my landlord knocked on the neighbor's door to ask him to move his vehicle. But I still got to sleep in, so I'm happy about that.

And I put that Rain-X stuff on my car windows and was happy with how easy it was to clean off my windows from the snow this morning.

And I found guinea pig food for less than half the price I've been paying for it, and timothy hay that costs little enough that maybe it would be okay to buy it again instead of picking it up off the barn floor at the feed store (I don't mind the picking up part; it is the asking for permission to pick it up that sends my anxiety high).

And I had a successful shopping trip today.

And so there are still lots of good things happening and lots of good feelings inside me around the various OCD and anxiety and depression issues that pop up.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

OCD and depression as an illness, and sleep as a key

Wow, I've gone almost a week without posting. Probably has a bit to do with my being done with my two online courses for the semester. I don't have to do as much online, especially with deadlines.

Prepare for sudden topic change. Back to mental health. I think one of the greatest "proofs" to me that depression and OCD are actually illnesses is what recovery for me is like.

Take OCD. One of my worst (i.e., most disturbing to me) obsessions was up and running when I "fell apart" and started medication. Exposure Response Prevention was too stressful for me to do much with it with this particular obsession. Then came one of the med changes, and this issue has for the most part melted away. Since then, I've switched SSRIs a couple times, but this issue has never regained all the power it once held. My counselor pointed out that it could have to do with my therapy, and maybe it did, but how much this obsession bothered me followed by how much it just melted away, well, that is just amazing. If this obsession was part of my personality, if it was a spiritual issue, I don't think it would have gone away like it did when it did. If it was an illness sometimes treatable by particular SSRIs (which ones and how much depending on the individual person's response to medication), then I would expect that large symptom to slip away to a small reminder every now and then, not unlike how my toe kept hurting sometimes for probably years after I broke/sprained it.

Then take depression. When I'm in it, at least if I've been in it at that level (moderate, severe, mild, whatever) for a while, it seems normal. When it is severe, it seems strange that lots of people consider life worth living and even something to be desired. When it is mild to moderate, I think it is just me being lazy. Actually, I think that when I'm at a mild stage of a flu, too. I'm just lazy, that's why I don't want to and wont wash my dishes. I'm just not a good enough person.

And then recently, something very mysterious has happened. I can wash my dishes. Not always all at once, but I can wash them, without it taking incredible willpower and effort. I can clean off my table without dreading it for many days, without working up my superhuman abilities so I can just put some of my belongings closer to where they belong. It is so amazing, and I was thinking about it today (after washing my dishes and cleaning off my table shortly after I got up for the day, wanting to get my chores out of the way so the rest of the day would be free). It isn't that huge struggle it seemed to be before. Partly because I've been doing it more often, so I'm not as far behind. But perhaps (and I'm pretty sure you could never completely prove it, but I will hold it as evidence in my own eyes anyway) I wasn't just being lazy when such chores seemed like mountains. Perhaps, as I wondered, it really was the depression. Perhaps, because corresponding to my feeling better for longer, these chores are getting to be less of a big deal in my eyes.

Actually doing the chores, however, continues to be a big deal on the celebration side. I did it! I actually did it!

Switching topics again, my week started kind of low when I took an evening first aid and CPR class Monday night. By Wednesday, I was quite discouraged when meeting with my counselor. But after following her suggestion of going to bed early that night, I started feeling better. It seems that I got to short on sleep, which I know throws my mood off. Sleep is one of those important keys to my mental health. Maybe someday I will be better able to handle lack of sleep, but for now, it is very important for me and those around me.

Someone asked me what it looked like when I lost my temper at work. Which got me thinking. Yes, there are outward signs. I might get extra quite. Except when I get extra firm when speaking to kids that aren't listening. I might say things to coworkers that are a bit bolder than usual. But most of it probably stays inside, where it is like I'm filled with this disturbing feeling of lack of control and upsetness and sometimes anger. So that probably explains part of why I hate getting upset at work. Even if it all stays inside me and doesn't bother a soul around me, it bothers me. I don't like it. So I will value my sleep.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

remembering hard times (my hospital stay)

Now, for once, I wish for a private blog.

I went to a shelter recently with some other people. I was just going to play guitar and sing, but ended up doing more.

Anyway, the night went well. I got to talk to various people and enjoyed my time.

Until the end. Combine late night with memories.

Of being in a locked building, only I was locked inside. Of getting my evening meds from a caretaker. Of bed checks, of classes during the day, of my life out of control, of ... wordless feelings. Of my stay in the hospital.

Every so often, I think about it. And I'm grateful for being able to go to the hospital when I was feeling so bad. I'm grateful  that I finally got to see a psychiatrist, and not just for one short visit. I'm grateful for the classes.

And I'm still disturbed. I felt like it was a grown up version of a daycare like where I worked when I was on the outside. I felt for the nurses trying to take care of us all. I understood when they didn't have enough staff to take some of us outside (into the little yard with very high, non-see-through fences). I felt for the people around me, who were struggling to deal with their lives. And then I had my own set of issues. And then I still was me, so whatever problems were suggested, like being co-dependent, I assumed I had.

I remember the psychiatrist telling me that the saying of "fake it 'til you make it" applied to me; that I'd have to act like I was healthy and eventually my brain/emotions would catch up. I remember that he liked some of my discoveries about myself, like that I did lots of black and white thinking, but I was going to intentionally look for grey options.

I liked making one or a few small goals that I could acheive during the day, like "take a shower" or tell myself three good things about me.

And I remember feeling broken, seeing my presence in the locked ward as evidence that I couldn't handle life on my own any more, at least for the moment.

And I remember how hard it was transitioning back into the outside world. I'd longed for sleep when I entered the hospital and assumed that they would be able to give me something to help me sleep. I didn't expect to lie awake in bad for hours each night. And then the nurses would flash their flashlight in on me for bed checks for a second or two, and then they would record me as being asleep because my eyes were closed and I wasn't moving! Come on! Parents know better than that. It got so I wanted to open my eyes and show I was awake when they came, but I tended to be too slow. So maybe I was half asleep, but not sleeping well.

So back in the outside world, I was SOO tired, dealing with anxiety, dealing with the trauma of having been locked in the hospital (even though it was voluntarily). Eventually, as in that same week or maybe the next week, I saw my family doctor, and he was so nice about saying that if he'd had to stay in the hospital, that would upset him; he wouldn't sleep as well in a strange bed, and it would scare him to think that he was that sick to need to be there. He said it well, only I blame my brain more than the strange bed for keeping me awake at night.

And I wish that the hospital was some magic cure, but it was really just another stop on the journey. Sure, I got focused time to deal with myself. And as my counselor suggested, I tried to see it as a break from my outside life, a safe place to rest (the non-sleep kind). I think it was a good thing. But a few days in the hospital to change from one antidepressant that takes months to work to another antidepressant that takes 6 weeks or months to work, how is that an instant cure? Basically, it isn't.

The stupid severe depression continued to haunt me for a while. And it hurt so bad. And I still want to cry about it.

And how does that fit with feeling better now?

Maybe I wasn't quite ready to visit a shelter yet. Maybe my life is still too close to some of that stuff.

Maybe I'll stop feeling this hurt some day.

It would have helped, possibly, if I had gone to sleep earlier last night. But it was hard to transition from the late night out to going to bed. I did a slow transition. So now I'm tired and struggling with memories. Maybe I'll go home and distract myself with a book or a movie or even a nap.

Because my memories of my time in the hospital and of the severe depression, I still don't know how to handle that. This isn't indiscriminant stuffing away of unpleasant memories. This is the, I don't know how to deal with this, so let me distract myself for now and hopefully I'll be able to deal with it later, kind of stuffing away.

Well, the snow came back and the sunshine went on vacation. Nasty things. I'd better go sit by my therapy light. I wish it was more magical than it is. I wish it completely obliterated the effect that weather has on me. But I think it has done more towards the lack of daylight hours as opposed to the grey weather.

Well, on to better things?

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Eagles



And now for a less serious post? Maybe? Today, I had hot chocolate with a friend, then went out to see the eagles! There were a number of people out with their cameras. It is tough to get a good picture, at least with my limited zoom camera. I think the third picture might be my best yet, though I haven't compared it with last time's photos.

And I got my "exercise" while I was out walking and jogging to photograph birds and exercise. My walk back, the camera was off due to lack of battery power. That was nice, because it let me look at the eagles and appreciate them without subtracting from that in my quest to photograph them. (Though I was tempted to see if I could get in one more picture before the batteries completely died.)

The sun has come out after a few days of rain and snow. Seems to be helping my mood. The therapy light does seem to help my mood, but it doesn't stop my mood from going down on cloudy days. I presume it helps me not go as far down, though.

Well, I'm really, really thankful. Talking with my friend this morning reminded me of how many positive changes have occurred in my life in the last several months. A new church, playing music at church, feeling so much better. You know, this friend was one of the first to suggest that I was depressed and could potentially be significantly helped by professional help and even medication. It was a few years before I actually saw a doctor for my mood, but I think I had to get used to the idea and hear it from multiple sources.

Another thing (and now I've gotten serious again; what a surprise -not!). The fact that my church is on the "conservative" list kind of surprised me today - it would still be seen as liberal by some of the people I've met :). And it kind of bothered me, because people supportive of my seeking help for mental illness and even for my labeling it a mental illness instead of a spiritual problem, a lot of them are probably to the less conservative side of what I grew up with (or even significantly "liberal"). So I feel "liberal" compared to some of the ideals I heard as a kid and still run accross, yet I love my "conservative" church. So today's aha moment was this; it is okay if I am a somewhat conservative person. I don't have to change that. I can keep the "liberal" beliefs I have as well as my "conservative" preferences. I don't have to copy either side exactly. I am the person that gets to choose what I believe, and going to a "conservative" church doesn't mean I have to look down on liberal people or whoever else the stereotypical conservative looks down on (including their potentially looking down on me). Funny how much stereotyping goes on, and almost instantly!

So I'm not sure if I'm liberally conservative or conservatively liberal or what, but I'm enjoying the sunshine and the weekend away from work (I was ready for the break!), and I'm slowly but persistantly learning to be okay with myself.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

How to make myself anxious

Oh, that's an easy topic.

Tell myself to spend more money on food and then go about preparing to do so.

Paying bills

Not paying bills

Answering questions.

Not answering questions.

Getting mail (particularly if the mail has to do with money).

(Not getting mail usually just makes me a tiny bit sad, not anxious. :D  )

Answering questions like what I might like for Christmas. And now, since it is possible that the person who asked will read this, please let me elaborate. I don't mind the question. Actually, sometimes it is nice, because it lets me ask for things that I haven't been able to justify buying for myself but that I'd really like. I just worry that I'll ask for the wrong thing, for something too expensive, for not what I really want, for someone to feel like they HAD to get me what I suggest, when really I just want them to take it as an idea they can like or turn aside. But rest assured, if I wasn't worrying about this, there would be some other anxiety coming my way. It comes with the territory of having an anxiety disorder.

Okay, now I'm tired of that topic. Or am I?

Now I would like to discuss my most recent anxiety that I gave myself an ear infection by trying one of the exercises described in my intro to Audiology book for opening my Eustation tubes. My ear is hurting. So, vuala, why is it hurting? Do I have one of the disorders I learned about today? I mean, an ear infection is fine; just boring and somewhat painful. But what if it is harming my cochlea?! Let's see. My counselor would probably suggest a "Thought Challange" for evaluating the risk, evaluating my evidence to see if it really backs up my catestrophic fear (save yourself the trouble; just write a high level of fear at the beginning of the page and a low level of likelyhood of your fear occuring at the bottom. Then go to sleep immediately, hoping that will acheive the anxiety reduction that writing the whole paper out or thinking the whole exercise out might do). Just kidding on that short trick. That sounds like a good way to postpone sleep, which I don't want to do. Correction; I don't want to postpone sleep by starting my anxiety brain alarms. Wandering through a store and putting off my shower, those would be more attractive alternatives.

Oh, and my tongue hurts on one side. What if it is a yeast infection? (Yeah, Abigail, and what if it is? You've presumed to have had one before, and nothing terrible happened.)

Well, I think it is safe to say that my anxiety disorder has not completely left me, not that I thought it did. It's just annoying sometimes to be reminded of it. :)

On a positive note:

My Food Stamps application was accepted.


I'm ready to take my finals for both my classes this week (the deadlines aren't until next week!).

We survived the day Santa comes to visit the day care, and are free from that for another year (to put it shortly, it is a hastle. In more words, some of the kids cry when they are sat on Santa's lap. And it is stressful to try to keep a bunch of toddlers in picture-perfect shape through breakfast and snack and play until the pictures are over).

I've finished studying for the day. The day is almost done, and my duties are even closer to done. :)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

If I stay in the safe zone, I do pretty well

From Friday... "So, the joy of taking my medication early yesterday and now being over 24 hours without it today,... I just don't quite feel good. Just a little off, tense, emotional. Yeah, I remember when I tried to get off Seroquel a year and a half ago. Cold turkey from 300 mg, under doctor supervision, mind you. Anyway, we settled for going back on, but we kept it at 150 mg instead of 300 because I didn't seem to need the 300. Anyway, I should feel all better tomorrow." Yeah, it was (not) fun being off Seroquel for a few hours. I explained it to my mom as feeling like you are really really hungry so you are almost shakey and you could snap. She then was sympathetic and really nice about it and I didn't snap at her, either. Instead, I waited until almost 6 pm and took the Seroquel, happy to let her drive me to my brothers' dance recital and then spend the night at my family's house.

And I am Oh, so thankful for Seroquel and whatever I'm on that is helping me. Because it seems that if my stress level stays low enough, I don't work too much, I eat regularly and properly enough, I sleep enough, I see my counselor, I take my medications, I do things for fun, and I sit with my therapy light enough, then I usually feel pretty good. Pretty amazingly good. As in, I can start to see why "normal" people aren't living their lives wishing to die.

It is amazingly wonderful not to have to fight thoughts of wishing to die so much any more. I mean, they'll still come up sometimes, if my anxiety gets spiked or I really need to eat something or I need to take medication or something, but usually, I'm doing pretty well. Thank you, God, so much.

So my life is lived within certain boundaries (food, work, stress level, medication, etc), and if I stay in them, I am more likely to live a more free life, more fully living. It is kind of like an oxymoron; if I submit to these restrictions, I am free, but if I go outside these restrictions, the depression and OCD are more likely to trap me, and the longer I'm outside of them, the more likely I'll have trouble. So... I should eat soon (only I've planned some shopping before I get home).

Thursday, November 29, 2012

a tired day

Well, here I am, on the computer, pretty much set up for homework. But am I doing homework? Oh, no. I haven't even checked my e-mail yet! Checking that now...

Today was, well, one of those days. I woke up, late. (Self control did not win, and I went back to bed with my alarm on snooze, and then must have turned it off...). Knowing I would be ten to fifteen minutes late to work, I called to let them know, and took my morning medication. Well, that was the goal. But I started by taking my evening Seroquel. REALLY??? Great second step to waking up too late to get to work on time.

Then, at work, well, I still work in a toddler classroom. Kids still bite. I still get frustrated. And my boss still reviews what happened when a bite report will be sent home. This time, her conclusion was that I wasn't the best multitasker. Okay, yeah. I'll agree with that. I'll take her advice for letting somebody else do the multitasking job when such a situation comes up again.

Today, I had my moments of thinking how I wasn't good enough at my job. And then (to some extent) I moved on. Because, fact is, working in a toddler classroom is just plain challenging, whether or not you are a gifted multitasker. It is even recognized as a tough job by people around me. So, Self, you do a tough job, and you don't do it perfectly, but you do your best. And that is enough.

Now I am HUNGRY (as I am, what, half the time I write on this blog?), but I don't want to stop for supper until I've made a little more progress on my actual college class (as in, more than looking at the schedule for the rest of the semester and the titles for the four remaining lectures in this class). :)

I'm not quite sure what the official solution to taking your medication 14 hours early is, but I think I'll just not take it tonight, and live through however that messes me up, and soon be back on my regular schedule. It is not a big deal that I took the dose at the wrong time; I used to take twice the dose that I take now. And what's more, once I forgot and doubled that higher dose when I accidentally took it twice in one evening. (The doctor kind of laughed at me, and asked if it made me feel extra tired, which it didn't. Go figure. Today I'm extra tired, but on double the double dose, I was okay. But actually, today I could just be tired because I'm tired, completely unrelated to my medication mistake.)

Well, now for listening to a lecture...

Sunday, November 25, 2012

On the mental health front;

I learned something today. In my mind, my life consists of working, going to school, and taking care of my mental health. Naps, relaxing, exercise, self-care, all of that falls under taking care of my mental health. But I think it makes me sound ill when I talk about it that way with people who maybe don't view their own lives as being lived on a mental health battlefield. So today, I made a discovery; I can describe what I do for self-care instead of giving the "mental health care" summary. Actually, I think the outside world might call them "hobbies." I read books, watch movies, paint little things, tap dance... Doesn't that make me sound like a healthier person? Even to myself, it sounds more positive, less locked in mortal combat with the monster that is/was trying to take over my brain. So that is one recent lesson.

Another is about mindfulness and eating. My counselor mentioned how she sometimes suggests people think about what they are eating, the taste, the texture, just really sensing it fully while they eat. She said she tried it herself, and found it very pleasant. I've tried it a few times, and this is what I come up with; I get to thinking too much about what I'm eating and the texture, and then it starts seeming gross, even if it is something I actually like. So for me, it works better to just straight enjoy the taste instead of trying to think about the texture and such and risking momentarily repelling my appetite. Mindfulness doesn't solve every problem. :)

Christmas tree

 Despite the OCD-recognized possibility for it being evil, I got a Santa stocking. I have never had a stocking for Christmas (that I can remember), and I've decided that I want to do one this year. Of course, surprising myself with its contents might be a little hard. Because my gifts from relatives that get mail, I usually open them right away (not big on self control there), and gifts from myself, well, I've seen before.

But I've found a way around that. I plan to buy one or two of those mystery toys that comes in a little foil sealed bag and gives you one of the "series" of toys shown on the package. Basically, a surprise. Of course, that will take self control as well, so we'll see how long it lasts. Perhaps in my own personal tradition, stockings will get opened two or three weeks early. That is the advantage of starting my own tradition for myself, right?
 As for the tree, I got this idea last year of making one on the wall with construction paper. However, when I got out my green construction paper yesterday, there wasn't enough. Then I found tissue paper in not quite the right color, but the size and brightness was right. So I went shopping for green tissue paper, and found sparkley stuff! Hurray! (I love sparkles.)

And, as my mom said, a tree on the wall is a good idea in a space as small as my beloved studio apartment. And she's right. So the tree hangs above my guinea pig.
In new additions yesterday, this tree cost me two dollars plus tax. Adding in the table clothe and the stocking, it's a four dollar decorating spree! Yay for dollar stores. :) I'm sure the electricity could be added in, but that would be too complicated, so we'll leave it off.

Anyway, if you happen to like Christmas this year, Merry Christmas Preparation Time, and if you don't, I'm sorry. I've been there, too. But hey, the sooner Christmas comes, the sooner it will leave again!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

OCD found a silver lining

You wouldn't expect OCD to find a silver lining. Then again, maybe you would. OCD finds some sort of reassurance in a particular misery of mine... yeah, that has probably happened before.

In this case, the cloud was that I needed to replace the rear brakes on my car. Not what I'd planned for my try-to-reduce-my-credit-card-debt plan. And the brakes would cost more than what the lady put down for the value of my car when she helped me with my Food Stamps application last time. And there I finally found relief. See, I was thinking that this time, since I'm the one writing the value down, maybe I should put a higher number on the value of my car (which is really a mystery value, since nobody knows how long it will last; it is an old car, nearly as old as I am). Maybe it was worth more than the lady decided the first time. But add a big repair bill to the picture? Okay, the lady had a good value picked out. So that OCD dilemma was solved, thanks to my rear brakes going bad.

And I sent in my paperwork yesterday, which I hoped would take lots of my anxiety away. Actually, I think it has. But not all the way to being anxiety free (what was I thinking? that by winning one OCD battle, all my disordered anxiety would forever leave me? Am I an optomist or something?).

Now my brakes are fixed, too. My bank account is poorer, my credit card company is getting richer, and I'm feeling okay. Especially since I studied for one of my classes for over an hour while waiting for my car to be fixed. Has me ready to do something exciting, like window shop, with mostly no guilt, because I've already worked and done my school work. Haven't done my exercising yet - that's where the rest of the guilt tries to get in. But I can do that later. And if I don't? So what? I haven't been exercising much in a while, so it wouldn't be the end of the world (for all of which, Abigail, you really should exercise at least a little more, for starters).

My therapy light? I like it. Can't say for sure if it is working or not, but it seems to have something of the effect of a moment of blue sky, even if it is just the temporary feeling of, "ah, that's nice." I am glad I got the light I did that wasn't so bright; I still don't like to be too close to it (the goal is 6 inches, and I'm running around a foot or foot and a half, which is still okay, just less light exposure).

And just one more day of work this week! This is one of the few long weekends scheduled into the daycare's over all plan. I do have a test set up for Friday, and one more quiz to take before the end of Saturday, but other than that, I'm fairly free!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

My feelings go up and down. Yesterday? Great. Or at least good. Today? Well, it started okay, aside from feeling definitely sick with a cold. But when I got to sorting out my drawer of Possibly Important Papers and failed to find the one important paper I was looking for, well, that didn't go over so well. I finally fled my house to get to the library before it closes, leaving piles of organized papers filling my living room. The bank papers, the credit card and car insurance papers, the bills paid, professional development, mental health, garbage. I even forgot to throw out the garbage before I left. And the pile I have called Special Saves for years. Cards I'm not ready to throw away yet, mostly.

But not the paper I wanted to find. And I've been agonizing over where on the Food Stamps form to put the $20 bill my aunt sent me last month (because leaving it out would be a lie and might have terrible consequences). At this point, I'm almost ready to cry uncle and call the number to get help filling out the stupid form. Wait, the form isn't the problem; my chemical imbalance is (and saying that is another problem because I've just expressed myself as one of those people pushing off personal responsibility and blaiming my troubles on a "chemical imbalance").

Meanwhile, my sinuses hurt. Gotta love a cold. Especially with the depression. Especially when instead of numbing the depression like I want it to, it just creates a more conducive environment for growing depressed thoughts.

Then we've got the IRRITABLE feeling that comes after sorting through a big pile of papers so that you can shove them into a file box (assuming there is that much room left in the file box; otherwise I'm not sure what I'll do, but I'm grumpy enough to consider trashing my Special Saves pile - I shouldn't need that later to satisfy my anxiety when I fill out a form! Just my millions of papers with dollar numbers scribbled on them, still lacking whatever I most want to find at the moment.

I'm probably hungry.

Thankfulness. No, wait, that word is on my black list right now. We will stick with the term, "5 Good Things" which is what I label my list of things I'm thankful for, but by this other name.

Good things? A day of social anxiety tomorrow (baby showers; were they invented to torture us? Anxiety issue the first; what should I buy? Anxiety issue the first complicated; How much should I spend, because if I spend too much, I'm squandering my money and not using it wisely and then asking for help from others like a leache. But if I spend too little, I'm a miserly, selfish person. Basicly, I can't win, which you could have told just by reading my diagnosis of OCD.

And that isn't thinking about playing music in church, which could go really well, really terribly, or just happen, I suppose.

And I have seconds to publish this before the computer closes on me.

Friday, November 16, 2012

feeling more hope

Ah, the lovely feeling of ... HOPE! Don't know why it came visiting this evening, even while I'm hungry for supper, but here it is!

It seemed to start coming when I started actually doing the things on my list that are related to my fears.

I.e., reapplying for Food Stamps. Cue the form-filling OCD obsessions. (I'm gonna do it wrong. What if I tell a lie, accidentally or subconsciously on purpose? What if I send the wrong support information? - oh, wait, that one is easy; they will just contact me and ask for the right information.) But actually, some of the questions are remarkably easy. Like my address. I do know that. For sure and certain. (Now that I've said that, I'm trying to think of a way I could be wrong.)

And listening to a lecture. It was actually fine. Long enough that I wanted to take a break in the middle, but that doesn't have to be long. The next two lectures are really long, but they have been successfully downloaded (I hope). And, my college adviser said it would be okay if I keep going along at six credits per semester, so I don't have to panic about needing to add more credits next semester.

And washing dishes? Well, it wasn't too bad when I washed some last night. So surely I can do that tonight, too... I can do it! I can do it! I want to do it! I ... will eat supper first. :)

And changing my piglet's cage? Well, that just needs to happen. It smells bad. And if I clean it BEFORE I search through my drawer of Possibly Important Papers to find what has become a Wanted Paper (to back up information on my Food Stamps application), well, the paper sorting should be more pleasant.

And it isn't on my list, but I want to clean up my apartment because it is all cluttery.

And it wasn't on my list, but I read some of Therese Borchard's blog posts, and that was encouraging, too. You can find it here. She has encouraged me on other days, as well. And I found her through somebody else's blog, perhaps one of yours.

And I'm watching Season 2 of Full House. It makes me laugh, on the one hand, but when it stops, I often feel more depressed. Come to think of it, that happened before with some other tv shows on dvd. And I wondered then if I was sad because I wasn't married like the main characters, but with Full House, it would have to be something else, since they aren't married right now. My counselor and I hypothesized last time that it was because when the video stopped, I wasn't distracted and felt my depression again. And maybe I was relaxed enough to feel it more (work distracts and stresses me before I watch these videos).

Anyway, I want to go eat supper (but don't want to drive home, but do want to eat at home, and for sure don't want to walk home, so I'd better go ahead and drive). So I leave with a little more hope inside me! Yay.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Well, I've gotten a light box. In my counselor's experience, doctors have just recommended "getting a light box," not specified the perfect light box or the perfect schedule. So I went ahead and purchased one. And I'm really really hoping it helps. So far, it is really bright when it is on, but seems to help me feel more awake. Which is nice.

I practiced with two others from my church at church yesterday to get ready for music this Sunday. And guess what? I felt... safe. I actually enjoyed it. I enjoyed making music with other people. I enjoyed feeling like a valued part of a team. The experience was lovely.

As for school, I've come across a bit of trouble. I suppose it could be described as my usual trouble at about this point in the semester. This is the point, just after the last day to withdraw and get a W on your transcript, where I have trouble caring about my classes. Acoustics of speech? Not interesting enough. Intro to Audiology? Later. This would be one of the moments when I have to fight myself to do schoolwork. Actually, I've settled for downloading the lecture to listen to later. It, well, sort of counts, right? It would probably work faster if the internet was working better.

So I guess in summary, I'm slogging along. I work, and that has been stressful, but I've been able to do it. It is after I leave work that I find myself tired and unmotivated etc. Kind of like when I was working too much earlier this fall, but now I'm back to my preferred schedule at work, so I plan to keep that.

Monday, November 12, 2012

What does the farmer say when he watches all his chickens fly away?

P.S., the farmer did not clip the chickens' wings, so they can still fly. I'm not being completely unrealistic here, though possibly somewhat.

The farmer says, "Well, it's fowl weather today."

Last night, as has thankfully become unusual, I had trouble getting to sleep. I got thinking about something that bothered me, and it was slow to go away. But here it is. I generally like Facebook, and my problem is not with Facebook itself, but with people's posts. The dumb blond jokes have thankfully left (they didn't bother me too much, anyway, despite having "dirty blond" hair). Instead, people make jokes and digs about people on government assistance. You know, people like me, who have food stamps or something like that. Of course, if I speak up, they either say that they are only talking about all the people abusing the system, or they say nothing. (Okay, shall I admit it? This is only based on two or three entries.) So they don't think they are speaking against me.

But do you know what the "Dumb Blond" does when she uses Food Stamps? She worries about people judging her. I suppose that is the OCD again. But I wonder. What does the check out lady say to her friends later? "I hate it when people come and use food stamps to buy food, but buy dvds at the same time. If they didn't buy dvds, they wouldn't need food stamps." Or, "Isn't it awful how people have food stamps, but then use them to buy expensive or unnecessary things like donuts and pre-prepared frozen food?" Such thoughts make me grumpy. I know I should just not worry about what other people think, but I do anyway.

Beyond that, now that I've gotten myself all irritated again, we've been having snow and ice and wet and cold and clouds here. Actually, there were two sunny days thrown in, with cold and left over snow. But weather related or not, my mood is going south (where, I suppose, the rest of me might want to go to get away from the cold).

I just registered for next semester's classes. And scared myself. I get a teacher new to my college, or at least to my online university part of it. And his syllabuses looked scarey (yes, he's teaching both classes). They had all sorts of (I mean a few) unforgiving words like No Mercy for late assignments. Actually, he used different words, but I wouldn't want to start out the semester plagiarising (hi, OCD. I hate you, by the way). They had scarey looking assignments (with open doors for the OCD monster). And I want an A or a B. I mean, forget that I've never had trouble getting an A or a B except one math class I didn't study or listen to lectures much for and a class about missions that made me angry. Maybe this will be the semester when I get a C. Or worse. And I need a 3.00 gpa in my classes relating to my degree. (Forget that all the As I already have will help me out there.) Well, it probably wont be that bad, but last spring semester was hard, so this one might be. The winter combined with hard classes?

I should just label this whole post "Abigail is worrying again (shocking, I know - it's not like I have an anxiety disorder or anything)." But I like my joke. Even if I'm still sad.

I should go buy milk before I have to go to my tap dancing class ("have" to go? how about "get" to?). And then supper with a friend, and then driving home on ice, since I'm in a worst case mode already (actually, I think it might be icey on some of the roads because it is wet now and cold, and it will get colder when the sun goes down).

Speaking of the sun going down, I relate it closely to an increase in depression. "It" being the time change. Sure, it is not completely dark when I go to work, but I was used to that darkness. Now it starts getting dark not long after 4. Yuck! I'm really considering getting a light therapy light. With all the money I don't have. But if it would help? I'd do a lot to keep the depression monster away. (But would I wake up early to expose myself to the light before work? That is a harder question. I'd rather use the light in the early afternoon.) But my internet research said I should discuss the light with my doctor instead of doing it all on my own, and I don't have an appointment until well into December, and even though he said I could move the appointment sooner, I don't want to do that, either because I have self esteem issues, or because I have other issues, or something. Maybe a phone call would work. But that is scarey, too. Don't you love the depression/anxiety combo? The whole world gets smaller (except for friends - the distance between me and them grows), darker, and scarier, and I get less brave and ready to hide.

Now to the store with bright lights and milk! (Brightly lit stores are so nice.)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

How-are-you-I'm-fine (but not completely)

I found the perfect new shoes. Actually, they didn't pass the "I'm certain they wont hurt my feet by not fitting quite perfectly" test, because I decided not to give that test this time. Instead, this is what I got; tennishoes that have leather (or fake leather) around the toe and sides instead of that mesh stuff that is "in" now. And shoes that are supposed to make it harder to slip! Both good things, since these are to be my winter shoes. And I sprayed them with water-resistant spray for added protection. I decided to get new shoes yesterday when I saw that my old ones were like bald tires, missing tread in key areas.

Another thing I did yesterday was drive to the second-nearest mall to find these shoes, which involved crossing state lines and driving for a short while. This is important because I was setting a precident to keep driving even during the winter when it is cold and dark. Actually, it was remarkably safe since the snow had melted off the roads and they were mostly dry (hence, mostly no ice). But I was still proud of myself for going ahead and taking the longer option to drive to this mall (instead of shopping a million stores locally - I was getting tired of that route).

Today being Sunday, I got out of bed with the excitement of wearing my new shoes. But I carried the Sunday edition of OCD/anxiety and depression with me as I went to church. It is seriously annoying how the attending church experience spikes my mental problems. Then, in church, I realized that I have done what I didn't want to do; I have hidden my mental struggle from the people around me. Well, I suppose I was always planning on keeping lots of it to myself, but the whole "how are you? I'm fine" exchange? I didn't want to have to do that. But I had done it at least three times before I got to my seat. Nonetheless, what would the alternative be? "Hello, person who is welcoming people and holding doors or passing out bulletins. How am I? Well, actually, the anxiety and depression that haunt me are very busy intently haunting me right now. See, I have OCD. OCD is like [insert thorough description here], and I have these kinds of OCD [insert another description here], thus I am currently enduring this type of suffering [insert impossibly accurate description here]. But don't worry, I'll be fine." Instead, I claimed a more ordinary "fine"ness and continued into church.

We did vary from our normal routine when the pastor decided to invite people with health issues, whether physical, emotional, or spiritual, to come up front (but we got to sit in the front row, instead of some more obvious place like kneeling in front of the non-existant alter) and someone would come pray with them. Well, I figured this was a good time to releive my fake or real conscience by asking for prayer (you know that James passage about sick people coming to the elders for prayer?). I'm thinking it was at least partially real, with an OCD megaphone on top. But anyway, through this, I was able to talk to a lady in the church and admit my struggle so that it was shared. And she prayed.

Anyway, the pastor nicely confirmed at the end that the church did not teach that if we had enough faith, we would be healed. I actually don't like asking for instant healing, more for help (I still ask for instant releif from the pain, though :)    ). I guess I feel like if I got healed instantly, that I'd have an unfair advantage and wouldn't be able to help other people as well whome God didn't choose to instantly heal. Because thus far, I am one of the people without instant complete healing, who takes medication and sees a therapist and doesn't need any extra guilt that if I was only a better person, I wouldn't feel this way.

But the rest of my morning at church did go better, so God did give me relief, and not because I was full of faith that He would heal me, because I wasn't full of faith that He would heal me. :)

Next week, I'm scheduled to play guitar in church. So if OCD is correct, I'll be starting to ruin the church. Now I really wonder what someone from my church would think if they read that statement. So just in case anyone who knows me reads this and is concerned, please ask me, and I'll explain more fully. You can rest at ease that the church wont be magically destroyed by my simply standing up there playing guitar. Meanwhile, I just might be suffering through another exposure to my fear, even though I'll probably tell you I'm fine.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

An emotional yet random day

Well, my OCD was happy with the election results. Apparently my votes aren't going to ruin the country. Big feeling of relief. The only good thing about such fears of ruining the country is that they made fears of ruining a church seem anticlimactic.

Today, I met with the music pastor of my church and played guitar and sang. Well, if it was a test, I passed it. And I told him that I'd had bad experiences with playing music and church. So now I feel good about that, at least for the moment. And he seemed quite fine with my not wanting to play all the time.

How's this; I want to play, but more because I know that it would be good for me than because I straight up want to play. It's time to take my music skills out of hiding (where they truly have been, though some things are easy to hide when people don't actively look for them).

As for the "risk" my OCD has informed me of that the church might fall apart when I play guitar in church on Sunday, well, I wont be playing this Sunday, so the church's OCD-forcasted demise can be postponed.

Today, in counseling, my counselor and I went over the exposure's I've been doing. Then we got to the point where, well, the problem wasn't so much OCD anymore. I was back to the sadness of the past, perhaps "reliving" experiences from the past since the present reminds me of them.

And then my phone rings. Sometimes I turn it off during counseling, but plenty of other times, it is on vibrate. It was my boss. Usually, I wouldn't answer, but I suppose you could say I had a premonition that I might need help afterwards. Looking back from emotionally stable ground, I can see that the conversation was about a little misunderstanding that happened at work that isn't that big a deal. But at the time, on top of the sadness I was already dealing with, it was crushing. Apparently, handling my boss's disappointment in me was too much for the moment.

I somehow need to seperate my emotional well-being from my boss's oppinion of me (and under this, let me note that her negative oppinions get lots of weight in my mind, but her possitive ones slide under the radar). And please don't just say that I need to trust God more. I suppose that could be the answer, but it sounds too short and simple, too guilt provoking without being actually helpful.

Well, I'm trying to evaluate these situations where I know my boss will be or was upset, evaluate them for myself like I did with the director of the musical this summer. Then, hopefully, I wont take responsibility for "problems" that weren't mine, or will be able to take the responsibility that IS mine without adding guilt layers that aren't mine.

Anyway, back to counseling, I'm still kind of glad I took the call then, because I did need encouragement afterwards,  but I'm also sad, because I was all set up so that a straw could break the camel's back and send me into tears, but I ended up crying over a work misunderstanding instead of trying to get further dealing with the sadness from past church experiences.

Which, by the way, I still don't know how to "move past." It has been more than 10 years since part of it happened, and it still can put me near the verge of tears!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Election Day coming ... make that Scrupulosity OCD Has a Heyday Day.

Tomorrow, I get an unwanted exposure. I'm busy with my planned exposures, thank you. But no, election day comes regardless of my feelings. And really, I'm not against voting. I think it is a privilege. But OCD has been known to mess with people's privileges. Driving without undue anxiety? Privilege? Yes. Mine? Um, sometimes. Voting is similar. Too much responsibility, even while I know that my one vote won't necessarily (or even likely) be a deciding vote on anybody's election. In fact, in a past election that my OCD messed with, I was relieved when I learned that my vote that OCD was bugging me about had NOT been a deciding factor.

But here I am "researching" my choices for tomorrow. I won't call it OCD researching, well, not most of it, since it is preferable for people to have some idea of who they are voting for instead of playing eeny meeny miney moe in the voting booth. But I will call it amusing. And here we present, candidate so-and-so, whose party my family typically favors over the opponent's party. But get this; she is a car salesperson. And she was in favor of one bit of wordy legislation that I'm pretty sure I'm opposed to, but on two other issues, she sides with me against the opponent. So what is that? Two strikes against both people running. Will I be flipping a coin after all?

Add in the religious scrupulosity. Some issues could be seen as religious issues. Well, at least one of them gets plenty of air time in churches. And I agree with the "churchy" view, at least some variation of it. But what do you do when it is two strikes against both candidates? Do I vote for the person that "feels" right? But what if what "feels" right today feels wrong on Wednesday? Should I take the "coward"s way out and not vote (in which case, please don't mention it to my family; they'd have no choice but to accept my choice, but still)? Should I give OCD an easy victory and avoid voting at all? Oh, wait, OCD might prefer torturing me, in which case voting might be better, because then it can second guess me for the next four years. Then again, if I DONT vote, I think the OCD will still torture me, along with my fake and perhaps my real conscience. Damned if I do, damned if I don't. Thank you, OCD. Guess I'd better keep up my research. And bring a penny to the voting booth?

Well, I'm pretty positive that I should start my church-related exposures before Wednesday, or at least before next Sunday. Otherwise next Sunday promises to be hard. Now that I have "accepted" the risk of going to hell, I can tackle the "risk" of killing a church by playing guitar up front. Yuck. New meaning to magical guitar strings?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

OCD fight 1 has played out; now preparing for the second

The librarian was talking too loud. And emphatically. And urgently. And repeatedly, saying the same thing over and over, like she had to out-talk the person she was trying to help. Good thing she wasn't talking to me, but it was still hard (or impossible?) to ignore.

Back to OCD. I did exposures through the week on my fear of the pastor deceiving me, my going to hell, other people going to hell because I didn't figure it out and say something, etc. Sunday, I did it through the sermon, and was VERY anxious. Monday, I did it while waiting in my car between activities, talking audibly approximately along the lines of a script, over and over. It was simultaneously increasingly boring but still anxiety-triggering. Tuesday and Wednesday, I was distracted by high anxiety mistake at work. Thursday, I did the written script (or was that Friday?), over and over. I got my anxiety up to a 7 (on a 1 - 10 scale) and also down to a 3. I varied the script somewhat, though, trying to get a short enough one and the most helpful one.

Saturday, I took a video of myself signing in American Sign Language the same script-ish information, and then watched it several times. At this point, I could get myself to feel things related to the script; sadness, sorrow, but for the most part, not anxiety. So I decided that was a good thing, and it was okay if my obsessive thoughts made me sad since, if the thoughts came true, it would be sad. But I did not have that panicky, anxious feeling, at least not much, so there was improvement.

Today, I was anxious before hand. And depressed. Probably the time change and staying up late last night had an impact there. At church, for the first hour and a half or so, I was very upset. I could feel the yucky, depressed feeling that haunted me for days and months in the past couple years. But during the sermon, I did not get much OCD anxiety. My brain seems to have accepted the risk that the pastor might lie to me and I might go to hell. Granted, I still reminded myself not to start in with my compulsions. I suppose I even "checked" if the obsession was still there. But in general, I did all right.

So that is battle 1 in my OCD church struggles saga. Battle 2 is scheduled to begin Wednesday, if not earlier, when I meet with the music pastor and another member of the music team and practice, probably for helping with music this coming Sunday. Obsession? If I play guitar in a church, the church might die, and I might have a miserable time, and it might spike of my anxieties about the pastor deceiving us again. I guess I should start some scripts so that hopefully I can take part of the sting out of it before Wednesday. But Wednesday is the real life exposure, so I'll just expect it might be hard, but try not to have a self-fulfilling prophecy about how terrible it will be.

Back to the depression, last night, I updated my mood record, averaging out the last several weeks so that I could have them plotted in a chart continuously with my records from some time around May this year. I could see the pronounced decline in anxiety and depression when I stopped working afternoons, but then they both climbed up again, the anxiety especially making a huge leap up. It is discouraging to see that you are in a pattern that has rising depression and anxiety and could continue rising. But then I figured out that the anxiety leap had to do with the OCD I uncovered regarding church stuff. So now it isn't just a random increase, perhaps caused by weather and seasons that I can't control. It has to do with specific anxiety that I am fighting and that I expect to diminish. As for the depression, rising anxiety tends to increase the depression as well (though depression doesn't tend to increase anxiety as much). Thus, when I successfully tackle the OCD in this area and get it to shrink back to mostly out of my way, the depression should shrink as well, leaving me feeling better again.

As for today, after bothering me for a few hours, the strong depression struggle has receded. So hopefully the rest of my day will go better and my new week will start well, too.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

update

Well, I've had quite the week. Exposure on Sunday, talking up an exposure on Monday (like a loop tape, except that I just repeated myself speaking instead of recording myself), making a mistake at work that could have turned out badly, getting through the anxiety that brought up, and now, I'm getting ready to take a test.

So I guess things are going okay now. Work was more enjoyable today. And, unlike my dream this morning, I did get to the library in time to take my quizzes before I am scheduled to take my test. (And I'm feeling pretty positive about the test, too.)

My counselor recommends I do a written exposure, repeating myself in writing, and noting my anxiety level a couple times per page. She thinks that it will be easier to see the anxiety going down. And she, of course, approved of my trying to do exposures during the week and not just on Sundays.

Well, I'll keep this short and go get ready to take my test. Happy November to all!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The ERP endeavor has begun

Well, it wasn't a particularly thoroughly planned out Exposure Response Prevention exercise, but then again, I did put some thought into the over all problem.

So I sat through the sermon telling myself that the pastor might deceive me and lead me to hell. Added in that he might deceive us all and lead us all to hell. Added in that it might bring some families ten years of grief, and somebody might end up with a mental disorder like somebody I love from the past church ended up with (causation completely unproven) (that friend wasn't me, either).

Well, it was a loooong sermon. And I was very distressed. I guess if I step back and look at the thoughts rationally, it makes sense that they would disturb me. Nonetheless, I continue to be surprised and dismayed whenever OCD disturbs me. I wanted the distress to go down noticeably by the end. And it didn't go down as much as I wanted. I'm not sure if this is because I almost automatically kept making the exposure harder by mentioning more and more of my fears or if I just have a good lot of anxiety tied up in this. But either way, when church was done, I was done, too. Then, of course, a friend starts to talk to me, and I have to set aside my personal traumatic experience of the recent half hour (or however long it was) and engage in small talk. I guess I could have explained, but I think it would be a pretty long, confusing explaination.

Not long after, I escaped to my car and did breathing exercizes. That right there should say something about how upset I was, because I usually avoid breathing exercises like a least-favorite chore. And then I rejoined the people at church. Our small group/Bible study meets after church. And, unfortunately for my OCD struggle, the pastor was the one leading it today. But I decided I'd had enough exposure for one day, so I intentionally avoided my disturbing thoughts and ERP stuff. Actually, this group doesn't set me off as badly as sermons do, so I treated it like a seperate exposure experience that I didn't need to do today.

When I was really anxious, I just wanted to be done. Wanted to be comforted. Which is probably one of the reasons that having a counselor helps me, because I can go back, not for specific reassurance, but for support in my choice to fight the OCD. For support for me as a person. For advice on how to choose and handle exposures.

Anyway, I think I'll watch a movie this afternoon and generally try to be good to myself. I'm afraid this OCD issue is going to be one of the tougher ones to tackle, maybe more of a long-haul battle than some of my easier issues. So I'll try to comfort myself in a way that hopefully isn't compulsive when I'm not engaging in ERP, but I'm also digging in my heels for however many battles it takes. Okay, for the next two battles. I can't think of too many at once, or I get overwhelmed and discouraged.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

A HALTingly annoying day

Thus far, my weekend has been too full of stressful social situations. I went to a 2.5 hr training last night and another 8 hr one today, both intended to help the child care worker improve their work. Two more among many trainings out there letting you know how to have a better class, how to develop smarter kids (why, so they can have a higher risk of mental illness?), how to have better behaved kids. Last nights might not have gotten so into behavior issues, but today's sure did. If only I do such-and-such, there will be less behavior problems in my classroom. If only the teacher does his/her job in the best way (which varies from trainer to trainer, depending on what theory they advocate as fact), the children with have much less behavior issues, will learn lots more, and, well, it will just be better.

So, in my emotionally depleted state, I've gotten grumpy, sarcastic, and developed more depressed thoughts.

But today's training was just extra special (introduce sarcasm here). She had the boldness to make generalizations about people (well, that's normal), sensory processing disorder (which isn't necessarily a proven/accepted diagnosis), and even OCD! I actually can't remember much of what she said about OCD. My head is swimming from all the words that speakers sent towards us, all the people around us, all the words I've spoken and heard from various people, and my newly ignited fear (that is also newly set to rest).

Because she talked about Sensory Processing Disorder, in such a way as to make me suspect I had it (as if I needed another disorder to my name). Then, when I (possibly foolishly) asked if she would consider HSPs - Highly Sensitive People - to actually have a disorder, she said yes. So what was termed a gift in the book The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine R. Aron was in one sentence reduced to a disorder. Rats!

And the speaker today was advocating movement (i.e. crawling, dance, etc.) to solve all a person's problems. Oh, touch was in there, too. But my mom held me plenty. Maybe my family wasn't particularly physically demonstrative with their affection, none-the-less, my parents hugged me. That didn't stop until I pulled away due to OCD fears (which can make a simple hug into a dangerous thing, you know). Furthermore, I took dance, specifically took Creative Movement, have great coordination (except when I'm running into things, but I still think my coordination is pretty very good, with left-right coordination fine, as well). I was the kid who scuffed up her mother's floor tap-dancing while drying dishes (or in and around drying dishes?). Yet, here I am with an anxiety disorder AND depression, obviously, my movement and tactile experiences let me down somehow, or I simply have a malfuntioning brain (something she didn't seem to recognize in depression or anxiety or mental health, but was happy to notice with sensory processing disorders).

Well, maybe I should just shut up about her. Really, she seemed like a pretty nice lady. I'm just grumpy. What is that HALT acronym? Hungry? Probably (haven't had supper yet, just a snack.) Angry? Sure. Lonely? For connecting with people on a level deeper than "aw, shucks, we have to be at this training, so we might as well make the best of it" level maybe. Tired? Check. Doesn't matter that I've been doing an amazing job of going to bed early. I feel like I did when I was on a certain medication that didn't work for me. I can sleep, and sleep, and still be tired.

Might have to do with my dreams. Seriously, can they give me a rest from church issues? I don't want to dream about going to my old church and missing my new church again. Twice is more than enough. What kind of closure do I need? I'm guessing I should go ahead and write and send my, please remove me from your membership letter. But who likes to write that kind of letter. The last time I wrote that sort of letter (only it was along the lines of "please remove me from your regular attenders" letter), I sent it, absolved the pastor of having to explain in his words instead of mine why I was leaving, and then heard... nothing. Nada. Well, except that the church still miraculously sent me money for my mission trip for the rest of the year.

What do I want? Them to say, Oh, I'm sorry we didn't contact you after you quit coming to our church. And I'm sorry that we/I messed up on answering your question there. Okay, I just don't want the whole experience. No, maybe just the end of it. But we can't pick and choose, can we. It happened, the good with the rough. Now I get to deal with the fall-out. Alone. Or maybe with the help of my new church.

Because, maybe it isn't just OCD I'm dealing with here. A broken heart that keeps getting broken by churches/people in churches.

Okay, Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired self, how about going home and eating?

I don't like food.

Should have expected that answer, hey? Oh, hi, depression, nice to see you are still up to your old tricks?

Watch a movie.

But then I'll be up late, and you know I need every hour of sleep I can get so that I can dream about stressful things and wake up tired still.

Okay, Abigail. HALT, now, okay?

Oh, wait. I think I forgot to tell you my "newly ignited fear." Or wait, maybe I did. It is that I have Sensory Processing Disorder. But actually, my research this evening led me to relax about that. I clearly have OCD, versus there being a possibility that I have what is possibly a disorder, but has yet to make the DMV (if I understood right). And you know the whole thing about disorders sharing symptoms. But some of (if not all of) my SPD-type symptoms are also anxiety/OCD symptoms, and I feel pretty thoroughly qualifying for OCD (right now, minus the issue of is-it-severe-enough-to-count, OCD isn't doubting its existence in me. It has better things to do for the moment). So I think I'll just stick with OCD and depression as my current disorders. They keep me busy enough, you know (or too not busy, as might be indicated by the stacks of dirty dishes corresponding to increasingly empty clean-dish piles).

And now I'll call it a night. Just after I figure out what to call my post and see if I want to read any other posts, etc...

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Where there is OCD, there is hope

At least in my life, this has been true. OCD issues are more or less disturbing aspects of my life that are liable to change with changing seasons in my life, with changing medication, with changing therapy participation and methods.

But before I get too far, I'd like to mention a conversation I recently had with a friend living with depression and anxiety but without the OCD label. I talked about having trouble making decisions at the store. She agreed with me, and labeled it depression. So I got more specific. I have trouble making decisions at the store, whether I should buy this or that, whether it is worth it to spend that much money on this, or would it be wasting my money and therefore a sin... And suddenly she was saying that that would be hard to deal with. And yeah, it is. So part of me was happy she respected that. And another part of me was thinking, yeah, but this is my life. This is my normal. Stressful? I guess so, but I don't always think about that, because sometimes I'm caught up in its being my normal.

Back to OCD and its changing nature inside me. And the hope I have if I can identify a problem as OCD. Because what I considered to be my most disturbing obsession (or at least up there among the worst) has faded into an occasional obsession that doesn't get much time to make me miserable any more.

Anyway, my counselor agreed that I seem to be having some OCD issues related to my church issues. As I started putting words to some of my fears, they looked more and more like OCD. Actually, she could probably have told me they were OCD years ago if I had put them into words like I was finally able to today. Scrupulosity and hyper-responsibility/harm fears swirled into one difficult recovery from a troubling church situation that happened over ten years ago. Once I figured out that I seem to have taken on some causal guilt for the church fiascos (a realization that made sense to her as well as to me), and along with that figured out how I was compulsively trying to avoid "causing" or being responsible for any future church problems, then the OCD reasoning just came falling out, simple and unique as you please, simultaneously being typical in form to any OCD obsession, especially of scrupulous and hyper-responsibility categories.

Here are a few lovely examples, in the imperfect English I've finally gotten them into.

"If I don't identify false teaching, confront the pastor, and leave, if the error so merrits, then I'm responsible for other people potentially going to hell."

Woe, there. What happened to me not having scrupulosity issues that had hell as the negative outcome?

"I was deceived before. If I hadn't have realized (or been shown) my error and changed, I could have gone to hell. But God didn't stop me from being deceived, so He might not stop me next time, either. So I've got to protect myself and better be super-super-super-vigilant in making sure pastors and Bible teachers are teaching me the truth, otherwise, I might go to hell."

Yay for catestrophic thinking, logic jumps, and just plain old struggling with complicated life issues.

Theologically/religously, I know something is wrong with my thinking when I think, "God didn't protect me, so I have too..." But I've sure thought it. In honesty, though, perhaps God does not stop us from being deceived (think about Eve), but maybe He doesn't let His people be deceived in such a way as to have them loose their salvation.

Speaking of which, I don't believe you can loose your salvation, but that is a whole big issue that I don't want to go into in detail.

In short, I've got some logic errors, some thinking errors, but apparently some OCD, too. And I know how to deal with OCD. Exposure response prevention (in my case, preferably backed up by helpful medications).

I've struggled with "getting over" what happened at that church when I was 15. I keep bringing it up, trying to figure it out, and letting it go to sleep again after I figure out all I know how. But if OCD is being a major hang up in sorting this out, then I feel hope. Because I can handle OCD.

And my counselor agrees that some of my thoughts (particularly the ones that would send me or others to hell, and the one about playing music - except for handbells, my magical thinking has that clause included - in a church potentially damaging the church and the people in it) look like OCD.

Now I'm annoyed. It isn't nicely wrapping up into ALL OCD. And I want it nice and neat, all OCD, so that I can clean it ALL up with some ERP and medication and sleep. But might that not be the OCD again, trying to oversimplify things? At least, it is a cognitive error, easily identifiable as "all or nothing thinking."

Anyway, I'm excited because some of what has been torturing me for years might be helped in the near future as I undertake some more ERP therapy. Down with the OCD!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

hidden false guilt?

This past week has been interesting. I read some cheap romantic suspense novel, Code of Justice by Liz Johnson (Steeple Hill Books, New York, 2011), but it contained two people feeling responsible for things they really weren't completely responsible for. In one person, this was manifested in guilt from the past. In the other person, she felt like she had to do something to be responsible. Anyway, it was a Christian novel, so they end up giving it over to God and being free from their incorrectly assumed responsibility and guilt.

So then I was thinking about myself and past church experiences where churches fell apart. And I'm not really sure why I said it, but I said something to myself about my not being responsible for either church's demise. And saying that made me feel relieved.

The confusing thing to me is that I know so clearly that I couldn't be responsible for either one. I wasn't one of the main actors in the drama. In fact, I didn't do much. A conversation with a pastor here, a letter and conversation there, mostly just helping lead music at church, and watching my family suffer. Aside from freaking out about being deceived by a pastor who's message was less than accurate, watching my family struggle over it (and myself struggle for years to get passed it) has been the hardest part. I don't really blame the "bad guys," because that is too much work, and I'm supposed to forgive and I've been working on forgiving for years. I want to blame God, but that doesn't work out too well, you know? I believe God is good, but he let confusing things happen, so it looks like he let me down, but I believe he doesn't actually do that, so I leave it that I still believe him and I feel confused. But I didn't think I blamed myself, because there is very little, very little to rationally allow me to blame myself, and I am aware of that. In fact, so aware of that that I pretty much overlooked the possibility that I blamed myself.

But I did come up with this strange idea in my head that if I helped lead music at a church, then it would fall apart/have serious trouble. But I knew it was illogical. So I just wanted to prove to myself that it was illogical. Only, my last attempt at such a proof was not completely successful. I do realize that it isn't a fair test, because anything bad happening for years after I play music in a church can still be blamed on the fact that I stood in front of people with my guitar and helped lead singing. But I wanted proof, anyway.

Now, I want to play music at my new church. I know it will probably spike my anxiety, but I'd like to sit it out and get rid of it. But recently, I've been thinking that maybe I will never be able to prove this to myself. (The fact that I have OCD should lend strength to this new assumption.) But now, I'm wondering, if I could just accept that it wasn't my fault, that none of it was my fault of the bad things that happened, of me being deceived, of all of it, would I be able to sit through a sermon relaxed? Would I be able to drop the "on-guard," stressful way of listening, measuring every word to see if there was some big problem there? Something I should act on so as not to suffer like I did with the first church or with the second church that fell apart? If I wasn't responsible for spotting any incorrect teaching, if I wasn't morally obligated to find and respond to every significant error, would things get better? Put in these terms, I wonder if OCD decided to join in the post-church-death struggle. Is there some kind of scrupulous hyper-responsibility that I picked up? And if there is, how do I change it?

Aside from OCD, I'd think, I need to teach myself that it wasn't my fault. Great. I really don't know how to do that, aside from saying it and trying to believe it.

If it is OCD, then I can conduct exposures. Like sitting through sermons not looking for problems, risking being "led astray" and suffering another disturbing Church death experience. Because I've been sitting through sermons, so I've got the Exposure part in there. I think it is the Response Prevention that needs added in. Or maybe some kind of mental scripts to more completely expose myself to my less-than-rational fears?

In other words, hard work. But not doing that hard work isn't working out too well for me, so I guess I'm ready to tackle it. I think I might want to wait and talk to my counselor, first, though, and get her input.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Living with depression is like driving on ice

I finally found a successful anti-suspense-novel-dreams method; read a suspense novel during the day. Well, it seems to be working. I read one Sunday and one Monday, but not one yesterday, yet, I have had three mornings of acceptable dreams. :) This actually doesn't mean they aren't at all disturbing, it just means I've broken my run of suspense novel dreams, for which I am very grateful. So here is one piece of subjective evidence for justifying reading cheap suspense novels!

Today, I felt like I might have wasted time with my counselor. Yay; undesired Exposure. So, I don't know if complaining about it counts as a form of sitting with anxiety? But I hope it does, because that's what I'm doing. Maybe I wasted counseling time. I wonder why I think that is so terrible? I mean, maybe if I was in desperate straights, and really needed to talk about subject A and instead talked about a very non-pressing issue B, maybe that would be a problem? But then again, sometimes talking about issue B might help subject A. So we are back to suspecting that the "terrible problem" of "wasting counseling time" is not so terrible. Maybe if I was... oh, still not coming up with a good way to waste it that wouldn't potentially help a counselor realize issues to address or ways to help me. So there is cognitive therapy in action; look at a problem logically; see if it can be reasonably reframed in a non-catastrophic way. What is the fancy counselor/book words for that? Identifying cognitive distortions? Yes. There we go. And here, doing cognitive therapy saved me from having as hard a time with Exposure therapy. Almost took away the need for exposure therapy. I like that. Because I don't like Exposure Response Prevention therapy very well. It is like cleaning my house or washing my dishes when I don't want to (oh, wait; those actions can be Exposures sometimes). It is like doing something I don't want to do. (Oh, wait, how often do I not want to do something because it would be an exposure?)

Anyway, I did come up with an analogy that my counselor liked. So here it is, and it is about me working with depression. Background information; I added hours to working at my childcare job, and my depression started acting up. I struggled. I got rid of the added hours (thank you SOOO much, boss!), and my depression settled back down. So then I started thinking. Here is the analogy part. Living with depression is like driving on ice. If I drive on ice at 20 mph, I might do just fine. In fact, I might not slide at all. But am I driving as fast as I can without sliding/spinning my wheels? I don't know. I won't know that information until I over-do it. When I drive too fast and start slipping, then I will know that the fastest I can safely drive without sliding is slower than that. Similarly, trying to work (at least at my current beloved yet stressful job) with depression, I don't know if I am working as much as I can until I over-do it. And now I have over-done it. And backed off. So now I am tempted to go back to wondering how much I can work without suffering for it in my mental health. Maybe I could work a little more. Maybe I could, but six hours more is too much, so I think I'll just stick with where I'm at instead of trying for a finer line.

There is one more piece to my analogy that I didn't share with my counselor; When you are driving on ice, you can go along just fine for a while, and then suddenly, without changing speed, you might spin out of control. Same with depression. I never know if I will spin out and crash, or at least scare myself thoroughly. But I do know something. How I drive will lessen the risk of an accident, both on ice and with depression. I also know that being tense could be a bad thing (though being awake is very important on the driving side). I haven't actually tested this out, but I've heard that if you get in an accident, you are less likely to get hurt if you are relaxed. Harder to pull muscles and such. And if there isn't an accident, well, being tense could be a part of some weight loss program, but other than that, it will probably just make you sore and stressed. Same with depression.

And that is the end of my entertaining-to-myself exposition on my depression and anxiety. No, wait; one more thing.

Church. You sick of the subject yet? Because I'm getting sick of the subject in relation to my mental health (not sick of church, sick of struggling with it). I told my counselor that the last two weeks, I was anxious during the sermon. She suggested that it might get better, since I'm in a better place now. But she also agreed that it could last the rest of my life, and I just need to sit it out. (In this case, I wanted her to agree with that possibility, because I didn't want any Pollyanna-ish declarations that anxiety that has dogged me for years in relation to church experiences will be going away any time soon.) She did accurately describe how I sit alert to any indication of trouble and then any slight reminder of my negative church situations sets me off. That, unfortunately, is accurate. I just don't know how to turn it off, and get annoyed when people suggest I can just turn off something that I've unsuccessfully tried to get rid of already. Just in case you have a suggestion, though, I'd still be interested in hearing one. It just has to be more detailed than "get over it," and I'd prefer more detail than "trust God more." While that might help, it is another thing that you can't just push a button and acheive.

So now, I plan to keep sitting through the anxiety during sermons as long as it keeps up. That was actually my plan before talking to her, but it was still nice to talk about it.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

My experiment writing a story yesterday did not buy me dreamless sleep, at least not yet. I had yet another adventure/suspense novel dream, as I now like to call them. And I'm tired today! Though the clouds could explain some of that. But I had trouble falling asleep last night, so I'm planning to avoid napping. (Last week, my Sunday nap did excellent things to my mental health, though, so it can be hard choice.)

On the church front, the pastor "passed" my last test regarding how he handled a conversation about depression with me. He explained that his understanding of hope was that it was a belief and assurance that things would get better at some point after whatever dark time, however dark the time might be. I didn't have to be happy in the darkness. I guess I didn't get into the anxiety disorders questions, but his perspective on depression was non-judgmental. And pretty much, if I need to, I can frame my worst mental health struggles into depression terms. Or maybe I should say, when I need support from church people, generally it has to do with depression more than anxiety.

Which implies that I think anxiety is a solo sport while depression is a team sport, pardon my positive terminology. I don't quit think that. I get help for my struggle with anxiety from my blog friends, my counselor, my psychiatrist, and for the most part, people who I think will understand anxiety issues. Depression, however, seems to leave me more needy of help from other people. Anxiety can usually be either ridden out or fled from (i.e. avoidance; I know it isn't the best alternative, but when the anxiety is just too much for the moment, avoidance sometimes works well until I can launch a counter-attack). Depression, however, to hide from it, I sometimes have to connect with other people.

However, despite the pastor "passing" my last test after church (it was an informal test, unplanned. More of an observation than a test), I still struggled with anxiety during church. A pastor preaching with grace apparently doesn't solve all my issues. I still can think of "shoulds." Today, I thought maybe part of the problem was that I was thinking too fast. The pastor's words didn't fill up my brain capacity for the moment, so anxious thoughts had more room to play. So I wrote most of an acrostic poem that I'll try to finish now:

SHOULD!

Sinner!
How could you even think of not doing it!
Only a jerk wouldn't do it -
Unless you are just an idiot. Are you
Lazy?
Do it! Or suffer the guilt!
 
 
Of course, that isn't what my pastor was saying. That was me trying to describe what a "should" can be like in my head. :)
 
There is at least one positive to having a super speedy brain, well, at least my brain. I can learn information fast. Hence how I learned so much of what I needed to memorize about human anatomy for the week yesterday.