Wednesday, August 29, 2012

thankful for a quiz

There was something so comforting about taking my first quiz in one of my classes (not counting the academic honesty understanding quizes they have decided to add to every single online class). Seeing all the right answers pop out in green, with my one wrong answer in red, with my second choice answer for that question (only you don't get second choices, but if I did) marked as the correct answer. Maybe it's the instant feedback telling me I'm good at something. Ding! You are good at taking multiple choice tests with minimal study time. I guess I can use some of that in my life. Wonder why I don't do that for myself. No, I don't wonder. Here's the reason: it sounds prideful, so it might be a sin. Poof! Here comes Scrupulosity OCD, like a supervillian, ready to hold it's dictatorship over the "possible sin" category of my life.

But let's think more slowly, supervillian. Sinful pride is false pride, and/or putting myself higher than I should be/higher than God, right? Right, conscience? Ummmm, supervillian is here, so I can't answer that question right now. Okay, fine. That sounds like it might be right, but supervillian said you might want verses to back that up.

But I've been thinking about that. Telling myself that I am valuable (true) is a good thing. And why do I think this? Because if I don't believe I am valuable, the resulting actions are undesirable. So telling myself true good things about myself, that is a good thing.

Now that we've settled that little issue...

My counselor asked what I was planning to do this weekend, and I said sleep, and she said that was "taking care of yourself." Which it is. It is sleep for a person who had been sick, not sleep-because-I'm-too-depressed-to-live sleep. I'm not that depressed, anyway, but I have been sick. Actually, I still am, but it has settled more into cold symptoms with tiredness and aches (thus, I have labeled the whole thing together as a flu). Food doesn't always sound good, but my stomach is not as upset. So that is very nice. I'm back to work; the flu bug might make me shorter tempered, but otherwise, I'm hanging in there. And though stronger depressed thoughts attacked a couple times yesterday, the stronger thoughts have not taken up permanent residence at this time. So that is good as well.

In conclusion; I'm thankful for my quiz that I recently finished, for my financial aid that is helping me during this college time, for better health, and for the sunshine I got to drive in today.

Monday, August 27, 2012

start of semester and sick

Well, I actually managed to call in sick today. I have this problem when I get the flu. I think, am I making it up? Am I bringing it on to myself? Am I really sick enough to stay home? But the upset stomach gave a convincing enough argument, and I called in sick. My boss was nice about it, too. I lslept all morning, into the early afternoon. Now I'm at that stage when I'm exhausted, but I want to stay awake long enough to sleep at night. I'm hungry, but still a little sick, (but hunger can make me feel sick, too), so I'm trying to figure out what to eat so that it is enough and not too much... tomorrow, I really need to work, because they will be short on people. I actually think I am doing better and will be able to work tomorrow, but for now, I'm in that in between state. So if my writing makes no sense, I will blame it on that.

I left my home to get internet because today, my classes start, and I think you are supposed to check in the first day. You might have the first week, but I didn't want to take any chances.

Most classes have you introduce yourself in a discussion comment. I've had more interesting comments, before (maybe), writing about why I want to get my bachelor's degree in communication disorders. But today, the why isn't really on the top of my brain. This is just something I'm going to do. I work, I take part time classes. That's my life. Unless I want to let you in on the secret of my mental illness and how I spend a large fraction of my life working to preserve the health I have gained. This work is often "play," intentional recreation and relaxation and things I enjoy. Today and last night, that meant watching a movie. Sometimes it means playing computer games. Sometimes it means doing exposures and/or washing my dishes. Basically, most of my life (if not all of it) now ties into my quest for mental health. Work, continuing education, chores, life. All part of living, of intentionally living, which, somehow, seems the opposite of depression and wanting to die. My life response to wanting to die? Intentionally living. I'm lot's better now; I'm not hanging on by my fingertips. I've got my hands on the ledge, or maybe even my elbows and my waste. I'm not really in danger of falling right now. But are my feet planted firmly as well? Maybe not quite yet. I'm still climbing. Still intentionally living.

Which now includes the fall semester of classes. Yay. Now my stomach feels sick. Traitor!

Am I hungry, or sick, or both? Am I feeling sick because I'm anxious or depressed or plain have the flu? Questions, questions. But my brain is still a bit numb. Which is normal for when I am sick with a cold or flu. So maybe that's the answer. Anyway, much of the answers don't really matter. I'm going to take it easy tonight any way. And tomorrow? Hopefully I feel better.

When I was little, a family member (not a parent) often said to me when I was sick, "You're not really sick. You're just pretending." Or over-reacting. Or actually, I'm not quite sure what this person said I was, but this person said I wasn't as sick as I was acting. Though I'm not much for Freudian type psychology, I'm afraid that comment led to the habit of questioning myself whenever I feel sick. Am I really sick? But does it really matter? I probably can't know for sure this time, but I can suspect a certain answer. And I can try to care for myself with respect, including taking today off work. It's really okay, Abigail. It really is.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

giraffe has come - and have you ever started an OCD support group?

Friday night, after the show, I decided that was the night to get my giraffe. Good thing, too, since there were only four left, and I decided to allow myself to carefully choose the exact one I wanted (yes, this means debating which animal is the cutest in my opinion - and yes, it could be another compulsion). Then I cleaned all my dishes (minus one that was left to irritate my OCD - I concluded that continuing to debate the issue in my mind was probably giving in to OCD more than making either decision of washing or not washing it - after probably 5 minutes of debate). And then, hurray! I took pictures of me and my giraffe. I'm still in my make-up and hair from the show. The last two nights, I have slept poorly, dreaming disturbing dreams (unrelated to the show this time) and waking up frequently. Long nights that leave me exhausted. But I managed to keep hold of the giraffe through it. I was surprised.

Saturday, I met a friend from when I went to community college (in person). I had decided I wanted to share with her a bit about my mental illness struggle. Surprise, surprise, she has OCD, too! I just keep running into people with OCD, two at the NAMI meeting on Wednesday, and then my friend on Saturday. So I actually voiced my thought with my friend. I'm thinking about starting an OCD support group here. I just looked on the OCD foundation's website, and the nearest support groups specifically for OCD are all over 400 miles away. It would be a peer support group, obviously, since I am not a therapist. But I think it could be neat and encouraging and helpful - at least sometimes, and isn't it unrealistic to expect something to help every single time? So here's my question; have any of you started OCD support groups? Any advice? I was thinking about every other week meetings. And I just downloaded Grayson's Manual on starting OCD support groups - still have to read it. link to Grayson's manual

Well, I have to go get ready for the last show! Hurray! I'm a little sad to leave the people, but so relieved to have this over. It did get better as I figured out how to handle criticism better -and simultaneously, I think they got more encouraging, too. So I'm glad I had the experience, and I am oh, so ready to be done. And I know that sentiment is shared by others in the show. TIRED!

"Talk" to you later!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

all for a stuffed animal

It's working. I'm doing intentional ERP as opposed to incidental ERP for the first time in a while. All for a little stuffed giraffe. "Bribery gets you everywhere," as someone used to say. "Almost," as my OCD would be careful to add.

I've even put masking tape over the spot on my alarm clock where a light shows that my alarm is set! I've read about doing that sort of thing to stop the kind of checking you do by glancing at something, but this might be the first time I've done it myself. And I'm not repeatedly rechecking my cell phone alarm, either. I've succeeded in one evening so far. The anxiety did bug me for a bit, but I really want that giraffe. :)

Being a penny pincher, or perhaps just an OCDer with scrupulosity issues regarding wasting my money, I've planned to do seven things to earn this seven dollar toy. Not recheck my alarms, stop "protecting" my laptop from starting a fire (I'm in a hurry for this giraffe and to get the ERP over, so I was sure to set it in a "bad" place this morning), get my dishes all cleaned up, at least twice, clean my bathroom, submit my applications for patient assistance for two of my medications (yes, my anxiety is definitely getting in my way), read my devotions only once (I've been rereading more and more), and one more thing, which might be taking my dead batteries to the dump or might be getting the giraffe with only six things done, there bye breaking my "rule" and potentially "wasting" my money, or maybe something else.

But the giraffe is working wonders, at least for this first 24 hours. Once, I started trying to figure out if I would be to blame if the apartment caught fire because of my exposure. But instead of figuring it out, I felt more like, "Who cares? I want that giraffe." I guess I'd call it forgetting the purple elephant because you are focused on a stuffed giraffe.

Monday, August 13, 2012

drama getting better and J.J. Keeler's book, "I Hardly Ever Wash My Hands: the Otherd Side of OCD"

Well, the prescription savings cards that I printed last week weren't very helpful; my pharmacy also has a prescription savings card they use for people without insurance, and the savings were similar. But since one of the medications was over $100, the pharmacy technician suggested I go back and look for coupons. I'll print a few more out today and see what helps the most. Basically, I'm in trouble until I get on the patient assistance program for that medication, and I know it. The pharmacist might not know that yet.

Thank you to each of you who commented on my last post. My director's criticism continued, but I was not the only person upset! Which is somehow very encouraging to me, because it may mean that it isn't just because I have a mental illness that the comments bother me. Conveniently, however, I missed most of the comments on Friday because I thought I was supposed to come at 5:30 and they started at 4:30.

I still got my cry in, when we were trying to explain to one of the director's assistants that we needed encouragement, and she said, "Well, I'm not gonna lie to you; you did better on your choreograpy, but your energy was lousy" (only, I think she used a different word). We weren't asking her to lie, we were asking for encouragement and affirmation. Saturday, a few of us tried to forget about what the director might say and just do our best confidently (which confidence the director wanted anyway, she just didn't manage to ask for it in the most helpful way). Anyway, over the weekend, we improved alot.

For me, my solution was two-fold. One was getting more sleep when the work week was over because I could sleep in. This helped immensely. The other was to judge my own work based on effort, did I try hard? Okay, I did a good job. I don't mean I didn't make mistakes, I mean I judged my work on effort (or at least tried to). Then, when criticism came my way, I tried not to let it bother me, and I tried to use it to improve my next attempt, but I had already judged my previous attempt as successful because I did my best under the circumstances (or something close enough to my best that I wasn't going to elongate my OCD perfection pickiness). Thankfully, this worked. But it might not have worked without more sleep and talking with my fellow acters. Anyway, I'm happy with how the weekend ended, and I'm very happy not to have to do another show until Friday, though we will practice on Wednesday.

The I Hardly Ever Wash My Hands: the Other Side of OCD book by J.J. Keeler? It turns out that my library didn't borrow it from another library system; they actually got the book and added it to our system! So now I feel like I've provided more resources to my own community by requesting the book, and I get to read it.

I've been able to put the book down before finishing it, which is fairly unusual for me, but might be because I've been so tired. Other than that, I've been enjoying it.

And relating. Worry about fires and smoke? Oh, yeah. I remember as a kid staring at reflections of light in darkened rooms, trying to make sure it wasn't a flame (using the knowledge that flames flickered). I think I've checked night lights for flame, too. Now, being much more "wise" regarding OCD fire issues, I can plug my computer charger into the wall and see the spark that always occurs without being too concerned. My concern instead is focused on checking that the plug isn't squished by the matress, and checking that when I leave my computer, it never touches anything except carpet, since I seem to think that if it is touching a piece of paper, the paper might ignite. Yesterday, I was particularly bold and left my computer on my bed (dispite the niggle that it might catch the sheet on fire. Of course, it wasn't allowed to touch anything besides the sheet, but focus on the risk I took, not the risk I avoided. :) Hmm, I could think of exposures for that. But the mere thought of thinking of them (and especially actually doing them) brings fear, and you know how people with OCD know how to run from fear (except that fear is like puppies and seems to chase us even more when we run. I know that in my head, but agreeing to do an exposure is a whole 'nuther issue).

Speaking of which, I just remembered something! I saw a stuffed animal giraffe at the store for $7 yesterday, and thought, I could bribe myself with that. Maybe if I set up an exposure routine and actually do it, I could let myself buy the giraffe. Hmmm, that might work.

Other things Keeler reminded me of? AIDS, for sure. And I did reach the point, probably sometime during my continueing experience working with children, where I didn't so much care if I had it as I worry about spreading it. In fact, the worst thing about getting AIDS would be the ability to spread it, that and the false guilt I'd get right along with the HIV virus. My current compulsions? Well, I'm alot better than I used to be, so I don't worry as much, but say a year or two ago? Any break in the skin on my hands. Which is a problem when you get really dry skin in the winter. When I have an "owie" on my hands, I can worry until it's almost gone about spreading a disease I don't even have. So I work to keep my skin whole, but that doesn't always work. Then, there is handwashing, but if you wash too much, your skin might crack, creating an even worse problem. Once again, I'm amazed at how much that obsession/compulsion set has diminished. And not because of setting up an exposure routine, but I'm sure it helped when I decided it was too much work to keep up the mental and physical compulsions and went ahead and took "risks." And I've never gotten tested for HIV, largely because I'm afraid that a contaminated needle will be used to take my blood sample and I will get the very virus I'd be testing to make sure I didn't have. Nothing like a second compulsion to prevent a first one.

And poor Keeler when she was young worrying about a bomb in her teddy bear. I missed that experience, with my own similar one occuring only in airports. I've worried that someone will stick something into my bags. The man who got my very heavy, barely within the size limit suitcase out of the over-head bin? At first, I thought that he was being nice, but then I worried that he had stuck something into my bag. Related compulsions continue; the last time I went flying, I made myself a purse special for the trip. And the bag had a zipper on top with no pockets on the outside. Someone would have to unzip the bag to get something bigger than a needle into it. (Of course, the zipper also kept my stuff from rolling around on the plane floor, so there was non-OCD justification, too.) Once again, my fears are much more managable now, once I stop and think about it.

Reminicing, I remember as a kid watching my baby sibling (which one depended on the year, as I come from a large family). Part of me was afraid that the moment I took my eyes off of the baby, some stranger would hurt them (and then disappear before I saw them) or they would eat something harmful (dispite my mom's vigilant care that choking hazards and chemicals be kept out of reach). Being still human, I of course did not stare at them full time, or if I did, I still worried. Thus, catch-up compulsions like scanning the larger area for a stranger that might have hurt them (without them making a sound or even looking slightly unhappy) could be instituted. I don't remember very clearly, but it is funny how many OCD-like things I did as a child.

One more thing about Keeler's book (no, two things) before I end my research-paper-length blog post (no, wait, that would be much longer, with more references). I really liked how she expressed how her OCD issues would grow and shrink, how they would occur alot and then hardly ever and then alot. I like how she expressed that she was pretty limited to one obsession at a time because her brain didn't seem to have room for more. I find in my own life that I can switch from one obsession to the next in record time. So instead of obsessing about one bump in the road for several days (such drawn out issues only happen on rare occasions), I move from worrying about a pothole here to worrying that I said something hurtful to a friend yesterday, reviewing to check if the friend was upset, and double checking the words I used, to yelling at myself for being late for something I'm currently driving to (this one might not be OCD), to checking that I put the fuse back that lets my rear brake lights work (if I leave this fuse in while parked, sometimes the lights stay on or turn on themselves), to worrying about something else, to worrying about a manhole cover that I drive over. And on and on. My worries tend to be pretty fast paced. The thing that adds up is the time spent worrying, not one issue holding me captive for hours straight.

And the last thing (truly); I really appreciate that Keeler wrote this book, that she dared express her harm obsessions publicly. I think people willing to share like that have a shot at helping more people understand "the Other Side of OCD." I want to recommend that book to people, maybe at my support group, maybe relatives. Or maybe I'll just appreciate it myself for now and hope somebody else reads it because it is now in the library system here.

P.S. I haven't finished the book yet; I might comment more on it later.

Friday, August 10, 2012

prescription savings cards, a book at the library, and a show begun

Today, I get the pleasure of purchasing medications without insurance. So I was trying to find just the right prescription savings card. There are a million - or at least a handful - to choose from. And I didn't find one that I remember finding before. So I don't know which will be best. I'll print out two, bring another I got in the mail, and see if the pharmacist technician can help me.

The I Hardly Ever Wash My Hands book that has been reviewed several times recently in blogs I read (and I keep reading the reviews, too) has caught my interest. I decided I wanted to read it, but in a "nobel" gesture towards saving money (or rather, not going as deep into debt), I was able to request it through my library. And I can pick it up now! Unfortunately, it is not at the library I'm sitting in right now, so I'll have to go to the other library (still near where I live, though). And they borrowed it from a library outside of our immediate system. I'm so glad the libraries are so helpful in finding books! I'm excited to read it.

The musical has begun. I made it until the night before opening before I cried over criticism from the director. At that point I was very tired and running short on ability (not theatrical ability - well, maybe that, too - but emotional ability, or whatever the ability that gets you to keep trying is called). That was Wednesday night. Thursday, I got to see my counselor, and have a little cry that left me feeling better. It's hard, as I tried to express to her, when I'm just finally able to live without it being a tremendous effort to keep living each day, but then I'm part of a show and my best isn't good enough. Unfortunately (or fortunately), being locked in a psych. unit in a hospital lets me know that what I can handle has a limit. Anyway, I just had trouble with the criticism, even though there have also been affirming remarks and lots of good stuff happening, too.

My counselor said to treat the criticism like an OCD thought; challange it instead of just accepting it personally. Is the director even talking to me, or was she refering to other people? Good question. I assume it's my work that she isn't satisfied with - maybe others' too, but also mine. But really, how a scene looks is far from in my control.

Anyway, last night, we had our opening night. And it went okay. Well, at least I felt that my non-singing scene and my last singing scene went well. And I'm trying to not get bogged down criticizing my self for whatever I wish I did differently... but I'm not being too successful. Over all, though, I think we did all right or even well. And the director did not criticize us at all! Maybe she will tonight... or maybe not. Anyway, I'm glad to have the work week done and to have a little time to myself today!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

the benefit of a therapist/counselor

I just read this article and his last paragraph stood out to me, in which he claimed that what helped most in therapy wasn't the "work" we typically do (coping, dealing with the past), but, in his words, was the "look that conveyed a faith in me that I did not feel at the time." This resounded inside me. Sometimes I wonder why I still go to therapy. I know lots of things to do to help with my depression and anxiety. But I want to see a person that knows what I'm dealing with and is encouraging me to keep going. Sure, I've heard the criticism that we can get a listening ear from a good friend, so why do we have to pay someone to be a friend. And I do have the "Doubting Disease," after all, so it shouldn't surprise anyone that I wonder if I should be "paying" someone to listen and support me. But I do pay someone to listen to me and support me and help me keep going in the face of depression and anxiety. I have friends, too. But my friendships work along with my therapist in helping me deal with life. It was encouraging to see that I'm not the only one helped by therapy in this way.

I also think that having a therapist takes some of the pressure off of my friends. My therapist and psychiatrist can worry about making the call regarding how serious my depression is. My friends may sometimes help in that, but they don't have to feel responsible for me since "professionals" are involved. I know it helps me feel less pressure if someone sees "professionals." And taking off that bit of pressure gives me freedom to be more of a friend with less feeling of need to protect myself at their expense. Parts of their care that I can't handle (and am not trained to handle) can be taken care of by their therapist or psychiatrist, and I can support them just as a friend.

So maybe that's my answer to the "why do people pay for a friend" arguement. I have friends, and I have a counselor, and together, they help me, each in their own way, each better able to because of the other person fulfilling their own role.

let's not jeopardize a good day

I visited last week's church again. And with the "if you want to meet people, you need to go meet them" reminder in my mind, I actually walked up to two girls at the end of the service. It worked! I enjoyed a few minutes of talking.

And the pastor talked to me a few moments on my way out. I was considering asking my "what is your view on mental illness" questions, but I didn't actually bring them up. Then, of course, I second guessed even that decision. But I'm happy. Let's just leave things good. I don't need to hear an answer I don't want to hear and get all upset about it today (but, just in case you read this, pastor, I really do want to hear your honest answer, regardless of whether it makes me happy or sad). Now, I've left things so that I could call during the week if I wanted, or I could show up next Sunday, because I'm still hopeful about this church.

For the musical, we practiced Friday, Saturday, and we'll practice every day today through Wednesday, and open Thursday evening, completing 5 shows before the end of Sunday. My next day "off" from this musical is Monday a week from now. And I'm feeling the pressure. I guess I don't recognize it as anxiety, more as stress (which doesn't mean it's not anxiety; I think I'm not as good at recognizing anxiety compared with depression or even more specific OCD). I've dreamt something relating to it the last two nights, at least.

I did ask a couple people if the director was usually yelling at people like that (yelling would be the wrong word; more critical and telling us how we weren't doing things right, in a way that I feel put down by). They assured me it was normal, which tells me that we aren't doing the terrible, unusually lousy job I was afraid we were doing. So I'm trying to not take it too seriously and let it slide off me. In the director's favor, she also smiles and laughs about things, too. I think she really does want it to be fun, but she also wants it to be really good.

Today was the last day to register to bring something to the fair locally. So last night, I made my duct tape purse. I like it. I don't know how it will compare with other people's creations, but that's okay, right Abigail? I started reading more about what the judges would notice, and started thinking my purse wasn't "hard enough." If I can make it in two hours, (and it be my first and only duct tape purse ever) than maybe I shouldn't be entering it in the fair. But doubts aside, I've still entered it. I have to bring it in in a little over a week, I think. I still have to make the flowers, but you've seen that I've already practiced for that.

Well, I think I need to get out my list of activities to do when I'm depressed, not because I'm terribly depressed, but because I'm really stressed and I don't want to get terribly depressed. So I think I'd better pull out my depression coping tools and get a head start, hopefully heading off the worse depression before it gets to me. My other issue under consideration is that of napping. With rehearsals and then shows, I'm afraid I wont get enough sleep at night before work in the morning, so I'm considering adding in naps. But naps have both positive and negative reviews, so I'm not sure what would be best there. Anyone have any advice there?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

can I teach my brain something different than it already thinks?

Well, counseling day. My counselor said again, if I want to cut down to seeing her every other week, she really, truly would add me back in if I decided I needed to see her every week again. In my mind, that isn't guaranteed. I would loose my "spot." What if her available times weren't good for me? There's that what if word again.

I might be almost ready to cut down to every other week (counseling sessions). But I kind of want to start into the fall first. I'm concerned about - almost expecting, really - having a slump into worse depression when the fall comes, between school starting back up and the light slowly disappearing (that part has already started, but it will be more pronounced later). And thinking that my mood now - despite its short-comings - is too good to last. So I guess that would be a prediction, potentially a self-fulfilling prophecy, but I'm hoping my predicting suspicion proves false.

This week I learned something funny. My counselor smiled when I told her, but still said it was an profound thought. And this is it; I've worried about getting better from depression, so that I no longer had depression (we could add anxiety, too, but my worry and therefore my discussion will focus on depression). But then, I'm afraid that, when I don't have depression, I still wont be able to "handle life." Well, I got a little more specific, and here's what my fear boils down to: I'm afraid that I won't be depressed but will still be depressed (i.e., have all the symptoms of depression, indicating that in fact I was still depressed). Anyway, now that the profoundness of my oxymoron fear has come to light, maybe I can stop worrying about not being able to "handle" life by being depressed when I'm not depressed. (The following fears to their conclusion exercise revealed that I'm afraid I won't be depressed illness wise, so instead it will be all my fault then. You'd think I could leave off the "all my fault" thing by now, but no, it follows me around like my family's barn (and house) cat might, sometimes in plain sight, other times hiding.)

Here's another thing I need to learn. In my mind, for me to be "successful"ly healthy, I need to be able to work 40 hours a week. I don't work 40 hours a week now (at my job), so I'm not operating at successful rates, in my mind. It's okay for now, but not satisfactory long term. But what about school? That almost works for lowering the number of hours, but I'm doing hardly any school right now. My counselor keeps trying to tell me that I am working enough, between school and work and recovering from depression and all. She's probably right, too. So now to convince my brain of it.

Now, however, I am apologetically hungry. I ate a small lunch, and it is supper time. Goodnight!