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.


  1. It sounds like you handled the criticism and the show really well and in a positive way. Good for you for focusing on doing your best. That is so hard for me to do, but I try.

    My OCD obsessions can change quickly, too. I never thought of it that way, but, for example, I can be worrying about checking one thing, then a few minutes later I'm focused on another checking worry. I guess we just deal with them as they come up. I'm glad that a lot of your obsessions/compulsions have lessened. That is a blessing.

    1. Thanks! Yeah, maybe it isn't unusual to switch quickly between obsessions. And I'm so glad my obsessions have diminished, too. It's amazing to me, but such a blessing.

  2. Thank you for sharing about your struggles and letting us know of this book. I always find your blog so informative and heartfelt and inspiring. I would like to pass on an award to you and your blog, the Liebster Blog Award. Congratulations, you deserve to have the award. To find out more and accept if you so choose, please come on over to

    1. Thank you so much for the award! I'm working on accepting it, but the post was taking too long, so I'll work on it more later. Thank you so much! That is an encouragement to me.

    2. Abigail take as long as you need, there is no rush. :-)

  3. Abigail - thank you so much for sharing your wisdom. I LOVE what you said about judging your work based on your effort! That is wonderful. I think I will use that too.

    From what you've said, I think your director (and assistants) sound really harsh - especially for community theater. To me this is further proof that I would not take anything they say personally. It seems as if that's just their way of communicating (and not very well, I might add). I am the theater director at my church and I would NEVER talk to my fellow actors that way. I think you get a lot more out of people with positive reinforcement. Plus, let's face it, this is not Broadway where people are getting paid lots of money. It is a volunteer position and directors would do well to remember that.

    Hang in there - sounds like you are handling it well!

    1. Thanks Sunny. And I'm glad to hear that you are a theater director and you don't talk to people that way. I was a little afraid I'd have to abandon theater all together after this experience. :)