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:


How could you even think of not doing it!
Only a jerk wouldn't do it -
Unless you are just an idiot. Are you
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.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

a productive day

Today turned from a (possibly) depressed day to a good day when... I cleaned my bathroom. And here it is; I cleaned my whole bathroom, did it all at once, for the first time since I moved in, if not before that. That was a triumph for me. And I cleaned my guinea pig's cage (one of those tasks I tend to put off). And I took out my garbage. (Well, most of it.) And I washed, folded, and even put away my laundry. I was about to list what I haven't done, but that wouldn't be such a good idea, would it. It would be adding the "but" to my list of positives.

(My sister and I discussed this, how easy it is to add on to any telling of a good thing a negative "but ...." statement. "I'm good at music, but I hardly ever practice." "I'm academically gifted, but I'm getting a high B/low A instead of a high A this semester so far." "I had a good day, but I didn't do all my chores.")

So back to the positives, because I'm still not done telling them! I played a computer game that worked on my Spanish skills (I did it for fun, but - oops, that word - and it is educational, too). I listened to music by Mozart, Jaci Velasquez, and a country radio station. I listened to my week's lecture for my Intro to Audiology class and took the quiz for it and got 100% on that (now have a straight 90% in that class). I exercised at the gym. I practiced tap dancing at home. But here is the other big thing besides cleaning the bathroom: I got out my Human Anatomy lecture CD, Lab CD, text, and class guide (it is an independent study class), and learned the bones in the human axial skeleton (a whole lesson worth, though I had done some studying before on this), and started learning about bones in specific and what they are composed of, etc (about half a lesson worth). This is the class I got stalled on, so now I have it in motion again.

Now, back to yesterday's eating disorder topic, I have been enjoying donuts. But then, I checked my weight at the gym (I have no scale at home). And I was 1.6 pounds heavier than a week ago. Suddenly, my fear of eating too much is back. Suddenly, the "being a little heavier might be alright" changes to "being a little heavier might not be alright." Bother! Does it feel like OCD? A little. Does it feel like my fake conscience? Yeah. The urgency feels like my fake conscience. But what if I shouldn't have eaten that many donuts? Should I make a rule about how many donuts I can have? But that sounds a bit OCD-like. Basically, it feels like a can of worms. So maybe I'll just think about something else. And not eat any more donuts until tomorrow.

Here is something that half pleases me and half worries me. I don't know what my real conscience feels like anymore. Maybe because whenever my real conscience goes off, my fake conscience holds an amplifier to it, making it louder and less reasonable. A seed of correct conscience prick with an apple of fake conscience. I guess we could make that into a can of worms really quickly.

So maybe I'll go back to celebrating my accomplishments today. Or forward to washing dishes. Or forward to doing something fun before I go to bed (in addition to blogging, which I also enjoy).

That reminded me of another issue that has come up. I keep having suspense novel type dreams. This morning, (in my dream,) I was driving in the nearest big city (known for being semi-arid) when there was this big flood that washed away parts of roads and bridges. My car was buried in water (I think it was even salt water, too, which is remarkable for an inland city), but I made it to some safe place. I was rescued by helicopter. And eventually, I found out that my family made it home safely despite driving the roads around the same time. I guessed it was because they drove faster, enabling them to fly over more of the washed out road than I could with my slower, more cautious driving habits. Anyway, looking back, it is amusing. In process, it wasn't scarey. But it was, well, suspenseful? Like a good book you can't put down? And this has been happening morning after morning, different dreams each time. Fires one morning - that morning, I woke up too late to get to work on time, though thankfully not much later than that. A kid I was watching got lost in another dream. They aren't so much scarey as suspenseful. Which becomes problematic because I don't think I'm getting as restful a night's sleep, and I have trouble waking up.

So today I started a possible solution. I worked on a fiction story I was making up. Spent maybe an hour on it. Negative? The story was disturbing. More heart-wrenching than cheap suspense novel -style dreams. But here is the potential positive. When I was a kid, I was always making up stories. At some point, I squashed them enough that instead of making up stories, I'd start remembering dreams. So then there was a choice; make up stories in the day or dream at night. Maybe not quite one-to-one correspondence, but close enough for me to take notice. So I'm hoping that if I write fiction stories in the day, I will sleep better at night. Hey, it's worth a try.

Friday, October 12, 2012

regarding the book, Brave Girl Eating

Last weekend, in my emotional confusion, I once again sought out biographies of people struggling with mental illness. I guess this would be part of my ongoing search for inspiration, understanding, coping skills, and hope.

But I found a really neat book. Brave Girl Eating: A Family's Struggle with Anorexia, by Harriet Brown, (William Morrow, 2010). It was told from the mother's perspective as she struggled along-side her daughter (referred to as Kitty in the book) and, as it turned out, along-side her whole family. Not because they all personally struggled to eat, but because the struggle impacted the whole family.

Anyway, my perspective is influenced by all I have read that puts eating disorders and OCD in a related category. And the mother's understanding of Kitty's illness grew into one that definitely had similarities to my own. Food set off alarms inside her daughter. It was both feared and desired. And it set off guilt. Even suicidal ideation. (Spell check needs to add "ideation" still.)

I guess this is what I got out of it. I loved how much Kitty's mother cared about her. How much her father cared about her. Enough to sometimes stand between Kitty and the monster in her head, which the author referred to as the "Demon," not in a religious sense, but like I refer to OCD as a monster. Sometimes, her mother realized that Kitty needed her (the mother) to be responsible for the food she (Kitty) was eating, so that the demon wouldn't yell at her as much.

After reading part of the book, I went up and had supper with my parents. My parents love me, too. And I know that. And they aren't perfect, but Kitty's parents weren't perfect, either. And we don't need perfect, we need parents who care and do their best with their understandings and abilities.

Back to the book, the other way it helped me, was it helped me feel free-er to enjoy my food. I've had my own issues with food, not like Kitty. Not to qualify as Anorexia. But feel like I didn't deserve food? Yes. Not want to eat food? Yes. Force myself to eat food? Yes. Cry because eating was hard? Yes, but that was only when I was in the hospital (that I remember). It usually wasn't that bad.

On Lexapro, I've gained weight. Sure, not tons. More like 10 or 15 pounds. But it worried me. Sometimes I'd try denying myself certain food or (more often) postponing meals. But it was just this sort of mess in my head. Weight I didn't really want, but wasn't sure I should worry about. Hunger that I wasn't sure how to handle. Trying to figure out this strange new metabolism.

But the book reminded me, even somewhat taught me, that it is okay to enjoy a doughnut. More than okay. It is a good thing. Fat is a necessary thing for our bodies. Sugar is a blessing.

So it doesn't solve my whole problem with food and weight and unanswered questions. Hey, I have OCD; why should I expect a worry to go away because of more information? :) But I have been able to enjoy doughnuts.

In fact, though Lexapro may have added to my weight, now on it, I have enjoyed food a lot more. I still struggle to cook, but I do less force-feeding of myself. I might still use the TV to distract me for part of my meal, but other times, I enjoy the food and the movie.

And for one more thing about this book? I loved how the mother was able to recognize her daughter's bravery, her courage and the courage of others in similar positions. The title says it well.

So what are you? A Brave Person Cleaning your House? (I need to be one of those.) A Brave Person Washing your Hands Fewer Times? A Brave Person Interacting with Other People? A Brave Person Doing Something the Wrong Number of Times?

What am I? A Brave Woman Working with Kids (I love it, and it scares me sometimes). A Brave Woman Ending Her Prayer Early. A Brave Woman Talking to People. A Brave Woman Driving.

Or how about this, because I think it is true of a lot of us.

I'm a Brave Woman Living.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

discussing depression symptoms

I don't think voting was made for people with OCD. No perfect choice. Candidate A has these good points, these disagreed with points, and these concerning indications. Candidate B has those good points, those disagreed with points, and those concerning indications. Thus, voting means I will probably make a mistake even while I choose someone doing some good things. Rats.

Now for the topic I planned; Depression or Not? Because my counselor challenged my thoughts.

I thought, feeling that disconnected feeling from normal life, that was evidence of depression. However, on Sunday, it kindly left me for the moment after I took a long nap.

"What if you were just tired?" she asks me.

"I would be tired because I'm depressed."

"What if you were tired because you didn't sleep well. You woke up in the middle of the night and then forgot about it?"

"If I don't sleep well, it is because I'm depressed.

But she got me thinking. What if I just plain had a bad night? No, make that a string of bad nights for the past week or more. Sounding like depression to me. But what if it isn't? (Then so what, depression is my scape goat to blame, okay?)

When she first started challenging me, she talked about how I was very observant of my own symptoms, very sensitive, very in-tune. You've probably heard the words. And I thought, please don't tell me to be less aware of myself. Because that would be pretty hard to do. "Okay, self, stop noticing how you are feeling." Well, actually, some of that probably wouldn't be a bad idea. Because it can be exhausting to think, "Oh, no, I'm feeling worse now. I'm feeling more worse now. Oh, sigh-of-relief, I'm feeling normal now. Oh, bother, I feel not quite right. I think I'm hungry. Yes, that could be it. Bother that negative thought. You really had to show up now? I'm too hungry now. I'd better eat fast. Oh, now I"m tired. But I don't want to go to bed..."

Hmmm, some of it sounds helpful, though, because I am connecting some feelings with hunger or tiredness or stress or whatever. That isn't all dooms-day depression predictions.

Well, now I feel tired, and I still haven't listened to my lecture for one of my classes like I planned to. So I'll close for now.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

in which I was victorious over anxiety

My neck is sore right now. Probably because I swam yesterday, and I was very committed to keeping my face out of the water. I did try to re-teach myself to stick my face in the water, especially since I even had goggles. But I didn't get it working very well, so I worked a few extra muscles and kept my face up.

Anyway, I haven't been swimming in a long time. There are multiple reasons for this. But some (if not all?) are just anxiety issues, especially at this point. For example, somewhere in their long list of rules, I'm pretty sure it said you had to be two weeks healthy from being sick. Possibly specific enough to refer to stomach issues, not just the common cold. Well, I wouldn't want to break a rule, so if I even might have been sick or experienced any such symptoms, I'd better not go in, right? I might possibly make someone sick. Actually, I'm not too worried about making someone sick from a bug I had a while ago. I think it has more to do with breaking the rule.

But I know for pretty near fact that when certain children go to take swimming lessons, they are not all two weeks illness free. And me? Well, I was something like a week and a half illness free. Ooh, makes me anxious to type that.

Then there is the whole scarey process of going swimming, from changing to showering to appearing sopping wet in public where I feel unsure of myself. So yesterday evening, I decided the time had come (I've been working up to this for a while.) I gathered my things, and down I went.

And at the beginning, I was saying, "I'm gonna die, I'm gonna die." This being the voice of anxiety, not depression, and sounding remarkably like what I heard a very dramatic little girl say when she was hungry once. But I wasn't hungry. I was anxious.

Then I started swimming, kept swimming, thought I was a great example of not-good swimming, swam some more, swam until the lady I shared a lane with (who actually put her face in the water and swam with what appeared to me to be skill and dedication) left, treaded water (I have liked that particular step/stroke/whatever-it's-called for a long time; I can keep it up fairly easily, and my face stays safely out of the water - at least my breathing does), swam some more. I was going to swim for 30 minutes (including time spent floating or trying to get myself to keep my face in the water). And I did it.

And I showered and I left and by then I was singing, "I won against the boogey-monster, I won against the boogey-monster. Spell check thinks I have the name wrong; if I spell it "boogey," it is supposed to go with "men." But I didn't have a spell check in my head, so that is what I sang. Victory is so nice.

By the way, I've gotten too much spam, so for now, I have returned to the setting that makes you type the verification word to post a comment. Sorry.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

locked in a glass trap

Today, the sky is very blue and the sun is bright again. Fall weather for where I live.

And today, I am scared. I'm scared of severe depression as well as scared of getting any closer to it. I'm scared because I feel like I've begun the slide, a slide that I can't stop, into that realm where existing takes an unbelievable amount of energy.

I feel like I am invisibly cut off from the world around me, like it is hard to truly connect with normal reality. Like I'm in a bubble or a locked glass trap while an invisible angry cloud is slowly blowing the keys away, keys I can't reach, but can see slowly floating further and further from me. But on the other side of the invisible wall, the world isn't just normal, it is happy. The sun is bright, the colors beautiful. The people smiling and friendly, only not knowing that I'm in this bubble, so that while they think they are reaching me, they can't, really.

But some people, probably including you, have been on the other side of the bubble, on my side. So they aren't quite as far away. Because they believe me and can immagine my very strange world. Because they have been or are in their own bubble.

This mood makes me want to call my counselor before my actual appointment, something I haven't done in a while. Not because I am physically in danger, but because I want to connect with the other side of the bubble.

Last night, I actually went up to my parents. Part of the drive, I felt disconnected. But I think thinking about it just makes it more pronounced. Then I drove a road that brought back memories of a time when I helped lead music at another church. When I was good at it and didn't feel so much need to hide from it. When I felt connected and valuable and real and in this normal world.

And visiting my family was fun. It used to stress me out, but I really wanted to go last night. I wanted to try to connect with reality. And it worked while I was there.

Part of me thinks that stopping working Thursday afternoon was the straw that broke the camel's back. That it broke the normal that I depend on to tie me to earth. And the anxiety around it didn't help. But if I think back a minute, I'm pretty sure I always struggled with such added "free" time at the beginning (unless it is early in the morning and I sleep through it). So it should get easier. But it is funny how making something better sometimes makes things worse first. Ha, mightn't that most of the treatments for depression and anxiety?

Well, I don't want any self-fulfilling prophecy to get in my way of getting more healthy. So I'll work on remembering... There is a time in the future (here on earth) that will be better. I can't say that with 100% certainty, but I think it is very likely to be true, and the benefits of believing it outweigh the risk of lying.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

a cheerful depressed mood?

Advice for the unwary blogger. There seem to be trigger words that get you lots of spam comments. They just keep coming on one of my posts about Elaine Petrone's Miracle Balls. I thought if I took the name of the balls out of the title, that would stop it, but no, it continues, on that particular post. So now I have taken out the link as well. We'll see if that works. But I think I put the link in another post, and they left that post alone. So I don't really get it. If this post starts getting spam, I might just remove this paragraph. That, or perhaps once you start getting spam it just keeps coming? I hope not. But so far, it just keeps coming to that one post, so I might be all right. But I'm almost ready to delete the entire post. Only, it was a really good one on OCD. So I'll wait and continue my experiment modifying the post to unattract spammers.

Yesterday was one of those weird days for me that is a combination of a really good day with particularly depressed thinking. These days confuse me. These days get professionals to ask me if my depressed thoughts are just habits I get stuck in (a view I still at least somewhat disagree with since these thoughts go away mysteriously when I am doing better, and I think if they were just bad habits they wouldn't just almost vanish with less depression and then jump out at me again when the depression gets worse). These days have me confused as to whether I'm doing well or not depression-wise.

But maybe it is another unanswered question that I shouldn't try to figure out.

I'm having a similar day today. Bright sunshine, which reaches some part of me, telling me it is a good, bright day. And then that feeling of standing on the edge of a depression valley, combined with another feeling of being already in a valley, but used to it, kind of numb to it, so I'm kind of skating by on coping skills and sunshine.

Do you have days like this?

I feel like my equilibrium has been thrown off by my work schedule change (not coming back to work two afternoons a week). I have too much time, yet I know it isn't too much time, because not having this time wasn't working, either. So now I have to get into a flow of how to use the time again. I think. Hopefully that will work.

Maybe I will pull out my Human Anatomy course, the one I have to finish by some time in April. It would be nice to get that done, or at least see myself making progress in it. I'm kind of stuck on this perfectionist/lazy conundrum (yes, this seems to be use-longer-words-you-usually-avoid day for me). If I go about it with too much perfectionism, I just never take the quizes because I might make a mistake. But I'm afraid of being too lazy in my studying and getting a bad grade/not learning enough. So there you have it. Should I be blaming OCD? I'm thinking an exposure would be remarkably simple; sit down and study, and then take a quiz. Put a limit on my study time. My more interactive online classes put that limit on by having things due at certain times. Within that, I put what time and energy I am willing/able to put into learning, and then just take the quiz. Because not taking the quiz is a great way to get a bad grade with no risk of a good one.

Well, I guess Human Anatomy can go on my list. House cleaning should go on it, too. But no, it is too overwhelming, so I am currently hiding from my dishes by going somewhere multiple miles from my house. But it is on my list none-the-less, because it is hanging over me, waiting to be done. I feel like my lack of house/dishes upkeep is one of my bigger symptoms of depression, but that one is an easy one to wonder if it is just laziness with no mental illness component.

Thursday, October 4, 2012


Here I am, on what would have been a working afternoon, blogging (connecting with people) and trying to relax. Of course, along with having the afternoon free, there came a little second guessing. But over all, I'm still glad. Less than an hour ago, I had a stomach ache from stress and wondered why I was taking the afternoons off when I could work them. Sometimes my thoughts seem so silly. I'm taking the afternoons off so that I don't get too stressed and also in the hope that it will help me get more studying and better learning done for my classes. I'm taking the afternoons off for my mental health. It is okay. And I know that. And it is still scarey.

Change gets scary for me. I know, that's normal for humans. But I think OCD/anxiety makes it worse. Like changing from having a gym membership to taking tap dancing lessons. I've thought this out. I spent time making my decision. But I'm still a little afraid. I'm afraid of guilt. I'm afraid of doing the wrong thing. I'm afraid I'm making (now we are on the "have made" side) a bad decision. Oh well, "that's a risk we'll have to take." I mean, really, I had to decide one way or another, and either choice "might" be the "wrong" one.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Well, I worked the afternoon today (I expected to for a few weeks until my boss gets another arrangement up and running). And I'm really glad I asked to have them off again. I went home for my lunch break, even layed on my Miracle Balls to relax (it worked this time, as well as last night; I have added relaxing music to the combination, as well as figuring out OCD's tune so I can ignore it better). Because by the time I got to my lunch, my back hurt from tension (it does this fairly often). Anyway, my back felt better, but started tensing up even as I drove to work.

And the afternoon work was stressful.

But now I'm done with today's work. So I can relax.

I got an 88% on my test Monday! That was encouraging. It's pretty close to a ninety, and I want an A in the class (though I no longer "need" a 100%).

Monday, October 1, 2012

OCD does not help relaxation

My OCD decided to join me on the Miracle Balls last night. I talked about The Miracle Ball Method, by Elaine Petrone, a couple posts ago, but basically, it involves strategically lying on the balls in such a way as to help various muscles relax. Of course, there is some sort of, if it hurts, don't do it clause in the beginning. Through an OCD screen, it reads more like, "If it might hurt, even just one little muscle, you might be damaging your spine and/or body for life!" And then the completely unfounded note of caution that OCD added without any help from the author, "If you don't lay on the floor in a symmetrical way and place the balls exactly evenly, you might end up lopsided for life, and that lopsidedness might include spinal damage, and any injury to your spine is a bad thing, you already know that." Apparently OCD's high school teacher was unsuccessful in teaching it not to use run on sentences.

And having an OCD attack, if that is even a term, is not conducive to relaxing. It almost is a self-fulfilling prophecy in that it could potentially trigger tightening of muscles, and, well, OCD thinks if any muscles tighten, there might be injury involved.

So then I wanted to do the "right" stretch or relaxation exercise that would get my back lined up and/or relaxed right, which led to my trying a few different things. Finally, I decided that was more than enough and went to bed. But not to sleep, thanks to my heightened anxiety. Chocolate and solitaire, and eventually I settled down and slept.

So the question approaches, what will happen when I try to use the Miracle Balls again? Who knows. Maybe OCD will ruin it again. "Maybe yes, maybe no," (my counselor's tricky answer to give the tricky OCD monster). Maybe I will pull a muscle, become lopsided - make that more lopsided, since I already am naturally not quite symmetrical, or even do something terrible to my spine. "I guess I'll take that risk" (one of my favorite answers for the OCD monster).