Where Ladybugs Roar

Confessions and Passions of a Compulsive Writer

Friday, January 6, 2012

OCD. It's what's for dinner... and breakfast... and snacks...

I've mentioned this the last few days on Twitter, but my OCD lately has been really bad.  Really bad.  If you've come in the line of fire from my very pleasant personality these last few weeks, I apologize.  If I've offended you, I'm sorry.  By nature, I try never to offend or hurt anyone.  I didn't mean it.  My intention is never to hurt anyone.  Ever.  I feel out of control--like I'm on a roller coaster holding on to the outside of the coaster and hanging on for dear life.  I can't seem to dig in and get a handle on it.

Typically, my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is vexed by a few different triggers.  Hormones is a big one--one that I can't seem to work around right now, though I've tried various things when I was medicated.  Estrogen patches were nice to regulate it, but they gave me nightmares--fairly horrific nightmares actually.  Since I'm not currently seeing my doctor, even that isn't an option. I'm trying vitamins to control my hormones, but they're a piss-poor substitute for actual control.

Stress is another trigger.  Another thing I can't really seem to help with.  The funny thing about stress is that as my OCD escalates, it too becomes a stressor... so it cycles back to this never-ending push towards worse days.  Clearly, we're just through the holidays so stress is almost expected.  We had a lot of sickness over the holidays, though... the puking kind... and germs and body fluids are not my friend.  I have "contamination" issues as my strongest OCD symptom.

I was at a church thing on Wednesday and one of my friends (who would be the polar opposite of me for mental health issues) said, "Just so you know, my daughter had strep and impetigo on Sunday, but she's just finished 24 hours of meds, so she's no longer contagious." My skin wouldn't stop itching from pretend contamination.  I always err on the side of extreme and total caution when it comes to germs... far past what is reasonable.  So, germs or the possibility of germs... always get to me.  That same friend also licked her right index finger while dishing out ice cream and I said, "Did you know you just licked your finger?"  She said, "Yes, but it won't come into contact with the food."  I continued to stare at her finger... and stare... and stare... until I moved down the line because I couldn't handle it anymore.  She has no issues with contamination.  I have severe issues--and that's on me.  I have to remind myself she is the normal one.

Another trigger is poor sleeping--which is both a symptom and a trigger.  Over the holidays, I got nailed with some really intense insomnia.  Most times, I didn't get to sleep before 3 a.m. despite hours of trying.  One night, I saw the hairy side of 5 a.m.  It was miserable.  I'm lying there, thinking of everything and trying to think of nothing... and I just can't sleep.  I even took one of my sleeping pills that should have knocked out an elephant. It didn't work at all. The insomnia jag finally broke a couple days ago.

Insomnia often leads to depression for me--a deep-rooted depression that is more about chemicals inside my brain.  It's an illusion of depression.  I feel hopeless and despondent as if I'll never catch up and never be okay, but it's chemicals and smoke and mirrors.  It's not real. It sucks to be depressed without reason and to know you can't fix it. The depression becomes a stressor also--I hate irony.

Diet and exercise are good ways to control it, but they can only do so much... and when my asthma is acting up or I'm injured, exercise won't help.  Poor health is a trigger.  Sickness, not exercising, and eating crappy--all come back to bite me.

Okay, so those are some of the main reasons my OCD is bad.

Some of the symptoms you might not realize are symptoms:

I binge on things and collect things.  If I take up a hobby, I have to have everything I could possibly need for that hobby.  Scrapbooking, beading, and painting have all been binge hobbies where I have more than I'd ever need for those.  This last bout, it was holiday-themed books, stories, and anthologies.  I have read more Christmas-themed stories in the last three weeks than probably all my followers combined.  I had to have access to all of them.  I read them with an obsessive drive that was terrifying.  Some days, I'd read three novels--just to quiet the need.

Avoidance.  My husband was home and drove nearly everywhere we went.  I've always hated driving, but my destinations are limited during an OCD bout to destinations where I know where I'll be parking.  I have to know where I'll be parking in order to even go there in the first place.  Also, I'm afraid to drive cars that aren't running perfectly... which has been a difficult job for my husband this year.  Our cars are getting older--and he's been kept on his toes trying to keep them running.  He's brilliant but we've had a limited budget for car upkeep.  At least we went places over the holidays because my husband is as sane as I am insane.  He drove and I sat clutching the armrest and hoping we didn't die in a fiery wreck or be unable to find a parking spot--which are on the same level for me.

Avoidance goes deeper than you'd guess.  If I've bought your book or you've recommended a book to me--I haven't read it.  I can tell you that right now.  I want to.  I want to read it with all my heart.  It's in a category in my Kindle that says "Books I'm Anxious To Read" but the anxiety involved is stronger than my will.  I'm absolutely paralyzed by the worry that I might not like it, and I might have to tell you something less than the truth.  It's the reason why I read my book club books the day of the book club--I have a paralyzing phobia of not liking a recommended book.  I'm an obsessively honest person, and the thought of lying is horribly repugnant to me.  I'm really trying to overcome this.  I want to overcome this.  But, right now, it's stronger than I am.  I'm sorry.  I'll continue to buy books of friends and continue to ask for recommendations, but it's not something going easily into that good night.  I'm trying.  That's the best I can give you right now.

Then, there are some of the obvious symptoms.  I'm wearing non-latex disposable gloves to do some things.  I'm washing my hands so frequently that my knuckles are cracking.  I want to stay inside my house and never leave because the world is a scary ugly place full of contamination.  I'm triple checking everything--locks, the oven being off, the signature on checks, the innards of envelopes, anything I've written for transposing errors, etc.  These are the things you expect of OCD, though.

I'm sorry my OCD is making me be a bad friend, an impatient person... it's even making me into a lousy mother and wife.  I'm trying.  If nothing else, believe I'm obsessing about doing better and being less of a hot mess of dysfunction.  I'm trying more than I'm coping.  I'm trying more than I'm giving up.  I'm really trying.

I have severe OCD.  It's not just bad.  It's not just complex.  It's severe, and it's clinical, and it doesn't take vacations.  I should be medicated again.  I just can't seem to bring myself to start throwing money at it--and me being medicated is expensive... and there are side effects beyond the financial drain that I've mentioned before.  The physical side effects are such that I wouldn't wish them on my worst enemy... not that I have an enemy who comes to mind.  I wouldn't wish the side effects on anyone, though.

Okay, this was a novel.  If you made it through, thank you.  If you didn't, dude, there's no shame.  LOL.  This was far too long.  I just wanted to explain why I am the way I am.

If you ever have any questions about OCD, I'm obviously very open about it.  I haven't always been, but I am now.  My daughter has OCD and it's not a dirty secret.  It can't be.  I refuse to let my daughter grow up thinking she has to hide the symptoms and seek unhealthy outlets to cope.  Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a mental illness, though, and it's pervasive and vicious.  It creeps into everything I do.  It's like a liquid... it fills up the spaces I leave for it.  Right now, there are a lot of spaces in my life for it to crawl into it.

Starting a new year freed me up a bit, though.  I can consign all of last year's worries and awful situations to a number--2011.  I can say, "That was a bad year," and move on.  2012 isn't going great at this point.  My daughter's favorite teacher and my favorite teacher at the school--apparently has cancer.  I'm struggling to keep personal relationships from feeling the strain I'm under.  My kids are both struggling either quietly or violently with issues related to their Autism or sensory issues.  2012 is not the beautiful new day I'd love for it to be.  It's a new number.  Still, it is new and that's something.

Thanks for listening.


  1. Thanks for sharing. I'm sorry it's going so badly.

  2. Wendy, I'm going to go out on a limb and speak for all your friends and family. We're here for you. Go ahead and lean on us to help you with the strain. Keeping it all bottled up does no one any good. We trust that you'll be there as best you can for us when we need it.

    And in a spousally compliant way, we love you even when you don't particularly love yourself.


  3. Now I'm crying.
    Because I've had a particularly bad OCD time this last week, and I'm not sure if it's hormones or stress or both.

    My OCD is not nearly as severe as yours, but it's strong enough to be labeled clinical, not just a personality trait we'd laugh about over coffee.

    Medicate? It's like having a perpetually runny nose and being given a box of cheap tissues. OK... they help... but now my nose is sore and I have to throw them away and they're really not all that helpful for the original problem anyway.

    And seeing a therapist? OK, sometimes it's necessary, but try finding a good one. One your insurance covers. And while you're at it, find some way to drive out there and back, and get someone else to take care of your kids while you're "indulging" in a therapy session. When the negative consequences outweigh the good, it's no longer worth it.

    I can't truly know just how bad it is for you right now, but I can sympathize. Most especially, I can understand that there's a vast difference between people who casually refer to themselves as OCD to explain a couple of personality quirks, and someone who struggles with the disease it is.

  4. Amazing blog. Seriously just amazing. I don't have OCD per say, not officially but I have such a high anxiety that I get almost OCD symptoms due to it and this has actually made a huge impact on how I see my own problems and how everything is related.

    Honestly from the bottom my heart thank you for sharing and I truly hope that things start getting better for you this year!

  5. Thank you, guys. Whenever I start typing out a response I start crying and my husband is around... and I always worry he'll think I've lost it completely if I breakdown when he's around, so let me just say thank you for now and respond later. *hugs*

  6. ((hugs)) I'm so sorry, Wendy. OCD sucks sooo much. Stay strong, friend!

  7. Oh, Wendy, I'm sorry stuff is so awful right now. You are so brave & awesome & such a great advocate for mental health issues--you are one of my heroes.

    The good news is that the virtual hug I am sending you is totally germ free. <3.

  8. Wow. (((virtual, sterile hugs))) I am constantly amazed by those who suffer from OCD. I think you do a fabulous job keeping it all together with that much going on in your mind. My husband suffers from OCD too. His strain is called scrupulosity. His strength and ability to cope with it is just great as yours. I admire you both for your perseverance. I am also grateful for how open you are about it. I know it makes a difference in breaking the stigma of mental illness. Thank you.

  9. Katie, thank you. Your book tops the list of what I want to read, but haven't yet. I feel like a failure as a friend. It sucks. I'm hoping to renegotiate with my OCD on this. Maybe after I'm medicated.

    Wendy, thanks. *hugs back*

    Christine, I have scrupulosity too. (For those reading this, scrupulosity involves paranoia and guilt about moral and religious actions/thoughts. You feel like you're dark and evil inside and you struggle with sudden inappropriate moral or religious thoughts.) It was worse when I was a teen, but it's still bad enough that I told my bishop I wasn't comfortable being in the chapel right now--even though I know my worries that I'm evil inside aren't rational. We had a long talk about it and how to deal with it. It sucks.

  10. I love it when you write such real posts. I have a feeling it helps a whole lot of people (myself included) understand OCD and other mental illnesses--and have compassion about them.

  11. thanks, it seems at least someone in the world understands the struggles that i live with day after day. the feelings of hoplessness and fears that control my life and how my days progress. I hate this disorder, there is hope though we must stand together and take it day by day, work through the problems and cope the best we can. Life is a learning experience, never wanting to reapat it so bad that it takes up most of my days again, i do all i can and though i wish i could do more. i keep trying and move forward copeing with all i can and struggling but moving forward the same.
    i too am unsure of medication becuase of the side effects and past experiences with them.
    things are always worse when your hormones are active and things seem harder to control.
    stress makes us sick, makes life difficult and makes it tough. stess and anxiety are a bad combination. mental illness is tough, servere and frusteating. we must somehow conquor the monster within us, our ocd and our biggest struggles.