Well, well, well what do you know? Looks like my blog about OCD is actually getting back to being a blog about OCD. Today’s overshare (kidding, of course, seeing as how I do this willingly) is inspired by a post from my friend over at Yeah OCD.
I know the fears that fuel my anxiety (which turns into compulsive checking) are irrational. I know that. I know my front door is locked. I know I unplugged my curling iron. But what about the times where I didn’t unplug the curling iron? Or I accidentally let one of the cats out? Or I didn’t lock the door? Or check to make sure the burners on the stove were off? On the off chance one of my OCD fears becomes a reality, I don’t just go back to starting over. I go further back as if I started a race a few seconds early and was forced to move my starting line back in return (and, for the record, I don’t like participating in any event that involves a starting line).
Having to start over AND start further behind is incredibly difficult. The OCD won and it uses every opportunity to remind me of it.
If I leave my curling iron on in the morning and discover it when I get home my first feeling isn’t reassurance that the house is fine and everything ended up being okay. It is a complete guilt trip turned panic attack because I didn’t check enough. Now, instead of checking 2 or 3 times before I can leave the house (and by that I mean leave the neighborhood because there have been many, many times where I turn around to go back and check before I’ve left the complex) I will check 4 or 5. And then, even after I am in the car, the OCD is in the back of my head reminding me about the time I left the curling iron on and plugged, even if it was years ago. There is no expiration date on these things, which I would argue is one of the hardest parts of living with OCD.
I actually left one of my cats out in 2011 and still, every time I leave the house will watch my feet as I open and close the door. Go back in and check to make sure she is in there. Look through the windows to see if she is still inside. It is a really, really crappy way to live. I know what I am doing is irrational but checking is the only thing that eases my anxiety. And if that doesn’t help then I have a backup plan.
On a completely unrelated and much happier note, today is the day after Thanksgiving which means only one thing: ya girl is decorating for Christmas. Some people spend their post-Thanksgiving time waiting for hours in line surrounded by strangers (my literal nightmare) to possibly, but probably not likely, get a deal on a new TV.
But not me. I freakin’ love decorating for Christmas. Come Friday my house will be filled with candles that smell like fresh cut Christmas trees, Elf and Christmas Vacation on repeat, and a custom holiday playlist that includes some of my favorite Christmas songs, such as this Hanson staple, anything from this album, and most definitely this 1994 classic.
**WOW WOW WOW my post has taken a turn for the better since I started putting it together! I took a break from writing to write this intro because I just found a party planning guide on the International OCD Foundation’s website and it DOES NOT disappoint!
TLDR: I’m using the Fundraising House Party Guide to plan a theoretical party to educate my friends and family on the intricacies of my OCD.
Happy OCD Awareness week! I feel weird using the word happy here because I’m pretty certain that I would be a lot happier if I wasn’t dealing with OCD in the first place but… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
As I predicted in last week’s post, I didn’t come up with anything fun or exciting this week. I did some research (took 5 minutes out of my lunch break to look at this website) to see get some inspiration. Unfortunately, my favorite one (host house party to raise funds) isn’t an option given that it is 2:00 on a Tuesday so I opted for social media and hashtags. And because I am all about transparency I also included some of the pictures (I took a lot. A. LOT) that I normally wouldn’t share because I look like such a dufus.
All super flattering pictures aside, I am really digging this OCD party planning guide. So much so that I am going to summarize it for all of you because it is #1 on my newly-created list of Things That Probably Don’t Need to Exist but Do Anyway.
Step 1: How to Host a Fundraising House Party
Here we learn that house parties can come in many forms. Is this a freshman year of college-style party? Will there be a keg involved? Jungle juice? Perhaps your friends would really love one of those murder mystery clue dinners that you briefly interrupt to request a monetary donation. It’s ok if you aren’t sure because this guide goes above and beyond by giving some suggestions. Pool party on a hot day? Wine and cheese gathering at your home? Sign. Me. Up.
Step 2: Steps to a Successful Fundraiser in Your Home
Two words: template invitations. Unless you want to be super OCD about the whole thing (see what I did there…) and create your own. Your invitation needs to mention that this party is a fundraiser and that there will be a presentation. Personally, I think I would take a different route and surprise all of my guests much like Michael does in the Dinner Party Episode. Consider including an envelope with your invitation (because instead of using an evite like the rest of human civilization you are sending it via dinosaur). Don’t forget to mention that donations are tax deductible. We don’t need the IRS asking why Susan tried to write off her $10 donation to the IOCDF. Last, but certainly not least, is to call and harass any guest who hasn’t sent an RSVP to let them know that their delivery dino is hoarding mail. As an added bonus, you can include your story on the invitation so that your guests know the ways OCD has impacted your life but also that you aren’t trying to scam them out of $10.
Page 5 shows the benefits of using Facebook, evites, and even Twitter (probably need to make this the first suggestion and not mailing a paper invite, my dudes. Also, why is the word ‘even’ in front of Twitter?) to help boost party attendance. For example, you can message a handful of your closest friends about your party so that it can get lost in a sea of Candy Crush invites and chain letters telling them to post the color of their bra to confuse all the men in social media land. One of my favorite tidbits is you can also “tweet” about it to your Twitter followers because anything with unnecessary quotation marks takes the sketch level to 11.
Step 3: Get That Money, Honey
First things first, make your guests put their name on a sign-in sheet when they arrive. That is a foolproof way to make sure they attend any future parties you throw. Have everyone crowd around you while you kill the party vibe by sharing your personal story about living with OCD. Once you’ve dug up enough anxiety by oversharing to all of your friends, have a respected and well-spoken member of the gathering (well, that eliminates almost anyone I invite to my parties) “call on the guests to make a donation.” What’s better than a guilt trip to donate money to a cause? Doing so in front of a group.
Okay, I am sold. Let’s do the damn thing.
Friends, please keep an eye out for my invitation. Though bear in mind that it might be a while until it arrives because I’ll be Fred Flinstoning these bad boys to ya’ll on evenings and weekends since I work full time.
*I know you all love my quick wit and sarcasm, and since I recognize my quick wit and sarcasm can come across as just me being a jerk, I made a donation to the Pediatric Campaign 4 Hope. One of my biggest coping mechanisms, for better or for worse, is humor.*
Hello, my dear friends. My apologies for the lack of consistent posts but I was lucky enough to catch a stomach virus Monday night and was out of commission all day Tuesday and most of Wednesday. Fun stuff! Anywho, I am back to almost normal and using my lunch break to update the masses while eating a plain, baked sweet potato for lunch (well I added ground cinnamon since I’m not a complete psychopath…) because I’m still waiting for the big break that turns blog writing into a full-time job.
There were a few posts I started over the last month or so that I was contemplating using today but since none of them were actually complete (hello procrastination! my dear, old friend) I decided to build off of a post I began working on when I first started the blog because it was perhaps 5% complete and I have a few other things I can add on to bring it up to a whopping 70% complete (my personal standard for actually posting something).
It’s been a few months that I’ve been navigating life with OCD and if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: I don’t want to just cope with it. My goal is to get to a point where I don’t feel the crippling anxiety every time I leave the house or think about every single Worst Case Scenario to the point that I can’t focus on anything aside from all of those things happening at once. I have made some progress, which is great, but I’m starting to notice seemingly small/routine things I do that are probably just another way OCD impacts my life. For example: I had a pretty nasty stomach virus Tuesday and Wednesday. I went to the doctor Tuesday, feeling as if my death was imminent, and when I got home I immediately changed out of the clothes I was wearing while at the doctor’s office for an hour (at most) and tossed them in a pile (a completely separate pile from the other piles of clothes on my side of the room) to await their fate. Yesterday afternoon I started a load of laundry, tossed Those Clothes in with it, and when I eventually stumbled upon them to fold I considered not wearing them ever again since I had worn them to the doctor when I was sick and I don’t want to get sick ever again (there are many flaws to this logic, and I know that). One thing to note here is that the thought of not wearing them wasn’t driven by germs but the fact that I wasn’t feeling well when I wore them. TL;DR: I realized how irrational the thought was but still thought that perhaps if I was to ever wear those leggings and that sweatshirt again I would get another stomach virus. But not from germs. Just because. I ended up folding them and putting them away (yay!) but part of that is because I actually really like those leggings and that sweatshirt, otherwise I might have actually considered donating them (a bit rude, tbh, seeing as how I didn’t want to get sick but some rando thinking they scored a great deal at the thrift store can). Unfortunately, this isn’t a new obsession/compulsion for me. I’ve been doing it for as long as I can remember (I touch more on that in a previous blog where my goal was to show how my OCD has evolved but instead just showed how nothing has changed and I’m still an anxiety-ridden weirdo). My therapist is going to have a SUPER FUN TIME listening to all of this when she gets back from vacation and I haven’t had a session in over a month!
Now, I know that my posts tend to weigh on the cynical side (WHAT?! NO WAY!) so I decided to mix things up and include some activities that help me when I feel myself on the verge of losing it. Please note: these things work great on their own but doing them consistently and not just when my life is in complete chaos is my ultimate goal.
Snuggling animals! (Ok this one I do pretty much all of the time but it needs to be included because it is most likely the easiest of all these things and, according to one scientific study, is also the most therapeutic*).
Cooking dinner – I love this one because it gives me the satisfaction of a routine and being able to follow things/check off a list. Plus, it helps save money AND what’s the point of working out if I’m eating the same way Doc Brown fueled the DeLorean at the end of Back to the Future. (Kyle Kinane reference, anyone…?)
going to the gym in the morning before work – This one is tricky because I loathe mornings and getting out of bed before 10:00 am but I never regret going and working out. Plus I have a great trainer, which is critical when you are on the verge of 30 but need the same amount of sleep as a 16-year-old.
spending time with family – Always a favorite. I include this one because it is very easy to get caught up and your day to day routine and let days, weeks, months etc. pass before having a phone call or grabbing dinner with people you’re close with, family or not. Make time for this, even if it means leaving work a few minutes early. Or calling out one day. Or buying the plane ticket. Or moving to a remote island (I kid, I kid).
As I try to wrap this giant run-on sentence up (welcome to what it’s like inside my head!), in my last blog I mentioned the infinity cube (which, unfortunately, does not give superpowers, despite its name leading one to think otherwise) which has helped me cut down on my picking. A pricier alternative, which I discovered last week, is buying a manual transmission car because its hard to pick at your cuticles when you need one hand to steer and the other to shift! Was that my intention when I bought the car? No. Am I still going to add it to the ‘pros’ section of buying said car? Abso-forking-lutely.
And lastly, next week is OCD Awareness week! My goal is (was? idk, we’ll see how motivated I am later in the week…) to do something fun and exciting but, in typical Alaina fashion, I will most likely wait until Sunday night to really put any effort into it and keep myself up all night with anxiety for not working on anything earlier.
*I conducted this study and was able to prove my hypothesis (IF I am sad and cuddle animals, THEN I will no longer be sad). Science rules.
Sorry I took a hiatus last week, it’s just that recently I have been lacking the motivation to do almost everything that is typically required of functioning humans. I’m just going through the motions, much like Squidward in the below GIF.
I’ll bounce back though, I always do. Unlike most millennial females, I really loathe fall *gasp* because I also loathe winter and fall is basically just a preview of winter with its diminishing daylight hours and plummeting temperatures (except for it is still in the 80s here in Atlanta). I just keep reminding myself to listen to my own advice.
So, how am I coping? With my favorite go-to: picking. Bet you didn’t see that coming!
Actually, you probably did. Because quitting picking has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever attempted and, to be honest, it isn’t going well (see below).
I have not been able to stop. The treatments I mentioned in my previous blog about picking have not worked. All hope is not lost though! One of my best friends, Drew, gave me an infinity cube fidget toy, which you can continuously fold in on itself, and it has helped tremendously. I keep it in my purse so I can grab it if I notice myself picking, which is about 99% of the time. I use it at my desk, sitting in traffic, hanging out and talking to people. I have zero reservations about using it in public because it has been such a help. Below is a candid picture of me using it to ease my anxiety while driving on the side of a mountain this past weekend (I am truly terrified of heights. I ended up crying twice on the side of that mountain).
A quick search on Amazon for ‘infinity cube fidget toy’ will give some options for those looking to give it a shot. It really has been the only thing that helps keep my fidgeting under control. I don’t know the exact details of where mine is from or the cost but they are relatively affordable, especially if your picking is as bad as mine. I would recommend a metal one, similar to this because I think a plastic one wouldn’t be as durable and I, personally, like the weight of mine.
There ya have it, folks! That’s all I got, really, because I don’t have the motivation to do much more.
What a week, aimirite? I’ve actually been saying that since approximately 1:00 Monday afternoon but, in all seriousness, it’s been a rough one. In all honesty, it’s been a rough year, but I am trying my absolute best to not let it get me down. My biggest takeaway from 2018 (so far, at least) is that it is okay to not be okay.
The unfortunate thing is that, as a Certified Adult™, you can’t let periods of not being okay take over your life. And THAT, my friends, is hard. I would be a liar if I told you it was easy. I’ve been wondering/borderline stressing over what to post next because I don’t have any great updates or advice to give. I’m still checking. I’m still picking. I’m still overwhelmed with anxiety to the point that I can’t sleep. And me still doing all of these things that I am supposed to be working on NOT doing amplifies it and makes it even worse.
I met with the heavenly angel that is PG (my therapist) on Monday and, as per usual, she gave me some great advice. It’s important that we have someone to help us through being not okay. This might seem like a glaringly obvious piece of advice but I tend to close myself off from the rest of the world when things go sideways (which has been almost all of 2018) and it is probably the worst thing I could do to try and help myself. I’ve lived this way for 28 years and it is not an easy habit to break. But it helps. If you can relate to me and/or The Grinch because your heart is an empty hole and you have garlic in your soul then I suggest giving the whole Let Someone Help You Feel Better thing a go.
(I relate to The Grinch way too much, by the way. I knew that but I didn’t KNOW that until I was looking up Grinch GIFs and had 10 different tabs open in Safari. I’ll narrow it down to the most relatable ones and include them below.)
You’re probably asking yourself, if you are even still reading, what the point of today’s post is. The person who has been here for me the most is my husband Taylor. To try to keep things light and fun I asked him some questions. *In true Alaina fashion, I included some responses and explanations if I felt they were needed.*
When did you first notice the checking?
TK: I really started to notice when we moved into our current neighborhood [five years ago]. It seemed to get worse after Gail moved out. That’s when I remember hearing you forcefully yanking on the door in the morning to make sure it was locked and constantly asking if the cats got out when we left.
Did you think it could be OCD or that I am just weird?
TK: Just weird. I knew you had anxiety issues but I never identified it as OCD.
AK: I am weird. But I also have OCD.
What were your thoughts when I was diagnosed with it?
TK: I was pretty indifferent. I was happy for you that you could have a title for it what was going on as well as a clear path to overcome your tendencies. That being said, I was super happy and proud of you for having to courage to talk to someone.
Have you noticed that there are times or situations where it gets worse?
TK: Absolutely. Anytime you are in a stressful situation. Anytime someone is talking to you about something that makes you uncomfortable. Anytime someone is talking to you directly even if it’s a light-hearted conversation. If you feel attention is directly on you, you get to picking. If you are bored, you subconsciously start picking. Stress, discomfort, anxiety, boredom.
AK: So basically all of the things.
What is the most frustrating part of being married to someone with OCD?
TK: Not being able to use appliances like the dishwasher and dryer when I am leaving the house. Trying to turn on items around the house to find out they have been unplugged (hair dryer, lamps, toasters, etc.). Also, not being able to cook without being home. Sometime I would like to step away from the house while I am making stock or low simmering a large pot of something. Obviously, I would never leave something that is a quick cook. However, if I’m making something that simmers for hours, I would love to be able to run to the store.
AK: Never, ever going to happen.
Do you have any advice to give someone who’s partner has or might have OCD?
TK: RUN! Jk ;). I love you to the stars and would not have you any other way. Just be patient and understanding. Don’t enable. Not enabling can be more challenging than it sounds. In the past, I thought I was helping by ensuring the cats didn’t get out or that everything was unplugged and the doors were locked. Come to find out, that is just another way for someone with OCD to “check”. What I thought was helping, was, in fact, doing the opposite. It helps to understand the triggers and how your partner can work to adjust their response to those triggers. The more you understand OCD, the more you can help. Be supportive but also hold him/her accountable to bettering themselves. Also, work on bettering yourself. You should never place expectations on your partner that you wouldn’t place on yourself. This holds true in any relationship whether or not your partner has OCD.
AK: The “to the stars part” started as me making fun of a scene from The Titanic. I felt the need to explain that since I hate having any feels (remember, empty heart/garlic soul?).
Do you have any advice on how to support someone with OCD?
TK: OCD is very similar to addiction. You are never cured. You are always in recovery. There is no quick fix. Love your partner and be supportive even if some of their actions drive you crazy. Know that it drives them crazy as well. As I mentioned before, understand the illness and process to better themselves so you don’t enable. Look into yourself. If you want someone to better themselves, lead by example. Grow together. Don’t come down on them if you feel like they aren’t making progress. There is so much going on in your partner’s brain that we never see or understand. There is a constant battle of emotions that is tearing your partner in 1,000 different direction and all we see is him/her running back upstairs to make sure the hairdryer is unplugged. If you get frustrated, try to talk to your partner when you are not heated. Your frustration causes him/her stress which begets more anxiety. This all leads to triggers for OCD tendencies. At the end of the day, you are in this together for better or worse.
AK: Alright, folks, if anyone wants to ask for some more advice from T please form an orderly line and understand that there is an upfront fee of $100.
So there you have it. You see what I mean? Find someone who is there for you and will help you. It’s okay to not be okay.
As promised, here are some Reasons I May/May Not Be The Grinch
You guys are in for a treat. In this post, I will go over My Things in greater detail. I’ll also include some things I used to check but do not currently check, as well as some things that make me uncomfortable for no logical reason (this part is to keep it light and fun and make sure we can all have a good laugh/prevent us all from spiraling into a deep, dark depression). *Please note that I use the term logical here very loosely seeing as how my checking is driven by flawed logic (at best) that only I experience.
My Things, expanded:
The front door is locked. I will check it, check it again, recheck the recheck, etc.
The stove is off. I check each knob 3+ times, depending on how anxious I am. I have a gas stove now but I still did this when I had an electric one.
Dryer is off. I will open and close the dryer door a few times until I feel comfortable knowing it is off. I never leave the dryer running if I’m not home. It drives Taylor, my husband, insane.
Unplug the hair dryer. I don’t know why. I just really hate leaving things plugged in in general. Another one that annoys Taylor.
Turn off/unplug curling iron. Even though unplugging it guarantees it is off, I still check to make sure it is turned off JUST IN CASE, GOD FORBID I forget to unplug it (there’s a 99.999999999% chance I will not forget to unplug it). I have to make sure I unplug it and usually go back upstairs to check before I leave the house. I can’t remember the last time I straightened my hair but in the past, I did the same for a straightener. My OCD doesn’t discriminate on the type of styling tool I need to check.
Taking the same route to and from work, down to being in the same exact lane. I loathe using Waze (see below for my non-OCD reasoning, if you’re interested) because I need to know the route I am taking before I leave. Randomly having the Waze generated Boy Band harmonize the turn I need to take in 5 feet puts me in a panic. I take the interstate to work and back roads home. Every day I take the same route unless I am going on some exciting, post-work adventure (which never happens).
Following the same morning routine when getting ready for work. Brush teeth, plug in curling iron, do makeup, curl hair, get dressed. If I don’t follow this order then I face imminent doom.
I have to get in and out of the same side of the bed. Taylor travels for work so there are times when I have the entire bed to myself and could jump out on either side. But I don’t.
I love to make lists at work. It is how I am able to actually function. But if I start making a list and misspell something or don’t use consistent bullet points I have to start over completely. The list has to be perfect. Sometimes I’ll redo the list even if I technically didn’t mess anything up.
Cleaning in a particular order. This one is interesting to me because my OCD isn’t focused on cleanliness or organization (trust me). When I do clean the house it has to be in a particular order or else I will need to repeat steps/start over completely. If I vacuum before I dust then I will need to vacuum again because dust will fall onto the clean carpet. Luckily for me, I rarely get the motivation to clean this much! *sarcasm*
Making sure the animals (cats in particular) didn’t get out. I do not know why this is such a huge thing for me. It always has been. Long before I had adopted my own cats, I would risk being late to school just to run home and make sure the family cats hadn’t gotten out. Do I know that cats are usually well equipped to survive some time outside? Yes. Am I still going to run home and check to make sure they didn’t get out? Absolutely. I’m not ashamed to be a crazy cat lady (emphasis on the crazy…and the lady).
My Old Things:
Not changing out of the outfit, changing the channel, etc. of what I was wearing the last time I spoke to my mom/dad on the phone when I was at the other’s house on the weekends. Fun story: when I was in 1st grade or so I got this pillow in the shape of a cat and, when asked, one of my parents suggested I name it Lemon and the other suggested Orange. So, I named her Lemon Orange to avoid hurting any feelings. Lemon Orange went to college with me. I actually still have Lemon Orange but she is bedding in my dog’s crate because for some reason Taylor wasn’t 100% sold on the idea of me still sleeping with a 20+-year-old pillow named Lemon Orange. Also, my sister, Lauren, used to call Lemon Orange Lauren Orange and it made me so mad for some reason. But I digress…
Checking to make sure my mom or dad was still inside the house before I went to sleep.
…not gonna to lie, I thought this list would be a bit longer. Turns out the things I used to check/do, I still check/do. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
100% Normal Things That Make Me Anxiety:
Flat face trucks. They look mean and they make me uncomfortable. I’m also terrified of heights and 9 times out of 10 these trucks are the ones driving on the side of a mountain during monsoon season, or something equally scary and random. Its ok to laugh at this, I do it all the time.
My food can’t touch (My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving, making this a real, modern-day tragedy.)
REVOLVING DOORS. I loathe them. This one is probably because a few months ago a complete stranger used the same compartment of a revolving door as me. I’m still struggling to get over it, tbh.
Public restrooms. Not because of germs, but because I get stage fright and can’t go if anyone else is in there.
Sharing an elevator/forced small talk. This one is especially bad right now because of the air cast on my fractured foot.
Getting stuck in traffic on the interstate. I get claustrophobic and slightly panicky if I feel stuck.
I’m sure there are more. Honestly, the flat truck is probably the one I was most eager to share. I am equal parts curious and terrified of what exposure and response prevention therapy would look like for this one…
For starters, I have a degree in geography (super useful if you enjoy going to school with folks to wear the shoes with individual spaces for one’s toes) so I spent many, many hours and many, many dollars making maps, followed by spending the last 7 years at a Real Job making maps. I like to think that I have a pretty good understanding of cities in and around metro Atlanta. The final straw with Waze was when it had me get off of the interstate, travel west (my final destination was east!), then get back on the interstate at the next exit WHEN THERE WAS NO ACCIDENT OR ANYTHING. The only reason I used it that day was to try and avoid traffic. I deleted the app once the Boy Band told me I had arrived at my destination with a beautiful melody.