ya take the good, ya take the bad

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.

 

Me trying to make it to the gym on time in the morning.

 

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.

-A

 

 

*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.

girls gone mild

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.

X-All-The-Y

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?).

A great representation of how I show emotion.

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.

-A

 


 

As promised, here are some Reasons I May/May Not Be The Grinch

 

Wanting to cancel plans because I have nothing to wear.

 

 

Needing time to myself.

 

 

Showing no emotion.

 

 

Lots of self-loathing.

 

 

Eating because I am bored.

 

 

Always having normal conversations with my animals.

 

 

no such thing

Hello friends! There truly is nothing like a good ol’ three day weekend to prove that the Sunday Scaries are not exclusively reserved for Sundays.

Me sliding into this work week after the long weekend.

Anyway, I survived the Scaries and am back to being a Barely Functioning, Supposed to Be Real Adult™ who spends her lunch break eating Cheerios and writing a blog. I’ve been pondering what to post throughout the weekend because, as much as I would love to have A+, top notch happenings to share with you, there aren’t that many things occurring in my day-to-day that are mildly helpful or entertaining. This morning, however, the universe had different plans (as it so often does) because I had a follow-up appointment with my psychiatrist to see if 1 month of medication and therapy has helped manage my OCD and anxiety. The great news is that both of these things have, although the physical act of getting to my appointment on time (8:20am) didn’t exactly help ease any anxiety (joking, kind of).

My doctor (who not the same person as my incredibly awesome therapist, PG) said something that stuck with me, similar to when PG gave me the life-changing “we need to be more understanding and compassionate to ourselves” pep talk. Doc K (I was going to abbreviate it DK but for some reason I didn’t want it to seem like I was calling him a dick, because he isn’t one) told me that we *vaguely gestures to surroundings, again* often say we want to get back to ‘normal’ or see other people who seem to have their ducks in a row and are jealous that we don’t have that level of ‘normal’ but, more often than not, we don’t know how to define the ideal ‘normal’. If there is one thing I have discovered since starting this blog, and this whole OCD saga, to be honest, is that almost everyone sees themselves as less than normal, whatever normal is to them. So instead of just saying “I want to be back to normal” (which I have said before), let’s set goals that we can actually use to measure our improvement instead of the generic ‘normal’ that (for me at least!) doesn’t have a definition.

BOOM, welcome to part two of my Ted Talk.

Hopefully that all made sense because my hour is almost up and I have yet to get an annual salary plus benefits from oversharing on the internet. Plus, as shown using the first GIF in this post, I’m not exactly functioning at 100% after a long weekend of new boot goofin’ and eating candy for breakfast.

-A

I just found out there’s no such thing as the real world, just a lie you’ve got to rise above.

(I love me some John Mayer and I’m not afraid to admit it. Continuum is easily one of my top 5 favorite albums. Plus, I couldn’t get No Such Thing out of my head after I used it as the title AND that line is oddly relevant to the post. I also really love this song, which he is featured on, if you are a Herbie Hancock fan/still on the fence about John.)

 


Spotify users! Be sure to follow my obsessive-compulsive diaries playlist for some of my favorite groovy tunes. It is a delightfully random mix of new songs and old songs from a bunch of different genres. It’s a great playlist if you need a good dance party or if you need a cry. Or a crying dance party.

 

 

An expanded list of My Things ft. Totally Normal Things That Also Give Me Anxiety

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.
I got a pocket full of nopes and my homeboys do too

  • 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.
New Boot Goofin
Taylor and I are huge Reno 911 fans
Screen Shot 2018-08-28 at 2.12.58 PM
Lt. Dangle & Deputy Wiegel hard at work (I wasn’t lying when I said we were huge fans…)
  • 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…

-A

(For anyone who doesn’t know what New Boot Goofin is…)

 


A Non-OCD Explanation of Why I Do Not Use Waze

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.

 

Pick Me

Buckle up, my dudes. This post was a doozy for me to write. And share. This is something I am extremely ashamed of but since I’m already putting my life out on the internet then why not add this on too*?

 

 

I pick my cuticles constantly, to the point where I will start bleeding*. It is called skin picking disorder or excoriation or dermatillomania or, very cleverly, compulsive skin picking. Regardless, I do it and I do it A LOT. It is bad. Actually, it is really bad. Sometimes I am 100% aware I am doing it, other times I have no idea. I’ll pick watching tv, I’ll pick talking to friends, I’ll pick during meetings, I’ll pick just sitting at my desk*. I’ll take breaks from typing this blog post to pick.  I met with PG today and she brought it up because of how bad it was during our last session where we talked about some Extremely Difficult to Talk About Stuff, which sent my picking into overdrive. By the end of it, I had to ask her for a Band-Aid because I was bleeding*. [Not surprisingly, the picking is often associated with OCD (23% of those with OCD also have skin picking disorder). Here is some more information on skin picking and OCD.] I took pictures of my hands (my thumbs, really, because that is what I pick most often) this morning to add to this post*. And they are not easy to share*.

*

 

 

**

I have done a lot of research on this but, aside from a futile attempt to replace picking with using a fidget cube, I have not broken the habit*. Painting my nails doesn’t work, I’ll just start picking again. Getting a manicure will help for a few days or until I chip the nail polish (which TBH is usually right around when I am walking out of the nail salon, getting in the car, or buckling my seat belt). The fidget cube didn’t work because I need to use my right hand to control my computer mouse and my favorite side of the cube was nearly impossible for me to comfortably use with my left hand.

This is probably where I should warn you that this post likely won’t give you the warm & fuzzy feelings that (hopefully) my super inspirational TED Talk post did. I know I need to stop picking but do I want to stop picking*? I mean, I do want to stop, but it is going to be so difficult to stop that I’m torn between giving it another shot* and continuing on with my life because it will be so much easier to pretend this problem isn’t a problem*. So… what next? I’m not sure. I bought some cuticle oil because I read it will make picking harder since it is slippery* (I haven’t even opened the Amazon package it is in though)*. PG is looking into a specific type of therapy to help people stop picking*. And I am just going to have to try really, really hard to break this habit*.

I know I am not alone in this, so if you are reading this and you are picking, take comfort in the fact that I 10,000,000% understand how you feel*. It sucks. If/ when I find something that has helped I will post an update*.

-A

any * indicates me taking a break to pick

 


Spotify users! Be sure to follow my obsessive-compulsive diaries playlist for some of my favorite groovy tunes. It is a delightfully random mix of new songs and old songs from a bunch of different genres. It’s a great playlist if you need a good dance party or if you need a cry. Or a crying dance party.

 

a ted talk by the color beige

Thank you all so, so much for your support. It is overwhelming, but in the very best way, to see that I’m not alone on this Fantastic Voyage. ♥

tumblr_o9vnti0qT31rqk1xgo1_r2_500

 


 

Since I started this process there has been a constant voice in the back of my mind telling me I will fail. Some days it yells at me, most days it is more of an irritating whine similar to what I’m sure I sounded like during much of my early childhood. It would be so much easier for me to say FORK THIS (surely someone out there understood this reference. If not, drop every single thing you are doing right now and go watch The Good Place on Netflix. Right now. Go.) and keep letting OCD control my every move. Honestly, I had that exact thought (without the fork) the other night as I was leaving work because even though I have taken this first step, it is still really intimidating to think about how much the checking and the accompanying anxiety are part of my life. There is still a ton of work for me to do and, quite honestly, I will likely be working on this for the rest of my days. This first step is one of those awkwardly long steps that also isn’t very tall so you end up falling. In fact, I have fallen every day this week because ~ya girl~ has checked at least a few of My Things every morning.

One of the most helpful pieces of advice I have received during therapy is that we *vaguely gestures to surroundings* are a lot harder on ourselves than we would be if we were helping a friend through the exact same situation. Below is a re-enactment of this life-changing revelation with PG (PG is my therapist):

PG: How do you feel like you are handling everything so far?

Me: Not well. I missed X deadline, didn’t finish X or X, and didn’t make it up to X to visit X. I feel like I can’t just do one single thing without it going sideways. *The sky grows dark. The wind starts howling as the rain falls from the sky like teardrops. In the distance, sirens*

PG: Ok, what would you say to a friend who reached out to you explaining that she has had a really rough couple of months? She’s got anxiety over the health of a close family member, she’s been working herself to the point where she keeps making silly mistakes, and it is all made worse by the fact that she can’t sleep because the anxiety is keeping her up at night.

Me: Well the first thing I would tell her that she needs to give herself a break. Reach out to people to come up with a plan on how to tackle whatever it is that is spreading her so thin. It’s ok to take a day off to do something she enjoys, even if it is just watching every episode of every season of The Good Place. She doesn’t have to go at it alone. *Beyoncé appears and starts singing Run the World (Girls). The entire cast of Parks & Rec comes in the room and high fives My Overwhelmed Friend. Tom Haverford points finger guns at Overwhelmed Friend and says “what’s crackin’?”*

PG:

AK:

PG:

AK: ….yeah, this makes sense.

635

I have been giving myself a hard time for 1,455 weeks (this assumes that I just came out of the womb with anxiety which, if you spent any time in my head, is highly likely) and all for something I would hate to see my family or friends struggle with. I would bet all of the cash in my wallet right now that this is something everyone, regardless of anxiety or mental health or whatever, could practice more. We need to be more willing to help ourselves. Let’s treat ourselves with the same compassion we show our family and friends (Thank you for coming to my TED Talk).

 

 

-A

There is no cash in my wallet, by the way. Maybe I don’t want to help better myself because myself keeps spending all of my money and then complaining about not having any money.