Tackling the water with British Swim School

My kids received two free months of lessons and an ongoing discount in exchange for this post. Like always, all opinions are my own.

If you’ve been reading this blog, or know me at all, you know that I’m literally obsessive about my children’s safety. (I know, I know, I’m working on it, I swear.)

That said, there are some places where safety is a good thing, and the water is one of them. My parents live on a lake. I don’t care if my kids don’t become the next Michael Phelps, but I do want them to be drown-proofed as soon as humanly possible.

Enter: British Swim School.

Now, going in, I admit that BSS had the deck stacked against them. My kids had already started lessons at the gym that is two blocks away. (BSS’s nearest location was about a 20-minute drive). The gym also has childcare, so I can focus on one child at a time. Also, the gym is cheaper, so I knew I would have a hard time justifying the switch after my two free months were up.

But, determined to make the most of the two months we had, we geared up and went.

A fun start…

At first, my kids had an absolute blast. I saw them getting more confident, and having lots of fun as they became comfortable with submersion, jumping into the pool, and floating on their backs. Unlike our previous lessons, they really seemed to push my kids, and my kids seemed to be gaining a new skill every other week.


BSS nate floatNate amazed me a month in when he could jump into the pool by himself, and spin to his back with minimal help from his teacher. I was so excited, because I knew if he could just get to his back, he could keep himself safe until help could get to him.

BSS grace smilesGrace, similarly, was a little fish. She quickly learned the cues to hold her breath and was so anxious to get into the pool that every time I asked her if she wanted to go swimming, she started clapping and saying “yay!!!”

One step forward, two steps back…

And then, all of a sudden, Nate got scared. He told me he didn’t like swim lessons, and was defiant in class. I didn’t understand. What happened to my little go-getter? He didn’t even want to get into the pool with us on vacation. It was like a switch had been flipped and my once-fearless swimmer had become terrified of the water.

Class was a battle.

So I let him skip a lesson. (He had to come, because his sister still had to go, and I hoped that seeing her have fun would encourage him to try again).

They told me that this kind of regression is normal, and you never really know what’s going to cause it.

Great, I thought. We put all this work in and he’s gone backwards.

What came next, however, was wonderful.

They kept working with him. They brought in a second instructor, just to work him through his fears, and I swear, this man is the child whisperer, because the kid who was screaming in terror two weeks prior was laughing again.

Is he totally back? No. But the patience and consistency of BSS has really impressed me, and that’s why I’ll drive out of my way and pay a little extra to stay with them.


Living a life again

If I had to give you an excuse for not writing lately, it’s that life has gotten in the way. I say this in the best sense, because for once, life–and not my OCD–is dictating what I do.

My children are growing like weeds and pushing their boundaries daily. I admit, I still struggle with wanting to be overprotective, but on the whole, I’m letting them explore their world, and I am learning that their world really isn’t that dangerous after all.

I’m now meeting my (very talented) therapist every 5-6 weeks. If you had told me a year and a half ago that I would be going this long between appointments I would have been terrified. Back then, I couldn’t even make it a week.

It’s amazing how much time I lost to OCD. I mean, it literally was its own full-time job. And now, I hardly know what to do with myself.

I’m working through the feelings of guilt that I’m not doing enough–I’m Catholic, and a mom. Guilt kind of comes with the territory–but I’m starting to become more secure with the fact that I have TIME for things again. I’ve been reading. I’ve been enjoying my kids. I’ve been interacting regularly with people I didn’t initially know very well. I’m even helping to coach my son’s t-ball team.

This space, which initially came out of sadness and fear, is starting to become something else for me. I don’t know yet what I’m going to do with it, but I’m excited to find out.

Change nothing.

I’ve been in a really good place lately. I’ve actually been able to sleep at night and my time spent obsessing over things has gone way down.

Physically, however, I’ve got a few things going on.

Apparently I have hypothyroidism, which explains some of the weight gain. It also explains why I am always exhausted, even though I’m not depressed and my children actually sleep through the night. (Most nights).

I also haven’t had a cycle since before ladybug was conceived. She’s almost one and a half.

So, I had a bunch of tests done and met with an endocrinologist.

The lack of cycles is due to my prolactin being high, which can happen when taking risperdal.

So he mentioned going off of it.

There are a few reasons I don’t want to, but the big one is:

I’m doing so well, I don’t want to change anything.

Maybe the risperdal has nothing to do with how well I’m doing. Maybe it’s the zoloft. Maybe it’s the CBT. Maybe it’s that I’m finally out of the postpartum period.

(I would guess it’s a combination of all of those things)

But I really don’t want to risk it.

I remember what it felt like when I was really far gone, and I don’t want to go back there.

I don’t even want to chance it.

Update! (and OCD Week Kickoff)

Wow, it’s been awhile since I’ve updated here. Sorry, friends!

I started a new faith and motherhood blog (shameless plug: it’s http://www.mamafullofgrace.com) this month, and I admit that I’ve been putting all of my focus there. I’m starting to gain a lot of confidence in my blogging skills, and I’ve been receiving some pretty decent feedback from some unexpected places, so I’ve decided that I really want to treat it like a job. I’m making editorial calendars, doing the SEO thing, and developing a promotion strategy. It’s a lot of work, but I enjoy it.

That doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten about my blog here.

Motherhood and faith are immensely important to me, but so is bringing awareness to the OCDemon. I’m still hearing my disorder being carelessly thrown around as other people’s adjective, and I’m still getting contacted by people who stumble across this blog or my twitter account and are in need of encouragement.

If you’re one of those people, I’m not forgetting you. Together, we need to put faces and voices to the diagnosis. I won’t forget about my responsibility there. I promise.

So, since I last wrote, I had a birthday. I’m now 31. I went home to visit my parents and for my birthday, took on my scariest exposure yet: shooting a gun.

Yes, you heard me right. I. shot. a. gun.

The days leading into it, I was pretty scared. I couldn’t sleep at night because the anticipatory anxiety was that high. I was worried that I would shoot myself, my mother, or one of the other people at the range.

Logically, I know that I wouldn’t even hit someone, but OCD isn’t logical and likes to try to convince me that I’m dangerous and about to hurt everyone I love.

Well, I faced the fear. I loaded and shot a gun. Multiple times.

This was a huge step for me–when I was in treatment less than a year ago, I was afraid to even shoot a video game gun. I’m so high up on my hierarchy that we’re trying to come up with bigger and scarier things for me to do. As terrifying as it is, it’s also a little exhilarating, facing those fears. I can kind of see why adrenaline junkies get so addicted to doing terrifying things. I won’t become one of them, because doing everyday things gives me the same rush that I’m sure they get from crazy stunts (like jumping out of a perfectly good airplane…. seriously? WHY?)

I’m doing so well.

I’m really proud of myself and I know that I wouldn’t have been able to do anything even close to this without the amazing professionals who worked with me. From medication to CBT, thought challenging to exposure work, the tools they have given me have allowed me to take control of my life and have given me back to my family.

I am so blessed.

Back to school…and all those school feelings

So, tomorrow, bug will be heading off to his first day of 3K. Yesterday, we had an orientation, and it triggered a couple of my compulsions, namely, comparing myself to others and what my therapist refers to as “trying to be a perfect mom.”

I had been doing well with those compulsions, mainly because I am a stay-at-home mom and can go days at a time without really running into anyone. We do our own thing and that really seems to suit me. 

Bug starting school, however, puts us around other families, and me around other parents. Being around them, I felt as awkward and inadequate as I did in my terrible middle school years. 

I got the start time wrong. Thankfully, I was early, not late, but apparently I did not get whatever memo they sent. 

The other memo I didn’t get was that I needed to look put together for drop off. I wasn’t rolling in in my pajamas. I thought I was going to be fine. I mean, I put on jeans and had minimal makeup on, my hair was clean and I’d had coffee. I did not, however, wear a dress, have a full face of makeup on, put on wedges (I’ll be honest, I don’t even own a pair), tease my hair into an updo, and coordinate my jewelry. This mom looked fabulous. She looked better on this random Wednesday morning than I do for a date night. 

And I know. I know she didn’t do it to make me feel bad, but I did. 

I came home and googled hair and makeup how-tos.

Then I realized. 

The work I need to do on myself is not cosmetic. I am who I am. I’m not particularly good at things like hair and makeup, and that’s okay. The thing I need to work on is not comparing myself to people who happen to excel in different areas than I do.

I also need to work on how to strike up a conversation with these other parents, but that’s a battle for another day.

Peace, friends.

I’m afraid to have another baby…

My daughter is about to turn 1, and the questions are coming.

Are you done now? Going for three? 

The short answer is I really don’t know.

While my parents have touted what they call “the prime directive” (never let the kids outnumber you) for as long as I can remember, I never really thought I would be in the “two and through” camp. I always pictured a larger family.

After conceiving our first took a great deal longer than I would have expected, (I was in my twenties, it should have been easy!) I tempered that hope. I hoped for three or four, but accepted that adoption might have had to be the way that happened. We bought a 4-bedroom house and I prayed I’d be able to fill it.

When our daughter was conceived in our first cycle trying, I couldn’t believe it. I thought my dream of a big family could actually come true. I got excited. I looked for room in the floor plan for a fifth bedroom (Yes, I have a tendency to get ahead of myself) and read articles about how room sharing was good for kids, (you know, on the off chance I had 5 or 6…)

But then postpartum came and hit me like a ton of bricks.

And now, even though I am so much better and I have all the tools I need to write a better postpartum story this time around, I am terrified.

I’m terrified to go off my medications (I like my current combo, and one of the medications is incompatible with both pregnancy and breastfeeding).

I’m terrified that the postpartum intrusive thoughts will return and transform me into a weak, jittery, perpetually-nauseated shell of a person.

I’m terrified that I’ll be unable to do all the things that moms do (like, you know, hold their children and change diapers) in the postpartum stage, and that my poor husband will be stuck pulling way more weight than he ever signed up for.

I’m terrified that I’ll have to go away for treatment again. I’m afraid of the lost money, and above all, the lost time. I’m afraid my son will actually form memories of mommy losing her mind and going away this time.

I’m afraid of feeling the terror again. I’m afraid it will squeeze out all the joy I should be feeling, and that only guilt and fear will reside in my soul.

I’m afraid that by trying to grow my family, I’ll lose all of them to the monster that is OCD.

I’m also afraid that my disorder is putting limits on my family, and it doesn’t deserve that much power. So, for the mean time, I’ll continue putting outgrown clothes into storage and hold on to that infant car seat, even though just looking at them brings back the memory of the most challenging time of my entire life flooding back.

Am I done?

I don’t know.

But I want that to be my (and my husband’s) decision, not OCD’s.

I hear you and I’m honored. Thanks, readers. 

I had been struggling to find my motivation lately. 

It felt like I was just sending my thoughts out into the chasm and that nobody really cared what I had to say.

Then it happened.

 Yesterday, I had Twitter message conversations with three different people who stumbled across the blog. They all related to what I have gone (and sometimes continue to go) through and it was an eye-opening experience. I didn’t realize the power my words had. The power to give hope, the power to make someone feel less alone, the power to help someone realize exactly what it was they were fighting. 
Friends, I’m humbled that you read this blog. 

I’m humbled that you reached out to share your stories with me.

I’m humbled that you’ve asked me for advice (even though, I’ll be honest, I’m not even sure where to start other than to tell you my experience)

I’m honored to share my life with you. I’m making a commitment to keep sharing, and to build up resources that I think can help. To get my blog out there more in the hopes that it will reach more people that need to feel like they aren’t alone. They aren’t crazy. They simply have a very treatable condition and that their thoughts do not define them.

I’m honored that you’re coming along with me for this ride.

Love to you,


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#OCDCon Day 1 Recap

So, I’ve made it. I’m in Chicago at the 2016 IOCDF Conference and it is awesome so far.

I don’t quite know how to sum it all up, but here are 5 highlights of the day:

5. Daily Life as an Exposure– this was the topic of one of the talks I attended, and also the way I kicked off this conference. I realized, once on the train, that I had forgotten my medications. And we can’t get a hold of my prescribing nurse, so I’m going to be without them this weekend. Hiccup, for sure, but I’m confident in my ability to keep going without them. (This is not to say I want to stop taking them altogether, but I’m not as afraid of a bad day as I used to be. I got this.)

4. The scrupulosity answer guys–I actually stood up and asked a question, y’all… (Exposure!) and among the great advice I was given, I was told something that I knew to be true but that I let get pushed aside in my desire to kick the crap out of my OCD. Not adhering to a religious practice (of which I have many, because I’m Catholic…) in an attempt to combat scrupulosity is not only wrong from a religious standpoint, but it is NOT doing ERP. So in addition to breaking the rules of my faith, I’m actually feeding the OCDemon. (Also, I loved that they called it that. I’m using that from now on.) 

3. If it seems like OCD, treat it like it is OCD. This is something that was repeated a few times over the course of the day, and I needed to hear it every time. Lately, my OCD has been making me doubt whether or not something is OCD, but I just need to treat it like it is and push through. Even if it isn’t OCD, working the problem is the only way to keep moving forward.

2. I met Kat! She’s a minor OCDvocate celebrity… And entirely lovely in person. Check out her vlogs here.

1. The best talk of the day: it was called “Mind Washing” and was all about mental rituals. I could. Not. Believe. How well they described the rituals I perform. Some of them I didn’t even think of, but I totally do them. Read the slide show here.

All in all, a great day. Time to go grab dinner.

Take care, friends. 


A purpose…

I’ve been floundering when it comes to my purpose lately. Yes, taking care of two beautiful children and our home is a job in and of itself, but I’ve been feeling something missing. Something I do for myself.

I started praying about it.

When intrusive thoughts are a part of your daily existence, I think hearing God’s voice gets a little difficult. So as I was driving one night (without the kids, which is a rarity) I put on Christian music and just asked God for guidance. I knew He had a plan for me, but I could not for the life of me discern what it was.

One thing that came out loud and clear was a command:

“Use My name.”

Thinking about it, I realize that though God is such a large part of my life and my identity, I am remiss when it comes to talking about Him on my blog.

I think because I’m afraid of offending people. We live in a world where we don’t want to offend others, and while I find that to be a good thing, it also keeps me from sharing what I know to be the truth. That my life, my children’s lives, and my saving grace is all in the hands of my Lord and Savior.

So, where do I go from here?

I’m not sure.

I know I’m being called to live my life as an example of faith. Maybe my example is only meant for my immediate family, and not meant for a larger audience. I’m not sure. I do know, however, that:

“no one, after lighting a lamp, puts it away in a cellar nor under a basket, but on the lampstand, so that those who enter may see the light.” -Lk 11:33

So, I guess I’ll end with the following thought: I’m probably going to talk more about God. I do this, not to judge others, but to lift people up. I know that I am as worthy of judgment as anyone else, and it is not my place to condemn. I also know that there is a divine, incontrovertible truth. The last thing I want to do is preach or make someone uncomfortable, but I also know that I cannot be an authentic voice without invoking His name.

Peace be with you,


Life is good.

Yesterday, I had an appointment with the psychiatric nurse practitioner that prescribes my medications. It went really well.

She mentioned how nice it was for her to see someone with OCD for whom treatment was working, because it’s not something she sees often.

I feel so blessed.

Yes, some of the side effects of my medications are a little annoying. I could do without the weight gain that persists in spite of regular workouts and nutrisystem.* I could also do without the way my hormones are screwed up and I could really do without the drowsiness. Getting me out of bed these days requires a LOT of effort.

All in all, though, had you told me six months ago that my biggest problems would be a need for bigger pants and sloth-like movements in the morning, I would have hugged you. Really, I would have.

Six months ago tomorrow, I entered inpatient psychiatric treatment, completely terrified.

I was convinced that I was dangerous.

I was convinced my family was better off without me.

I was convinced that my life, as it was in that moment was not worth living.

I knew I needed a change, but was scared nothing would help.

I became convinced that I wanted to spend the rest of my life in and out of hospitals, safely locked away from the rest of the world.

Today, I am convinced that I am an amazing wife and mother.

I am convinced that my husband and children are damn lucky to have me.

I am convinced that my life is full of meaning and a beautiful, God-given purpose.

I am so thankful. Thankful for all of the brilliant psychiatric professionals who gave me back my life and gave my family the person they loved again. Thankful for my wonderful, devoted, loving family that never wavered in their support. Thankful for a God who loves me and saw me through the most tumultuous time in my life. Thankful for the friends who looked after Luke and my kids, and everyone who kept me in prayer.

When I think of the multitude of people who had my back, I am brought to tears of joy.

When I think of the thousands of tiny ways my life is better now, I want to tell every person I meet.

When I think of all the people out there still struggling with OCD, I want to say it can get better. It did for me. It’s hard to take your life back from this disorder, but if you put in the work and get the right help, you can do it.

Six months ago, I had written myself off.

Today, I am back in charge of my own life.

I am so blessed.

If you or someone you know is struggling with OCD, I strongly recommend contacting the phenomenal professionals at Rogers Memorial Hospital. “Life. Worth. Living” is their motto. That’s exactly what they gave me.

*I have since given up on that diet. 3 months without results is long enough.