Do we really love each other?

So, I’ve been doing pretty well lately. A lot of the harm obsessions have completely subsided and most days, if I didn’t know what to look for, I wouldn’t even notice that I have OCD.

(I do, I know I do. But more days than not, I feel almost neurotypical.)

But, right when one OCDemon gets vanquished, another pops right up into its place. Enter: relationship OCD.

My husband and I started dating in January of 2006. So I’ve already spent over a third of my life with him. We’ve been married since 2009. In the entire time we’ve been together, he has been truly phenomenal. His love and support have been unwavering. His respect and care for me have been constantly and consistently displayed.

Also in that time, I have never come across another person I have wanted to be with more. I am comfortable in our relationship, but I still feel the butterflies. He makes me happy in a way that I didn’t realize was possible, and I couldn’t imagine my life without him.

I have no reason to doubt his love for me. I have no reason to doubt my love for him.

And yet, I do.

OCD is the doubting disease, and it will make you question everything in your life. Especially the things you hold most dear, like the one person you have built your entire life around.

A lot of the obsessions have a recurring theme: adultery and divorce, or a fear that we’re not truly happy and only staying together because we made a commitment before God.

The rational part of my brain knows that the obsessions are categorically false.

But the emotional, anxiety-ridden, disordered part of my brain keeps whispering to me in those quiet moments.

Are you SURE you love each other?”

And of course, I am. Except when I’m not. Stupid OCD.

I’ll be meeting with my therapist on Tuesday, and I will be figuring out some exposures to tackle this, but that’s where I’m at right now.

 

September Update

This post may be incredibly short, as at this moment I am trying to keep tiny (two year old) feet off my keyboard. I felt compelled (not in a compulsive way, I promise…) to write and reclaim this corner of the interwebs.

I admit, I moved away from this blog. I thought I could make a bigger difference somewhere else, and that I could become…I don’t know…useful if I changed my niche. But I’ve realized a few things, and I’ll try to explain them without sounding too full of myself.

1.) My niche here is small, but that doesn’t make it any less important.

In fact, I believe that the OCD community is ridiculously underserved. I’m sorry that I forgot about that, because when I was at my lowest point two years ago, just knowing there was someone else out there who understood would’ve helped me so much. I hope, at some point, that I can do that for someone else.

2.) My journey with OCD is not done. Not by a long shot.

It isn’t something that gets “cured,” and even though I’m not struggling like I once was, my OCD is still a part of me. Even on the days where I am practically asymptomatic, my brain still works differently than someone’s who is neurotypical. I thought I didn’t have much left to say about OCD. The truth is, I don’t think I’ll ever run out of things to say about it. Mostly because it morphs and finds new weaknesses to exploit. As soon as I get the harm thoughts out of my head, the scrupulosity pops up. When I finally have the scrupulosity handled, I’m sure my brain will give me a new way to scare me. It’s always different, and yet always the same. It’s all OCD. All the time.

3.) My voice is most authentic when I am open and honest about my weaknesses.

I started another blog. One where I pretended I had my shit together. But you know what? I don’t. That is incredibly apparent as I finally finish my September update on October fourth. The world doesn’t need another mommy blogger afraid to show her cracks. Here, my cracks are fully on display. Have at them.

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,

Kate

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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. 

Kate