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.

 

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.

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.

#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 

Asymptomatic

Today was one of those days that was so good I wondered if maybe my OCD diagnosis wasn’t real. Like maybe I just exaggerated my symptoms and I’m really neurotypical. That’s how good today was.

I mean, I know my diagnosis is real. BELIEVE me. Some very brilliant mental health professionals established that and reading the DSM makes that beyond apparent.

“Recurrent and persistent thoughts…that are experienced at some time during the disturbance, as intrusive and unwanted, and that in most individuals cause marked anxiety or distress.”

CHECK.

“The individual attempts to ignore or suppress such thoughts…or to neutralize them with some other thought or action…”

CHECK.

“Repetitive behaviors (e.g. hand washing, ordering, checking) or mental acts (e.g. praying, counting, repeating words silently) that the individual feels driven to perform in response to an obsession…”

Oh my goodness, CHECK.

“The behaviors or mental acts are aimed at preventing or reducing anxiety or distress, or preventing some dreaded event or situation; however, these behaviors or mental acts are not connected in a realistic way with what they are designed to neutralize or prevent, or are clearly excessive.”

Yes. Yes. Yes. Check.

I could go on, but I think you get the point…

Today, however, I was, for all intents and purposes, asymptomatic.

No compulsions. No intrusive thoughts.

It was wonderful.

I know better than to think I am cured. There’s no cure for OCD.

I know I need to keep up with my exposures and continue taking my medication as prescribed. I know that the hard work we’ve put in and the right combination of meds are what is responsible for this amazing, relaxing, obsession-free day. I’m not silly enough to think I can just stop working now.

Right now, I’m just enjoying it. My next obsession is surely waiting in the wings, but this respite, however brief, has been lovely and has given me the motivation I need to stay the course. If I could feel like this more often, my life would be pretty darn swell.

(Of course, even with the OCD, I’m still pretty blessed…)

Fellow battlers, I wish you a day like mine. It’s amazing, and you deserve it.

Obsessions about safety.

So, we’ve been very fortunate that my husband hasn’t had to travel much at all since our daughter was born. That’s about to change.

He’s going to be hitting the road (or the air, if we’re being accurate) more frequently in the coming months and I have really been struggling with how far is too far when it comes to our home and safety.

We live in one of the safest communities in the entire country. (Literally. I’ve looked up crime statistics.)

We have a dog.

We have a deadbolt and a chain on the door.

I have my trusty softball bat.

I’m still insisting upon a security system.

Actually, what I really want is a German Shepherd that’s trained to take down armed intruders (Yes, they do exist) but I’m settling for the security system.

…with motion detectors.

…and a panic button.

You see, the thought, the obsession that arises whenever I think about my husband traveling is this:

I can run with one kid. I can’t run with two. Someone’s going to break in and I’m going to have to decide who to save. I’m going to have to choose between my babies.

I know this is OCD being mean again.

I want to challenge the thought.

I want to tell the disorder to shove it.

I can’t. Not tonight. OCD wins this round.

I’ll try again tomorrow.

 

How do you find the line between being proactive about safety and excessive worry or hypervigilance?

Expanding the circle…

Tonight, I’m feeling really jittery.

I’m so excited to join the team at MKE Moms Blog, but my facebook page was immediately flooded with friend requests from other contributors.

You see, I’m neurotic when it comes to social media.

Facebook is the only place where I post my children’s real names and photos of their faces.

Before this sudden explosion, I had 124 facebook friends.

36 of those people are related to me.

2 are my children’s godparents.

29 are friends that were close enough to merit an invitation to our wedding.

5 are the spouses of people who were at our wedding.

5 are our neighbors.

12 are moms from my church group.

1 is our parish priest.

Basically, what I’m saying is if you don’t receive a Christmas card from us, you and I are not Facebook friends.

In the past 24 hours, I’ve added ten people to my friends list.

TEN people.

Ten people I’ve never met before.

I’m obsessing. I don’t know these women and the unknown—even in very friendly human form—is scary. Instead of letting me enjoy the possibility of new friends, OCD keeps telling me that I have made myself and my children vulnerable to ten women who I have never met. Horror scenarios fill my brain. Panic ensues.

OCD is mean.

 

**side note: to members of the team, really, it’s not you. My rational brain knows you’re not a threat. My OCD brain can make ANYTHING scary. I look forward to meeting you soon!

To my daughter as she turns six months old…

My darling girl,

I can’t believe you’re six months old.

I don’t mean this in the “oh, time travels so fast” way that I certainly will default to for every milestone of the rest of your life. I mean in the “I cannot believe we made it to six months” way.

You see, I spent the first few months of your life in complete terror.

I was convinced something was going to happen to you. I was terrified it would be all my fault. I had thoughts of all of the terrible things that could happen to you and became so paralyzed I couldn’t even hold you.

I was convinced you were going to die.

Everyone says that the newborn time goes by far too quickly, and that you should cherish it. Me, I prayed that it would end quickly because that would mean that you survived it. That we survived it. That I got you to a point where things were a little less scary.

There were times I thought we’d never make it. Times I thought seriously about running away from you and our family, convinced you would be safer without me around.

That’s what OCD did to me. It robbed me of the joy I wish I could have felt in those first couple of months.

But we did it, you and me. We got through.

You’re getting stronger and showing more of your personality each and every day.

You light up for me. That smile is like a sudden jolt of sunshine.

You nestle up in my arms and I know that you feel safe with me. Finally, I’m convinced that you are.

You had so much faith in me. You trusted me so completely, even when I was too terrified to trust myself. I promise to earn that trust each and every day.

Thank you so much for letting me be your mommy.

I love you more than words can say.

Love,

Mom

To the person waiting for my parking spot…

Dear person in the parking lot today,

Believe me, I saw you as I walked out of the gym. I know you saw me, because you started doing the creep along behind me as I walked to my space.

Did you happen to see the diaper bag slung over one shoulder and the gym bag over the other? The almost two-and-a-half year old hand in my left hand and the infant carrier nestled in the crook of my right arm?

I must have looked like a hot mess. A camel without the hump. Harried and hurried as I made my way through the drizzle.

Did you see me place the infant seat on the ground and drop both bags into a puddle as I tried to get my toddler safely into his seat?

Did you know that he likes to wander and run so I have to buckle him in to ensure his safety before I can do anything else? Did you know I was moving as fast as I possibly could have in an attempt to assuage the guilt I felt about letting my five-month-old sit in the cold?

I don’t know if you knew this, If you did, I don’t know that you cared, because as my back was turned to you, you honked.

I don’t know what you had going on in that moment. Maybe you were late for a class. Maybe you were meeting someone. Maybe someone had already been unkind to you this morning.

What I do know is that you honking only slowed me down.

Why?

Not because I’m vindictive–though there are times where I certainly have been–but because I have OCD and one of the things I’m obsessed with is my children’s safety.

When I say obsessed, I mean in the clinical sense.

I am so obsessed with their safety that I have, in fact, pulled off the road, gotten out, and re-checked car seats that they were strapped into only minutes before.

While I’m getting better at only checking them once, putting them into their car seats still causes me a fair amount of anxiety, because properly buckling them into their seats may be the difference between life and death. It doesn’t matter that it’s unlikely I’ll get into an accident, it doesn’t matter that I’ve safely buckled them and gotten them to our destination hundreds of times before. I am still nervous.

So please, in the future, be patient with me. I promise not to start going through my emails while you wait.

Love,

Kate

In sickness and in health…

Today, my husband and I celebrate 10 years as a couple.

…and he’s so sick that we canceled our date tonight. I started out by feeling incredibly disappointed, but seeing him through this very minor illness has caused me to reflect on the ways in which he has seen me through my own illness over the past months.

There’s never a convenient time to be sick, and there’s never a convenient time for someone you love to be sick. When someone you love is dealing with a mental illness, it can often take over their entire life, and yours as well. I know that’s what happened when I was hospitalized recently.

My wonderful husband had his entire world thrown for a loop.

He had to start working from home and relying on our parents to help with the kids. He had to look after our two very young children–filling the roles of both parents–while still working his full-time job.

He had to give me time to work through my OCD and live away from home, all the while working tirelessly to keep the life we built together from falling apart at the seams.

He truly was my rock and the only form of stability our children had for those two long, terrible months.

I cannot ever properly express the gratitude I feel to have such an amazing partner in my corner.

And the most amazing thing of all?

He expects nothing in return.

As a result, I worry that he is neglecting to take care of himself. He tells me he’s fine. His strength amazes me. People tell me I am strong, but I wouldn’t be half as strong without him there to hold me up when I am weak. I feel so protected.

More than anything, however, I feel awed by the way he has lived out our marriage vows each day. Had you told me 10 years ago that I would be loved so deeply, I wouldn’t have believed you. I wouldn’t have believed that someone like me, someone whose brain loves to hate her could actually be with someone who enables her to love herself.

All he wants is me. Me happy, me healthy, me back at my best, sure, but me. I am enough. Through all of the mess and the difficulty that comes with loving someone with OCD, my husband has never complained and never asked for anything more than me.

I don’t know what I did to deserve this wonderful man. I don’t know if I did anything. I’m fairly convinced that he is simply a gift from God. A wonderful gift that I never could have deserved but that was freely given that I might experience God’s love.

I am so blessed. So thankful. So loved.

I am so much better for having been loved by you, darling. Thank you for this beautiful life.