Getting Real with Everyone Today…

Getting real today because it’s been weighing on my heart lately and what type of lifestyle blog would this be if occasionally (ok, like 5% of the time) I didn’t talk about something that wasn’t sunshine and rainbow like.
I’ve debated for almost a year to post about this struggle with OCD. Questions have gone through my mind, like “what will people think?” more specifically, “will people think I’m a wimp?” “Will people think I’m complaining about something ridiculous?” While it’s not ridiculous to me, I assure you that I know plenty of people who don’t believe anxiety can be a “thing”.

So, let me catch you up on my battle with anxiety. 4th grade: I started freaking out that I hadn’t turned in my homework to the homework tray on my teacher’s desk. Every night I would look through my folder to make sure I had everything and I would go over in my head my daily steps to make sure I turned my homework in. I would also sometimes end up at my dad’s bedside in the wee hours of the morning so he could talk me through it and it was then that he taught me a prayer to say, that I still repeat to this day. This anxiety over turning in papers and homework lasted until I graduated college. I never missed a homework assignment, never missed a test, never got a detention and only got in trouble 2 times in my whole academic life and both of those times the teacher ended up apologizing because it ended up not being my fault.

My freshman year of college, I started getting mild panic attacks. Of course, I didn’t really know what they were at the time; I just knew it had something to do with my anxiety. My sophomore year of college I started taking anxiety meds….a very small dose and they made me feel like a walking zombie.

After some trial and error, my dr found one that seemed to keep the panic attacks at bay. I took this medicine up until Brock and I decided to start trying for kids in 2007. My OB at the time suggested that I take another medicine that was proven to be a lot safer to take while pregnant and she suggested that I take it until we were done having kids so I didn’t have to stop taking it, get back on the other med, and then switch again. Up until this point, there were only 2 instances where I had panic attacks/OCD over something and it was because I was extremely stressed out, and I remember having a 2 month period where I would check emails 2 or 3 times instead of once, but I never thought anything of it.

I guess I should let you all know this one family fact, so it makes a little more sense, but my grandpa on my mom’s side has OCD extremely bad. I remember countless times when I needed to use the restroom insanely bad and he would be in there just washing his hands…sometimes for a full hour. When he and my sweet grandma came to my parents house to visit when I was younger, my brother and I dreaded it because we had to share our bathroom with him and we knew if we had friends over, our friends would ask why our grandpa was in the bathroom for hours at a time, washing his hands and going through an entire jumbo bottle of Palmolive dish soap in 4 days. He would also never touch anything without at least 5 paper towels in his hand. Now, I know it’s normal in a public restroom to want to open the door (after you’re done and have washed your hands) with a paper towel because ….its a public restroom, but my grandpa was doing this AT HOME. His own home probably felt like a prison to him. He would open pill bottles with paper towels which usually resulted in them spilling on the floor, and then he would have to call the dr and get a new RX because he wouldn’t use the ones on the floor. These are just a few things I noticed. My mom has more detail about things he used to do before he would eat and a few other things that would do on a daily basis.

Fast forward to the day we brought Brayden home from the hospital. I was waiting outside on Brock to get the car and a nurse was waiting with me. I was telling her I was over the moon happy that Brayden and his cousin were only 8 months apart and would grow up together and that I couldn’t wait to get them together that next week and get pictures of their cuteness. The nurse looked at me and said “you probably should wait until he has his shots to have him around other kids, kids are germ factories and you don’t want your son catching anything before he’s 8 weeks old.” I hadn’t even thought about that. Not once. I had like 30 visitors at the hospital and I was overjoyed to see everyone. So, that immediately started working every wheel in my brain. Most people would have taken the advice with a grain of salt…it was July for crying out loud.

So, I decided to keep him away from other kiddos until he was 8 weeks and had his shots. I wanted to take the nurses advice because it must have been important if she told me. We took him out in public though, just not to play with other kiddos. Other than that, I was a normal first time, over protective, “you have to use hand sanitizer before you hold him” mom. I feel like a ton of moms are like that though, so again….I didn’t think anything else of it.

When I was pregnant with Mason, I used to tell my mom that I was a pro and I wouldn’t be AS concerned about certain things as much as I was with Brayden. I knew more of what to expect, after all. I was completely confident saying those things. In my head, nothing could be more perfect than seeing Brayden be the best big brother ever to his little brother. I had all these perfect images in my head as to what it would look like and I couldn’t wait to see it! Little did I know this was going to be game changer in how I handled things.

I had a scheduled c-section with Mason. That same weekend, things were extra busy because my sister in law got married and we were all supposed to be in the wedding…obviously I couldn’t be, but Brock and Brayden still were. We tried to multi task as well as we could. The boys went to the rehearsal dinner after spending the day at the hospital with me (Mason was born at 8am that Friday morning of the rehearsal dinner). My parents were there with me when my other boys couldn’t be. The next morning my boys were back and stayed with me until they had to be at the church for the wedding, and after the reception, they were back. It was crazy, but everyone managed to fit everything in amidst adding a new member to the family.

When we got home, things were blissful and perfect for all of 7 days. On Mason’s 1 week checkup day, Brayden came downstairs with a horrible cough and had a fever (again, this was July!). We kept them separate on the way to the ped and asked the pediatrician what was going on with Brayden when we there for Mason’s check up. Our pediatrician told it was a nasty virus and told me what I already knew….what I dreaded to hear….what I knew my nerves couldn’t handle hearing. That it was imperative that Mason NOT get a fever of over 100.4 before he was 8 weeks old, otherwise they would have to admit him to the hospital and give him a spinal tap and run a slew of tests on him, even if it was just an ear infection. I panicked. I knew this was true because it happened to my niece and it was so scary for everyone involved. Not to mention, the last thing you want is another hospital bill on top of your larger than life delivery bills. So the pediatrician gave me 2 choices: Brayden could stay upstairs at our house until he was 24 hours free of his fever, or he could stay with my parents for a few days until he was fever free. Of course I chose for him to stay with my parents. I didn’t want to keep him banished away to the second floor of our house, a floor I couldn’t even get to because I wasn’t allowed to climb stairs at that point. I wanted him to try and be calm and happy to spend some time with some of his favorite people and I knew my parents would try and make it special for him. Keep in mind, I had NEVER been away from Brayden —NOT ONE NIGHT, EVER.

The anxiety started immediately….not only was I losing Brayden for several days, but I was losing my only help, my mom, and I had this huge stomach wound I was supposed to be taking care of, and oh yea, a newborn who wasn’t fond of sleep. Brock had to go back to work right after we had Mason, so ya… was just me, the newborn and a recovery from a big surgery. I cried every night that Brayden was away from me. I called him every day, several times a day and after he hung up, I cried some more. The baby hormones exiting my body made my emotions 10 times worse, which obviously didn’t help matters.

Then I couldn’t stop thinking about how everything needed to be disinfected, but yet, I couldn’t go upstairs much at all and I knew I couldn’t clean like normal because of my incision. I was bound and determined to keep Mason healthy and out of the hospital, but at the same time I felt terrible for feeling like I needed to disinfect so much because Brayden couldn’t help that he got sick. The guilt around the entire situation in general was A LOT to handle. During that rough week without Brayden, I knew something wasn’t normal….why did I feel this strong need to disinfect everything…..why did I feel this way stronger than I had during my maternity leave with Brayden, besides the fact that I now had 2 kiddos to keep healthy.

I had a conversation with my dad one evening and he mentioned OCD and reminded me of how bad my grandpa had it. I did a Google search that night and found out there are many different types of OCD. There are the usual suspects like over-checking and organizing (right angles etc), but there is also one that is called “contamination OCD”, where people are extremely afraid they are going to bring a sickness back to someone, or they fear getting sick because more people could get it, world diseases scare them easily, and basically germs in general are enemy #1. After reading description after description about this, I knew this was something that was a possibility. Especially after seeing my grandpa react to it all these years, I knew the signs.

So, I thought I would just deal with it, because after all, the internet must have suggestions on how to deal with it and there were loads of books on it. After only getting worse after about 15 months or so of trying to manage it on my own, and trying with no luck to get into a new family doctor that was more along the lines of a naturalist and tested hormone levels, I finally called one day and begged my OB to see me. I needed to see someone and I thought maybe she could test my hormones and we could start there. Part of anxiety related problems are caused by hormonal imbalance, so I wanted to rule that out first since there was an excellent chance my progesterone was too low, thus causing my anxiety to get worse.

When my OB and I met, she said the OCD was most likely due to my low progesterone that I had before I was even pregnant with Mason, and she put me on a progesterone only BC pill. I was hesitant because I hate taking anything like that because I’ve only had terrible experiences with BC. Next, she changed my anxiety medicine back to what I was taking before we thought about having Brayden, 6 years prior. She told me she was hopeful the BC would increase progesterone and that eventually I could stop taking the anxiety medicine period. With an optimistic pep in my step, I walked out of the office and couldn’t wait to try this.

After about 3 months, I didn’t notice any difference. So I called another general practitioner’s office, this time a DO, to see if she had anything to offer. After my appt, I decided she was just OK, but I went ahead and switched from the GP I had currently been going to, to this new DO doctor. She suggested the same; high progesterone BC, my original anxiety medicine and possibly seeing a therapist to learn cognitive behavioral therapy for the OCD.

Therapy? What? I had never been to therapy…….I wasn’t planning on ever having to need a therapist. At the same time, I wouldn’t ever discredit someone for going to a therapist because I don’t see a problem with them at all and if they can help someone overcome an issue, then I’m all for it. I went home and hit up my friend Google again and tried to learn about this cognitive behavioral therapy. I’m not going to lie, it scared me. It STILL scares me. Basically, in a nutshell, it’s putting yourself in the situation you generally run from or are most afraid of. The concept is that after doing this, or “exposing” yourself to this situation enough, you won’t have the problem anymore. To someone like me, someone who is scared to bring home germs to the kids, someone who tries to avoid any type of stomach bug like the plague, someone who never wants it to be her fault for passing germs on, it’s super scary.

I still feel like some of this is hormones, but I can’t find the right type of doctor in the Indy that is accepting new patients to test me. My OB didn’t want to do another panel since the one in late 2012, and she didn’t want to put me on any type of higher dose of progesterone than the BC pill, because when you start getting into hormone replacement, it can be extremely scary. If I ever decided to try hormone replacement therapy, I would want to see a naturalist and not take the synthetic hormones most OB’s prescribe.

So, what exactly is a day like for someone who has OCD (in my doctor’s words, a “mild case” of OCD)? Well, let me give you some examples of what happens: Go to work, accidentally overhear someone say their kids had been sick all weekend with the stomach bug…..immediately a red flag in my head. Avoidance kicks in (unless I have to work directly with them obviously), and I go to great lengths to use different doors, restrooms, the stairs instead of the elevator etc. Then my anxiety minimizes a bit. Go to lunch, see the people preparing food not wearing gloves or have hands with band aids all over them….another red flag, and I start thinking about just how hungry I really am and if I actually need food. Most of the time, I make myself take the food because honestly I do not have time to prepare a ton of lunches ahead of time at home. Again, the anxiety minimizes. Go home, Brock says he worked with a bunch of sick co-workers….another red flag…immediately I put his clothes from work into the washer and wash them twice, then wash my hands because “just in case”.

However, as crazy as all the above sounds….I’m super social and I don’t let it keep me away or keep me home, because I LOVE being out too much and I honestly enjoy going new places and trying new things.

Things that don’t bother me: my kids being sick….I mean, the stomach stuff I pray Brock is home for, but usually I’m on nurse duty for most everything else, other kids with colds, ear infections etc…..that doesn’t ever bother me, friends of mine with colds, strep, sinus infection etc…doesn’t bother me. Basically the only “common” thing I freak out about is stomach sickness. Other than that, when I see cuts on strangers preparing my food….it freaks me out as well as any situation you hear about involving a local (when I say local, I mean about a 15 mile radius) school having a “breakout” of something like TB or Measles…anything along those lines…that freaks me out. I think the latter would freak anyone out though.

Understand that I don’t want to think about this crap. It frustrates me BEYOND what you could possibly imagine. It’s something I feel like I “have” to do, to prevent something from happening, or protect someone. That’s one of the foundational pieces of any type of anxiety and OCD; the need to feel prepared for any situation and feel like you can be preventative in order to protect those around you and yourself. Also an OCD trait? Needing reassurance. “It will be ok”, “it’s no big deal”, “yes, that’s fine”. I don’t struggle with this aspect around people I know and feel comfortable with, but while I’m figuring someone new out, reassurance may be something that comes into play.

Here’s the silver lining: it could be worse. Much, much worse. I could be like my grandpa and isolate myself more, and spend an hour washing my hands several times a day. It scared me even thinking about that becoming my life, so I decided to give the therapy a shot. I figured it couldn’t hurt and I was praying it would help, because like I have mentioned before, you have no idea how frustrated OCD makes me feel 24-7. I hate it. I want it to leave and never come back.

I’ve been seeing a therapist for about a month now. I’m pretty impatient, so I have to tell myself daily this will take time to fix, several months, maybe even a year. I have to reverse the way I think about situations that normally would scare me. I am just now learning how to slowly ease myself into a scary situation and make myself deal with it and not run the other way. My therapist says that it’s such a vicious cycle; first the anxiety builds and builds (for example, someone being sick) then it reaches a breaking point at the highest level of anxiety (thinking about how I’m going to “protect” myself or my kids from the sickness) then the IDEA for treatment is to power through and “expose” yourself to the danger/scary situation, then the anxiety diffuses and it will pass. After so many times of doing this and “exposing” myself to the situation, the fear goes away. It’s a big, intimidating, scary process for me to even think about, but a person has to start somewhere, right? One step at a time is how I hope to conquer this, since it interferes so much with my day to day life.

I simply decided to write a post on this because right now it’s a struggle that I’m working to correct. As crazy as it sounds, OCD is the same reason I cannot keep following a healthy diet to lose weight. Every time I get to a certain point, I self sabotage myself. Though it’s not an OCD trait, it’s the same concept. Frustration, trying to not sabotage myself, then only having it happen more and a vicious cycle of being determined to lose weight, losing 4 or 5 pounds, then BOOM—hitting a wall of frustration and self sabotage. It honestly feels like I have a wall in my brain that stops me from being the best I can be. My therapist says we are going to touch on this topic as well because it does have a lot to do with trying to conquer situations in my life, like I need to conquer the OCD.

I know this has been an extremely long post and maybe not explained as detailed as it could have been. However, it’s something I’m working on and something I need to “win.” I don’t want sympathy, I just want understanding. And, if anyone else struggles with anxiety, just know you can talk with me, because I get it. We can’t always choose what traits we have, but we can fight them.


  1. Having this type of anxiety is feeling like you are walking in circles and stuck on some weird treadmill. It manifests itself differently for everyone too. It’s good it hasn’t ruined you being social. I can say there was a good year after my first born that we were way too overprotective. The OCD was to keep him clean/ free from germs that did his immune system a disservice for sure. IT’s been easier with my second. However, mine always manifested itself into everything had to be “done” before I could relax. Well, things are never all done on a daily basis especially so it was interfering with time with my husband and kids. The therapist I saw really helped me recognize when the “whirlwind” was starting so I could stop it before I got too far into it.That alone helped a TON. And realizing this cleaning stuff was a mechanism for controlling things that I cannot control. Hormones def. play an issue so I’m glad you addressed that, my anxiety creeps up and OCD tendencies worse during PMS. I know when it’s almost that time when I start mass super cleaning and I have to “check” that at the door before it starts. I HAVE to ask for help from my husband. I cannot tackle it all. I just make a reasonable list of one or two things I’d like done that day (myself and my hubs) and it helps me not think things have to be perfect.
    I purposely toss clean clothes on a chair and leave it there for days ON purpose to just help me deal with seeing it everyday and NOT acting on it. It’s retrained my brain to ACCEPT it.

    Behavioral therapy is NOTHING to be ashamed of. It WORKS and it takes time and practice. AND sometimes even trying a different therapist or two to find someone you click with. You will only gain more wisdom and tools via therapy. If a therapist ever makes you feel bad or unworthy or broken, time to move on. You are not broken or weird, you are Strong and writing this post I think shows how strong you are and that you WILL overcome this OCD.

    A few good things about OCD- you are probably a productive, organized person that really works hard. This are GREAT things. Be proud of that. 🙂

    I think my OCD tendencies make me harder on others- I expect a lot from myself, then I expect a lot from others and that’s not fair sometimes to others. That is something I still really struggle with today that’s a byproduct of OCD. I get a little social anxiety too but I’m a trainer at work so I have to overcome it daily! It’s a good thing to face your fears. I can even talk in front of a small group now without super anxiety so there is something to the face your fears thing!

  2. Keep us posted on this too I’d like to hear how therapy is going. 🙂 I think you can really help others here.

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