How COVID-19 Affects Someone with Contamination OCD

Yes, it’s another post that references Coronavirus.  I know it’s annoying since it’s all that we are currently hearing about, but please keep reading.  I promise to have a different perspective.

So many people have asked me recently how I’m handling all of this, knowing I have contamination OCD.  Gosh, I love them.  I love that I’ve created an open space for discussion around the topic by not being ashamed to talk about OCD.

In short.  I don’t even know what the hell to think.  I honestly never thought I would have to live through something like this in my lifetime.  I didn’t see it coming.  I thought it was honestly going to be like the Ebola scare we had in 2014.  It was able to get to a few places, but it was nipped and gone within a few weeks.  I guess that is what I get for being a little naive when it comes to our government, or when it comes to people being smart and proactive.  To be completely honest, BEFORE the scare came to the US, I was taking weekly hypnosis sessions with Tim Shurr at Indy Hypnosis (he’s AMAZING by the way) to conquer my contamination OCD.  I had gotten through 3 weeks before there was a case of COVID-19 confirmed in Indy.  I noticed it was helping me so much to really separate the compulsive thoughts from realistic thought.  I was genuinely feeling so much relief, getting better sleep, working out again and trying to eat less and then BOOM…..Indy has a confirmed case of COVID-19.  Not Northern Indiana, not Southern Indiana….Indianapolis, 15 minutes from our home.  Though, I did hear it was a case on the North side of Indy, so I’ll say 35 minutes from our home.  It shocked me.  I don’t know why it shocked me, but it did.  That was last Friday, March 6th.  That evening a report was on Fox 59’s website that a Hendricks Co woman had all the symptoms and was trying to get tested and no one would test her.  That kinda brought it much closer to home for me and I honestly started to think about what would happen if it ACTUALLY came to Hendricks Co (where we live).  I didn’t even really get the chance to process most of it before Sunday morning there WAS an actual case confirmed, followed by another positive case Sunday night.  These confirmed cases were in a town about 5 miles from our house.  I was SHOCKED and scared and unsure what the heck to do.

Since last Sunday (March 8th), I feel like all freakin’ pandemonium has broken loose in Indiana.  I mean, it could be worse, that’s for sure, but it feels like an extreme amount of information has been thrown at us within 5 days time.  Let me try to paint you a picture of how this feels.

I think you should realize that any type of “outbreak” or “epidemic”, and definitely a “pandemic” is basically someone who has contamination OCD’s WORST NIGHTMARE come true.  It really is.  It is the worst possible scenario we could ever think of.  It’s so scary to us, it doesn’t even register as something that can actually happen.  Let me make something clear, it’s not just the outbreak of this particular virus that is the worst nightmare, it has nothing to do with that (at least for me), it’s the fact that we have a global pandemic virus outbreak that is our worst nightmare. 

I jokingly told my husband about a week ago that if the government truly wanted to keep Coronavirus out of the US, they should have hired about 200 people with contamination OCD to make sure it didn’t happen because we are ALWAYS 10 steps ahead of any type of preparedness or prevention measures that a non OCD person would put in place.  It’s true though.  Part of having contamination OCD is thinking many many steps ahead of the average person and thinking in great detail with extreme caution, of all the little things no everyday person would think about.  Hence, why our brains are constantly in fight or flight mode…which causes all the stress and anxiety.  Our brains DO NOT STOP OR SLOW DOWN.

So, our schools are closed, my company has put several preventative measures in place for large meetings, travel, cleaning and such and I’m going to try to get set up to work from home, which may or may not work out since my company laptop is a few years old and hasn’t been used in a while (it may not be compatible anymore and of course now there is a shortage of new laptops since everyone is trying to work from home).  Our kids haven’t asked many questions to be honest.  Brayden (our 5th grader) is just excited to be out of school, but he doesn’t realize e-learning is still like going to school and will start for him bright and early tomorrow morning (bahahahaha) and our kindergartner Mason hasn’t asked a single thing, mainly because I haven’t talked to him about what is happening in the world right now and aside from what his teacher has talked about in school, I feel like he really doesn’t need to know everything because he wouldn’t understand much anyway.  All he needs to understand right now is to make sure he’s washing his hands for the entire birthday song haha.

Our grocery stores are OUT OF EVERYTHING by the time I can get there for grocery pick up through the week and even Target has gone to rationing out TP and Clorox until about 11 am when they run out completely.  I will add that the past couple weeks whenever I had to place an order for groceries or our normal Target “home items”, I ordered things like children’s Tylenol and a can of Lysol and a package of Clorox wipes, just to have a little inventory in case the shit hit the fan.  Well, I guess I should have ordered more of the Lysol and threw in some TP and hand sanitizer because now it’s all NO WHERE TO BE FOUND.  You know things are bad when you can’t even find it on Amazon.  Again, things I thought I would never witness hearing “the US is out of hand sanitizer, toilet paper, wet ones and Lysol and can’t keep shelves stocked”.  As someone who is a frequent user of alllllll these things, it’s freaking me out.  I use wet ones to open every door I use at work and in public while out shopping.  I use them as soon as I get back in my car when I’m out and about and I use them to wipe the lids of my coffee from Starbucks when the barista with dirty money hands gives me my coffee.  I literally use them for everything.  I use a lot of Lysol this time of year, just for everyday things like spraying the couch down every night (school germs and dirty kids ha), the fridge handles and door knobs and the boys’ backpacks and coats.  I don’t do these things in the summer or even spring, but I do during flu season (which apparently we’ve pushed aside at this point).

In a twist of perspective on this, I want to say that it comforts me that schools, businesses and stores are cleaning more.  The truth of the matter is that I FEEL like they should have been cleaning this much during flu season anyways!  I mean, it would drastically improve student, employee and customer well being if these cleaning measures were just a normal thing from December to March every year.  Just sayin’.

Another plot twist to me is that it’s crazy to see people worrying now about “all the things”, since I’ve been worrying about all the same things for over 7 years, only to be met with little understanding from hardly anyone, lots of eye rolls and sometimes ridicule.  Welcome to the worries and anxieties of normal everyday life for someone with contamination OCD, world.  It sucks. Maybe this will teach some people to understand more and be more empathetic. Kinda funny how when you have to adapt to a certain lifestyle, you suddenly see how difficult it is and how much it changes your every day life.

So here we are.  Sunday, March 15th.  What normally would be a time of happiness with spring finally approaching, baseball season starting, March Madness bets going, kids looking forward to spring break and people gearing up for yard work has turned into everyone staying home, “social distancing”, stalking the kids with the stock carts at the grocery store for toilet paper and living in a state of not knowing what the next day brings.  Every day we pray for the numbers to go down, for this virus to pass quickly, and that our government will make the right decisions.  For someone with the anxiety that contamination OCD creates, it’s so hard to feel like you’ve lost the little control you once had.  You look and find things you can still control, like making sure the kids are ONLY around people you know really well, that you only go to public places when you need groceries or paper products, making sure things are clean in your home, making sure your parents are taken care of, and making sure you are taking all your vitamins and making healthy decisions.

What can we do:

Social distancing is in place for a reason.  It’s not because of the virus being as dangerous as the plague.  It’s to PREVENT IT FROM SPREADING.  All of these closures are to protect us in the long run.  We have to do the sucky thing now for it to get better later….

Cancel your vacations.  Ohhhhh ya, I just went there.  I did.  I get that a ton of people are like all “YOLO” with their lives.  That’s awesome that you live your life that way, but right now this is NOT ABOUT YOU.  As far as I can tell, going somewhere like the Bahamas or Jamaica where there are very few cases and you are FOR SURE healthy and have been for at least 14 days, doesn’t seem to pose a huge risk.  BUT domestic travel needs to stop right now.  Spring break is going to suck this year, but traveling to places like Florida, Texas, New York, California and Colorado needs to be halted for a few weeks. These places have much higher confirmed cases than we have (and that’s without having a lot of access to testing!) and places like Florida and Texas have an extremely large population of elderly; not only elderly, but many elderly with underlying conditions.  Please think about hundreds of thousands of younger people (45 and younger) coming INTO a state for a week of vacation, not knowing if they are carriers or not, staying long enough for exposure, then bringing who knows what back into their home states upon return and leaving who knows in the state they vacationed to.  It’s a hot mess of a situation and no one loves a beach vacation more than me, but this isn’t about me and its not about you either.  It’s about protecting our 70+ seniors, it’s about protecting our cancer patients, our immune suppressed, and for the love of everything its about DOING YOUR PART to social distance so that more people’s lives can be spared as this virus moves along at a steady pace.  You can reschedule your vacation later, I promise.

Stop being greedy….stop buying 200 bottles of hand sanitizer, 60 rolls of toilet paper and 200 cans of Lysol.  Yes, the stores will get more in, but everyone deserves to feel a little prepared right now, not a week from now.  You guys….as I mentioned before, there’s no one more prepared for any situation that involves germs like a person who has contamination OCD and even I only “stocked” up on Clorox wipes (about 6 containers), Lysol (about 5 cans) and medicine for kids.  I didn’t hoard toilet paper or laundry detergent or wet ones (though I probably should have bought more of the wet ones since they are an every day staple for me).  Come on people….again….THINK OF SOMEONE OTHER THAN YOURSELVES…..

Offer to online shop and drop off for the elderly…..need I say more?  These poor people who are still completely capable of living on their own, should NOT be out and about right now.  It may be a struggle for them to accept your help, but they know they should.  Just make it easier on them, we need to protect them.  Be the good.

If you have kids, DO NOT use this time out of school to go to every public place possible.  This is why these public places keep closing, because the goal right now is to STAY HOME as much as possible, minus getting essential items like groceries and medicine.  My husband and I have decided we will allow our kids to OCCASIONALLY see and play with their friends, ONLY if we know their parents extremely well and know they share the same beliefs we do on the subject.  Simply stated, we know what occupations their parents have and know where they have been, haha.  Also something I never thought I would be saying or writing, in case you are keeping track!  Additionally, 95% of their friends live right in our neighborhood, so they aren’t leaving our sight or control much at all.  We will not be going to the movies, we will not be going to the zoo, we will not be going to Sky Zone or even birthday parties.  Praise the Lord above that this virus is not affecting kids as much.  But, that doesn’t mean you should disregard others around you….again, I’ll say it one more time for the people in the back….THIS ISN’T ABOUT YOU!  It’s about preventing ANY AND ALL the spread and protecting those most at risk.

If you’re like me, you’re exhausted at this point from talking about it, hearing about it, seeing it and living it.  I think it’s completely normal for everyone to be mentally exhausted and confused right now.  I’ve been listening to a lot of meditations as I go to bed at night, saying prayers, and journaling.  I also have been trying to get in 30-45 minutes of treadmill time.  I just walk, but it FEELS good to check out for that time and just get the anxiousness out.  When it’s nice out, I spend A LOT of time outside.  The sound of birds and sunshine are sometimes all I need to put a smile on my face.  I’ve also been in frequent contact via email with my therapist and hypnotist.  They know these times are crazy and they are figuring it all out as they go just like the rest of us.  We are all in this together friends.  If anyone needs someone to listen to their concerns or just talk, please know I’m always available.  I’m here to help!

Take care friends, be safe and be conscious of what’s going on around you.

xoxox

Mary

Bringing Myself Out of the Winter Slump

I’ve been in a slump, a funk. Not a sad slump, just a blah slump. Some of this, I think, is because I haven’t really seen my friends since New Year’s! Last year I made several plans with lots of friends and I honestly think that was such a mood booster!! Plus, here comes the broken record that is myself again, but flu season has been worse this year than last, and that’s something that obviously contributes to my daily stress and anxiety.

I don’t know, I just haven’t had any creative juices flowing lately. Can you relate? Too much on my plate everyday, but also not willing to shift things around to help clear ‘said plate’; because I don’t have anything meaty to talk about anyways? Make sense?

Even though I’m in a creative funk, and not as present on social media and this blog right now, I can assure you that I have been busy & giving 100% to therapy and other forms of mindfulness for overcoming my OCD. I have learned so many tools to use in everyday life and feel like occasionally, I should share the love with you all!

So, in the spirit of slumps, I wanted to share 4 tips for pushing forward EVEN THOUGH we may not feel as awesome as we would like or know that we can be.

1. See your friends. I have plans tomorrow night with one of my girlfriends I have known since 4th grade. It’s gonna be good for the soul. Text 5 friends today. See what they are doing. Do a little ‘friend fishing’, if you will. See if you can get something on the calendar!

2. Spend a little time working on artificially creating your own ‘sunshine’. Look up….and smile. Seriously. While you are looking up and smiling, (smiling like your life depended on it, ok…like you have a hanger in your mouth type of smile) I want you to think of a place or memory that makes you really happy, or one that always makes you feel relaxed. Spend about 15 minutes doing this. Then, write down the things that made you happy or feel relaxed and hang them on a mirror, in your office or on your fridge.

3. Try to move. Do you have kids; and do they enjoy dancing like no one is watching? Well, if you do….put those little performers and yourself to work showcasing some epic dance moves. Solo? Try to get OUTSIDE for a walk if the weather cooperates. Even just a few blocks. While walking, take several deep belly breaths, exhaling very slowly.

4. If you are strictly a spring and summer person like me, get a head start on it NOW! I’ve told my friends and family for the past two weekends I’m ‘willing spring into existance’. What I mean by this is that I’m trying to do things now that I would normally do in early spring. This helps me enjoy more outdoor time when the weather gets nicer. For example, this past weekend I cleaned my front porch off, washed down our front door, raked leaves and old moldy mulch out of our flower beds and deep cleaned my car. It felt so great to get these things done, and even greater knowing that when the weather breaks, we only have to add new mulch and add any additional decor we would like to our porch. 😍

I hope you enjoyed these suggestions and can weave them into your own schedules. This time of year is harder for me with gray skies, rain and snow. I’ve learned I kind of have to create my own kind of happy, so to speak. Oh and speaking of happy and all things sunshine, remember to take plenty of vitamin D3. 😉

Have a wonderful week and productive weekend ahead!!

Xoxo

Mary

Why Being an Advocate for Anxiety is So Important To Me

Hey friends!  Welcome back!  I truly hope everyone had a great Christmas!

Today, I wanted to talk a little bit about why it’s so important to me, to continue to tell and share my story about anxiety/OCD/panic disorder.  The obvious reason is that it helps others and helps me continue to push through my own anxiety when I consider the fact that I’ve talked to so many people and pointed so many in the right direction for help.

I wholeheartedly believe that one of the reasons God put me on this Earth was to be an advocate for anxiety.  The ginormous silver lining to the fact that I’ve struggled with anxiety since 4th grade, which then turned into panic disorder and OCD, is to be able to get up in front of anyone and tell my story, to help others.  It’s truly a gift.  It really is.

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When I was diagnosed with panic disorder, in the spring time of 2018, I was feverishly searching for someone else who had been through the same situations, someone else who got through it, and had tips and tricks or….just SOMETHING.  I googled, and I googled until I think I killed Google.  I searched for books that had some kind of similarity to what I was going through, asked my therapist for book ideas, searched Netflix for documentaries.  I literally turned up with nothing, which just made me feel so much worse and singled out.  I just wanted to find SOMEONE to relate to, read someone else’s story.

Most anxiety or PTSD situations start out by having some kind of trauma.  I didn’t have that.  I had a great childhood, a wonderful family, a great marriage and perfect kids.  I’m so thankful I didn’t have the trauma, but it always irritated me, because I would ask myself “why me, then  why all the anxiety disorders with no troubled past like the books and therapists say???”  Well the best answer I can come up with is “because it did, now get off your ass and help other people!”

My hope is that I can be “that person” that I was looking to relate to, 2 years ago when all this was happening to me, for others, if that makes sense.  I’ve been down several roads of anxiety disorders and come out on the other side victorious when it comes to panic disorder and general anxiety.  I’m not going to lie and say I’ve beat OCD, because I have not, and I’ve definitely still got a long road in front of me on the “stomach issue” part of my contamination OCD, BUT I will say that certain parts of my OCD have gotten better over the past year.  But, like with any anxiety disorder, it can come and go and OCD is generally a harder one to completely conquer since your brain is fighting itself.  That being said, I feel that sharing my obstacles and feelings regarding OCD can also be helpful to anyone else experiencing it.

I’ve said it before, but I’ve always been a story teller.  I’ve always wanted to write a book, about my life, and I would love nothing more than to be followed around by cameras most days of my life–haha!  So, if I can use whatever platform I have (though it may be small), to help other people through their anxiety struggles, I want to do it.  I want to be that person.  I want to be an ear for your irrational thoughts, because I’ve probably had them, I want to be the person to try and put your mind at ease and let you know that it’s not uncommon and so many more people have the same thoughts and same worries as you do!

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Just know, no one goes through (or should have to) go through any type of anxiety alone or feel isolated.  It’s such a common aspect of daily life now and it should be talked about.  Talking helps people work through it.  I’ve learned this time and time over, so now I’m reaching out….my ears are open and so is my heart.  If you don’t feel like you can talk to a professional or just aren’t ready to take that step yet, just know you will always have someone (me) to listen and offer some support.

I hope everyone has a wonderful New Years and that your 2020 starts off blissfully and stress free 🙂

xoxox

 

Five Quick but Extremely Therapeutic Ways to Battle OCD

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Hi friends!

Now that we have discussed what OCD is, what types are out in the world and how diagnosis usually works; I wanted to give my 5 best, most helpful, tips on overcoming an intrusive thought spurred on by the OCD.

These are tips I’ve picked up in my years of therapy and through the many books and documentaries I’ve read and watched.  I truly hope they help.

1. Be present.  When an intrusive thought “attacks”, try to take yourself out of the situation mentally.  Be mindful of every single detail of your surroundings and try to focus on this.  What’s the air like?  Is it a pretty day?  What color is that tree?  I wonder when that field will be harvested (sorry, Indiana girl here).  Force yourself to take that thought, pick it up, and move it aside.  Sit with it, be ok with it, and move it aside by thinking grounding thoughts.

2. Breathe.  It sounds ridiculously simple, but it’s life changing.  Breathing calms the body down like nothing else can.  Focus on your breath.  Breathe in through your nose for a count of 5, release through your mouth for a count of 5.  Do this about 10 times to regain control of your emotions and thoughts.

3. Pray.  I’m Christian, so this is one I use a lot.  However you choose to be spiritual and practice that; bring those tools to the table for this one.  Pray for relief and understanding, pray for a sense of calm and confidence. Don’t repeat the same prayer, try to keep it simple, to the point and mindful.

4. Write the fear down.  Do a “brain dump” of all the feelings you have at that very moment.  Why does that thought make you feel that way?  What brought the thought on?  How do you see yourself getting out of the situation or putting the thought aside.  Treat the thought like it’s a person if that helps.  Give it a name.  It may sound silly, but our brains acknowledgement a feeling better when it’s given a name.  What do you think you have to do, step by step, to defeat this feeling/person/thought?

5. Ground yourself with gratitude.  No really, it works in a moment of fear like nothing else.  When you feel the intrusive thoughts boiling to the surface, stop them by looking around you and seeing the things you are grateful for.  Are you alive and healthy?  Are you at work, out with friends, driving your own car?  Do you have kids?  Can you afford the privilege of college?  Do you have an animal you love? Close friendships?  Supportive people in your life?  Think of them, think of all of it.

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xoxox

Mary

 

OCD Awareness Week :Diagnosing OCD

Happy Friday, compadres!

Today I wanted to share a little about how OCD is typically diagnosed (in my experience) and what to push for when you see a doctor.

  1.  I initially diagnosed myself.  Yep.  How scary is that?  I was on maternity leave with Mason and googled my symptoms/thoughts.  I had an advantage I guess, if you want to call it that, because my grandpa had contamination OCD, so I had been around it my entire life.  My dad mentioned to me one night that I was showing some of the same symptoms and suggested I google it.  SPOT ON.  I immediately made a doctor’s appointment with my General Physician, and also planned to talk to my OB at my 8 week follow up appointment.  At both of my appointments with both doctors, they wanted to talk maybe 5 minutes about it, grouped it in the general anxiety classification and wanted to give me random anxiety medicines (I was already on one) and change what I was on. A few months later, I was officially diagnosed with contamination OCD and general anxiety by 2 other doctors.
  2. PUSH for understanding!   I knew I needed to speak to someone who specialized in anxiety disorders, so I was given information about a psychiatrist.  After our initial appointment, I had a plan that was tangible and we discussed medicines and other forms of therapy to tackle the intrusive thoughts.  Take Away:  Friends, as much as you love your everyday doctors, when it comes to anxiety disorders…you need to speak to someone who SPECIALIZES in anxiety disorders.  So many people have anxiety now that doctors are a bit blind when it comes to a specific type of anxiety disorder.
  3. Find a therapist. Like, a REAL psychologist or counselor that has actual degrees in psychology and is specially trained in treating anxiety disorders. I hate to belittle anything because ‘hashtag you do you’, but a social worker who specializes in couples therapy or general therapy isn’t going to do you much good. I was completely clueless the first time I had to look for a therapist! I knew nothing! I spent a lot of time on psychologytoday.com (not an ad) and a lot of time talking to friends that had a great relationship with their therapists. Unfortunately finding the right fit usually isn’t an easy task or usually correct the first time.  OCD is very tricky and can be harder to work through because of the hold the brain has on intrusive thoughts, so please be sure whoever you go to see has a lot of experience treating OCD and other severe anxiety disorders.
  4. If the doctor you see (unless they are a psychiatrist, of course) suggests medication and you choose to take it, do your own research before committing. Every person is different and our bodies metabolize medicines at different speeds. For example, I had NO idea my body metabolized pain medicine at warp speed and that my brain literally had receptor blocks to several of the most popular anxiety medications. My psychiatrist had me do genetic testing to see which medication would work best for me. I was soooooo thankful he had requested I take the genetic test! It helped him decide what anxiety medication would work best for me long term.  So please, please, please do some research and ask a lot of questions before committing to a medication.
  5. Finally, if you have been diagnosed with OCD of some kind, please know, as I am proof, it does get better, but understand it will take time and work.  My contamination OCD is pretty severe at times, but after 5 years of work, 2 therapists, multiple doctor’s appointments, multiple doctors, multiple types of therapies and a psychiatrist later, I finally feel like I have the appropriate combination for kicking it’s ass.  I finally have an amazing therapist who continues to educate herself on anxiety disorders and also teaches at a local college on the topic, I finally have a plan for medications and have found one that works for me, and I’ve put in major work through personal development, mindfulness, commitment to myself and confidence that has put me on a road to recovery (hopefully forever!).

you are not broken

Please, if you feel like you have OCD, please, please, please reach out to someone….even reach out to me!  No one needs to suffer through the thoughts.  There is help available, and I will help guide you in the right direction as well as I can.

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xoxox

Mary

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