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

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

I hope all of you have an amazing Thanksgiving tomorrow, filled with family, friends and happy, full bellies!

From me to you; a few tips…..don’t forget to “bunny” up so you don’t have to wash dishes, make sure you grab some “Thanksgiving Turkey” pants, don’t get your head stuck in a door by being late, any English trifles you encounter may or may not have beef sauteed with peas and onions (beware), and make sure to tell your friends and family that you love them. 🙂

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xoxox

Mary

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

 

My Favorite Books

I’m starting this post with an asterisk.  It’s never good when a post starts with an asterisk, right?  But, I’m starting it that way because although I love to read and learn new things from books, I don’t have a lot of “extra” time and I don’t really dig listening to books on Audible.  I like to have an actual book in my hand to read.

*When I say I don’t have a lot of time, I mean that.  I work over 40 hours a week away from home, have 2 kids, work a side hustle with Rodan & Fields, try to schedule blog posts (I promise I really do), spend time on starting my own personal growth/development journey, have a 10 year old in travel sports, have a very needy (although also very cute) 5 year old in tee ball and try to keep up with a house, a 7 month old puppy and occasionally laundry.  On a good week, I can get a walk or two in on the treadmill.

So, without further ado….my FAVORITE books that I continuously come back to, year after year.

Reshaping It All, by Candace Cameron Bure.  This book is G-O-L-D!  She wrote this book back in 2010 or 2011 I believe, when she was starting to come back into the spotlight, and I’m telling you; it’s relatable, down to earth, HONEST and something every woman and mother needs to read.  It’s no secret that Candace is, and always has been one of my favorite people in the celebrity world.  I love many of her books, but there was something about this one that clicked with me instantly.  I refer to it all the time, 8 years later!  It contains ways to mindfully eat, a handful of very simple recipes, scriptures related to each chapter’s subject and even touches on getting back into a workout routine and getting your mind back to what’s important.  Go get it or download it!

The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin.  I was reading Self Magazine one day in 2011 while eating breakfast (side note: this only happened because we only had 1 kiddo at the time, obviously haha) and saw the suggestion for this book.  At the time, I wanted to read something new and different, and what’s better than a book called with this title?  Right?  I walked myself into Barnes and Noble and bought it a few days later.  We were living with my parents at the time while our home was being built and the only piece of workout equipment they had was a stationary bike.  So I took the book with me every night while I was on the bike.  I was hooked.  What an amazing book!  And, at the same time, my workout went from 30 minutes to 60 minutes because I literally couldn’t put the book down.  The idea that every month Gretchen implemented something that sparked happiness in herself and in others made me happy as well.  The notion that if you just change things up, start some new habits that are good for your soul and change your perspective on every day occurrences was a little mind blowing to me.  It made me think about what my habits were at the time and how I could change them ever so slightly to become a happier person, and/or make someone else happy.  It’s a book I’ll never forget or get rid of.  Every time I even see it in my book collection I think of happy times.

The Frugalista Files, by Natalie McNeal.  I can’t even remember how this book fell into my lap.  Maybe another magazine suggestion?  Maybe my friend suggested it?  Regardless, it was funny, insightful and enlightening!  Ironically, I remember reading this book while watching the Royal Wedding (William and Kate)…so I mean, basically this concept sums up my life, haha.  As I’m reading a book on how to save money and how this amazing woman paid off over 30,000 in debt, I’m watching a million dollar wedding and getting googly eyes over Princess Diana’s massive diamond ring on Kate’s finger.  All joking aside, this book was awesome!  Natalie, the author, is so funny and honest and gives realistic goals and tips for cutting back on expenses, while being a woman in the workplace that still has a great social life.  It was a fun read and would be good for anyone looking to change up some of their financial habits. Check Natalie and her hilariousness out!

Do you guys notice the word habit keeps coming up?  It amazes me, that even in 2011, changing habits was something I was not knowingly gravitating to.  Habits are obviously the HARDEST thing in our lives to change.  You don’t even realize how hard it is to change them until you try to be consistent to make a change.  Now that I’m slowly stepping into the personal growth/development world, I’m realizing how naive I was before, when I THOUGHT I had good habits.  Friends, let me just tell you, I have a looooooong way to go.  Sorry for the side step from the book reviews, but it’s amazing to me that even 8 years ago…personal development was there, under the surface, screaming to be heard.

Girl Wash Your Face, by Rachel Hollis.  If you haven’t heard of this book, you are living under a rock.  If you haven’t read this book, you are missing out.  So listen, sometimes we search for something to grasp when we go through hard times.  I was doing this last spring/summer when panic disorder was ruling my life at the time and my anxiety was spiraling out of control.  I was desperately looking for something and someone to relate to.  I would google anxiety help and all kinds of crazy stuff would come up, I would search and search for books on anxiety and OCD and panic disorder and only clinical type books would come up, no matter how I tried to search.  Then, deep, dark in the rabbit hole I had gone down in, I came across someone recommending this book.  Here’s the thing, this book is NOT a book on how to help anxiety.  I think it was more like a red blinking light sent to me from God that I needed to do a deeper dive into the world of all things Rachel Hollis.  When I did this, I found her podcast called Rise.  I had never listened to a podcast and didn’t even know how to work the podcasts on my iPhone.  I came across her podcast from April of 2018 about how she dealt with her debilitating anxiety.  I felt like the world sat still for just a minute….I had FINALLY found someone I could relate to, someone my age, that was a mom, that had been an event planner, that wanted to work, but had bigger plans no matter the struggle with anxiety and that was honest about her successes and failures.  Are our reasons for anxiety the same?  Somewhat.  But, I took the TOOLS in that podcast and in the book that I found and applied them in my day to day life.  Game-changer.  As I mentioned above, the book is not about how to deal with anxiety, but if you are struggling with anxiety and know the red flags associated, then you will find the tools in the book.

This book is about lies we tell ourselves as women, moms, sisters, daughters, co-workers etc. that we have started to believe.  This book is about ENCOURAGING you to live the life God created you for.  Will it happen overnight?  Heck no….God wants us to work for what we want, ya know.  It’s about using our gifts God blessed us with, to their greatest potential.  It talks about getting out of your own way and not caring so much about what people may think of your goals!  It opened up a lot of doors for me; for example, I felt led to talk about my anxiety struggle and knew so many others around me dealt with similar issues, but I just didn’t know how to display it.  Now I use my blog, yep…this little sucker here, to be completely 100% honest about my anxiety battles.  Do you know what that did?  It, in turn, helped other people, which in turn, helped me feel better, helping others.  Then I thought, as silly as it sounds, I’ve always wanted my own platform, and it’s giving me one…albeit a very small one right now, but it’s something.  It encouraged me to keep going, through the panic, through the OCD, through the anxiety and get my story out there.  I have no idea where all of this will lead, but I know where I would ultimately LIKE for it to lead….anxiety and all.  So, stay tuned and please please please, go get this book and subscribe to the Rise podcast!!!

The 5 Second Rule, by Mel Robbins.  I’ll be honest, this was another find on my quest for all things anxiety help last summer.  I didn’t find out about this book until last fall when I had come across something of Mel’s on You Tube.  I, again, like many times, fell down the rabbit hole of listening to her Ted Talk on the 5 Second Rule, then going on to listen to her give interviews with several personal growth gurus and before I knew it, I was following her on social, subscribed to her You Tube channel, ordering her book and listening to her morning coffee talks.  The book is not all about how to get past anxiety.  It’s about learning how to change your brain’s thoughts.  We can retrain our brain, ya know?  It’s about developing habits and staying consistent and doing them anyway even when you don’t.  You hate working out, welp, 5-4-3-2-1- DO IT ANYWAY.  You can apply this teaching to basically any situation in life.  It takes work.  Don’t let the simple concept fool you…because trust me, I’m still working on it.  I have a long way to go before my brain adjusts to accept different thought.  Here’s something to take away though, Mel is one smart woman.  She is a lawyer and is one of the most sought after speakers in North America.  All of her research is backed by science, generally from Harvard or Yale studies and she is hilarious!  Also, she’s a busy mom with an even busier life that still manages to be present and open to new thoughts and ideas.  And yes, she’s an anxiety sufferer as well, but has self taught her way around it.  It’s a great read guys, you should definitely check it out!

Well, there ya have it!  My top reads!  I really hope you will hit up your local library or Target, or hop on Amazon to give these books some love.  I have several others that I have read that are definitely some awesome reads, so I may include them next time.  As you can see, I’m not a big fiction reader.  I really don’t have an answer for why that is.  Maybe because what little time I can devote to reading, I want to read about ways to make my life the best it can be?  That sounds right.

(Side note: I’m 100% positive that Rachel Hollis’ new book Girl, Stop Apologizing will be on the next list, but I just haven’t finished it yet.)

I hope you all have a great day and if you have read any of these books, drop me a note and let me know what you thought of them!!

xoxox

Mary

Life With OCD in the Winter

Yes, this is similar to this post.  The difference is that this post deals with how winter effects my OCD.  How is that different?  Well, simply put, because more people are sick in the winter.  Since I have contamination OCD, the months of December, January, February and even half of March are brutal for me.

I’m dishing up some honesty today.  I have to say, OCD is harder for me to talk about, because it may seem like I’m not working hard enough or fast enough to work through it.  The problem is that I’ve had it for 6 years and it hit hard and fast, like most anxiety disorders.  I didn’t try therapy until 2015 and it was not the best experience.  Maybe it’s because it was my first experience with therapy, ever?  Maybe it was because my therapist and I just didn’t “mesh well”?  I dont know, but it wasn’t a great experience.  During the 9 months I was seeing her, she told me on several occasions I was too fragile to really work on the OCD.  I mean?  What had I been paying her for, for 9 months, once a week?  Then I didn’t try therapy again until this past summer (and PS, my therapist now ROCKS).  So basically, I’ve had to start from scratch, 6 years in.  So, it’s going to be harder to get over and take more time.

Every week my therapist gives me a teeny tiny task to conquer and take on.  I’m pretty competitive, so this works for me.  But when I say teeny tiny task, I legit mean tiny.

Background:  I work full time away from home, our kids are in 4th grade and Pre-K, and both in sports.  I’m an extrovert.  I’m built to be out socializing….THIS has put a damper on all of that, as you can imagine.

Typically the hardest thing for me is not being able to control my environment.  Obviously anxiety stems from not feeling safe or out of control.  Basically, it’s me in a nutshell, just worse in the winter.

This is how contamination OCD feels in the winter:

If someone is sick at work and I find out, I’ll ask a friend what it is, or how long they have been out etc.  Why?  Because that tells me to stay away from the bathroom, depending on what they have.  Asking anything about anyone’s business makes me feel ridiculous, I won’t lie.  But until I know something, my brain won’t shut off, my heart rate just keeps climbing and I start to go into early phases of panic.  We USED to have an amazing cleaning service at our office.  Now, they have cut our cleaning service down to 3 days a week and the service we have now really really, well, it’s not great at all.  This is not so much an issue I look at in the spring and summer, but is more of an issue in the winter.  Our building is of decent size and typically if someone is sick, there’s enough “room” that I still feel like I can have a little control.  We have 2 bathrooms.  For about 20 people.  Also, we have training in our building that is held several times a month, which brings in another 10-25 people that I feel like I have to worry about, since people tend to come to training sick because they feel like they can’t miss it.

What’s been happening the past couple weeks is that when someone gets sick…I tell myself “it’s OK, it’s probably nothing, just Lysol the bathroom and the printers, copiers etc.”  But once I start hearing the rumors about any type of stomach stuff happening, (stomach issues are my BIGGEST trigger) I just stay in my office, working, not drinking hardly anything until I can go home for lunch to avoid using bathrooms at work.  Extreme?  You bet.  I get it and I know what you’re thinking.  I could be at the mall and use a restroom and not think twice about it and who knows who has used that restroom 50 times before me.  Also, I’m sure I’m probably getting dehydrated, as I’m supposed to be drinking half my weight in water because of the anxiety medicine I take.  So what do I do?  I chug water at lunch and I chug water when I get home.  It’s horrible, I know.  But my brain LITERALLY has a giant red flag with flashing red lights that goes up telling me to steer clear of the work bathroom at all costs.  If we are talking bad colds or sinus infections, I’ll go in there with my wipes and not worry.  Stomach issues….nope.  I’ll do whatever it takes to try to avoid (aka control) the situation.

And let me be clear…it’s NOT work (even though regular cleaning would be a little burden lifter), it’s the OCD rearing it’s ugly head, making me think things are all epic catastrophes when the truth of the matter is that it probably would be OK to use the darn restroom.

Another thing that’s hard for me in the winter?  School for the kids.  I love their schools, teachers and friends dearly, but to me it’s one giant petri dish that I don’t generally worry about until the end of November, when I start seeing and hearing moms talking about the stomach bug invading their households.  Then again usually around Christmas it makes another big comeback….then typically there’s a few weeks after Christmas (probably because kids aren’t at school) when everything is calm again, then mid January it rears it’s ugly head until early March.  I learned early on that school is definitely something I cannot control.  The kids HAVE to go.  But, I do get all kinds of panicked when the kiddos come home saying their best friends went home sick or are sick with stomach issues or the actual flu.  My brain:  wash their coats, make them take showers, Lysol their book bag, ask them if they used the same school supplies or ate after each other… Speaking of questions; I also don’t want to ask them too many questions to get their minds worried.  It’s a fine line because I know some people are more prone to anxiety than others and I do NOT want to see our kids get OCD.

It-is-exhausting.  My brain is so physically and mentally exhausted when something like this happens.  Normal logic is that all kids get sick.  It happens.  Mine have been sick this winter, with some random cold-digestive virus that felt like it lasted an eternity for Brayden. I mean, I get that everyone can get, and is allowed to be sick.  What people have to understand is that my brain sends out panic signals to my body when it is someone close to us, because typically when I find out about it, you might as well list it under “categories you can no longer control since they’ve already been exposed.”  :-/.  Most would say “why worry about it now?  If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen.”  Well, it would be really nice if I could think of things that way, trust me.  Instead I sit and overthink, and text my therapist for validation and text my friends just to get the thoughts out of my brain.  I mean, I’m amazingly fortunate that my friends will listen to me and try to talk me down.  That’s such a blessing.  I’m so thankful for them!!!

In general this time of year I’m just astoundingly aware more than anyone, of what my surroundings consist of.  At the grocery store, I look to see what people in front of me have on the belt….if it’s Gatorade, Sprite, Pedialyte, ginger ale or saltines—I find another lane.  Let’s break this thought process down:  all kids love Gatorade and most of them love Sprite, so why does it bother me?  Brayden drinks Gatorade all the time and it’s OK when I buy it.  But, when someone else does, along with other items like the crackers…I immediately think, stomach virus!  At the gas station, I try to use my hands as little as possible, and use antibacterial wipes afterwords.  At restaurants, I will never drink directly out of a glass.  I have to have a straw.  I also use antibacterial wipes after looking at the menu and I’m aware of everyone sitting close to me (no, not the people I’m dining with, but the table next to us or behind us) .  Are they hacking?  Are they talking about being sick?  Even when I go to my therapist’s office, I always ask her if anyone prior to me had been sick.

Family gatherings and birthday parties in the winter are also really hard for me.  I love my family and our kids’ friends dearly and I always love to see them.  We have some amazing people in our lives.  But my brain doesn’t trust that people will stay home if they are sick, and 99% of the time, it’s never our family or friends having the party, it’s other people that come to the gathering, which obviously I can’t control in any way.  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been at a family function or party of some kind in the winter and good ol’ Debbie (not a real person), a mom of a kiddo who is at the party casually just throws out there that little Jenny (again, just another example) was throwing up all night, but she’s sure glad she woke up “better” this morning so she could come to the party.  Newsflash Debbie.  If your kid was throwing up 10 hours ago, they are still contagious, so thank you for bringing her here to spread it to 15 other kids who can go home and keep the gift that keeps giving alive, because we all know that 4 year olds always wash their hands and never put their fingers up their noses or in their mouths.  Or, another favorite is after your kids have been playing with a group for 2 hours, all on the same equipment by the way, one of the parents slides into the conversation and says “ya, Bobby (again, not a real person) was put on TamiFlu 2 days ago…and it made him so much better!  I’m so glad we could come today, we both needed to get out of the house.”  Are you freaking kidding me?  Your kid just tested positive for the actual flu.  Yea, TamiFlu is going to help with symptoms, but for the love of everything good and pure….why is Bobby here at Sky Zone–and also, thanks for being selfish and thinking only of yourself and how you needed to get out.  None of us had anything else going on the next 2 weeks and our schedules are wide open to be home with sick kids.  (Eye roll)  But the one that wins the most awards and literally makes me fall into an immediate panic attack is being at someone’s home for a gathering and after being there for a while, the host says “I really didn’t think we were going to be able to pull Cindy’s (another example) birthday party off, we’ve all had the stomach flu this week.  It went through the entire house and got every one of us and little Cindy just got over it last night.”  What the actual hell.  You invited 40 people to your house and you’ve all been sick for over a week and thought that was OK?  Listen, I completely get that people are really way too busy these days.  When baseball season starts, we will be living out of our cars as much as we are home, so I get it.  It’s gets worse with multiple kids in sports and activities….I get that too.  But don’t contaminate 40 people because you didn’t want to reschedule to the following weekend because your other kid had a tournament of some kind.  It should be common sense, right?  I mean, you make the best out of the situation.  You do something special at home and give your birthday kiddo his/her presents and whatever else you can do to make their night enjoyable, and you promise them a make up date.  If a make up date cant happen for some reason, then take them out for some one on one time and have a bigger party next year.

Does this sound judge-y?  Maybe.  To me, it’s common sense and being considerate to other people.  If our boys dont feel well, I make it a point to text who ever is hosting the event and tell them what’s going on.  Also, if our kids have a fever or have had any stomach issues….they don’t go anywhere.  At all.  Brock and I both work outside the home, so is it a pain when they have to be home….yes.  But ya know what, we took on the responsibility of having kids……soooooooooo….you do what needs to be done.  My parents are close and watch Mason when he’s not in Pre-K, BUT, if the kids are sick, it’s me that has to take off work 90% of the time, because I really don’t want my parents to get whatever it is that they have.

Anyways, I’m going to hop off that soap box…..but now your eyes are opened up (maybe) to how I feel when I’m at these events/places if they fall during flu season.  As bad as I want to be there celebrating…..as bad as I want to be around my friends at the party, this is what runs through my mind.

You guys have NO idea how badly I want to be the mom who just doesn’t care about what might be around the corner and let the kids go do their thing.  Don’t take it wrong though, our kids get to do what they want for the most part, I’m just leery of these types of things during flu season.

So what’s the “cure”?  How do I “get over” this?  Well for starters, with as much as I’ve put up with over the past 6 years, if you say something to me along the lines of “you’ll be fine”, or “just get over it”, I legit may slap you.  Don’t you think if it was that simple, I would have done it by now?  The real answer here is a combination of things.  Like other types of anxiety, the first line of defense (at least for me) is therapy and anxiety medication.  In my experience, having the tools from a therapist has helped the most, along with getting the right types of medicines for my body.  Not all anxiety medicine is created equal, trust me.  I feel like I’ve tried just about everything to get some relief, and the simple and true fact is that it will take a while to control.  Control is the key word here.  As I’ve mentioned before, anxiety happens when you feel like you can’t control your situation, so, if you can learn how to control your thoughts, body functions and feelings in the particular situation, you can control your anxiety and not let it control you.  Sounds easy enough, right?  Nope!  Our brains are the smartest, yet dumbest organ in our bodies.  I’m not a doctor, so that may be an exaggeration haha.  But, as powerful as the brain is, and as much as it controls in our body everyday and as much as we cannot live without it…..you can retrain your thought processes.

It takes A LOT of time and effort to change a thought pattern, but it can be done.  This is why it’s so important to see a therapist.  They basically can give you a toolbox full of tools to help in certain situations.  Whether that tool is mindfulness (a practice of being present that is a lot harder to grasp than most think), counting backwards, rephrasing the thought, meditation, distracting yourself or a plethora of other tools, it’s good to have a plan of when to use what tool and how to practice getting good at the tool of your choice.  This stuff (for lack of a better word) doesn’t just magically come to someone after trying once.  Meditation takes time to learn.  Mindfulness was one of the key tools in helping me through panic disorder this past summer.  I thought “I’ve got this, it’s a piece of cake, I listen to these videos and learn how to do it and once I know what to do, I’ll whip it out when I feel panicked somewhere.”  I can tell you that did NOT happen that way.  It took me TWO MONTHS to learn how to literally put everything in my brain aside and focus on the speaker and what they were trying to teach.  Like anything else, you have to get good at it and yes, it takes time.  I’ve said it 50 bazillion times….how everything takes time.

That being said, that’s where I’m at.  Better than last year, but definitely not out of the woods.  Actively working on retraining my brain.  Every.  Single.  Day.  I would guess I probably have another year of hard work to get through to learn how to really control the OCD thoughts.  I’m good with that.  Really.  As long as my friends and family closest to me know I may ask weird health questions during flu season, without taking offense, we can all get through this together.  And I mean, there may be a time when these panicked thoughts are completely gone and then all of a sudden 2 years from now come back.  In fact, I’ve heard it happens more often than not.  The difference between now and then is that I’ll be able to use what I’ve learned to completely transform/reshape the situation and think about it differently.

It’s important to me to be brutally honest on this blog.  I want people to empathize with the struggle.  I want people to know that even outgoing, social people like myself can be affected, as badly as they do not want to be affected.  As much as they want to be at events with their friends in January having a blast, they are instead thinking that there may be sick people there and be home upset with themselves, for thinking these things and not going.  I want people to know if you are in the same boat, you aren’t alone.  Lastly, I want people to know it’s something you can get a hold of in due time with hard work.  You will always have an ear ready to listen with me.

Friends, be kind to everyone.  I say it all the time.  You never know what they are walking through.

xoxo

Mary

 

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