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

 

Handling Situations with OCD

The first thing I wanted to talk about is how I deal with contamination OCD in everyday situations.  After all, this was the first anxiety disorder I was diagnosed with that has totally changed the way I think about simple things.  I was going to make the focus of this post of what a “typical” day looks like for someone with contamination OCD, but after writing it, I scrapped it.  Because, to be honest, every day and every situation the day brings is handled different; however, there are definitely some situations that happen frequently that I can write adequately about. So I’m going to write about situations that arise; whether daily, weekly, monthly or yearly and how I handle them, living with contamination OCD.

I’ve accepted the fact that I have OCD.  I’ve accepted that one day it will be much easier for me.  I’ve also accepted it’s a long bumpy road.  I’ve acknowledged I won’t be stuck with this forever, and it will pass one day with hard, continued work.  It’s been 5 years and hasn’t been an easy road at all, but I know it will.

*As a disclaimer, I don’t want anyone to get upset by what I’m about to type here.  The thing about OCD is that it makes you think about situations differently than you normally would.  For example, I may hear a kiddo coughing up a lung in the grocery store or in Target.  My brain immediately goes on a strong defense.  I will change aisles, I won’t go down that aisle again, and I will over think the situation half the day.  “Was I close enough to them to be around the germs?  Did that child cough in my space?  How long do the germs float around actively in the air?  Did they use the same check out lane I did?”  I will do this until I usually find myself just taking a shower.  Then the guilt kicks in, “that poor mom, I hope her kiddo is better soon, I can’t believe I just ran out of that aisle!  I hope that cutie is OK, why do I immediately think of the bad?”  Then the rationalization kicks in.  “Mary, you DO have an immune system.  You will be OK.  Do you know how many people may have been in the store earlier that you didn’t even see, that could have been sicker?”  So, like I said, I hope I don’t offend anyone with how I think through and handle situations.  Trust me when I say this: I NEVER intentionally want to make anyone feel like I’m avoiding them.  NEVER, EVER.  But, rationally, I can see where it does come across like that because in reality, I am avoiding.  My brain is just trying to avoid the SITUATION, not the person, on a personal level.  Please understand that. 

So, let’s get to it, shall we.

First up, I want to talk about work.  Let’s face it, we spend more time at work sometimes than we do at home.  It’s a necessary part of life.  We have to go to work and get our jobs done.  I like my job and as I mentioned in my previous post, I’m immeasurably grateful I’m back in my “home” office, 7 miles from my house.  It has made a world of difference in my anxiety levels there.  But how do I handle every day tasks?  Well, for starters, I use an antibacterial wipe to open the outside door in the morning when I come in.  Then I use hand sanitizer when I get to my desk.  If I have to make copies or fax something, I use a pencil eraser to punch the buttons on the printer.  If I have to bundle a package, I wash my hands afterwards with HOT water.  And speaking of washing my hands, after I wash them in the bathroom, I always use 3 paper towels to open the bathroom door upon leaving.  I never ever use the kitchen, or anything like the fridge or microwave, ice dispenser or water cooler.  Ever.  When I know we are going to have a birthday celebration and may have cake, I bring a plastic silverware set from home.  Actually I have a few in my desk drawer, just in case.  In the circumstance that someone is sick there, I bring a mini bottle of lysol with me to the bathroom and spray down what I know I’ll be touching, or I use a completely different bathroom if it’s available.  I will also use a different printer/copier.  And yes, there are times depending on how bad the sickness is and how many people have it, that I will spray myself with Thieves antibacterial spray when I get back to my office.  I don’t douse myself with it, but I will spray it a few times and walk into it, kinda like putting on perfume.  Bonus: it smells like cinnamon. 🙂

Shopping:  Usually this isn’t a big issue for me.  Most of the time when I’m out and about, I’m not in a store a really long time, especially lately with the panic disorder issue.  I will admit that I do go out  a lot more in spring, summer and fall than in winter.  I avoid going out in the wintertime.  Partially because it’s disgusting outside and bitterly cold, but also because I don’t trust anyone to stay home when they are sick.  People need medicine, groceries and gas when they are sick….so out they go.  I realize that’s normal, but all the more reason for me to order groceries online, use Target 2 day delivery for house items and wear plastic gloves while getting gas.  Anyways, we kinda got off topic there.  I won’t open doors with an antibacterial wipe when I’m out shopping, but after I’m in the store I’ll use a wipe, or Thieves spray, or hand sanitizer if I have it.  If someone is coughing or grabbing their stomach, talking about being sick (if they mention the word sick, I swear my radar picks it up from great distances) or just looks sick, I will literally turn around and leave, or check out early without getting everything I needed…to me, nothing I need is important enough to risk getting sick or bringing a sickness home.  That’s what Amazon is for.  I know what you’re thinking…do I really see people clutching their stomach while I’m at Target or Kroger, or the mall?  The answer is yes.  Now, maybe they just had surgery, or there’s something else going on, but I’m not typically gonna stick around to find out.

Doctor’s Offices:  I mean, could there be anything worse to have to live through when you have contamination OCD?  I schedule all our yearly appointments in the summertime.  All of them!  Physicals, blood work, the kids’ yearly appointments (convenient they both have summer birthdays anyways), dermatologist appointments, dentist appointments, OB appointments and even eye doctor appointments for Brock.  With all of my anxiety, I have a lot of appointments and follow ups with my psychiatrist, therapist and hormone replacement doctor.  Thank goodness they don’t typically see sick patients.  My hormone replacement therapy doctor is a nurse practitioner, so technically she can see sick patients, but most of the time, she doesn’t.  Even so, I try to get everything out of the way before November, if I can, when it comes to seeing her.  Thankfully my doctors, like the psychiatrist and therapist’s offices, aren’t intimidating to me, because like I said, they shouldn’t be seeing sick patients.  And, their offices are not in medical buildings, so there’s no threat of sick patients going to see other doctor’s in the building they practice in.  There usually comes a time when I do unfortunately have to take a sick kiddo to the doctor.  I feel too guilty having Brock or my mom do it, so I will go, but I will have my mom go with me since Brock can’t get off work as easily.  I don’t touch the door handles at all (thank goodness for the handicap buttons that open doors!) and I sign in with my own pen.  I don’t bring my purse in or my phone (less to sanitize later) so basically I cram a pen, hand sanitizer and my insurance card into my pockets.  Honestly, I don’t care what anyone thinks when I’m at the doctor.   In the room, I don’t let the kids touch anything.  They literally sit on the exam table and we just chat about our day until the doctor comes in.  Thankfully, my insurance doesn’t require a co-pay, so when we go to “checkout” after the appointment, I never have to give them anything.  When it comes to myself and going to the doctor….ugh, it has to be BAD before I go.  Last year, late in the fall, I had a killer sinus infection.  My ears hurt so bad I couldn’t lay my head on a pillow and the left side of my face felt like it was going to fall off. (I have a deviated septum and when I get a sinus infection, the left side of my face and left ear suffer the worst…like you really wanted to know that, but now you do.  You’re welcome.  Also, on a side note, I need the sinus surgery.  I’m sure it will go exactly like it did for Jennifer Aniston….and I will magically sleep better, get less sinus infections and be gifted with a slimmer nose.)  So back to the story.  I had to make an appointment and go to the doctor, during what was ramping up to be the worst flu season in history.  I walked into the office and immediately, another person walks in behind me wearing a mask.  I think a part of me died inside.  I didn’t know if they were wearing the mask to avoid giving everyone else their sickness, or they were wearing it to avoid sickness.  Either way, I got up, walked to the furthest corner of the room and prayed I would get called back next and I’m pretty sure I was holding my breath.  It was brutal.  Also, my doctor’s office has a finger device to measure heartbeat.  Listen, the LAST thing I want to do is use devices like this, and the blood pressure cuff, that sick people have used before me.  Sinus infections aren’t contagious, but the flu is.  I left there, went home and took a shower, then sprayed Lysol in my car, and on my purse, because even though it wasn’t in the office with me….I felt like I needed to.   So this is how I handle doctor’s offices.  Ya, I know.  So well, right?

Kids’ activities at school:  Let me be honest.  You can’t control school.  Kids have to go.  I just try not to think about how many times they pick their noses and eat their boogers a day after not washing their hands.  OK now that that’s been said, when Brayden started kindergarten, I was totally the mom that made sure I was at every single event, field trip and picnic.  1st grade was the same.  In 2nd grade I started realizing it was harder and harder for me to play room mom, especially in the winter months.  So, I just decided I would do what I could, which usually meant a fall field trip, Halloween party, spring field trip and then all the events at the end of the school year.  It made me feel horribly awful not being there for his Christmas and Valentine’s day parties.  Like, to the point that I cried one night thinking about it.  But….I – just – couldn’t…..  I remember asking Brayden how his 2nd grade Christmas party went and he said to me that one of the girls he was in a group with didn’t make it to the bathroom before throwing up.  And this, my friends, is why I shy away from winter events!  Last year when he was in 3rd grade I went on the fall field trip and couldn’t help with the Halloween party because of a work commitment.  That was pretty much it until the end of the school year, but of course by that time, my panic disorder had kicked in, so it made it even harder.  I made my mom go with me to his wax museum & speech and skipped field day and the walk-a-thon, which I always looked forward to.  I also try to volunteer for one holiday party at Mason’s school (Pre-K) as well.  Last year I volunteered for the Thanksgiving feast and it was one of the cutest things ever!  But this year….I’m reluctant to volunteer for anything with the onset of this panic disorder in addition to the OCD.  I know I need to make myself though!  I have learned this much, younger kids put more in their mouths, which means they usually get sick more.  Therefore, as extremely adorable as they are and as much as I love to see 3 year olds line up patiently to toss bean bags into pumpkins or pin the star on the manger…I just can’t handle it as much (especially in the winter) as I would love, or as much as I used to be able to!  I’ve made peace with my mom guilt and just do the best I can in these situations.

Sports: This one used to be tougher on me than it is now.  In my mind, the older Brayden gets, the more responsible he becomes and the less he puts dirty/germy things near his mouth, eyes and nose.  Baseball has always been his #1 sport.  Baseball is a spring/summer outdoor sport (thank you, Brayden…thank you!!) so thankfully we haven’t typically had to deal with much sickness on spring sports teams.  But, in typical fashion, if someone is sick…immediately I try to remember the last time Brayden was around them, or ask Brayden if they sat by each other or (gosh, please let this answer always be “no”) if he accidentally drank this kid’s Gatorade instead of his own.  It will bother me for a day or two, then rational thought comes into play.  Then 2 years ago he started playing basketball.  Oh sweet mother a winter sport.  An indoor sport.  A sport where sweaty kids run into each other and all touch the same sweat covered ball.  I mean….it was harder for me.  But, at the same time, if Brayden truly loves something, I’m not going to be the one standing in his way.  Last year he played on a travel team.  It was a wonderful experience for him.  He learned a tremendous amount of skill and I’m forever thankful for his coaches.  For me personally (selfishly), it was hard.  Mainly because it fell right smack dab in the middle of the worst flu season we’ve had in a million billion years.  For the most part, our team stayed pretty healthy–which was comforting.  But it was hard to go to these gyms with TONS of people all crowded around watching the games.  All I could think about when I saw the opposing team was “I don’t know these kids-they don’t go to our schools, what if their parents brought them sick because they wanted to play that bad!”  At the same time, I would also think “I wish I could be the one sitting with all our team’s moms, making new friends.”  But, I kept myself guarded because so many times in the past, I would open up, let that wall down and a day later see where they were sick or had a sick kiddo on social media, which then scared me for letting my guard down for future occurrences.  Sometimes OCD is so isolating.  I LOVE being around people.  I know I’m an outgoing person, but people that don’t really know me well, wouldn’t think that because I always have this “they may be sick, their kids may be sick” wall built so thick around me.  Sorry for all the side notes.  We got through basketball season….successfully haha.  I’d do it all over again because I know how much Brayden enjoyed it.  But, let me just say this…I’m much calmer during baseball season when the weather has broken and the worst of cold and flu season is behind us.

Cookouts and family gatherings/Group events:  Yikes this is a hard one for me.  I should preface this and say I come from a large family and so does Brock.  We’ve had our traditional family gatherings for years and I would be extremely sad if we stopped having them because family is everything.  I would say 2 things make these gatherings hard now.  1–the season they fall under….for example, Easter gatherings are fine…4th of July, Memorial Day…all good!  Thanksgiving and Christmas?  Not so much.  And 2–the type of gathering it is.  Brock and I host Thanksgiving every year and after every one leaves, I Lysol everything–and not because someone was sick, but just because it’s during cold/flu season and there’s 30 + people crammed in our house.  It gives me piece of mind, if you will.  Having large groups of people in our house makes me extremely uncomfortable when there are a lot of younger kids involved.  That’s the sad truth.  I say sad because I HATE that I can’t get comfortable with having all my friends and their kids over.  Brock and I used to live for couples game nights and double dates with our friends before kids, but OCD came into the picture and pretty much ruined it for me now that we are all parents.  I mean, I handle it OK if one couple brings their kids over for game night during the spring or summer.  But, more than that just makes my OCD throw all kinds of red flags.  This is also why we have our boys’ birthday party somewhere other than our home.  There’s nothing that makes boys happier than being outside playing a sport and running around.  So it’s a win win for me, thank goodness.  No big groups at our house, plus our summer birthday boys get to be outside with 20 of their friends playing.  An example of what type of event causes the OCD to rear it’s ugly head would be…anything in the winter with lots of people, and usually anything in the winter involving younger kids.  A winter birthday party, a super bowl party with families, and even some cookouts where I don’t know most of the people going.  Remember at the beginning of this post, I said I was worried people would take this kind of talk personal?  You have to know it’s NOT personal.  It’s not about THE kids, it’s about the fact that I cannot tell you how many gatherings I’ve been to where it casually gets brought up by a mom how little Johnny just got over the flu and little Susie just got over it the night before (this is an example obviously)…and I happen to look over and Mason is playing with little Susie.  I cannot tell you what kind of panic that brings to me.  That’s about the time I make Brock leave because I’m in the corner taking Valium trying to calm myself down and mentally preparing for how I’m going to “sanitize” Mason when we get home…then the car….then wash the clothes he had on separately.  I don’t remember before kids ever going out somewhere or to a cookout and our friends saying “ya, I just got over the flu last night.”  It’s certainly not impossible…it’s just much more likely when you bring a room full of kids into the picture.  I don’t want anyone to get the wrong picture and I’ll probably be explaining this until my fingers fall off, but I LOVE KIDS.  I love my kids’ friends.  My nieces and nephews are THE best!  I want my kids to hang with their friends.  I’m just simply stating that to someone such as myself, with an extreme fear of germs, being in a room full of kids during cold and flu season may be ranked right up there with going to the doctor during cold and flu season.  My brain does NOT handle it well.  It goes straight to the most extreme “what if” situation.  The older Brayden gets, I feel more of an ease about the situation in general.  Maybe that is a false sensation, but we will just let my brain think that to give me a break, OK?  Also, I will say cookouts and birthday parties were a breeze when all our friends were just starting to have kids.  We would have like 5 kids in a room, none of which were old enough to go to school and didn’t even go to a daycare because grandparents watched them.  We would all ohhh and ahhh over their development and sleep patterns and talk about clothes and toys for them. It was so awesome to me.  Then we all started having more kids and I was diagnosed with OCD.  It changed things.  Here are some more examples of events and how I would handle them:  A winter movie night at Mason’s school–not going.  A spring birthday party–sure!  A winter girls night with a handful of my closest friends–yup, totally fine!  The Christmas event the Children’s Museum has every year–not going!  A summer pool party for the kids–totally yes!  A Holiday work event–I’ll go but I will not shake hands with anyone and excuse myself a few times to go wash my hands and never eat anything unless there are forks available.  A trip to Chuck E Cheese at any time of the year—not happening! Haha.  Sorry kids!  An Indian’s game with friends–sure!  A winter birthday party at Sky Zone—for Mason, no.  For Brayden, uhm lets just say I would grit my teeth, say yes, worry about it half the day and make the kids get a bath/shower as soon as they got home.  A late fall cookout–when I know everyone, yes I’ll go.  When 10 people I don’t know bring all their little kids, I panic and don’t want to go.  I think you all kind of get the point here.  The time of year plays a huge part in most of this.

Kids and their friends:  For the most part, this only applies to Brayden since Mason just turned 5 and doesn’t really spend the night with anyone but my parents yet haha.  Over the years I’ve had to let go of some of the control I felt I needed to have over this.  You know why?  Because Brayden loves his friends.  I love that he loves his friends.  You know what else?  I remember how important my friends were to me when I was his age, and how at the age of 10 I never would have understood if my parents told me I couldn’t go because my mom was worried about germs.  This is why I let him go, no matter the panic it puts me through.  This is important to me.  However, just because it’s important to me, doesn’t make it any easier on me.  OCD is OCD.  The symptoms just don’t “go away”.  They’re there.  Period.  All I can do is try to “let go” a little and let be what’s going to be.  I’m very comfortable with Brayden staying the night with one of his best friends, because he also happens to be one of our neighbors and I think of him as a 3rd child.  He means so much to our family and it’s very easy for me to let Brayden go over there whenever he’s invited and to stay the night when invited….even in the winter (Gasp!  I told you this kiddo is like family to us).  When Brayden started staying with other friends, I won’t lie, it made me uncomfortable at first.  Not because I was uncomfortable with the family, because that couldn’t be further from the truth.  We love Brayden’s friends and their families are awesome people.  It was just a “new” experience for me to let him start staying with other friends and I would find myself wondering “I hope he’s being kind, I hope he’s being polite, I hope no one in the house is getting over something, I hope no one literally just got over something the night before…because that’s too soon, Brayden could still catch it.”  Yes friends, that may sound insane to you, but these were my honest thoughts.  Then Brock would say “Mary, they wouldn’t have him over if someone didn’t feel good, it’s OK, let him go be a kid, let him have fun.”  Brock is usually the one to diffuse my panic when it comes to being rational about certain situations.  And my dad, because he has a solution to everything.  Or, he’s just really good at BS’ing, but it’s worked since 4th grade, so I’m not going to question it.  My point is, the more Brayden started staying with other friends, the more comfortable I was with the situation.  But, I don’t think I’ll ever drop him off somewhere and not have the thought pass through my mind that I hope everyone is healthy where he’s going.  It is what it is.

Last but certainly not least……

The one, the only, the good and equally bad.. Social Media:  I think it goes without saying that social media can be our best friend and worst enemy at the same time.  I use social media a lot.  I promote this blog on it, it’s my entire platform for running my Rodan & Fields business.  So it has many upsides!  Plus, I think we all love following friends, family and celebrities for fun.   We all want to see our friends and family succeed, or at least I would hope you do.  Therefore, social media is a great tool.  I can tell my nephew congratulations on his home run, or tell my friends from high school happy anniversary.  I think you see my point.  However, for me…..social media can be detrimental for my OCD.  Along with all the good comes plenty of crap.  Around October usually, the posts start.  Posts of a kiddo laying on a couch or bed, and a caption to follow explaining how he/she has a fever, has been throwing up, has been to the doctor, has strep etc.  We all have seen these.  The normal response is to think “aww, I hope they feel better soon” and to move right along with your day.  Not me.  I see it and immediately think “is this someone in Brayden’s class?  In Mason’s class?  Do they have recess together, eat lunch together?  All irrational thought.  Right?  I mean, I know that!  Unfortunately this is where my brain immediately goes.  Then after I process the information (sometimes it takes longer than normal)—then like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I start to have a normal reaction….they “oh my gosh, I hope their kiddo feels much better soon!!”  You guys, it’s not personal.  I’m just being extremely honest about how the anxiety side of my brain processes these situations.  Also, with social media, in the winter, the more of these “I’m so sick” posts I see, the more I generalize and basically think everyone around me is sick, and that makes me want to stay home and I’m not the type of person to want to stay home.  I go stir crazy.  Finally, with social media, I will see my biggest pet peeve in life become a reality.  I know it doesn’t shock you that my biggest pet peeve in life has to do with sickness.  {Eye roll}  People will post about their kids being sick, then post 4 hours later of their child out and about with other kids, or at an event.  I don’t see it happen only with kids.  I see it with adults just as much.  “I’m so sick, but I have to go to work anyways, I hope I don’t give it to anyone!”  You guys….if you are sick, STAY THE F HOME.  Keep your kids home!  Yes, it’s completely inconvenient when we don’t feel good or our kids don’t feel good, but please, for the love of everything good and pure, think of other people instead of yourself and miss the event, take the day off work, miss the play date, and don’t wander around Target with your child running a 102 temp, just so you can get out of the house.  And parents that send their kids to school dosed up on Tylenol because their day can’t be interrupted?  Oh my word!  You are just contributing to lots more people getting sick and keeping the cycle going.  Listen, I get it.  Life happens.  Not everyone has a job that has built in sick days (though everyone should…let’s get it together America).  Not everyone has back up baby sitters.  Not everyone has family close.  All I ask is this; think of the newborn babies that are at the doctor getting their weekly checkup and can’t be exposed to the flu, or at Target with their moms because the mom needs to buy formula.  Think of the elderly that may only have 1 lung or just had open heart surgery and can’t afford to get sick, but desperately need groceries and don’t have family to bring it to them, think of chemo patients that still would like to continue going to church.  Just think about it.   I’m stepping off my soap box about this now.

Re-reading this post just now, I think this one by far makes me feel more vulnerable than the last one explaining the history of my anxiety.  Plus, I’ve picked my entire face off, so I know just typing about this gets under my skin.  I can’t tell you how to feel about how I handle these situations, because you are entitled to your own feelings, but I will not be ashamed of it.  I literally can’t help for starters, and also, it’s something that has to be worked through.  The thing I try to focus on is that even when situations make me uncomfortable, I try to push through them.  We still host Thanksgiving, we still let Brayden be a kid, he still plays any sport he wants, the kids aren’t home schooled (bless all the teachers out there, for real!) and I still am out and about every day.  I could easily let this get the best of me, but I refuse to live my life like that.  I choose to focus on what I can get through and continue to work on the rest.  This does not rule my life.  Sure, it makes certain circumstances more challenging, but I have faith that it will get better as time passes.  Anxiety is treatable.  This is all treatable, but those of us with anxiety know it doesn’t happen overnight, or even in a month, a year, or 5 years sometimes.  My biggest wish is that everyone would just understand it and know that I mean well and have the best intentions.  However, that’s like the biggest long shot ever.  So therefore, I’ll leave you with this, and I tell myself this every day.  Always remember, someone is always going through something.  Be empathetic.  Just because you may not personally struggle with it doesn’t mean you can’t still be a friend that listens.  It means more than you can imagine!  To everyone.

xoxox

 

“You’ll Always Remember What You Were Doing”

September 11, 2001

“Never Forget”.

Everyone has their own story.  Intermixed with photos from various media of the tragedy, I’m going to let my own words from that day tell mine.  These are excerpts from a journal I kept at the time.  I didn’t know what else to do when I got home from campus that day, but to write it down.

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God Bless everyone who had to live through this in Manhattan that day, families who lost loved ones and those who fight for our country everyday so that this never happens again.

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Here is the Today Show episode I was watching as everything unfolded,  It gives me goosebumps to watch, even 13 years later:

 

 

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