Archive for February, 2011

23 February, 2011

Triggered and Exposed – But Free of Recycling Guilt

Anti-Matter is Going to Destroy the World.

Feels like I’m all about the OCD here lately, but can you blame me? For the past several weeks, preparing for the OCD TEXAS conference has been my life – so much so that I had to go to most of my professors and ask for assignment extensions and patience with my lack of class preparedness. Luckily, I have a really great group of professors who, for the most part, are willing to work around my OCD TEXAS commitments.

Now that the conference is over, my work load has decreased slightly in terms of OCD TEXAS. School, INSPIRE, and Interpersonal Relationships are now the primary focuses of my days, at least for the next couple of weeks, as I try to get caught back up and make it through my midterms heading into Spring Break. I’d love to say that it’s nice to not have OCD consuming my life.

But I can’t.

Maybe it’s the fact that the conference IS over. Perhaps it’s because I’m finally able to stop focusing on making sure everything is going perfectly for everyone else. Maybe it’s just God’s way of making sure I don’t forget how to manage OCD in between conferences. I don’t know. Either way, I feel like I’ve jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire. It’s just one of those weeks with the OCD. And now, I’m having to remind MYSELF of all the things I tell the people who come to me asking for help.

Case in point: Trigger Topics and Exposures

We talked about this at the group session I facilitated on Saturday at the conference. Exposures – the treatment method of choice for OCD. More effective than medication, more time consuming, more emotionally scarring. (But then, is it really a good day without a little emotional scarring?) For the uninformed, exposures are exactly what they sound like. Exposing oneself to triggers until the triggers become less terrifying. In group, the question was raised: Are you proactive or reactive? Do you seek out things that trigger your OCD or do you wait for them to happen and then deal with them?

I am a very reactive person, when it comes to OCD. I wasn’t always – I did the work. But these days, I don’t see much good in seeking out things that are going to make me temporarily miserable. It works for some people, the seeking, but I like my method. I get to enjoy the spaces in between the OCD, and when it comes up, I handle it then. Proactive for me leads to obsessing about my OCD, which I refuse to do. No – I’ll live my life. And I’ll wait for the opportunities to arrive. I’ll wait for the OCD to come up.

The problem with this is that when it DOES come up, it can be nasty. In reactive treatment, there is no preparing. I don’t get to choose what my state of mind is like when something bothers me. I don’t get to decide to deal with it when I have time. Convenience? Ha. Would that I should be so lucky. Most days, with reactive treatment, it is inopportune and a massive pain in the ass.

Which is why I’ve spent the last twenty minutes repeating to myself “anti-matter is going to destroy the world,” even though I should be working diligently on my Russian homework. (Blogging I can do during exposures. Homework, not so much.)

My dear friend Identifies-As-An-Anarchist Molly is a lovely girl. She has a tendency to say things that make me turn around, with a look of confusion on my face, and say, “Did you ACTUALLY just say….” Just a little while ago, for example, Molly said to me, “My friend is thinking of dying her rabbit purple. But she’ll need to bleach it first.”

If that’s not a WTF moment, I don’t know what is.

The problem with this is that Molly also says things like “They’ve discovered anti-matter in England and it may destroy the world in six months.”

For me, that is a trigger topic – something that is likely to stick in my head and repeat itself ad nauseam, until I feel so anxious that I’m compelled to do things like wash, straighten, and multiply so that I can somehow prevent the catastrophe from occurring. Everyone with OCD has these topics. Some of us have more of them than others. Often, they’re what-if questions that get into our brains and spiral out of control. And the more you fight the thoughts, the more insistent they become.

On a good day, I could have ignored Molly. Today, I knew as soon as the words came out of her mouth that they were going to be a problem. I can always tell, because the words hit me squarely in the chest and my first thought is aw hell. I have to make a decision. Do I fight it? Do I do an exposure? Do I try to put off the exposure and let the thoughts run rampant in my head while I struggle through workbook pages of Russian homework?

I know what my preference is.

Put it off as long as possible. Procrastinate. Don’t do the work. This is what the OCD Badger tells me to do, I’m convinced, because he knows that the longer I wait, the harder it will be to get past the thought. I can FUNCTION through the anxiety. So why not wait until I have time to deal with it? Right? Shove the nasty thoughts into the back corner of my brain until they become so insistent that I’m having a conversation with someone completely on autopilot.

It’s true. I’ve had entire conversations without ever engaging, because the OCD in my head has taken over.

But today, I won’t. Today I remind myself that doing the exposure – even if it’s silently – will make things better. It is, after all, what I’d tell anyone else to do.

Anti-matter is going to destroy the world.

I keep repeating that, instead of telling myself that Molly is probably wrong. That nothing will happen. Because negating the thought allows me to play what if. Instead, I have to deal with the possibility. And remind myself that it’s a lifelong journey, this battle with OCD.

On the upside… if anti-matter is going to destroy the world in six months, I guess I don’t really have to feel guilty for throwing out my Mt. Dew bottle earlier  instead of recycling it. At least there’s that.


21 February, 2011

The Conference: OCD TEXAS Rocks Dallas

Well, we survived Dallas. More than survived, I’d have to say – we took Dallas by storm! In the aftermath, I’m taking a mental health day and using it to get caught up on the homework and the sleep that didn’t get done last week. But first, as I wait for a pizza to arrive, I wanted to check in and talk about how AMAZING our conference was.

Friday afternoon, the boyfriend and I headed up to Dallas. (Why yes, I did just say boyfriend. As we quite publicly outed ourselves as a couple this weekend, I now feel like I can share this here. But there will be more on this… it’s a topic that requires its own post.) You’ll remember me writing a post stating that I was pretty much scared to death about everything that might go wrong. Up until the last minute, I was still responding to RSVPs and e-mails, trying to get  a handle on the whole “lunch” situation, and figuring out exactly how the support group section of our conference would go. I was thankful not to have to drive myself, and to have a wingman – because quite honestly, I was going a little nuts.

Did you know that it’s quite possible to obsess madly about an OCD conference?

We were up bright and early on Saturday morning. I slipped into my good suit, grabbed my camera, said a little prayer, refused to wash my hands the 27 times I wanted to wash them…and off we went. After arriving at the hospital where our conference was held, things kicked into high gear. Name tags and buttons to be laid out and pinned on, literature to spread, food to organize, sign-in sheets to manage. Craig and I were immediately sent on a mission to locate chairs in the fourth floor conference room – which would have been an easy task, if there had been a conference room on the fourth floor. (Note to self: In a hospital, there may be multiple fourth floors.)

It was slightly chaotic, with our president realizing that she was speaking and then immediately sitting on the panel of professionals – no break for preparation. And a good reminder to all of us that things don’t have to be perfect.

For those of us involved in this organization who actually have OCD, a little harder than for most. But we do survive.

Still, by the time people started arriving and checking in, everything had been managed. As I looked around, I noticed an inordinate number of handwritten name tags. Everyone who had RSVPed prior to Friday night had a pre-printed name tag, and my tally was at 104 – eight people MORE than the maximum allowed by the fire code. I panicked a little, and had to be reminded that these things always work out one way or another.

And then, the conference started.

Our theme was Treatment Options, and the morning session started with a panel of professionals discussing various types of treatment: In-home, intensive, deep-brain stimulation, out patient, treatment of children and adolescents, phone and internet treatment – Exposure and Response Prevention, of course, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. It didn’t cover everything, but it was a good start to the day. Personally, I loved getting to hear about Deep Brain Stimulation – something I didn’t know much about before. We were lucky to get Seth Disner – a graduate student who’s worked extensively in DBS – to come speak to us.

Lunch – which was NOT a disaster at all – went smoothly. Craig and I stole off to the hospital cafeteria where we had the pleasure of meeting some wonderful people.I believe that we’ll all keep in touch, and develop a network of support – which is ultimately the goal of the conference. Sometimes, I get so wrapped up in making sure things happen for other people that I forget to make things happen for me. And it was truly a joy to be able to sit down and just be part of the fellowship for a bit, instead of feeling solely responsible for making sure that everyone else was happy.

Lisa Buchanan, author of The OCD Hope Book, led off the afternoon session. Lisa is the mother of a 15-year-old son with OCD, and her presentation was truly inspirational. In fact, she gave me some things to think about that I hadn’t considered – something I didn’t think was possible, after a lifetime of living with OCD.

And her son? Kid’s got spunk. He was absolutely impressive. I only wish that I’d had the kind of clarity about my OCD at his age.

Our afternoon panel was made up of 8 people with different kinds of OCD stories – success stories, different kinds of treatment. Lisa’s son sat on this panel, as did both Craig and I, and Judi Lynn Ott – the facilitator of Austin’s local Hoarding support group. I was terrified – of course. It’s not as if I don’t speak about OCD on a pretty regular basis, but the anticipation of doing so scared me. Still, I felt good about what I had to say once I got the microphone in my hand. I felt like I was able to talk about support groups and services for students with disabilities as valid treatment options, and I even collected a few e-mail addresses of people who were interested in getting involved in support groups.

Craig spoke to the benefits of intensive treatment. He offered up the line, “This is my life. It’s my LIFE,” when addressing the issue of how he’d managed the intensive programs. It was something people needed to hear, and they responded to it. And I was so proud. But I’m a bit biased, of course.

It was wonderful to hear from Judi Lynn, and as I’ve already said, Connor Buchanan was inspiring. Mark my words – in the next few years, he’s going to become a force to be reckoned with in OCD Advocacy. Mark Henry of the Dallas OCD Meetup group spoke, and reminded us again how important peer support is. Nora and Terry spoke to their treatment, to how medications can be effective, and to the benefits of finding a good therapist.

I was proud to be a part of such an amazing panel of people, all of whom have come through this fight with OCD – who are still going through it.

We took questions and were able to address some issues from the patient side of things – a well rounded out meeting, I think, starting with the professionals and ending with the patients. And of course, we were able to put out the news about local support, which is so important to all of us.

The meeting ended with the support group sessions, which went smoothly and served to connect people who might not otherwise be connected. I always worry that there won’t be enough time – that I won’t be a good facilitator, despite my experience. I worry that I’ll look foolish. I was lucky to have help this time. From what I’ve been told, the groups for hoarding and children went very well, and I can personally say that the adult group was wonderful. Everyone had the chance to talk, to share strategies, to remind us that we aren’t fighting alone. And we ended with a Progressive Muscle Relaxation exercise that, I believe, made us all want to go home and nap while our brains were oddly quiet.

We were well attended. Official tally was 106, though I’m guessing that some people forgot to check in, and I’m estimating we hit between 110 and 120. The feedback was wonderful, and I truly feel that we were able to help direct some people to getting the help they need and the support they want. We’re already planning for the Houston meeting in June, and if our numbers keep increasing, I expect we’ll easily hit 150 people then.

As we grow, we can only do more and more good. I am honored to be the Vice President of OCD TEXAS – privileged to be a part of a group doing so much for OCD Advocacy in Texas.

I’ve received two e-mails today from people wanting to know about our local support group here in Austin.

And today? I’m exhausted.

We didn’t return home until late Sunday evening, and I find myself with a stack of work to be finished before tomorrow. It will get done. Just as soon as I eat a couple pieces of pizza.



18 February, 2011

En Route to Dallas

At this very moment, I am sitting in a truck that’s headed for Dallas. It’s nearly 5:00 pm, but traffic isn’t too bad yet. Whether or not it stays manageable as we get closer to the city will be seen, but for now, it’s smooth riding.

I’ve been meaning to update here for a week. Life has gone crazy, as I predicted that it would. I’m immensely enjoying everything that I’m doing, of course, but I find myself with hardly enough time to eat or pee, let alone sit down and write a blog. But for me, this is a good thing. As you know, I don’t do idle well.

So, why am I on my way to Dallas, you ask?

Because tomorrow is the first quarter conference for OCD TEXAS, and being the Vice President, I’m kind of required to, you know, show up.

Back when we started putting OCD TEXAS together last August, Irene (the President) and I decided that it would make sense to rotate the locations of the meetings. Of course, she and I put together the last meeting in Austin in October, and it was a raging success. This quarter, it’s Dallas’s turn. After months of planning, I’m headed north to see the fruits of everyone’s labour.

A lot has happened with OCD TEXAS over the past few months. We officially received our affiliate status. Our 501(c)(3) went through. And our numbers? Well, I hit 100 RSVP responses this week. That doesn’t account for the people who will just show up.

And that, my friends, is excellent. It’s amazing to me how far this little organization of ours has come in only six months. I remember so clearly driving to Dallas with Irene to discuss the possibility of forming an affiliate, and being met with only skepticism. I remember sitting in the Cheddar’s with her, deciding that we were going to form an affiliate anyway. And today? We’ve done it.

I’m super pumped for tomorrow, but nervous too, of course. I always am when it comes to things like this. I’ll facilitate a group, sit on a panel, and just try to direct people to where they belong. It doesn’t sound hard, but I know that at an event of this size, everyone is looking to the organizers. And of course, I wonder if they’ll think we did a good job.

In the end, I’m sure that they will think we did.

They haven’t seen the thousand and one crises that I’ve dealt with this week. The fires that we’ve put out. The conversations we’ve had, wondering how to handle lunch for 100 people. Wondering what we’d do when we lost a panel moderator. They haven’t seen the frantic worrying, or the hundreds of e-mails we’ve fielded.

And that’s how it should be.

But I have to admit, the closer I get to Dallas, the more these things pop into my mind. I just wouldn’t be me if they didn’t.

That said, I do owe you an update. Things have, well… exploded… here, in some pretty awesome ways. Marina nominated me for an award that I really must address, because Marina is a ROCKSTAR. And I promise you all, it is coming. Just be patient with me. Every once in awhile, I have to choose sleep over blogging.

And this weekend? Well, I’ll get back to you if I’m still standing at the end of the day tomorrow.


10 February, 2011

Excuse Me?

It’s 9 AM and I’m sitting in Jester, killing the two hours before my first class of the day. I’m here, not because of a deep and abiding love for getting to campus two hours early, but because of parking. My lot fills up by 9:15.

Tell me, please, how a university that has 7000 some odd commuters can possibly think that it’s a good idea to have fewer than 4000 parking spaces available? I don’t get it.

Either way, I started my day on campus like any other day. Hiking through the (currently) cold weather, catching the first bus I could find, and heading here to Jester: Home of the Breakfast Taco. Knowing that I was going to be at this table for two hours, I picked up three potato, egg, and cheese tacos, a Dr. Pepper, and a bottle of chocolate milk. This isn’t unusual for me.

I’m a grazer.

Like a cow.

But prettier, I think.

I got to the cashier – a lovely, older woman, who took one look at my three tacos and smiled knowingly. “Those aren’t all for you, are they?” She asked. I did a double take. “What?” I asked. “Not that it’s any of my business,” she said. “But those aren’t ALL for you?”

Because it’s early, and because it isn’t a brilliant idea to antagonize cashiers (I used to be one), I just shook my head. Told her no. Tossed my apparently ginormous number of tacos in a bag and slinked off to my table in the corner, where no one could see me consuming my weight in Taco. But what I was really thinking was, to steal one of Kelly’s favorite phrases, WHAT THE FRACK?

Why yes, I am eating three tacos. Does your question imply that I’m too little of a girl to consume so many calories, or that I am working my way to a Sophomore Fifteen? Were you trying to ask me if I’m pregnant? Do pregnant women eat three breakfast tacos? Is there some reason that I shouldn’t eat multiple tacos? Taco poisoning?

Should I be worrying about a Willie Wonka-like intervention? And if so, do I get to pick my punishment? Drowning in a river of taco filling? Blowing up into the size and shape of a taco? And will the Oompa Loompas sing at me?

Is it possible that I’m over-thinking this?


But seriously lady. It’s cold and I’m not a morning person. Back the frack off of my breakfast choices.