Saturday, October 5, 2013

It's On #1: Making a List and Checking it Twice (no OCD reference intended)

This is the list I created when I started therapy. My therapist asked me to create a list of all the compulsions I have, especially having to do with checking and doing things multiple times. These are things I would do, even when checking was unwarranted, except to calm my anxiety and the loop in my OCD brain. Some of these things I avoided too. For example, I felt anxious if I had to touch something in the bathroom if I thought it was "dirty." So I tried to do what I had to in the morning to get ready and get out of there. For some reason, my bathroom caused me a lot of anxiety :/ My therapist asked me to then label each item from 1-10 (10 being the highest score). The score showed how much anxiety each item caused me. 

The back of my list had 4 other items: 1) leaving something in the oven and walking out of the house--to take the dogs outside (5), 2) leaving something on the stove cooking while I left the house--to take the dogs outside (8), 3) touching things in my bathroom when I thought it was not "clean enough" (10), and 4) dust and dirt around my house and cleaning it (6). 

From the beginning, I was completely on board with knocking these items off my list. I started with exposure therapies; I was working continuously to overcome these compulsions. The hardest thing was definitely the bathroom, leaving lights on while I was gone for the day (only lamps on tables that were plugged in, and touching raw meat and feeling the need to continuously wash my hands. 

One of my first exposures was to leave things plugged in. There was one specific light that I was worried about. It has paper lanterns as shades.  It's in my living room. My OCD tells me, "If you leave that light plugged in, electricity will somehow get through it and it could magically turn on. Or there could be some sort of spark. If those lanterns get too hot, they could catch on fire! They are made of paper!!" I mean, really OCD! The goal for this lamp was just to leave it plugged in. I can't remember the last time I unplugged it. It has to be over a year-and-a-half ago. Maybe more?

The paper lantern light in the background to the left.
Me, Mom, and Rachael at Thanksgiving 2010 at my house.
Another issue I had with lights was leaving them turned on. It didn't count with the lights in the ceiling, like the one in our ceiling fan or the one attached to the ceiling in our bedroom. Those didn't bother me. It was table lamps. I didn't have to unplug them, but I couldn't leave them turned on for extended periods of time, especially if I left the house. I started small, like leaving it on all day on the weekend while I was home. Then I left it on over night. Then I'd leave it on while I was gone all day and sometimes all night too! I did good with this one. If I accidentally leave a light on, I don't even realize it anymore!

Caught sleeping with the puppies. (Notice they are not sleeping. This is what Thor does half the time he's with me. He stares. It's kinda weird.)
The light (behind me) that I couldn't leave ON. As you can see, I was practicing leaving in ON here.
I have to say, I am very proud of myself for working on all these once I started therapy. I no longer have these compulsions and fears or worries of things happening because of my "OCD brain" and the loop that it plays in my head. Every once and awhile, a compulsive thought will come into my head that will tell me, "Check the stove knobs! They may not be turned off all the way!" But I know this is just my head playing tricks with me, and I can walk away. 

My exposure therapy for the bathroom was the most challenging, the one I avoided, and took the longest to get over. I had to go in and touch everything that I deemed "dirty" and then  go on with daily activities without washing my hands. That was seriously the hardest! I would touch the little speck of dirt yelling at me from the floor, the little spot of toothpaste starring at me on the counter, and lastly, run my hands over the tops of many of the surfaces. 

After walking out of the bathroom, I wanted to wash my entire body! I wanted to wipe my hands, at least, but I knew I couldn't. I used strategies to calm myself down--sometimes I had to call my sister. She always makes me feel better. But I got through it, and now, I don't give the "dirt" in my bathroom a second thought. 

After achieving so many goals on my list at the start of my therapy, I decided to make new lists: goals of things that I want to do for fun! I have been stressing less and doing more fun things lately, so here is my list to continue to find my everyday happy:

My Happy List

1. Visit the Contemporary Art Center to actually see the museum!

2. Take Bjorn hat shopping at Batsaks downtown for a new hat!

3. Practice taking pictures with my new camera
(Washington Park, Eden Park, city views)

4. Go to Wine Tasting with Rachie and Bjorn

5. Take Rufus, my dog, on more walks--carry Thor (my chihuahua--not a big walker)

6. Finish decorating and organizing my upstairs loft

7. Try a new restaurant in Over the Rhine

8. Do something fun for our 3rd wedding anniversary!

9. Take time to enjoy the little things

10. Read more

11. Keep writing (poems, my book, blogging)

12. Keep enjoying my students

13. Figure out a new plan for my migraines

14. Do a craft

15. Start my art journal

16. Try a new recipe every week + use my crockpot at least once!!

17. Bake more

18. Hang up all the artwork I haven't "gotten around to yet"

I know this seems like a crazy, long list, but I don't plan on doing all these things overnight. I don't even plan on doing them in the next month. I plan on it being a "work in progress." I thought I could check-in every month and give an update to see how it's going. Once I finish some of these items, I'll add some new ones. 

I've already started some of these--I've been baking more (I used to bake ALL the time!), but lately I haven't been. I get overwhelmed easily on big projects because of my OCD when it comes to organizing and such, so I am finally going to FINISH setting up my little loft so that Bjorn and I can enjoy it! It's half done already. I also just bought some final bookshelves and knickknacks antiquing to decorate, so I'm on my way! That's probably my biggest project on the list! 

I'll let you know how things are going once I start accomplishing and enjoying the things on my list! I'm excited :) Here's a love note from my dog, Rufus. He was so excited to get his haircut today, he couldn't contain himself!! It made me SO happy that he was SO happy!

And Thor says, "Happy rest of your weekend!"

Love and happiness <3 Holly

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