Saturday, May 28, 2011

Roommate with a Disclaimer

Sometimes I feel like I should just come with a disclaimer taped to my forehead for any potential roommate, apartment-mate, house-mate, or whatever:

WARNING:  Proceed with caution.   This individual may exhibit odd behaviors and may spend an excessive amount of time washing/showering/doing laundry/avoiding dirty things.  Will do best to limit strange behaviors around you and to avoid inconveniencing you.   Roommate will initially seem normal and will go out of her way to be a polite and considerate roommate, but odd behaviors will begin to become apparent over time.

I'm in the midst of packing and there's a lot to do, but I thought pausing to write about some of my worries would be a bit stress-reducing.  In fact, I suspect the immense pressure I feel to act "normal" during this stressful time will be leading me here frequently over the next few days and weeks.  So much is changing, and it's exciting.  But it's also overwhelming - especially for someone like me, someone with OCD who is quite inflexible when it comes to her home environment.

In the moving process, the separation between clean and dirty gets compromised.  I'm forced to either touch or throw out things I've avoided all year.  I have to adapt to a new environment, and its triggers.  I have to figure out a new way to make things work in a new home.  And on top of it all, I feel immense pressure to minimize my compulsions during this time of heightened anxiety, all so that my new roommate won't discover my not-so-"normal" side. 

The good thing is that, in new environments, it's usually easier for me to break old habits.  It's a good time to let go of old compulsions and to renew my fight against OCD (as much as part of me hates to admit this).  Being in a new a place with a new set-up means that all the "rules" feel less concrete.  There's room for them to shift and slide and change before again becoming ingrained and tied so strongly to my new environment.  I'm hoping that I can take advantage of this time to push myself onward, as terrifying as it may seem at the moment.  My new home will provide strong incentives to be and appear "normal," and I hope that I can use that drive to help me get past my fear of moving forward.

Moving is stressful for most people.  Moving with OCD presents its own *special* challenges.  For me, that stress means a strong urge to make myself feel better through compulsive behavior.  To make things even more fun, I feel this strong urge while simultaneously feeling immense pressure to suppress those very rituals I want so badly to perform.  It's a bit crazy-making.  A bit overwhelming.  But I made it through this process somehow last year, and I know I will make it through again.  I will come out on the other side...perhaps not feeling as "clean" as I would like to, but I will make it!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I Have a Home!!

I have a home!!  Okay, well, a NEW home.  It's not like I was homeless or anything before, but I was starting to wonder if I was going to end up that way...

My lease is up at the end of the month, and while I had the option to stay through June, I really didn't want to since all of my roommates will be moved out by then.  So over the last month or so I have been madly scouring the area I want to move to for an affordable place to live.  And it was difficult, to say the least.  I was looking for a studio/single just for myself, but living alone, especially in my city, is not cheap!  But it didn't seem like I had much of a choice.

Then a friend of mine suggested that I look online for someone who was trying to find a roommate.  My therapist suggested the same.  I hadn't even really considered it.  I mean, I thought, "I don't want to bother someone else with my rituals, and I don't know if I can handle the pressure of having to keep them under control."  It seemed like putting myself in that position would be highly stressful.  But when my therapist seemed concerned about me living alone, I started to think about how my current roommates act as constant exposure and keep me from getting even worse:  they touch things.  They get things dirty.  They don't follow my rules and it ultimately trickles down to me in some way or another, but because there's really not much I could do with it other than avoid to the point of complete non-functionality, I deal with it.  I am used to it.  It works, and I accept their contamination and just try not to think too hard about all the disturbing things they do.

So, I began to consider finding a roommate.  I was still looking for my own place but thought I'd reach out and contact some people who were looking for roommates just to see how it went.   And after spending several weeks searching for and viewing places for myself, I went to meet this first potential apartment-mate today, AND...I was sold.

I am both thrilled and terrified.  She seemed like a great person and a very considerate roommate, and the last thing I want to do is freak her out or inconvenience her with any strange behaviors.  Oh, and did I mention that she has a dog?  A DOG!?  I love animals, but ever since my latest OCD episode began, pets have been off-limits.  I have avoided sleeping in my bed, washed everything I was wearing, and showered after hanging out with people's pets in the past.  NOW, I'm voluntarily moving in with one.  Let's just say that it'll be a good exposure :).

Anyways, this whole business of uprooting my life and putting it down somewhere completely new is like one GIGANTIC exposure.  I will be extra motivated to appear "normal" for my new apartment-mate, meanwhile I won't be able to avoid certain things anymore (aka DOG).  It's pretty much the perfect environment for OCD exposure.  Right after making the decision I was slightly terrified and unsure of what I had done, but I think at this point, this is something I can handle.  It makes sense and is definitely a choice that works in favor of my mental health.  OCD may be shuddering right now, but I know that this is the decision that I wanted to make, a decision that will help me move forward on the path to getting better.  It'll be a bit scary, that's for sure, but it's time to keep moving forward!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Stiff Upper Lip?

I've been at war with myself inside lately.  Half of me wants to give in, to let myself breakdown and complain about the difficulties I am currently struggling with.  The other half of me whispers, "You are choosing this.  You are choosing to be unhappy.  You know how to make things better.  You just won't.  So you can't complain."  I never know at what point I can justifiably be stressed.  It's like I spend so much time trying to be strong and just keep going because I don't want to be that person who portrays every slight struggle as a disastrous life setback.  So at what point am I allowed to give myself a reprieve?  At what point am I allowed to believe that what I am going through is difficult?  At what point am I allowed to believe that maybe, just maybe, I'm actually fighting really hard?  It's just so difficult for me to see or believe.  I always feel like I could be trying harder, doing better.  I constantly feel like I am CHOOSING to be this way.  To have OCD.  To go into a state of apathy and numbness like the one I am in right now.  And I don't know if it's because the OCD will always say that I could do more, that I could try harder, or if I really could be and should be doing more and trying harder.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Life Update

So, I haven't written in a while.  I started a few posts and then either fell asleep or gave up, lacking the energy and drive to continue.  Lately the urge to "perfectly" capture the chaos in my head and my feelings about it has been strong.  Strong enough to drive me away from writing.  But I'm going to try to finish a post for once, whether or not it is the most perfectly accurate depiction of the inner workings of my mind.

Lately I have been feverishly applying to jobs, sending out resumes left and right, and scouring the internet for more possibilities.  I've been going through a similar process in trying to find a new place to live.  My lease is up at the end of May (though I may be able to stay for June, as well), so the question of where I will live (and where I can afford to live) has been weighing heavily on my mind.  Meanwhile, I have drastically less work because my job is somewhat seasonal, and the combination of trying to find a new place to live, looking for additional part-time jobs to take on, and attempting to just plain figure out what I want to do with my life, has been stressful.  This process has really made the reality of the opportunities I have sacrificed to OCD, and the amount of money I have spent on treatment, all the more apparent.  It's kind of scary to step back and look at all that has happened.

Almost exactly this time two years ago, I was graduating from college.  A few months later, I came unhinged and quickly delved deep into a new very vicious flare up of OCD.  I thought, at that time, that it would be a matter of months, at most, before I was "normal" again.  But then, I soon realized that far more of my life, and all the strange little things I had always done, were so strongly rooted in OCD, and I began this hard, strange, but also wonderful journey into learning about and fighting my OCD.

That said, I am again considering more intensive treatment.  There is a hospital nearby that has a very well respected intensive outpatient program for OCD that my therapist has suggested I consider.  It's just so hard to treat all my symptoms in week-to-week one-hour therapy visits.  We tried an intensive treatment program tailored specifically to my needs by my treatment center, but ultimately that's not what they specialize in nor what they are optimally designed to deliver treatment-wise.  So, I'm looking into getting intensive treatment from the people who specialize in doing just that.  Not sure about it yet, but looking into it a bit and researching it as an option.

All in all, it's all a bit confusing for me.  I am more functional than ever, but still not really progressing enough between my therapy appointments.  I suppose the fact that I am unsure how to shower or brush my teeth in any sort of non-compulsive way without explicit step by step directions from my therapist is probably a sign of the severity of my OCD.  I think it's just become more apparent lately.  The more intensively and more rigorously we strip away my compulsions, the more apparent it becomes just how dependent on and glued to them I am.


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