Friday, January 7, 2011

The challenge of exposures and medication

Well, there's good news and bad news.  I'm on 75 mgs of Zoloft and for the first time am experiencing some relief from the consistent OCD thoughts and related depression.  It was like a weight was lifted off of me, at least for the first few days.  The challenge, of course, is that with the Zoloft come some pretty nasty side effects.  Tension headaches, heartburn, insomnia. 

Everyone's body is different and I've learned pretty quickly that asking around about medications is not helpful and neither is my desperate searching for reassurance on the Internet.  This is pretty common -- I'll catch myself after 45 minutes go by, then an hour, googling and then googling again.  And I'll realize that the search is not for "credible information."  The search is for that magic reassurance - that one website that will tell me, "yes, what you're thinking is exactly right and you are in total control of this situation."  The problem is that even if I find that the feeling is fleeting.  And a medication that works great for someone else might be a bad combination for me. 

I'm trying right now to stop being so hyper-sensitive about my body and its rumblings.  Since my hope is not to be on medication indefinitely, I'm still planning on engaging in cognitive behavioral therapy.  Here's the problem -- the thoughts that I have are not causing me the usual anxiety that I have!  Great, right?  Sure, except that to do the exposures you need the anxiety.  My therapist has recommended that I move higher up on my "ladder" (the list of thoughts or actions which provoke anxiety, listed progressively by how much anxiety they create).  I'll try this, but I'm realizing that part of my challenge is that I may need to reevaluate my goals and expectations.  Oy.  Am I actually worrying about feeling better?? 

Friday, December 31, 2010

OCD and stressful times

It's law school application time!!  That's right -- I'm in the process of getting treatment for OCD, and still trying to pump out personal narratives and applications.  The other night I thought, wow, one year from now I could write a stellar essay about how I overcame the "doubting disease" to become more sure of myself, and more sure of my decisions.... except, well, it's not one year from now.  It's right now, and right now OCD is a part of my life.  And trying to put together an essay conveying who you are is incredibly hard when you are full of doubts!

Here's an example -- the other day, I was walking along and getting ready to go to work and I walked into the subway station, which has a railing along it.  As I walked along, I had the thought - what if I were to jump down from this railing.  Now, I'm sure I've had this thought dozens of times before as I've made this same walk.  Except this time, I couldn't stop thinking about it.  And the thought deeply troubled me, causing me to wonder if that meant I was going to jump from the railing.  Maybe I want to jump off the railing?  Why would I want to jump off the railing?  I must be crazy to want to do this.  I must somehow want to go out of control.   These thoughts nearly stopped me in my tracks, my heart started pounding, and to respond to the anxiety, I moved to the other side away from the railing.

Now, I understand that I wasn't going to jump over the railing.  But in the moment, it was all I could do keep from running out of the subway station.  As if my body was responding to an invisible thought, and I agreed that it was a terrible thought.

The other night I was really struggling with one particular deadline for a law school essay.  Whether because of my anxiety or because of my medication I have been unable to focus and have had insomnia for well over a week.  My frustration quickly spiraled and it was as if a dark cloud had set in.  Sometimes I think it feels that way when I have a "spike" of intrusive thoughts and fears - as if I can hardly see beyond myself.  Eventually, despairing, I made a call to my therapist and got a call back shortly afterwards.  We made a plan:

-  Sleep is super important.  Each day that goes by without it, the OCD gets worse.  If that means sacrificing time to write the essay, that's okay.
-  Taking my meds:  I've *never* thought I would be someone who needed medication.  Advil is even a challenge to get me to take.  But through the last month I've learned that whether I like it or not, medication is going to make a difference in helping me to turn things around.  In addition to my SSRI I've also been given a low dosage of anti-anxiety medication to take as needed.  Unfortunately, this itself is a challenge for me as I often have intrusive thoughts that the medication will make me go crazy.  I've learned that this is a common fear for OCD sufferers who need to feel total control over their minds and bodies.

In the end, I did take the medication and the next day was grateful for it.  Going for a long walk, getting outside, all of this made the day seem so much better.  And I wrote an essay!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

First steps on the path to recovery

Well, there are a lot of firsts.  This is my first time blogging, and certainly my first time writing about something like obsessive compulsive disorder.  I was first diagnosed slightly more than one month ago with "Pure O."  Specifically, I have "harm ocd."  For a lot of reasons, in this blog I am going to refrain from writing in detail about the content of my intrusive thoughts, but suffice to say that they cause great anxiety and pain, and have also led me down a path of despairing.  Now, I'm connected with a great counseling center and working with both a therapist and psychiatrist.  I am on a low dose of SSRIs, which so far doesn't seem to be making a difference but over the next few weeks the dosage should be going us. 

As for CBT, I am working with the books noted at the right and about to begin my Exposure and Response Prevention therapy.  I am curious about how this will go, and more than a little nervous.  But for the reasons that you're probably reading this, I am eager to begin:  I want to feel better.  I want to reclaim the joy I have felt in my life. 

A word about me ... 

I'm a 20-something young woman living in the Northeastern part of the U.S.  I have a great job, though I'm beginning to apply to graduate school.  I also have a wonderful and supportive network of friends, including one who has gone through the trials of OCD, and an active faith life of which prayer and service are foundations.  My boyfriend, we'll call him J., is a source of constant support.  So, everything should be fine in my world, right?  I wish!  Here's to kicking OCD in the pants!  

I decided to write this blog because it's been so helpful to read other OCD blogs, and to know that I am not alone.  For those of you just beginning down this path, perhaps we can accompany each other.  You are in my thoughts and prayers.