Sunday, January 1, 2012

Hello 2012!

Well, well, well...who would have thought I'd see this new years?  Not I...or at least I anticipated celebrating with nurses again and not in the collegue sort of way.  I imagined crying myself to sleep again thinking about how I'd wasted another year and wondering what unreasonable force was keeping me alive and making me endure day after day and year after year of hell.  Not this year, not ever again.

I spent the day with my family.  We played games and danced and sang and laughed.  We ate good food and drank deliscious wine.  And we called it a night at 2330 Dec 31.  So I did officially ring in the new year alone, lying in bed...but not lonely.

I'm going to avoid any major reflection on the year as many of you already know much of what I've been through.  At somepoint, I will probably go into a little more detail of a typical day in my life over the years, maybe delve into specific events and offer any insight I can but not today.

Completely unrelated to the new year, I have wanted to discuss my OCD and anxiety and chronic 'what if' syndrome.  I have been diagnosed with OCD and one of the qualifying factors for that diagnosis is a belief that something 'bad' will happen if one doesn't engage in whatever behaviour their mind pulls them to.  The most popular therapy for this is exposure to 'prove' to the sufferer that nothing 'bad' will happen.  Here's the problem with that:  you see, I'm a very logical person.  My rational/logical mind is extremely well developed hence why I was able to maintain such a 'normal' life for so many years while suffering in silence and struggling each day to hold on to the next.  The public awareness of my difficulty was only really recognized by most people when I physically displayed how unwell I was - but at that point, it was old news to be honest.  Anyway...exposure therapy.  So with my logical mind, I KNEW that my mom wouldn't die if I put orange and brown next to eachother in my closet or drawers; I KNEW that my food was not contaminated if the plates had been on the wrong shelf or if i used the wrong fork, I knew I wasn't actually going to get sick....those were the concrete things I would describe that would happen because I really felt that something terrible would happen.

I couldn't often explain what exactly so I would choose what seemed like the worst thing in that moment and apply it in an attempt to get the listener to understand just how significant this event was.  With exposure, the therapist works on what is spoken...I leave those colours together in my drawer and go about my day and discover my mother doesn't die - true.  However, something terrible DOES happen.  It happens inside of me.  It is painful and scary and worst of all, unexplainable!  It would make me feel more foolish when I had to admit 'You're right, nothing bad did happen' but just because it's not measurable -this terrible thing - doesn't mean it doesn't happen.  Because the person on the outside doesn't see what happens and can attract my logical mind to looknig at the fact that nothing concrete happened, that's supposed to help.  It does, I learned to tolerate the extreme discomfort and pain of the terrible feelings exposure created in me, I did get over it.  But it wasn't until just recently that I could express that it never stopped the badness that happened, the terrible event that I was so scared of still occured and still hurt me over and over.

I don't know if this can be applied to everyone experiencing anxiety and OCD.  For another example:  a panic attack.  When it was purely anxiety and I could recognize that as in the case of my first many panic attacks, I knew that although I felt like I was going to die, I knew I physically was going to be okay.  However, later, as a sick person, there were many times where I couldn't differentiate between anxiety and phsycial symptoms.  I would treat a racing heart, palpitations, shortness of breath, sweaty palms and nausea with Ativan or some other dast acting benzo but the knowledge of my physical unwellness also came to mind and it was a real question of whether I was dying or not.  Was I having a heart attack?  What were my electrolytes like?  Was I in shock from volume depletion?  So at times I would present to emergency with my symptoms with the nurses and doctors likely rolling their eyes at the crazy frequent flyer back in their Emerg but I had always treated my symptoms as anxiety and if they didn't improve THAT's when I presented to emerg.  Everyone, regardless of how they felt privately, was always warm and concerned abotu my well being and actually very few ever treated me like the freak I felt I was and for that (amoung so many other things) I am grateful.

Tomorrow, pending orgainization of my documents, I will be heading to Lisbon for a couple of days with my sister.  I am very excited.  I haven't spent much time in Lisbon...just an evening the day we arrived in Portugal and I was so out of it, I don't remember much at all.  This time will be different.  :)

So, Happy New Year!!  Welcome to 2012.  May it bring many blessings for all.

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