Sunday, September 25, 2011

OCD A to Z: Y is for Yet Again

It's been a hard month, and when I thought of what to do for Y, the phrase "Yet Again" came into my head. There's a jolt of surprise every time anxiety intrudes into my life, and a heart sinking disappointment. I have been learning to expect the anxiety, with less of a "yet again" and more of a "oh, it's you again." My therapist likes to tell me that I've had years practicing the old OCD stuff, and to expect it to come back. This isn't the same as being doomed, and that's the hard thread to hold onto when I'm having a hard time. If I expect the OCD to be there, and don't give into the "Oh, no, it's back. How can this be?" compulsion of figuring out, it's less likely to get worked into a big flare up.

The last month started with my husband being away for a week, which I find stressful, and stress makes my OCD worse, and since I've been doing so much better in the past 6 months, I was taken by surprise at all the old crap. My mother had her heart surgery), got released and then had to go back the next week for fluid under her lung.

Then, last week, I absentmindedly scratched at an itch on my ear, and it started to bleed, in the area of the spot where my squamous cell skin cancer was 5 or 6 years ago. I spent some time trying to see it in the mirror, actually two mirrors, and a flashlight, because it's part of my ear that's really hard to get a look at. I did remember that this is one of my compulsions, and the more I look at it, the more anxious I get. I haven't looked anything up on the internet. After a day of free-falling anxiety, I called my dermatologist. Her first available appointment was October 24th, but then the receptionist asked what I was coming in for and she said, "Hmmm. That sounds like something to come in sooner for." In the irony of OCD, I couldn't decide if this made feel better or worse!

Part of OCD is perfectionistic, and a fear of guessing wrong, and being humiliated at the doctor's office if I went for "nothing," so that part of me was relieved. Part of my OCD is health anxiety, and that part of me was like "WTF"?? So I'm seeing the dermatologist on Wednesday. Next, I called my therapist, and made an appointment for Thursday. He told me that it's unlikely I could diagnose a cancer by touch or by getting a look at it. . .and to go on with living my life, so that I don't lose that time, and also that the thoughts and anxiety will pop into my head, and that's normal, and if I don't do my compulsions, I'm less likely to relapse with my OCD this week. I could have a recurrence of cancer, or I could have a pimple, or sharp fingernails. As much as my OCD insists I can diagnose it, I can't, especially not by repeated checking.

Then I had coffee with my best friend yesterday. She's going through the possibility of a divorce, and first week at a new job, and all the old critical voices of her abusive childhood blaring full blast. She doesn't have OCD, but she understands the nature of insistent beliefs from the past, on high volume. (And got even more insight to the irrational fears of OCD, when she was offered the new job and suddenly feared she'd fail the drug test, even though she doesn't take drugs.) So she talked about her sadness with her marriage, and I talked about all the old health anxiety and perfectionistic voices saying "what's wrong with you? why did you scratch at your ear? why do you notice the smallest thing? or maybe you should've noticed it long ago? you are a bad person, you should know what's wrong", and it was a relief that she got it.

As I approach this gauntlet of a week, I would appreciate all your thoughts and prayers!


  1. Absolutely sending positive thoughts and prayers your way. [Although, I do feel kind of strange praying for someone to have had a zit in their ear. ;) ] I know you'll feel like your on pins and needles until Wednesday.

  2. Will be thinking of you. I'm glad you have a friend you can talk through this sort of thing with.

  3. First of all I TOTALLY get the last sentence of the first paragraph: "If I expect the OCD to be there....its less likely to get worked into a big OCD flare up. Secondly I am sorry you've had some stressful stuff going on. I am sending you strength to deal with this challenge as best as you can. And of course I'm hoping for the best case scenario regarding your dermatologist appointment (zit or whatever). Keep us posted. xoxo

  4. Karin says:

    Hope it's good news for you this week. And don't be embarassed or ashamed when it ends up to be nothing serious. Better to go in for a zit, than not to go in if it is something more serious- and that could just mean an ear infection.

    And yes, i've gotten rid of an ocd pure o thot by just acknowledging the thot as it enters and telling it to just 'shut up' as i go on to another thot and it does work. If ocd realizes you don't care, the thot comes back less and less. Hard to follow tho, when i (or you) are in the thick of a BIG thot, tho. Good luck.

  5. I am finally beginning to learn to expect the anxiety-- it's frustrating but a part of my life.

    I could SO relate to your post-- especially about your health anxiety. I have felt this ...(your quote)

    "In the irony of OCD, I couldn't decide if this made feel better or worse"

    ....many times in situations where I'm freaked and call and then get a quick appointment just like you did with your dermatologist.

  6. Serious words to live by, you said it! Mine has come back after months, and I have to keep telling myself this, that it will come back, and to not get back into the compulsions of trying to figure it out. It's my OCD, I will feel it every now and then, and it's OK!

  7. Thank you all for your comments and support! I went to the Dermatologist, and she said that it was probably ok, but because of the location, she needed to biopsy it. Her office called this week to say it was benign. I was relieved, and resisted the temptation to check whether I was relieved "enough". . .

  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.