Siiiggghhhh….

“Wash your hands”, “did you touch that?”, “here use this hand sanitizer”. What is life like when you’re married and you have generalized anxiety disorder and OCD? Horrible.

My husband gets frustrated. I get it, I do too. I would too if I was living with someone paranoid; directing me to wash my hands after touching certain door handles (although they’ve already been sanitized), touching my wallet or my phone (also already sanitized). 

I was a child that grew up outside playing in the mud. Showering was done but not because I necessarily wanted to. Touching everything. Eating everything. Not thinking about germs. I’ve always struggled with generalized anxiety disorder but not OCD. Until about 4 years ago. Every time I left the house and came back or touched the door handles going into the house I’d have to wash my hands. I’d always wash my hands before cooking which was normal for me but back then I could do it and then touch the tv remote, my phone etc. As time progressed I started over analyzing the things I touched after I washed my hands and determining that those needed to be sanitized. Now I find myself sanitizing my car at the end of every week after getting gas. Door handles in the house that are used when we go in and out. Faucets. Phones. Coffee cups that come in from the outside. Remote controls. The garage door opener/closer. Even the recliner handles.

How did it get to this point? I used to never even think about this stuff. What is wrong with me? I have a theory. 

I think sanitizing is an outlet for my anxiety. What I mean by that is I used to get debilitating panic attacks for years. I still get them now and then but as my OCD routines have gotten worse my panic attacks have gotten better. The generalized anxiety is always there but the full blown take me to the ER panic attacks have subsided. Is this a possible? I have no idea – but the coincidence is odd. 

The OCD makes it challenging to live. Leaving the house is a chore knowing that I have to come home and do my routine every time I do. Spending the night at other places besides my home (hotel rooms, relative’s houses, etc.) is horrifying. Airplanes make me want to gag. I love traveling, but this makes it so much harder. I stock up on hand sanitizer and use it constantly while flying. I’m probably a few flights away from bringing wipes and sanitizing the area that we sit in (I already bring them for hotel rooms we stay in).

My husband has become very understanding and supportive of me having GAD over the years; mostly thanks to therapy. But he has a hard time with the OCD. I can’t say I blame him. I’m not sure I could be married to someone like this if I was on the other side. “Just stop doing it – what’s so hard about that?!” Dude – you have no idea. Funny thing is he acts like I like living this way. I feel like I’m trapped in a mind telling me to do things that I cannot control. Telling me we’re going to get violently ill if I don’t sanitize. Giving me horrible anxiety until I go through my routines. Not the life I want to live either. 

So where do we go from here? The OCD gets progressively worse as time goes on. Would I trade it for the panic attacks I used to get? If I don’t sanitize it will give me panic attacks. What’s worse? 

If you don’t suffer with any of these mental illnesses I can only imagine what you’re thinking: this chick is crazy. But hear me out. I have a college degree. A full time job that pays well. I own a home. I have pets. A husband. I pay taxes. I’m fortunate to be able to contribute to society in some way. If you look at me on the outside you may never know how bad I’m struggling inside. Most people that find out I struggle with this look at me wide eyed; saying they could never tell. I walk amongst everyone else with a smile although inside I feel like I’m being gutted. I’ve learned to live with this and it hasn’t been easy. You never know what someone is going through. 

As for my husband, I feel so much guilt. We’ve been married 5 years; together 12. My mental illness has progressed steadily over those 12 years, mostly since we’ve been married. Is it fair for us to be together? For him to have to put up with my antics. This isn’t what he signed up for – or is it? If it were him how would I react? There are so many things going through my mind right now. He’s started to give me a hard time about it and is borderline becoming unsupportive. “In 10 years you won’t be able to work or leave the house at this rate”. Maybe he’s right. My heart breaks every time I’m forced to think about the reality of the situation. This sucks. Anyone else going through this and if so, how do you cope?

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Self reflection.

Well, Hawaii was amazing as usual. Lots of hikes, volcano views, waterfalls, beaches and awesome weather. Celebrated 5 years of marriage to my husband and ate way too much. I also had some realizations. 

1. Vacations are necessary. Always. For someone who struggles with mental health issues, getting a break from the daily grind and going somewhere where I don’t have to worry about doing anything is the only thing that eases my mind a little. I find that I do less worrying and more reflecting and I think that’s important. 

2. Dreams are good to have but they need to be realistic. Since the first time I went to Hawaii in 2012 I’ve wanted to live there. I’ve applied for jobs there and we have gone back for vacations but the reality is that it’s an expensive place to live and I can’t move there without a job. That said, a realistic goal may be to retire there and continue to go on vacations there every few years. I just need to come to terms with that.

3. You are not a bad person if you let go of people that hurt your soul. This one is complicated. Let’s just say that I have a Father that doesn’t really want me in his life but pretends to others like he does thus making me look like the bad guy despite the fact that he never talks to me. I’ve tried for years to get his approval, his love, shit even his acknowledgement to no avail. I’ve spent a lot of time and tears dwelling on this relationship. One night while in Hawaii I found myself laying awake in bed, listening to the waves and reminiscing on the past and the present state of things with my Father. That was when I decided it was time to just let go. Breaks my heart but it is what it is and I’m walking away knowing that I gave an honest effort. 

4. Finding your passion and making it your job is a must. I’m dreading returning to my job as a compliance officer at a regional bank. I’m not passionate about being a compliance officer working in banking. I don’t look forward to going to work everyday; in fact, I dread it. I have so many anxious sleepless nights and moments of frustration during the work day that it consumes me. But what am I passionate about? Nothing that will allow me to make similar money and continue to live the lifestyle I’ve grown accustomed to. Good news is I make an honest living doing something I’m not ashamed of. Bad news is I have no sense of fullfilment. I hope one day it comes to me.

5. My body and mind has changed a lot in the past 5 years, and that is ok. We were married in Hawaii in 2012 and went back to he same resort we were married at for our anniversary. In 2012 my new hubby and I went out to dinner at a nice waterfront restaurant and the waiter took a picture of us. I thought it would be fun to take an identical picture at this restaurant 5 years later, until I saw the picture afterwards and compared them. What did I see? Well my husband is still very handsome. The scenery is still beautiful. But when I looked at myself I felt sad. In the 2012 picture I was thinner, had way less anxiety, looked more attractive and overall my happiness was visible in my face. 2017 me was heavier in the face, had bags under her eyes, looked exhausted, and although the happiness was still visible in my face at that time I lost my spark. After reflecting some more, I’ve been through a lot in the past 5 years. Too much to share in this posting. 2012 me was in her early 20s, still getting a grip on adulthood and making immature decisions (like running away to Hawaii and eloping with my boyfriend of 7 years when we had no money). 2017 me is established, responsible, and more mature. And I have the emotional scares to prove it. My mental state is different. I don’t look bad in the 2017 photo. It’s just who I am now. And In another 5 years I will look even more different. I need to be ok with that. 

6. Facing your fears is necessary, even when your anxiety tells you there is no way you can do something. Listen. I have GAD, OCD and depression. I live in a constant state of fear. Fear of flying, fear of driving, even fear of being at work. But in order to live I need to face those fears every single day. I’ve been to Hawaii 3 times now. I live in NY. It’s anywhere from a 12-14 hour flight not including layovers. For someone who hates flying, being in the air that long and having to take 3 flights to get somewhere is the worst. I drive myself absolutely crazy the entire month leading up to a trip where I have to fly. But no matter how much I hate it I push myself because if I didn’t I wouldn’t have the memories. The experiences. I wouldn’t be living. Honestly most of the time I surprise myself when I fly. Yes, I have panic attacks pretty much constantly but at the end I’m amazed by how strong I can be when I’m really determined. And for that, I am proud of myself.

Now I just need to adjust to being in the eastern time zone again and get the sleep I need to be productive on my first day back in the office on Monday. If only I could keep this anxiety at bay…😔.

“It’s time.”

“Ok, that’s it. I think it’s time that you see a Therapist…”. When he said the words my chest tightened and my eyes welled up with tears. How did I get to this point?

As my husband said those words to me I was disinfecting his phone as soon as he walked in the door. When I heard him pull into the garage I turned the water on in the kitchen sink so that it was warm when he walked into the house so that he could wash his hands right away before touching anything. I was sanitizing all of the door handles. I was sanitizing the kitchen faucet. I even sanitized the coffee cup that he brought into the house from a local coffee shop.

Truth is, I’ve been thinking the same thing lately. I realized that my OCD was getting worse when I started taking alternative routes to and from the ladies room at work so that I could wash my hands one extra time before getting back to my desk. I sanitize my hands after I touch anything. I had even gone as far as to sanitize the button and zipper on my pants because the thought of touching the stall door in the bathroom at work to lock it and then using the ladies room horrified me.

“You’re going to get sick, there’s no avoiding it.” “Hand sanitizer isn’t effective you know.” “You can’t live your life in fear like this.” Listen. To say things like that to someone who doesn’t have OCD and GAD it may be effective. You may be able to reason with them. There is no reasoning with me. If a study came out tomorrow that indicated that hand sanitizer didn’t kill germs I would still continue to use it.

This has affected my life in more ways that I could imagine. I avoid public places unless I absolutely need to go. I avoid children (not a kid person anyway but besides that they carry a host of germs). I avoid shaking hands if possible. I don’t touch door handles.I fear going out to eat because more than likely the kitchen in a restaurant is not up to my standards of cleanliness. When I look at things I can visualize the living organisms on them. I know this isn’t normal.

I’ve been to therapists before. Talking about my issues makes me really emotional because I feel unworthy, crazy, depressed, like I have no control over my thoughts and actions. Confronting the fact that you have mental health issues is never easy. Therapists have taught me anxiety coping mechanisms. They have also prescribed me drugs that have made my condition worse. I do not want to be medicated at this point and the thought of opening up about it is dreadful.

That night I had a major meltdown. I sobbed so hard I was hyperventilating. I didn’t feel worthy of love – although I know my husband is just trying to help, I understand his frustration. I couldn’t imagine being him in this situation. So I need to figure out what to do about it.

There are so many things going on in my life right now that are making me so anxious. There was a reorganization at work which has resulted in a lack of role clarity for me and a change in senior management which means more changes to come. I have a doctor’s appointment next week that I’m dreading during work hours. I have a coworker that isn’t speaking to me for reasons I do not know. I’m 20 lbs heavier than I would like to be and despite eating healthy and working out my weight isn’t budging. I have to somehow make it through a 12 hour flight (24 hours total) when I’ve become petrified of flying. I have to seal my countertops. I have to have some of the landscaping in front of my house re-done because large bushes and trees have died as a result of last years drought. My cats haven’t been to the vet in years and one of them has been peeing outside of the litter  box and the other has gained a substantial amount of weight and I think he may have diabetes (he gets diet food, I don’t know what else to do). My relationship with my Father is stressful. I fear the direction in which the country I live in is going – our President is a hot mess TV personality and doesn’t have a clue of what he is doing. The floors in my house need to be re-done. My bedroom needs to be painted. I need to sit through a 3 hour hair appointment and not freak out. I have to get blood work done every few months for a thyroid problem I have developed.

A normal person would read that and think it could be a lot worse. I agree. They may be thinking that’s not so bad – I do that all the time. So do I, but it keeps me up at night. It gives me high blood pressure. It gives me migraines. It depletes me of energy. It makes me tremble. It makes me cry. It makes me sick to my stomach. It makes me eat my feelings. Makes me unable to breathe. Makes me absolutely exhausted. 

Just needed to vent. Thanks for letting me get that off my chest. 


 

Patience is a virtue.

So hubby and I are on vacation in the Florida Keys. Everything is great. I survived the two flights here with panic that I could somewhat control and everything went off without a hitch. We have been down here since Sunday afternoon doing some exploring and relaxing on the beach. My Grandmother lives in Florida so I don’t get to see her much since we live in New York. When she heard the news that we were coming to the Keys for vacation she asked me if her and my Mother could join. I checked with hubby and hesitated to say yes, but only for a few days. They arrived last night.

The resort that we are staying at is large and there is a lot to do. The grounds are beautiful. Last night the 4 of us had dinner. Hubby and I got a little too much sun so we weren’t feeling the best. It was busy in the restaurant so I was quiet, trying to keep my anxiety at bay and observing what was going on around me. This includes my Mother. I watched her daze off while everyone is talking and suddenly snap out of it, telling us she was going to go out and have a cigarette since it was taking so long to get our food. My immediate reaction was really? We’re in a nice restaurant on the resort and you’re going to get up, leave the restaurant and smoke by the pool (which is a non smoking area). I said something of course and she got upset, but from my perspective it just seemed rude. After a few minutes I began to think: was this her anxiety? Was she looking for an excuse to get a breather because she was uncomfortable too? Then I figured if I can suffer through an hour with the family she can too. Plus I was delaying her smoking so I may have added a few minutes to her life. Right?

We finish eating and by this time it is dark. Mom wants to walk around and see the resort. My Grandmother is 80 years young (😌) but you wouldn’t be able to tell if it wasn’t for her exterior. She may look 80 but mentally she’s sharp and witty. Sarcastic and loving. I like to think we’re a lot a like in that regard. She had 2 knee replacements about 25 years ago and put on a good amount of weight. She isn’t in the best physical shape and the only walking she really does is a few feet from chair to chair. She is old give her a break! 

Well my Mother decides that we need to power walk the grounds in the dark (some of it is lit, some isn’t) and she’s bringing Granny along. My poor Grandma can barely breathe let alone keep up with her. My Mom seems to get pleasure out of this, almost like she thinks she is doing some good getting Grandma some physical exercise. Meanwhile I’m getting horrible anxiety because as I hear my Grandma breathing heavily all I can think of is her collapsing or falling and something serious happen or she is hospital bound the rest of he trip. Leave it to my crazy Mom to royally screw this up. As I watched my Grandma bee line it down the hallway to the chair in her room I thought to myself I better say something to Mom. My Mom is not self aware and she’s been known to do insensitive things from time to time. 

We got to the room and Granny tells us she loves us and will see us tomorrow with the little air that she has in her lungs and  heads in to take a seat. Mom walks in after her and I ask her to come into the hallway. I nicely explained to her what I witnessed. She brushed it off acting like Grandma needed it and I was being too sensitive. Maybe I was but just because I didn’t want anything to happen to her and I saw how bad she was struggling. If my anxiety has taught me anything it’s that everyone struggles with something and having a little empathy for someone can make their life a lot easier. There is no worse feeling than being ashamed of yourself due to your limitations, mentally or physically. I understand that we grow by pushing ourselves but everyone has limits. 

My Grandfather passed away a few years ago now. He was very athletic until he was diagnosed with dementia the last 10 years of his life. On vacations he was right alongside the kids laughing and doing physical things. He was always the opposite of Grandma. My Mom was a Daddy’s girl and I think she misses having him around during times like these. But Grandma is who she is and she is 80 and not fit to run a marathon. When I think of my Mom I think of her as being 35-40 years old in my mind (she is 55). Perhaps that’s how she thinks of my Grandma. 

Needless to say I hope that we can have fun and accommodate Grandma the rest of the trip without my Mom giving her (or I) a heart attack. We are still here 2 more full days and I’m already having anxiety over the flight home and starting a new job on Monday. When I booked this trip I was so excited thinking I would be able to relax and get my mind right before starting the new job. Then the vacation is here and the reality sets in: my disorder follows me everywhere. I can’t escape it to matter how hard I try. It probably doesn’t help that my family hijacked my vacation but the anxiety would be here regardless. It is what it is. 

And with that, it’s almost 4am, I’ve been up all night and Mom has an action packed day planned so I better try to put my anxious mind to bed. Wish me luck.  

 

This is my fight…post, take back my life…post, prove I’m alright…post? 

I made it. I panicked all week over this. I lost sleep over this. I over thought it. 

I flew alone. I made it to my parent’s house. And now I’m panicking about the flight home in 4 days. 

Having agoraphobia is hard. Really hard. There are days I can’t get myself to leave the house, run errands, go to the office, even go outside and work in my garden. I continue to challenge myself and not let this get the best of me. Although it is really hard and torturous, the way you feel after you’ve completed a task you were petrified of is so rewarding. Gratifying. Empowering. I flew from NY to GA by myself yesterday. Although just a 2 hour flight, it felt like 5 hours. I was panicking the entire time. I didn’t sleep at all the night before worrying about the flight and this trip. Being alone without my husband, the only person I feel shielded around because not many know I have this debilitating issue, is hard when I’m pushing myself out. I had no one to coach me through the attacks, through the flight, through the hour car ride to get to my parent’s house afterwards. But I did it. When the plane landed I began to tear up. What a relief. My entire body began to slowly relax and I actually enjoyed myself last night chatting with my mom. 

This morning I hurt. Every muscle. My body hurts. I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck. As I blink my eyes ache telling me to go back to bed but my brain is saying “wake up and think! you should probably get out of bed you lazy house guest”. Stupid brain is running on 5 hours of sleep in 48 hours. How does it have the fuel to keep going?! I’m going to need a Starbucks to get through the day…

Needless to say the moral of this story is that you can. When it gets hard and you feel like giving up you have to push yourself. Book that flight, go to that dinner, attend that meeting. We may have to struggle through it but the reward you feel after knowing that just this one time you didn’t let the anxiety get the best of you is so gratifying (although you may get a pounding headache, feel dizzy, fatigued, tired, etc.). I swear if anxiety was a person I would beat the crap out of it and kill it! (I mean that in the least craziest way possible.) Have a great day everyone and enjoy the long weekend! 😁💛