I’m Not Recovered. | & Eating Disorders

Reading about eating disorders triggers me.

It doesn’t make much sense. I’ve never had an eating disorder. I’ve never had a disordered relationship with food. That is, unless you count the times I forget to eat because I’m busy being a perfectionist (i.e. OCD ritualizing) on whatever project I’m enthralled in, or times like last week when I couldn’t express my emotions and ate a whole box of chocolates instead.

I don’t know why eating disorders strike such a nerve in me. Reading about them-although I want to learn and I’m very interested in eating disorders-I always end up painfully, heartwrenchingly, akin-to-my-darkest-bouts-of-depression sad. Like mourning for a loss I didn’t have.

Maybe it’s because I see myself in them.

I recognize wanting to please my disorder so much I was killing myself while trying to help myself. I recognize turning my back on doctors and reason because what’s in my head is much more convincing.

Tonight I read an article by someone who has an eating disorder. And they are not participating in Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

Continue reading “I’m Not Recovered. | & Eating Disorders”

My Uncertainties on a Bad Day

The following is something I wrote during a really hard night this week. When I wrote it, I wasn’t planning on posting it. It didn’t even cross my mind to do so. However, today I read this to my therapist along with the “stream of consciousness” writing I also did that night. And she responded by saying, 

“You’re a beautiful writer, 

but there’s a lot of pain in that.”

Her compliment was what made me think about posting this. Because I’ve been wanting to tell you all how I’ve been feeling. And to be honest, I’ve been having a lot of bad days lately. The day that I wrote this, all of these bad days and sad, scary feelings all came out. I had to face it, and I am so glad I wrote it down in that moment. Although reading it makes me sad, I can use this as an outline for a plan. I don’t know about you guys, but I tend to forget the hardest feelings by the time I get to therapy. Not too helpful with feeling better. It’s like the feelings go dormant until something triggers this volcano that is my emotions to explode. 

 I’m sorry for the lack of videos. Even my dad said he missed them. Not posting a video for 5 weeks makes me sad, but mostly disappointed in myself because I know it’s my fault. I’m trying hard not to beat myself up, because I know that won’t help the depression. Plus, it’s mostly because school is so busy, but I could do it if I tried. OCD has been getting in the way. 

And my “stream of consciousness” writing talks about how disappointed I am and how I’m not living for my values right now. I will not be posting that, however, because it’s way too dark and not written in proper grammar in the slightest. 

Anyway, if you are easily triggered or having a bad day, probably don’t read on. Especially if you have harm or sexual obsessions. Unless you want an exposure, in which case go for it! Because this is me when I’m not accepting my thoughts. When I’m not exposing, but believe they could actually be true. These are obsessions when they cause depression more than anxiety. This is me on my worst days. 

I feel this could be helpful to show that even in recovery I still obsess. I still ritualize. I still have OCD. It waxes and wanes, and right now it’s waxing. This is the worst of my thoughts on the worst of my bad days:

Humans can justify a whole myriad of horrible, disgusting actions. So, I’m not saying my intrusive thoughts can come true, but I am saying we can delude ourselves into thinking we feel a way that we naturally might not. And not in an OCD way, like “OCD says it’s true so it is”, but in a normal human way. We can lie to ourselves. Maybe better than we can lie to others. We can convince ourself to do anything, if we justify it with thinking it will be better off if we did this. WE would be better off if we did this. Humans justify murder, rape, adultery, with this line of thinking. It’s so easy. We see this happen in movies all the time, and you think “how could someone be so cruel?” But it happens in real life all the time. It’s not just art. It’s art imitating life.

I think maybe animals are better off than humans. Instincts seem to work so much better than complex thought. An animal with the instinct to be monogamous does not cheat on it’s mate. It does not cause pain to it’s partner. It takes care of it. There aren’t deadbeat dads in animals not programmed to be that way. 

We are programmed to be monogamous, and to love, and to want to be loved, and to love ourselves. Yet, somehow, some [censored] how, we can convince ourselves otherwise. We justify murder in the name of love. We are the most dangerous animals out there and it’s not because of our instincts, it’s because of our intelligence. We know nothing and act like we know everything, and mess up everything in the process. 

A song can make us feel that we’re in love with someone. A change in how we think can make us feel in love. I could very easily feel just as delusional. I have before. I’ve justified obvious sins, by saying “it is better off, God would want this,” when it is obvious from the Bible that he doesn’t. I didn’t murder anyone, but I got myself hurt, and I disobeyed God. And by that logic I could do it again. 

I could do it again. 

If I look at a picture of someone and feel a postive feeling I could most definitely fall in love with them, or delude myself into thinking I’m in love with them. I could make bad decisions in the name of this delusion. Humans. 

Inside The OCD Box

Having OCD is like being trapped in a box.

It starts out as a box with plenty of room to move around, OCD is only asking you to avoid a few minor things.

You think, “Okay, it’s alright that I’m avoiding this OCD fear, I have all of these things I’m not afraid of to replace it!” Slowly but surely, OCD asks you to avoid more and more things. And the more you do what OCD says, the smaller your box becomes. Before you can even realize it, your box is tiny and cramped. You can hardly move without OCD asking you to avoid more fears and thoughts. 

That’s how avoidance works in OCD. It never stops at the first thing, the OCD always grows.


On the other hand, when we tell OCD we’re not going to avoid or do compulsions, our box grows. At first, it hurts because we’re not used to stretching and pushing this heavy box that’s kept us stuck in the same position for so long. Even though it’s hard, slowly but surely we can do the things we love again. And that’s what makes it worth it. 

We want your box to be big enough to hold the whole world again, so you can do the things you love and be happy. 

When we first start facing our fears, they usually do get worse for a little while. But if we can stick that first while out, it makes a world of difference in our recovery! Get past that first stretch, and you can get through anything! 

If the first stretch turns out to be too hard, we might need a little boost. This is where medication and supplements come in handy. When starting therapy for OCD, doctors often immediately put the patients on medications. This is because they know the patients are already in pain and that that first stretch may be a lot for them. The medication dulls the anxiety to the point that patients can start doing exposures (growing their box) and make it through the heightened anxiety.

I hope you feel better soon and have the strength to fight your OCD. In the meantime, know that I’ve had severe OCD fears around thing I loved to do. And now I can do those things as much as I want, with no anxiety. I could only do that by feeling that OCD fear and doing what I want anyway. Praying for you. But I know you got this!

Kat

Ps. This was originally written to a friend in a Facebook support group. But a lot of people liked it, so I edited it a bit and published it here. I made this analogy a while ago, but haven’t shared it too much yet (I thought I needed an OCD analogy, because all the good OCD professionals have one!). 😉 

Special thanks to Zoltan for getting me to type this out! And everyone who encouraged me to post it. And Laura for being the best co-moderator ever! 😀

Pps. Check out my channel for an overview of what I did at the Annual OCD Conference. I’ll have 1-3 videos about it coming out in the next month or so. 🙂 Stay tuned and subscribe to see them right when they come out! 

The Time I Went a Week Without Internet

Right now I’m laying in the front yard on my bean bag chair, watching my dog’s heavy breathing in front of me. His toys are scattered across the grass, making it look like I have a two-year-old brother rather than a nine-year-old dog. Popped balls, dormant Frisbee’s, and exploded stuffed animals atop the grass, but Gator isn’t interested.  He just lays there, resting silently.

GATOR2
My dog, Gator!

 

I am honestly amazed by the beauty of nature. However, I am even more amazed that I don’t enjoy it like I used to. 

I walk through this front yard every day. Although, it’s usually on the same path. From the car to the doorway. I touch very little grass and any grass I do touch is through the bottom of my shoe.

As a child I spend a lot of time outside. I played in the sandbox, in the mud, on my bike, in the pool. When it snowed I couldn’t wait to jump in it. As soon as the first snowflake fell I wanted to be out  there. I wanted to run and play and I didn’t care if I fell down or my hands went numb from the cold. I protested snow pants and the bags over my socks my mom insisted on.

Nowadays, when it snows I just want the plows to come so I can go shopping. You know, what I find fun now.

I look out the window and admire the snow. It looks beautiful, peaceful. But I don’t enjoy my time outside in it. I think about playing in it, but “it’s too cold”. When I must walk in it, I complain about my frozen ears and focus on shielding my electronics.

It’s easy to chalk this change up to growing up. I am an adult now, it’s normal to spend less time outside. My one qualm with this theory is my dad.

My dad spent much of his childhood outside. Him and his 5 brothers spent their summers at the local pool and he grew up to be a diver for his university. There are plenty of home videos of them playing outside in the snow. But when he grew up, he kept swimming and he kept playing.

When I was old enough, he taught me how to play outside. He played soccer up until a few years ago. He was the assistant coach on my own soccer team. And when I grew out of it, he had the dog.

My dad still spends most of his days in nature. He still seems to find beauty in it.

When I go outside and look at the trees, I find it beautiful, but I don’t have that sense of wonder that I used to. Even looking out at the mountains of the Carolinas, I don’t feel overwhelmed with their beauty. I don’t feel moved.

I worry I say it’s beautiful because I have to. It’s expected of me to. When I was a child or even a younger teenager, I would be moved by the smallest piece of nature. Now I’m thinking about other things. “I have to edit a video, I’m late for my appointment, I have to get dinner, blah blah blah…”

My mind has been influenced by this fast paced society. Society constantly tells us to go and do, never to stop and listen.

Then they market new technology like it is the answer to our problem. Saying if we buy the latest iPhone, we’ll be able to do better, and therefore, be better.

But it only makes us more stressed out. It takes us farther away from stopping and listening.

I wonder if my attachment to my phone is part of the reason I stopped enjoying the outdoors. The older I got, the more I was interested in new gadgets and less interested in being outside. Why would I go outside when I have an infinite amount of entertainment at my fingertips?

Once I got an iPhone, my connection to the internet became literally constant. There were very few times when I had no way to get online for an extended period of time.

Actually, there were four times.

The only times I’ve been without the internet were when I was inpatient in the mental hospital.

My second time inpatient was after I got an iPhone. Now, when I tell you my connection to the internet was constant, you better believe I took advantage of it. My iPhone was the best distraction from my severe OCD. I had obsessions from the moment I woke up until the moment I fell asleep, so the phone was always by my side. In the weeks leading up to the inpatient stay, I spent my days only laying in bed and playing on my phone. Although it was my easiest distraction, I still had obsessions and compulsions while using it. It was also used to compulsively research my newest theological “discoveries.” I would read from the most obscure webpages and believe it was the absolute truth, because that means OCD can accuse me of being a sinner for believing the “wrong” thing.

(Just a note, don’t believe everything you read on the internet. Especially if OCD says it’s true.)

I was like a zombie. I was making no progress with my life or my recovery, if you could even call it that.

Zombies & Psychology
Just a pun intermission. (Or “puntermission”!)

My last time inpatient, I was definitely in recovery. However, it was hard for me to keep up with therapy. Things in my life were very hectic and different. I had just graduated high school and was preparing to go away for a week without my parents. It would have been the first time I had been away from them for a week by choice, rather than necessity. However, I was going through a bad OCD spike that made me incredibly depressed. I wouldn’t focus on therapy and I stopped doing frequent exposures. I got out of my recovery mindset and started giving into compulsions and depressive thoughts. The internet was my distraction once again.

Without that distraction while inpatient, I was able to focus on myself. I was able to make a new recovery plan. I started from scratch and built up from where I left off. Instead of just idly letting things go downhill, I took action.

This obviously wasn’t only because I didn’t have my phone. But without it, I was able to look at my surroundings. I saw the trees and grass and appreciated it more than the hard, cold tile of the mental hospital. I looked at my life objectively, out of the lens of life’s pressures, and was able to start anew. Most teenagers groan of the idea of no internet, but in all honesty, being away from society for a little while is refreshing. Focusing on yourself and not worrying about what anyone else thinks of you is what makes your time spent inpatient so productive.

Without life’s distractions, you can find methods to get your life back to where you want it to be.

While sitting outside on the grass, I realized that maybe in order to get my life to where I want it to be, I need to take a break from the internet. It might be a little reminder of what’s important in life.

I can spend more time outside and have more quality time with the Earth. I can go on adventures and get my amazement for God’s creation back. Yes, me and the Earth are going to be best friends after this vacation.

It’s been a few weeks since I started this post and I am just now finishing it. I’m still unsure of the rules I will implement for this internet vacation, but I would like it to happen sometime this summer. And if you all are interested, I will blog about it.

Hope you liked my ramblings today. Let me know if you relate to anything I wrote in this post! I know it went a little bit everywhere.

Kat 🙂

Ps. I’m feeling a lot better since I started this post. I feel like my life is getting back to where I want it without the vacation. Although the vacation would still be nice.

I am doing a bit of a vacation with internet access, but I will talk about that in a vlog! 😉

Peer Support In Recovery (Alternate Title: Recovery Buddies! Yay!)

2015 was different for me in many big ways. I moved 1,000 away from my hometown, my YouTube channel flourished, I’ve found a hobby I’ve actually stuck with (YouTube), I got my first new therapist in two and a half years, and I beat OCD like I never could before. However, the most beneficial difference for me is the mental health community I have found online.

In the beginning of 2015 I went to a reunion for my OCD program. Seeing kids I hadn’t seen in years doing things they couldn’t do two years ago inspired me. Hearing them talk about their recovery gave me hope. Hope I’m not the only one out there in this stage of recovery from my OCD. I had longed for friendship for so long, but hadn’t found it.

The day I left the OCD IOP program (the first time), I cried. Not because I was worried about my OCD getting worse or acclimating to life without daily support, but because I was worried I wouldn’t make friends.

I had never met people who understood me before that program. People who understood the intense anxiety I felt. People who understood how terrifying and intrusive OCD is. I met a lot of teens there and we all bonded over our struggles. We talked about recovery in it’s earliest stages, which is what made it so beneficial to see them talk about it two years later with obvious improvements.

An aspect of recovery that psychologists often seem to neglect is the peer support. In the program, we’d be with kids like us every day. To be honest, watching them grow is more motivating than any amount of CBT worksheets. Some kids could work with a therapist for ages on one subject, but it wasn’t until another kid explained it that they understood. There is a trust between two people with the same illness, a trust that could never be replicated between a patient and a therapist.

After the program, that trust was ripped away from us. They didn’t have a support group for patients, which is a vital error on their part. Perhaps having peer support would stop many teens from going back.

It was also hospital policy that patients weren’t allowed to have each others’ contact information. However, at the reunion we were no longer patients, so I didn’t mind giving away my number. 😉 Texting my friends from the program helped me have some of the support I desperately wanted, but conversations were few and far between and it felt odd to bring up recovery.

That’s when I started getting messages on my channel from people who also wanted support. Some of them had been in a program like mine and felt lonely without their peers. E-mailing these people helped me as much as it helped them. We quickly became each other’s support systems.

Then came OCD Week. Around that week I was introduced to the Twitter OCD community, which is actually quite huge. You’d think 140 characters would inhibit how much support you can give, but that’s proven wrong when you meet the kind OCD bloggers, speakers, and activists who use Twitter as a means of spreading awareness and hope.

Having them is what changed my 2015 from the previous years after my OCD diagnosis. If you need a pick-me-up, motivation to do exposures, or just have a lighthearted OCD musing you’d like to share, they’re always there for you. They’re the most understanding and recovery oriented people I have met in regards to OCD. Especially on the internet where false information runs rampant, we need resources that support recovery from mental illness. These blogs, twitters and my friends in the YouTube mental health community do so.

Last year I made my first recovery vlog where I talked about wanting to make friends, but having trouble because of my social anxiety. Once again, mental health advocacy has opened up opportunities I never could have had before. The opportunity to know somebody who understands.

Thank you to all that has been a friend to me this past year, I hope I’m a good friend to you too. 🙂

Kat

Ps. I intend to make a master post of all the OCD resources I mentioned for my YouTube subscribers because there are very few recovery oriented OCD YouTube channels out there.
Pps. This is a collaborative art project the other patients and I made at the reunion. I'm so proud of how far we've come, including the program itself.

Pps. This is a collaborative art project the other patients and I made at the reunion. I’m so proud of how far we’ve come, including the OCD program itself.

The Four Most Powerful Words to OCD

Lately I’ve been kicking out little (but significant) OCD compulsions I haven’t gotten rid of yet, despite it being years since they first started. 

Sometimes OCD will bring about a compulsion that initially you try to fight, but it stays around long enough that you end up doing it without even thinking. It becomes automatic.

I recently made a list of things I’ve taken back from OCD. The list includes:

  1. Singing
  2. Reading
  3. Praying, witnessing and reading the Bible with my legs crossed
  4. Praying without kneeling
  5. Praying while sitting down
  6. Driving
  7. Video games
  8. Going to my basement and being in dark places
  9. Writing without rewriting
  10. Drawing without redrawing

Some of the ones I’ve regained recently include playing video games, reading and praying while sitting down.

One of the compulsions I’ve had for years is not wearing button-up shirts. When I first started dressing modestly, OCD hopped onto my modest journey and decided that button-up shirts are immodest. It’s reasoning? Button-up shirts are too easy to take off. 

This compulsion proved to make clothes shopping hard because most actually modest shirts out that year were button-ups.

Since then I’ve casually avoided button-up shirts.

When I go shopping, being a woman who values modesty, I keep a mental checklist for what qualities I want in my clothes. When going through that checklist, sometimes a shirt will make every qualification. Long sleeves, not too low cut, etc., but it’s a botton-up. On those cases, I politely move onto the next item. In other cases, the shirt may have some buttons, but is not a complete button-up shirt. Therefore leading to a very unnessesary mental battle. 

Since I’ve been trying to kick out these ingrained compulsions, when I saw my one button-up shirt hanging innocently in my closet, I decided today’s the day to kick out this one. I’ve tried to do this a couple times before, but was never successful at wearing it out of the house. Not always because of anxiety, sometimes because the weather wasn’t right or I decided on another outfit.

Here’s how it went:

I took it out of my closet and started buttoning it up. That’s when I remembered before OCD, I used to always wear tank tops under my button-up shirts. I decided not to put one on because it will add to the anxiety around being immodest.

Then I started thinking about my button-up modesty “rule”. The reason I didn’t wear button-up shirts for so long was I believed it was a valid modesty rule. I believed it was a religious rule, not an OCD rule.

Beliefs like this is what kept me from recovery from my religious obsessions for so long. Learning what OCD thoughts look like helped me identify when a rule was really OCD. That took a long time too, and I still struggle with it. That’s why I had a spike of anxiety when I realized this rule might be a religious rule, not OCD.

If it’s a religious rule, that means I’m disobeying Almighty God. It means I could go to Hell (my most feared consequence).

Instead of ruminating, instead of trying to figure out if it’s God, I said “Well, maybe it is.”

Four powerful words for an OCD sufferer.

What helped more than learning what an OCD thought looks like, was learning that ruminating over whether it’s OCD or not  is a compulsion. Cutting that out is key in defeating OCD. 

Despite my anxiety, I pushed past the fear and I finished buttoning my shirt.

Then I promptly went to the full-length mirror to take a selfie of my accomplishment.

Writing this out has brought back my anxiety. If I were to rate my anxiety on a scale of one to ten, ten being the highest, it would be an eight. I’m having urges to figure out if it’s OCD. I need to be certain that it is. I’m resisting those urges quite well, if I do say so myself.

This is another exposure that has made me realize how far I’ve come. A year ago, when I was in an Intensive Outpatient Program for OCD (my 2nd time), I would not do exposures around religious obsessions due to my false beliefs regarding them. Now, I’m challenging my biggest fear.

To be honest, this was a bit of a flooding exposure. I only started religious obsessions 4 months ago and I’m still at the bottom of my hierarchy. When I started this exposure I was so certain that it was OCD. I didn’t expect that I would even doubt it.

OCD, “the doubting disease,” obviously had other plans.

Regardless, I already started the exposure and my anxiety is tolerable, so I’m not giving up now.

I hope one day to take back everything OCD has taken from me. I want to enjoy those things again. Although, it hurts to know I can never take back the most precious thing, lost time. Now that the time of OCD is over, I know I must spend the rest making healthy decisions to improve my life.

One of those things being avoiding compulsions, no matter how much it hurts.

And having fun outside of my house, which I’m about to do now.

Here’s my outfit of the day:

   

 

Feel the Fear, But Do It Anyway 

You cannot have bravery without
fear.

Throughout my life, I’ve been afraid of many things. I thought my fear was something to hide from. An actual threat. Everyone taught me, hide under the covers. Do what you need to do to not feel anxious.

But that doesn’t solve anything, does it? 

Tonight I am inspired by the Biblical passage of 1 Samuel 17, the story of David and Goliath. When David was sent to bring food to his brothers fighting the Philistine army, he was thrust into a situation that had caused every Israelite soldier to cower in fear, literally run away from the battle. 

The nearly 10 foot tall Philistine Goliath was once again threatening the Israelites. He proposed that their armies do not fight, but if any Israelite was able to beat him alone, the Philistines would become Israel’s servants. However, if they lost, the Israelites would become the Philistine’s servants.

David, visiting his brothers in the battle line, asked what was going on. The soldiers told him the story and the great prize from King Saul; Saul’s daughter and exemption from taxes and service in Israel (That’s like no jury duty, woohoo! They should implement this in America, just saying).

David starts out bravely insulting the Philistine. Instead of rallying with him, David’s brother gets angry. He calls David conceited, his heart wicked. If that is true, David’s conceit was was obviously an advantage on that day.

When Saul heard of David’s remarks, Saul summoned David. David, the young boy, the shepherd from Bethlehem, boldly offered himself up fight Goliath. 

Without armor, without experience, David approached Goliath. Goliath mocked him, “Am I a dog? Is that why you’re coming at me with sticks?” But David’s stick was not a stick. It was actually (drumroll please) a shepard’s slingshot. While the slingshot didn’t even compare to Goliath’s spear, sword and javelin, David had another weapon. David announced:

 I’m coming to you in the name of ADONAI-Tzva’ot, the God I the armies of Israel, whom you have challenged. Today Adonai will hand you over to me. I will attack you, lop your head off, and give the carcasses of the army of the P’lishtim (Philistines) to the birds in the air and the animals in the land. Then all the land will know that there is a God in Israel.

Do you think David was fearful when he approached Goliath? The Bible does not say, but David’s bravery was greater than what fear he might have had.

This story teaches us to do what we desire, even when we’re fearful. In life, we will have amazing opportunities that will intimidate us. How we make that decision should never be based on the fear we feel, but our desire to take that opportunity. This is bravery! By pushing past fear, you’re already braver than those hundreds of Israelite soldiers. 

If you want to do something, feel the fear, but do it anyway! Feel the fear, but do it anyway. If we ever want to get where we want to be in life, we need to push past fear. 

In Exposure and Response Prevention therapy, we gain the tools to fight the giant that is OCD. Our slingshot, if you will. 

Sometimes OCD feels like a giant Goliath. Sometimes we want to run and hide (or compulse and avoid). However, that will never solve the problem. That will never win the war. No obsession you face can ever be solved by a compulsion. On the contrary, every obsession you face can be solved by acceptance. To fight OCD is to surrender to it. 

Sometimes this seems impossible. However, if you believe in such things, Matthew 19:26 in the Bible says that with God, all things are possible. A phrase I brought up a lot in the OCD clinic.

So with your slingshot and possibly with Adonai-Tzva’ot (Lord of Hosts), you can fight any Goliath in your life.