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In December of 1996, I threw away every bit of silverware that I had.  After having spent months & months washing this set of silverware over & over again and never quite getting it clean, I took the easy way out.  I threw it in the trash. From then on, I used plastic utensils. Thirteen years later, and guess what?  Still using plastic.

Traci on “Obsessed” reminded me of this when she talked about her dish washing habits.  And her hand-washing habits.  I think she said it was about 100 times a day;  that’s a lot, in case you were wondering.  Count the number of times you wash your hands on any given day and you will find the number surprisingly lower.  There have been times when my hand-washing was over the 50 times per day mark; I considered it quite an accomplishment to get it down to 30.  But the dishes:  oh that is very familiar territory.

Traci washed the dishes after her roommates washed them, feeling they were not clean enough.  She hovered over her boyfriend while he was trying to cook dinner, watching his every move.  Oh, so familiar.  That fear that others do not wash the dishes well enough & they are therefore contaminated; that absolute need to watch someone prepare food to make sure they don’t use anything you deem ‘dirty’ or unclean.  I understand her boyfriends’ annoyance at this:  I used to drive my mother crazy doing the same things.

I felt nervous for Traci:  I don’t know that I could go into a port-o-potty either.  Just watching this makes me cringe.  Confession:  this is the first time I’ve seen the inside of one!  [current anxiety level from the sofa:  5.  high, I know, but as a fellow mysophobia-sufferer…]   I know the E&R therapy is helpful, but oh my god… the things you have to do.  Anxiety-provoking, dirty, disgusting, horrific things.

Oh, Traci:  now a roller-coaster ride too?  I recently wrote a post [June, I think] about freaking out on a coaster once.  That feeling of being trapped on the coaster is a familiar feeling, as well. Saying that she felt ‘freedom’ again while strapped into that coaster– well what else can one say but well done?  The therapy made her feel less the ‘prisoner’ she felt she was in the beginning of the show.

I love Dr. Shana’s approach with hoarding; the yard-sale is a great idea.  However, Judi experienced quite a bit of anxiety in giving up her things.  The value of the items to her is of course much more than the price put on those items.  I think it’s quite sad to put all your belongings out on the lawn, for others to judge worthy or not.  Items represent your life in some ways, whether you want them to or not.  It’s interesting to me that we usually tend to label some people who collect things as ‘hoarders’ and at other times ‘materialistic.’  I think the line of demarcation must be the emotional meaning that items hold for hoarders, and the anxiety it can bring when trying to get rid of those items.  It’s so nice to see how proud Judi was of her house after the big clean-out, and how nice it was to have her in-laws over for dinner– for the first time.  What a huge accomplishment for her.

Monday nights are doomed to be sob-fests for me, so long as A&E continues to show “Obsessed.”  And I so hope they do.

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Just thought of a horrible joke: A&E should air the show “Obsessed” three times in a row for those of us who do things in three’s. Don’t worry, I’m only poking fun at myself, no one else.

Tonight is a repeat of the first “Obsessed” episode that aired at the end of May. Something Scott said at the beginning of the show really struck me: he said he didn’t ‘feel worthy.’ Seems to be a common thread amongst people I know who suffer from OCD. Another related commonality is the guilt and shame that OCD brings with it. Why is this? I know there is a certain stigma attached to any mental disorder, but it seems that with OCD, the person suffering from it will judge themselves more harshly than anyone.

Believe me, it’s hard enough just dealing with the disease itself: add on a good amount of guilt and unworthiness, and it’s a wonder that a person can get out of bed. But why do we feel this way? Why is there such guilt attached to something that initially is not under your control? Sure, you can do therapy and ERP and CBT, but for most people the disease never completely goes away. You gain lots of coping skills, but you never rid yourself entirely. But this guilt… I know one person with OCD who was raised in the Irish Catholic tradition (which he luckily escaped) and he claims that is where is guilt stems from. Where does mine come from? From my mix of 7th-Day Adventist & Southern Baptist upbringing? Surely that would have subsided given my subsequent turn to Atheism?

I don’t really have an answer for any of these questions just yet. But I also can’t think of any reason that we are not all worthy of being happy, content, being in loving relationships, being successful in life. I just wish someone would remind me of these things every now & then.

Too bad that it has taken so long to get a show like “Obsessed” on the air.  Not that I could have watched it when my OCD was at its worst– I would have avoided it, most likely.  Watching it now, I am reminded again and again that OCD is such a devastating, life-changing disorder.  I feel so deeply for each and every person on the show; my empathy runs deep for them.

And why shouldn’t it?  When I was diagnosed 14 years ago, no one had ever even heard of OCD:  I’d never heard of it.  I had no idea that when I started avoiding cracks in the sidewalk for fear of ‘something bad happening’ that millions of others were also experiencing similar insanities.  Imagine, walking to class one day, on a sidewalk you’d walked on a thousand times, suddenly having this elementary-school rhyme pop into your head and stay; not only stay, but give you the worst anxiety you’d ever felt?  The absolute belief that if you DID indeed step on one crack, something bad would happen to a family member?

When I saw Karen checking under her bed, I felt a familiar pang.  Years before my life was actually taken over by OCD, I had an isolated incident of checking behaviors.  I do them now, still, on most nights.  I have this tiny apartment, I know that no one can actually fit under my bed, yet I have to check.  In 1989, I lived in a dorm room for one semester.  I had to drop out of college because I could not sleep at night:  I had thoughts of someone being in my room.  I had thoughts of Ted Bundy (even though he was either in jail or dead, not sure which, didn’t matter) coming into my dorm and murdering me.  I could not go to sleep until the sun was up; I slept two hours each night, then got up and went to class.  Every night, I checked the closets, under the bed, over and over again.  It didn’t matter how many times I checked, my mind would not let the thoughts go.  When I did sleep, I slept with the lights on.

So, I dropped out of college.  I couldn’t handle going on two hours of sleep each night; I was literally physically and mentally exhausted.  I did go back, to another university, a few years later.  That’s when the OCD really hit me.

Anyway, back to the show.  Again, both Russ and Karen have had some kind of trauma or loss in their lives.  Both suffered either repeated trauma and or loss of loved ones.  This is a common theme, and it just reinforces the belief I hold that some kind of trauma or stress will bring out OCD.

Russ stated that he became attached to things because he no longer had the people to care about– he associated objects with people he had lost in his life.  We all do this– we all keep mementos, reminders of events or people.  But as he said, letting go is necessary.  I liked the therapist’s approach of one room at a time– I’ve heard that it’s hard for hoarders to do anything about their hoarding because they don’t know where to start.  The task is so overwhelming that they just never begin.

Again, no mention of meds on the show.  Impressive, considering that most therapists want to throw pills at the problem instead of doing the really hard and necessary work.  CBT takes hard work, but it works— it helps more than any other therapy for OCD.  CBT helps the patient, not the drug companies.   14 years ago, when I was first diagnosed, the recent grad who had diagnosed me said that OCD was his specialty in college.  He then gave me a bunch of scripts and brochures.  He never mentioned CBT.  Thank fuck things have changed.

Helen hit it on the nose when she said that when a person is obsessed, “there is nothing else [sic].”  How very apt for a person with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  When you are in the midst of obsessions, that’s all you’ve got in your head.  One obsessive thought after another.

A&E’s new show, “Obsessed,” aired tonight.  I found it to be a pretty accurate rendering of OCD, especially considering that much of the disease and symptoms occur inside one’s head.  But you could clearly see the anxiety on the faces of the two persons profiled tonight.  Oh, the anxiety.  The feelings of embarrassment and shame.  The knowledge that you are not in control when you desperately want to be in control.

I particularly am impressed with the two therapists on the show.  They both discussed Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Exposure/Response therapy as ways to deal with OCD/anxiety, and not one mention of meds.  In my experience with therapists, they were always pushing meds, when really CBT is the best treatment for OCD.  Yeah, meds can help that process, but really all meds do is mask symptoms, they don’t eradicate them.  So well done on that aspect.

Also interesting is the discussion of trauma as a sort of catalyst for OCD/anxiety.  I think this must be the case for most sufferers of OCD/anxiety.

So, well done A&E.  It was hard not to tear up at the end along with Scott.  Can’t wait for the next episode.

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