OCD Update

Date April 2, 2011 by jennifer

Okay, so several people have asked me to update how I am doing. I am doing amazingly well! The skies are blue again, the weather is getting warmer, my kids are behaving, my husband rocks, and my drugs are working quite well…..ahhhhhhhh. Zoloft and I are great friends. Aside from a few side effects from increasing my dosage (just annoying stuff) things are going really well. I start cognitive behavioral therapy next Friday April 8. I’ll keep you posted on that. I hear it is a very intense process and the therapist has even warned me about that. Also, I have been asked the same questions about the whole thing again and again, so I have decided to do a FAQ section. Exciting I know. So, here we go.

1. OCD? So, do you wash your hands a lot?
– No. There are many types of OCD and that is not my type, although the type can change throughout your life. Mine is primarily fear of hurting someone else on accident, someone hurting me or the people I love, or health obsessions.

2. Do you still have those scary thoughts about the kids?
– Yes, sometimes. Not as often and since I am now taking an anti-anxiety med they don’t upset me as much, so I don’t obsess over them. Most of the time, I can ignore them and just shrug them off. Sometimes, I have to make more of a choice to move on and it is more difficult.

3. Will you always have OCD?
– Yep. It’s chronic and will probably always be something I have to overcome. But, I am getting as much help as possible to combat it. Therapy + Medicine = Somewhat normal Jen

4. Can you just stop the thoughts?
– No. I tried and that just made things 10 times worse. Again, meds and therapy.

5. You seem so happy about this diagnosis????
– Honestly, I thought I was psychotic and a potential threat to my kids and the people around me. So, finding out it is OCD and there is no possible way I would ever act on those thoughts (which are actually my worst fears replaying themselves over and over) was a huge relief. I have been dealing with this forever, so there is no “oh poor me” going on for me. It is more like a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders to finally know why I have been this way my entire life. On top of that, it is something that is treatable. Praise the Lord!

6. So, what are the side effects of Zoloft?
– They are different for everyone, but for me, they are just annoying. For the first month or so when I am taking it, I am really sleepy during the day and, of course, I have insomnia at night. That goes away though. The main annoying thing is that my brain feels slower. Sort of like I stutter from time to time, in my head.

7. Are all of your OCD symptoms gone on medicine?
– No, but they are watered down significantly. I still lock my car door more than once and check things, just not as much as before. I still count my steps when I walk the dog, although I am trying really hard to stop doing that.

8. How? You seem so normal. (this is by far the most frequent question)
– There is a lot that goes on in my head that I don’t share. Ask my husband, my parents, or my best friends and they will tell you without a doubt that it all makes sense. And a lot of things I never shared because I just thought they were normal for everyone, because they have always been normal for me.

The OCD Monster: Part 2

Date March 6, 2011 by jennifer

This is the second part of the story of my struggle with OCD. If you would like to read the first part, click on the following link. The OCD Monster: Part 1

Between the obsessions over my health and my worries about someone harming me, I was a bit tightly wound. When I had kids, I really felt like God had healed my obsessions with my health. For a long time, those went away. But, without me realizing it, those worries were replaced by worries about my kids.

I have woken in the middle of the night, consumed by a feeling a doom. Are all of the doors locked? When we were at the park today, was there a person around watching my kids that might have followed us home? Would he know where we live? Could he come into our home and hurt our kids? I go into each of their rooms, scoop them up and take them into the guest bedroom with me. I sleep with them to make sure they are protected for the rest of the night. I might do this the next night too. If I wake up without a feeling of doom, I still have to check on my kids. I just need to make sure they are safe. Bosley is a great watchdog, but I wish he were more of a guard dog. I would feel better at night.

At our house, all doors are locked at all times. ALWAYS. When I am in public with my kids, I am on edge the whole time. What if they disappear? What if someone harms them? What if, what if, what if? I used to check the basement every time we came home, just in case. I have gone downstairs at 2am to check the locks and garage doors. Check, check, check.

In the last few years, I have had mild worries that I was going to accidentally hurt someone. If I hit a pothole in the road or a curb, I worry about it being a person. I check my rear view mirror just to be sure. Then I worry the mirror did not have the correct angle for me to see properly. This bothers me for a few minutes before I force common sense to reign. I worry about things accidentally happening to my kids. I think about a knife falling off of the counter or me dropping it and it falling on my kids. I worry about saying things that I shouldn’t. I replay conversations over and over in my mind to make sure I didn’t say anything awful or rude. Worry, worry, worry.

Add this to all of the quirky, harmless things I have done over the years. I used to add numbers on digital clocks all of the time and tried to make two equal numbers out of what was on the clock. I count my steps when I am walking the dog. (1,2…1…1,2….1….etc). I tap my fingers in a certain pattern. (thumb, middle, pointer, ring, middle, pinkie, reverse and repeat)

Then, in January 2011, my worst nightmare happened. A disorder I didn’t even know I had attacked me at full force. It is still hard to talk about, but for the benefit of myself and anyone else who might have ever been paralyzed by this illness and intrusive thoughts, I am sharing.

It had been a long month. Judah had been sick, had an ear infection and I was exhausted and feeling emotionally vulnerable. I was standing in the kitchen and had Judah in the baby carrier. I was chopping vegetables for dinner with a large knife when an image of me stabbing him with the knife came into my mind. It lasted a split second, but the collateral damage it caused crippled me for weeks. I instantly became sick to my stomach and pushed the thought out of my mind. The harder I tried to push it away, the stronger the image became and it just kept repeating itself. I felt like I was running into a brick wall over and over again and there was no way to get around it. I felt helpless. Powerless. Then, the thoughts this image caused took over. There must be something evil deep down inside of me to think such a thing? Am I a harm to my kids? Should they be taken away from me? Should I be committed? Is this what happens to a woman right before she becomes psychotic? Am I insane? If I weren’t evil, I would be able to get this thought to go away, right? What is in my subconscious that wants to do this? Then more images came. I hold my baby, shaking for fear that I might hurt him. I hand him to Jere, terrified to tell him the thoughts that wouldn’t leave my head. I can’t look at any of my kids. The fear, the guilt, the images are crippling me. I quickly crumble apart under the weight of it all.

The next day, I am feeling worse and start taking 100mg of Zoloft again. It takes at least two weeks to take affect, so there is no relief in the near future. The images are still there, as are all of the fears and doubts that come along with them. The harder I try not to think about it, the worse it gets. My mind is stuck and I can’t recover. A friend comes over that day and spends the entire day with me. When she starts to leave, I begin to panic. I am terrified of being alone with my kids, for fear I might hurt them. Am I psychotic? What is happening to me? I love my kids, why can’t I get passed this? When Jeremiah comes home, I ask him constantly for reassurance that I am not a violent monster. We go to Versailles for the weekend so we can have help with the kids and I can have emotional support. I am plagued by panic attacks every time I look at or think about my kids. I can’t be alone with them and I can’t take care of them. I am terrified. The weekend allows me to rest, but I am nervous about going home. On Monday night, we get home and I give Arwyn a bath. I have to leave the room because I am having an anxiety attack. Sudden images of drowning her have sent me into a terrified downward spiral. Jeremiah has to finish her bath. On Tuesday, am alone with the kids for the first time in 5 days and I am no where near healed. I make it through the week somehow. We take it easy and I don’t do much except rest and let the kids watch TV. Panic attacks here and there, but I feel the Zoloft beginning to help. The thoughts are still pretty constant at that point, but I am not feeling as anxious about them and they are fading in strength. Still though, I refuse to use knives with my kids in the room, I cannot bathe them for fear I might drown them, and putting them to bed is terrifying because there are pillows nearby. Basically, any situation in which a mother might hurt her kids, I avoid. I fear going to sleep because I am afraid I will hurt my kids while sleep walking. I check on them all of the time at night.

The weekend comes and I am feeling confident I am going to recover soon. I haven’t eaten well in over a week, because I have felt sick from the images and fears. But I am starting to feel better, then Sunday night comes. Jeremiah and Breckin left the house for an event and I was at the house with the two little ones. The images come back full force and I panic. I put the two kids to bed immediately and sit on the couch to regain my composure. Then the doubts creep in. What if I hurt them and don’t remember? I check on them at least twice to make sure I didn’t do something that I don’t remember. Freak out then, check, check, check.

It was weeks before I was able to feel completely comfortable being alone with my kids again and a month before I could give my kids a bath or use knives while they were in the kitchen without trembling. Slowly, the Zoloft began to even things out and the images began to weaken. My anxiety lessened and I began to get better. A month after the initial image that started everything, I decided to look my symptoms up online. This was definitely not my usual anxiety and I had know I was not going crazy. And if I were crazy, I had to protect my kids. My online search lead me here to the International OCD Foundation. When I read this site, I suddenly felt so relieved and shocked all at once. It explained my latest episode of anxiety and fear and a lifetime of “little” things I have thought about and done.

I made an appointment with a wonderful Christian psychiatrist. After two hours of sitting and chatting with her about my life, my family, my thoughts, my fears, my behaviors, etc, etc, she diagnosed me with OCD and Mild Recurrent Major Depressive Disorder. Depression and OCD aren’t an odd combination. In fact, it is common that if you have OCD, you will probably also have depression. Makes sense that OCD would cause depression. She also raised my dosage of Zoloft to 150mg.

When most people think of OCD, they think of What About Bob and Monk. At least, that is what I think about. The hand washing, refusing to touch doorknobs, or always cleaning. None of that is me. I am not a neat freak or afraid of germs. I am not a perfectionist about most things. Here is what I do.

Obsessions:
– Fear of acting on an impulse to harm others
– Fear of violent or horrific images in one’s mind
– Fear of being responsible for something terrible happening (examples: fire, burglary)
– Fear of harming others because of not being careful enough (example: dropping something on the ground that might cause someone to slip and hurt him/herself)
– Concern with a need to know or remember
– Concern with getting a physical illness or disease (not by contamination e.g., cancer)
– Fear that someone will harm me or the people I love

Compulsions

– Checking that you did not/will not harm others
– Checking that nothing terrible happened
– Checking some parts of your physical condition or body
– Repeating body movements (example: tapping, touching, blinking)
– Mental review of events to prevent harm (to oneself, others, to prevent terrible consequences)
– Canceling” or “Undoing” (example: replacing a “bad” word with a “good” word to cancel it out)
– Telling, asking, or confessing to get reassurance
– Avoiding situations that might trigger your obsessions

In addition to an appointment with a psychiatrist, I will also start therapy in about 8 weeks at the Kansas City Center for Anxiety Treatment.
The therapy will involve a method called Exposure Response Prevention that will help me develop the skills to deal with my obsessions in the event that my medicine stops working or so I can slowly scale my Zoloft dosage back from 150mg to 50mg. Research shows that people who use a combination of therapy and medication for OCD have great success in overcoming the disorder. At the KCCAT, I will be reevaluated by a psychologist for 2-3 hours and then they will develop a custom treatment plan from there. I am excited and stressed about this. It is supposed to be an intense process, but I look forward to having more control over my own mind again and not being quite so dependent on Zoloft to keep me sane.

This is my story of my struggle with the OCD monster. Keep you posted.

The OCD Monster: Part 1

Date March 5, 2011 by jennifer

This is the first part of my crazy story with OCD. In January, I had a very scary episode with OCD and finally sought help. It was only then that I learned that I have been suffering from OCD for as long as I can remember. Here is my story.

I’m a teenager. Can’t remember exactly what age, because I have been this way for as long as I can remember. Even for as long as my parents can remember. I am a worrier. Nothing abnormal, or so I thought, but just a worrier. At bedtime, I follow a routine because I am suspicious that I might die in my sleep or that someone might kill me in the middle of the night. On my way to my room, I make sure I tell my Dad I will see him in the morning. I do this every night. That should seal my fate. I should make it through to the next day. Then, when I get to my room, I check. Check, check, check. My closet, under the bed, between my bed and the wall. I check anywhere there could be a potential intruder. I might check my closet twice, just to be sure. Then I lay down and recite my prayer. I say the same words always, exactly as I have said them a thousand times before. If I mess up, I start over. This prayer insures that if I do die in my sleep, that I will get into heaven……finally, I can go to sleep. When I wake in the morning, I am pleasantly surprised.

Still a teenager. My dad drops me off at our house. It is empty. I make him come inside and check under every bed in the house and maybe even the closets. I can’t quite remember. Meanwhile, I check the bathroom closet and I pull back the curtain on the bathtub to make sure nobody is hiding there to jump out and kill me. Once I get the “all clear”, I allow my dad to leave. As soon as he leaves, I lock all doors and check the back door to make sure it is also locked. And if I am feeling extra spry, I might even check the locks on the windows. Can’t have any intruders now, can we? Check, check, check.

Probably around age 10, I notice a bump on my finger. It happens to be the exact place where I hold my pencil. I immediately panic, assuming it is cancer, of course. I run and ask my mom about it. She sees that I am clearly freaking out and assures me that it is just a callous and that I will live. Wow. Dodged a bullet there, but I am going to keep an eye on it, just in case she is wrong.

My college years are full of health obsessions. I notice at one point that one of my ribs in higher than the other when I am laying on my back. Is it supposed to be that way? Is it cancer? Could the higher rib have a growth on it? I nearly have an anxiety attack just thinking about it. I check it everyday, multiple times a day for months just to make sure it isn’t growing. Of course, it never does and I move onto a new obsession.

Still in college, my asthma appears to be getting worse as I age. Maybe it will kill me?! Maybe it is getting worse because I have lung cancer or something like that? (Noticing a pattern here?)

Just married to the man of my dreams and I am working at a local hospital. I am terrified of somehow contracting HIV, even though I have only worked with 2 or 3 HIV patients in as many years and I have never stuck myself with a needle. I become terrified that I have somehow picked up the virus and will pass it on to my unsuspecting husband. I lie in bed at night crying for fear that I might harm him without knowing it.

About 7 years later, I am working at Quest Diagnostics when I experience a true exposure to a person’s blood. I wait 12 hours for the tests to come back confirming that I have not been exposed to HIV. The 12 hour wait was horrific. I was having a full blown break down. Sweating and shivering at the same time. Repeating myself over and over, pacing the floor, on the verge of throwing up. Then I got the call that I had not been exposed. I was so relieved. Then a week later, I started doubting. What if they tested the wrong persons blood? After all, it is a huge lab. What if they didn’t do the test correctly? What if I was exposed and nobody knows? What if, what if, what if? The HIV obsession is back for a while.

Over the years, I have done this with everything. A pimple on my neck – lymphoma? The moles on my skin – melanoma? The lump the doc found on my breast and assured me it was fine more than once – breast cancer? Check, check, check. Check as many times a day as I can. Obsess all day long. It never leaves my mind, always nagging at me. Eventually the obsession fades, just to be replaced by another. I might go months without a worry, then they will slowly creep back in and take over my life.

Cute Pictures!

Date November 8, 2010 by jennifer

For more cuteness, click here.

Halloween: Toy Story Edition

Date November 4, 2010 by jennifer

For several years, Jeremiah and I have thought it would be fun to dress up as a family. This year, we took the plunge. It was a Toy Story halloween in the Bentch house this year.


Bo Peep and Buzz


Woody and Alien


The whole gang.

Note: I did not have to threaten my husband to get him to participate. He was happy to do it, although he wanted to be Zurg. Apparently, Zurg outfits are hard to come by.

How Far We’ve Come

Date October 30, 2010 by jennifer

A year ago, I began a journey to make our family life a bit more natural. Out with processed foods, out with chemicals, out with disposable diapers, etc, etc. I knew this wouldn’t happen overnight and to be honest, it is still a work in progress that will always be a work in progress. But, here are a few things we have changed about the way we live in the last year. Some have been easy, some, not so easy.

1. Out with disposable diapers, in with cloth – This has been easy for the most part. Washing diapers is not a big deal. The big deal is remembering to change them more often than a disposable. If you don’t, they will leak. Other than that, after the initial learning curve, it has been an easy transition for us. We have saved hundreds on diapers so far and Judah rarely gets diaper rash with cloth on. My kids have sensitive skin, so it is nothing for them to constantly have a rash in disposables. Definitely a great decision.

2. Bye-Bye Microwave – This was probably the easiest thing I have done. I just put it in the basement about a year ago to see if I could live without it. The answer: yes. No biggie. It is like I never had one.

3. Chucking Chemical Cleaners – Our daughter, Arwyn, has awful eczema and strong smelling cleaners aggravate my lungs quite a lot, so I tossed them and started making my own. I have a great recipe for disinfectant cleaner, sink scrub, dishwasher detergent and toilet cleaner. Borax, baking soda, vinegar, and a few essential oils will go a LONG way. And instead of using Gain or Tide, I use Charlies Soap for everything from diapers to delicates. My cleaning supply costs have been cut dramatically, especially on laundry detergent. While Tide costs about $.25/load, the Charlies Soap I bought (in bulk) costs about $.11/load and it cleans like a dream.

4. Purging Processed – I make 100% of the bread my family eats. Yes, 100%. I make everything I possibly can from scratch and we eat a lot more fruit, veggies and cheese. We still eat meat, just not as much. This is probably the biggest challenge. After all, it takes a lot of time to do everything homemade, and I have 3 children under 6. So, while shopping, I buy very little processed, but we definitely have a few things that will never be given up. Goldfish, pastuerized milk, occasional deli meat and a trip to Chick-Fil-A. My life is busy, so I have had to find a balance here. However, my grocery cart, when leaving the store looks vastly different than those around me. And, it doesn’t cost me more money to do this. Just more time.

Like I said, it is a work in progress and I have big goals ahead. But for now, I am happy with how far we have come.

Judah Speak

Date October 28, 2010 by jennifer

Bobo: translation – Bosley
Hi-ya!: translation – Hi!
Day-doe: translation – There you go
Bee-boo: translation – Peek-a-Boo
Mumma: translation – Momma
Baaaawwwww: translation – Ball (his biggest obsession)
Baaaaaaa (think sheep with a southern accent): translation – Bye!
Day-doo: translation – Thank you
Na-Na: translation – No no

There is just something too adorable about a baby’s first words.

No Superwoman

Date October 27, 2010 by jennifer

Sometimes I find myself feeling a little jealous of The Supermom. The woman who manages to volunteer, host playdates constantly, work, etc, etc. I think about all they must accomplish outside of their home and I feel a little jealous. It makes my dishes, laundry, and endless list of chores seem insignificant. I sometimes begin to wonder if I am making a difference at all. However, when I look closely, these women seem very stressed, their kids seem stressed sometimes and it isn’t as perfect as it all seems from a distance. I have my own set of rules that I follow to keep me in check to make sure our life doesn’t become too terribly crazy. I am not willing to host more than one dinner party/play date each week, sometimes less. I only volunteer for one role at a time and I make sure it will not suck a significant amount of my time away from my kids. I don’t have GNO more often than once or sometimes twice per month. And, I do turn down opportunities to playdate or volunteer if I feel as though it will be too much for our family. Because, while I LOVE doing things outside of my home that contribute to society, someone else without small children could easily come along and fill those roles. But, nobody can fill the role of Jeremiah’s wife and mother to our children. I want to be a great wife and mom first, then the rest is just filler. It is just nice to remind myself of that from time to time when I need a little perspective. :)

Arwyn’s Broken Arm: Window, Bush, Ground

Date October 21, 2010 by jennifer

Last Friday, Jeremiah and Breckin left around 5:30pm to do an Adventure Guides event. Judah and I were in the kitchen eating dinner and Arwyn was in the living room. She had just watched Jere and B leave from the window and had seen some kids playing outside in the cul-de-sac. She moved in for a closer look, which meant climbing onto the arm of the chair and leaning onto the screen of the opened window. She put all of her weight on the screen and fell out of the first floor window. First, her face met the bush and she cut her head and face. Then, her body met the ground, breaking both bones in her forearm.

Still sitting in the kitchen, I heard the type of scream that makes you drop everything you are doing and run to your child. I ran into the living room, my heart already beating like crazy, and I couldn’t find her. I could hear her, but I didn’t see her anywhere. Then, I saw the window. I ran outside to find my small child lying on the ground between the house and the evergreen bushes in the front of our home. She was screaming. I tried to get her to come out, but she was clearly shocked and not going to listen to anything I said. After a second or two, she stood up and that is when I saw her face and most alarming, her arm. It wasn’t straight anymore. This is when things get fuzzy for me because I think I also entered a sort of “shocked” state. I mean really, the second time inside of two months one of my children has broken a bone! I started yelling at God….on my porch. I am sure I looked crazy. I looked up and screamed, “You’ve got to be freaking kidding me!!!!” This was probably not the “going to the Lord in prayer for my daughter” response the Lord was hoping for, but it is just what I did. I went inside to get my phone, forgetting where it was even though it was right in front of me. I was just so stunned. I called Jere. He came home and we made arrangements for Breckin and Judah. We took her to the hospital.

We arrived at the ER around 6:15pm and didn’t get home until 12 hours later. Sweet Arwyn was stuck 5 times in attempt to start an IV. Making matters worse, she is terrified of needles. I mean, TERRIFIED! So, not only did she break her arm, she was, in her mind, tortured 5 times after that. The IV start was never a success. Finally, they gave her a shot of ketamine in the leg and knocked her out. They reset her bones and casted her in the ER around 2:30-3am. She slept through the ride home and until 10am. She woke up acting a little tired, but just like Arwyn. Even though we have had plenty of beautiful window-open worthy days since, I have yet to open the windows again. Arwyn is doing really well and recovering quite nicely. She hasn’t slowed down one bit. However, it is possible I am now the most paranoid mother in the world.

Full Story Later

Date October 19, 2010 by jennifer

For now, it is pictures.

Her face met the huge bush. The bush won. Huge goose egg with cuts on her head and below her eye. Then, arm hit the ground. Ground won for sure. Two broken bones in her forearm.

Breckin was very happy to be the first to sign her cast. Before long they were comparing war stories.

And she loved her birthday pedicure!