Tag Archives: Experiences

Colonoscopy Tips & Tricks

For some, this post will be TMI; however, the number of people that will benefit from this information outweighs any possible embarrassment on my part.

Colonoscopy preps are the absolute worst. Every time I get scheduled for one, I never seem to  remember how much they suck; I just want to go and get it done. I start out feeling perfectly fine about the whole thing. And then I go to the pharmacy where they hand me this large bottle of powder, and I remember.

I do NOT enjoy colonoscopies, nor do I know anyone who does. Now, I was lucky enough to have an uncle who had a couple procedures done before I was ever scheduled, so I was already somewhat familiar with them, but many people who are going in for a colonoscopy do not have any previous exposure. So, I have decided to write up some tips, tricks, and general information about colonoscopies based on my own experiences.

[Please note that I am only 25, and–at the time of writing this–tomorrow will be my fourth colonoscopy. Absurd, I know. No one seems to be able to tell me what is wrong with my gut/digestion. I’ve also had two capsule endoscopies (camera-pill), with no luck. Despite my previous exposure to colonoscopies, I was scared out of my mind when I had my first in 2013. Though, to be fair, I think was more frightened what they’d find, and anxious to find an answer for my illness, rather than concerned with the actual procedure itself, but I digress.]

The information below is the result of my meager experiences. It is important to keep in mind that everyone’s experiences with medical staff and procedures will differ to some degree, and your own experience may be quite different.

 

Things to do BEFORE “prep” day

  • Stock your bathroom–Make sure your bathroom is stocked with toilet paper, a clean trashcan, moisturizing soap, and something to keep you occupied, as you are going to spend a ridiculous amount of time on the toilet.
  • Plan your meals–You are going to want a variety of liquids to keep your body functioning the day of your colonoscopy, as you will not be able to have anything solid! (Some gastroenterologists will require that you are on a liquid diet for 2-3 days before your procedure. It is always best to listen to what your doctor tells you to do as it may affect your procedure.) DO NOT CONSUME RED FOODS/DRINKS! Other colors may be restricted as well, per your doctor’s. instructions.[My first colonoscopy, I could not have anything red, orange, purple, or blue. I have included a list of appropriate food suggestions below.]
  • Prepare to be a hermit–Perform any errands that might be necessary before you have to start your prep, as you probably will not want to leave the house once prep begins. You really will be spending most of your time on the toilet.
  • Ask Questions–If you have any questions for your doctor or for the endoscopy center, make sure you ask them. Do not be afraid to ask them a million questions; it is their job to make you feel at ease and to help you understand exactly what it is that you need to do and what will happen during your procedure.
  • Ponder your wardrobe–Have comfortable clothing to wear as you will not want to wear anything too binding. Also make sure you have several pairs of clean underwear, once you get going, accidents can happen with (hardly any) notice.

 

“Foods” to Prepare Remember NO red!!!

  • Jellos/Non-Dairy Gelatins — [I like to keep lemon and lime on hand. Before my most recent colonoscopy, I also had apricot. Apricot does not really have a strong flavor, so it wasn’t my favorite, as I enjoy the flavors.]
  • Gatorades and/or Pedialyte — Yes, Pedialyte is marketed for children, but it is also fine for adults. It is generally flavored nicely, and it can help soothe an angry tummy. [I like to have Pedia-pops when I have been really sick. It helps me to rehydrate slowly.]
  • Juices — Any translucent juice without pulp. For example: Apple juice, white grape, white cranberry, etc. DO NOT, however, have normal grape juice, red cranberry, or a juice that has bits of fruit floating in it; this can cause you to not clean out properly before your procedure, or may dye your intestinal walls, which may mean that you have to do it all over again on another day (and, seriously, who wants to do this twice?).
  • Popsicles — Again, anything without red dye and without pulp should be fine. The root beer flavor has red dye–watch out for that! Some browns are not true brown.  [I personally like the banana twin pops.]
  • Broths – Make sure you get broth that does not have any bits of the animal still floating in it. Also avoid any powders that have added herbs in them. [I made this mistake and accidentally bought one with parsley in it, which likes to cling to the walls of your intestines when you are empty.]
  • Clear sodas – Lemon, lime, ‘dry’/’sparkling’ sodas, ginger ale.
  • Teas and/or coffees WITHOUT dairy — Try not to consume the dregs/flower bits. -[My favorite is ginger tea, because I get very nauseated during the prep, and ginger can help settle your stomach.]

 

Bathroom Stock:

  • PLENTY OF TOILET PAPER!! I cannot stress this enough.
  • Medicated cooling pads and/ or liquid witch hazel — to soothe your rectum when it begins to feel raw and abused, or in case of hemorrhoids.
  • Moisturizing hand soap — Your hands will get extremely dry with both the dehydration of the prep itself, as well as the repeated hand-washing.
  • Vaseline (Petroleum Jelly)/body-safe Oil — Never underestimate the power of proper moisturizers
  • Pads/Adult Diapers (Optional)–If you have ‘accidents’, and don’t wish to keep putting your clothes through the laundry. Sometimes, it’s fantastic to be able to throw sullied things away. (Don’t tell the environmentalists. << inserted by an environmentally conscious friend.)

 

Prep Day

Your doctor or the hospital will give you instructions on how to conduct your prep. My first time, I had to take four prescription laxative pills, wait four hours, then start my golytely. I had stayed up late the night before, so an alarm woke me up to take the pills; I took them and fell back asleep. I woke up with the worst stomach pains I had ever had. I ran to the bathroom and cried as my body cramped up, trying to release my stool. I will warn you now that the first poop is the absolute worst, and smell is really bad. And…I’m afraid it doesn’t get much better.

If you have a powdered prep like Golytely, mix it several hours before you need to start and put it in the fridge. I would suggest using the flavoring packet if you can because it really doesn’t taste great. If you are using Miralax, pick a gatorade flavor that you will be fine with hating by the end of it. If you are using Magnesium Citrate drinks, you will probably want them only chilled slightly, and you will want an extra. My stomach tends to reject Magnesium Citrate for some reason, and my step-sister has dropped one and broken it before, so it is always good to have a back-up.

For the majority of people, the cramping pain goes away once the stool softens.Personally, I get a cramping before each BM–which is often. My uncle describes this process as “peeing from your butt,” and I cannot think of a better way to put it.

You start out with almost a hardened-cork of a bowel movement. It is hard and it hurts. If you tear a little bit and have a bit of blood on the toilet tissue, use one of the medicated wipes or a little bit of witch hazel on your toilet paper to soothe your rectum. The cramping that you get (if you get it) will continue to increase until you start having soft bowel movements. This progresses to a toothpaste-like consistency for a little bit, and then you may get a burst of air. I’ll be frank, this will feel like your rectum is vomiting. The wet bit is coming.

Your body’s initial response (or at least mine) is to try to stop you from having an accident, even though you are on the toilet. It may be hard at first to get your muscles to relax enough for you to release the fluid. The first couple times this happens will be very strange indeed. [By this point, I am normally wearing a pad constantly, due to the frequency of accidents.

Once the build-up of stool is out of the way, the real craziness begins. Every. Single. Poop. Will be fluid, and it will be often. So many times have I thought I was finished, washed my hands, and suddenly the urgency is there again. Now, there will come a point where the toilet paper starts to feel like sandpaper (naturally). This is when you are going to want to use vaseline or some other body-safe moisturizing oil, such as coconut oil. Dip a bit of toilet paper into the container of petroleum jelly/oil and wipe it on. This serves to save your poor behind from so much agitation with the dry tissue.

[To me, this feels very nasty, so I take another piece of toilet paper and wipe along again to move a bit of the jelly off. This practice has helped me immensely.] Because of the number of times you go, you will also want a moisturizing hand soap, because a normal hand soap will dry out your hands very quickly.

*Since I am hypoglycemic, my blood sugar will plummet about halfway through my prep, and there isn’t much of anything I can do to boost it back up. Many times I have to tell them to check my blood sugar at the hospital before they take me back for the procedure. I generally end up having a bag of dextrose, which is basically sugar water in IV form during the procedure. Because of my hypoglycemia I will start to feel very sick, I will get shaky, and I will start to feel like I am freezing. If any of these things happen, don’t get too frightened. If you are diabetic or hypoglycemic, check your blood sugar if you can, if you are low, call your doctor and see what they recommend.*

Blood sugar will not be a problem for most people. However, my body doesn’t hold onto the juice or even jello long enough for my body to absorb the sugar, and so I end up doing something that you really SHOULD NOT do! I take some pretzels and I suck on them one at a time, careful not to swallow any of the pretzel itself. It doesn’t raise my blood sugar much, but the tiny bit it does helps my body to settle down so that I can finish my prep. (Please treat this kind of solution as a last resort if you have this problem, and follow your doctor’s instructions.)

You are going to feel like you are starving. That’s just how it is. BUT, no matter how much you feel like this, DO NOT EAT ANYTHING!!! You really don’t want to have to do this all over again and have your initial prep be for nothing. Do not give in to your cravings. If you are wanting something savory, drink some broth; if you want sweets, have jello. Clear, hard candies really help with this ‘starvation’. Most preps will let you have hard candy as long as it is not any of the restricted colors. It is something that you can suck on for a while, and at the end it is something harder for your teeth to chew… though, your dentist may have something to say about that.

You may feel dehydrated. Gatorade and water are great for this, but it WILL move through you quite quickly. You should note that if you chug a gatorade or a bottle of water, within 10 minutes you are going to be going to the bathroom again. There is nothing solid to absorb it in your gut. So, if you want to take a nap before the procedure, make sure that you do not drink anything within 30-or-so minutes of trying to sleep as you will just need to get back up, as you might have an accident while sleeping.

 

Procedure Day

Drink nothing after the time the medical staff tells you. For some people, it is a set number of hours before the procedure. For others, the rule is nothing after midnight the night before. Three of my procedures allowed me liquids up to 4 hours before, but my first procedure was a lot worse. I wasn’t allowed fluids of any kind after midnight. My colonoscopy was not scheduled until after 1pm, and I waited at the hospital for another hour before they were ready for me. Fourteen hours with no water made me extremely dehydrated and the nurses ended up having to stick me FIFTEEN times (not exaggerating).

[When they finally got a good stick in my vein, the nurse somehow poked the needle through the IV line and it started to leak. They told me that they would have to poke me again. I was so fed up by this point I told them, rather angrily: “If you take that IV out, I am walking out of here. You are NOT going to poke me again.” They accused me of having an anxiety problem. In the end, they taped the line and it held well enough to work for the procedure.

That being said, my other three procedures went by fine. My second one, the nurse was able to  get it in one go, and I didn’t even feel it. So, don’t be too scared by my story above.]

You’re going to want a designated driver. Every colonoscopy that I have had done, I was under some kind of anesthesia. You cannot drive yourself if you have anesthesia. They generally will not even admit you for the procedure if you do not have a driver with you the whole time.

They will take you back into a room and have you change into a gown, nothing on under it. For some, this can be very embarrassing, but–I am sorry to be harsh–you need to get over it. For the doctors there, your naked body is NOT special. They have seen it all. They do not look at you in any sort of sexual way.

If you are being put under for your colonoscopy, a nurse will come in and start an IV line. They may or may not run blood tests. This is different for each location, or if you have special considerations. When they are ready for you, they will come and wheel you into the procedure room.

This room can look a little scary at first–there are wires and monitors and tools, etc. all around you…bright lights, people moving around–It may seem a little chaotic once everyone gets in there, but try not to worry. They will ask you to roll onto your left side and pull your knees up to your chest (fetal position) which will give them better access once you are put under.

Someone will bring in some medicine to make you sleepy, but don’t worry, you will have people monitoring you the whole time to make sure you are okay. Your eyes will close, and the next thing you know you will be back in your room wondering what happened.

Now, some locations do the anesthesia for a colonoscopy a little differently, so I am going to walk you through what I remember with my first colonoscopy, and my latest.

Narrative:

My first colonoscopy, I arrived at the hospital and waited, as you do. Eventually, I was taken back into a room and given a really ugly gown to change into. My ex-wife (married at the time) was there with me. I changed and waited for a while longer.

The first nurse came in to ask some questions with a trainee nurse to start my IV. The Trainee gave me my first five pokes before she asked the other nurse to step in. I was poked three times in my left elbow crevice, twice in my left forearm, twice in that hand. Three times in the right crevice, twice in my right hand, and then three times in my right forearm before they got it. Ridiculous.

As I stated above, I was fairly unhappy with them, especially when the IV started to leak and they wanted to change it out. I honestly thought my ex was going to hit one of them.

They then took me back to a room that I cannot really remember. I was asked to lay on my left side and curl up with my right knee bent to my chest. And then there was a large white syringe, and I was getting fuzzy. The clear syringe started, and they made me open my mouth and started to put in this funnel sort of thing before I was fully out, and there was music. (Full surgical anesthesia was used.)

I was back in my room and I couldn’t see clearly. My ex took a video and I only remember bits and pieces of the whole thing before a certain point. But, somehow, I woke up thinking that I was Taylor Swift (whose music I really do not enjoy). I told my ex that I was not really a good little southern girl, that I was really from New York and that I slept with the person who carried my guitar. And I did NOT know who my ex was, which made her fairly upset. **If you have never had anesthesia before, this will undoubtedly be a learning experience for you. ENSURE you have someone else with you! They will be able to speak to the medical staff on your behalf while you are not quite aware.**

Several times, the machine I was hooked up to stopped beeping, and my head would thrash about for several seconds. I found out years later that I was actually having an allergic reaction to one of the anesthesia meds that I was given (Versed), which causes seizure-like activity when administered without a high dose of paralytic.

It took me over an hour to wake up enough to be able to leave. The nurse was not kind at all during this, and kept telling my ex to stop worrying about what was going on. I probably should have been kept for observation because of my reaction, but they were not the best hospital ever.

Now, that was the worst experience that I have had at a hospital.My second procedure was much better, and they used a lighter anesthesia than the other hospital. It comes out of your system very quickly and you wake up almost feeling completely normal. Much preferred.

My latest procedure went fairly well. I was taken to a room, a nurse came in to ask me some questions. I waited maybe fifteen minutes before a tech came in to take me into the procedure room. The tech was a little all over the place, which made me a bit nervous, but the anesthesiologist’s calm demeanor helped me to relax. I answered several more questions, was asked to lay in position and was given a nice dose of Propofol. The anesthesiologist said, “This may burn a little, but you won’t care in about 30 seconds.” I felt the meds hit my brain and mumbled, “oh, yeah.” He asked, “It burns?,” and I said, “Nope, I’m floaty; goodnight,” and I was out. That is the clearest I have remembered a conversation with an anesthesiologist.

I was aware of sounds as we were coming out of the procedure room. I remember being wheeled into my room, the tech talking to my ride. I remember trying really hard to open my eyes. I was really cold. Come on, you can do it, just tell them you are cold. Nothing. Come on, just open your eyes and tell them you are cold. Again, nothing. Oh my god, this is so frustrating; I just want a blanket. Sigh. I kept pushing to talk or open my eyes. The tech left, some time passed, a nurse came in to ask my ride what I might like to drink when I wake up.Come on!!! Tell them you are cold. — “Cold.” Nurse: “What was that.” “I’m cold.” FINALLY! I still couldn’t open my eyes, but I said it.

I got a blanket and finally got my eyes open. I was told later that I told the nurse several times both before and after the blanket that I was cold. Seems like my mouth was trying to catch up with my brain. I had to keep reminding myself to stay on my left side so that I could pass gas.

Speaking of gas….

 

Aftermath

You may wake up feeling groggy. Your driver has been given instructions to make sure that you stay laying on your side. During the procedure, they filled your colon up with air so that they could see clearly what was going on inside you. They cannot just suck this air out–as that can damage your intestines–it has to come out on its own. The best way for this to happen is for you to lay on your left side. It gives a mostly-direct path for the air to move along. If you roll over onto your back or your right side, the air will start to move back up your intestines and get trapped in pockets that will cause very bad cramps. I highly advise against it.

Generally, they will make you stay in recovery until you have passed several big pockets of gas. If you have some cramping during this time, it is normal. Also, if you pass fluid or wake up in a damp or wet bed, this is also normal, as your body sometimes doesn’t release all the fluid from your prep. If you ask nicely, the nurses will generally be willing to change the pad that you are laying on so that you are more comfortable.

Once you finish waking up, your hunger will begin to return full-force. Depending on what was found during your colonoscopy, you may be able to leave and go eat. However, you may end up being put on a continued liquid or soft diet. It is important to listen to what your doctor tells you.

You will continue to pass gas throughout the day, and you may want to continue wearing a pad or adult diaper, because there could still be more fluid that hasn’t made it out, and your body could still react as if it still has a present laxative. After my third colonoscopy, I had two accidents several hours after I left. This is not abnormal.

For the rest of the day, try to take it easy. If you were under anesthesia, you will not be able to drive or make any legal decisions for at least 12 hours. Personally, I like to go home and sleep, because I don’t really get much sleep the night before, due to the prep instructions of my local hospital. [I have to wake up at 5 am and drink the last 1/4th of the prep fluid, then I visit the toilet for the next 1-2 hours. By the time I get to the hospital, I have probably only had between 1-4 hours of sleep in total, so I am ready to go back to bed.]

I hope that this has helped you to feel more comfortable with your procedure and answered some of your questions. If you still have any questions, feel free to comment below and I will answer as best as I can.

Good luck!

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#13 “You’ve Lost Weight! You Look Great!” Isn’t a Compliment – A response

“You’ve Lost Weight! You Look Great!” Isn’t a Compliment.

I have started reading some other blogs and I stumbled upon this post about why thin isn’t always good, and though it isn’t the same as my situation with weight, it is still something that I feel strongly about.

For much of my life I tried to gain weight and sat at a very unhealthy underweight number. I ate as much as I could and still couldn’t gain any weight. My father threatened me on several occasions to take me to the hospital and have them hook a feeding tube to me. (Though as an adult, I know that it wouldn’t have done anything, nor would the hospital actually have tried anything at that point.)

I was teased constantly for being skinny. My nickname in Jr. High was Toothpick, I was told “You’re so skinny, I can see right through you.” and “Sorry, I didn’t see you, you were turned sideways.” Or other such things that people thought were harmless, but actually really hurt.

I always felt tiny and incomplete. Then I would have these girls struggling to lose weight telling me to shut-up because I had the perfect body and they wanted to look like me, and I was just begging for attention, and I would feel worse. I was always insecure in my body, until I started gaining a little weight. I didn’t feel attractive until I hit 116 lbs.

I was moving apartments and saw myself in the reflection of the outside glass door and thought “Damn, I look good!” with an immediate follow up, “What the hell? I never think that.” When our scale was unpacked I was euphoric to see that I had finally put on some fat and muscle.

When I was growing up–and she is not going to agree with me, but–I thought my mother was the most beautiful woman alive. She was my mommy and I wanted to be just like her. I wanted to have her gorgeous red hair and her beautiful woman curves. I wanted to cry every time she told us (my siblings and I) that she was fat.

Oh, I argued with her. “No, you’re not fat, you’re beautiful.”, “You’re not fat, you’re mommy.” etc. etc. When she was younger she had been thin like I was… and then she had been in a motorcycle accident and broken her back, then she got pregnant. And, well, things added up and she started to gain weight when she had children.

I have never seen my mother as anything other than beautiful. I don’t see her as fat. I do worry about health problems that run in the family, but I don’t think I could ever picture my mother looking now as small as I am and still being my mom. I’m not sure that I said that how I meant it to come out… but… My mother is beautiful how she is.

Right now I am over 130 lbs. I had surgery two months ago and a few weeks ago I had a moment where I was self-conscious about my body. I had a serious moment where I asked myself “Do I look chubby in this dress.” and I wanted to slap myself. I am not chubby. I have a little bit of bloating still from the surgery, and a small amount of fat from being sedentary for such a long time (due to physical health issues). So, instead of letting those thoughts plague my mind, I went out in that dress. I danced and got complimented, and wore myself out much more than I should have done.

I slept for two days, but I don’t regret buying the dress.

My point here is that girls shouldn’t be feeling the need to starve themselves to feel “beautiful”. Secret? Today I felt very exhilarated when I looked down at myself, my left hip popped out, my body leaning over, and saw that nice little bump of woman curve bulging over. Women’s bodies are meant to have a little more to them.

There is something called “Baby fat”, not how you would normally consider it. Look at a woman’s stomach–any normal, non-anorexic, but still skinny woman (this is just to prove a point, bear with me; even as skinny as I was, I had this too). There should be a nice layer of fat right over the abs; just enough to pinch. This is supposed to be there.

Many women will use this small amount of fat to tell themselves that they are not skinny enough. Important fact: That layer of fat is there for a reason. It is there in case you get pregnant. It is there as a way to start feeding a fetus during the early stages of pregnancy. (And some claim that big butts help in the development of larger brains in later stages).

Now, if you have a fuller figure, that’s not necessarily bad. Women are born with different shapes. I have a friend who has a small bone structure and a friend with large bone structure and then I have a friend with a health disorder that makes it so that it is very hard for her to lose weight. She has several things passed on from her family, which I am not going to disclose as I have not gained her permission.

There are many reasons to have, or not have, weight. Genetics (including what you can and cannot eat), health/illness, injury, mental health, stress, the list goes on and on.

I will say this. Even though I am attracted to slightly thinner/fit women, when things ended with my ex, she was almost 200lbs and we did not separate for her weight.

Do not base all of your self-worth on your weight. You are worth so much more.

Smile and hold you head up high! Because you are you and THAT makes you beautiful.

The Resident Femme

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#12 OCD part 2 – a clarification and education

(Read Mental Health part one)
(Read Mental Health part two)
(Read Mental Health part three)

I wrote a post previously about OCD. Part of the post was to intentionally cause some confusion. So this post is a follow up to shed some light on more of what OCD is. (Read part one HERE)

First, everyone who has OCD has a different experience with it. Some experiences are similar, but there are no two people with exactly the same experience with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

I wrote the previous post as I was coming out of an OCD attack. For me that is when the obsessive thoughts get so strong that my compulsions take over and I have no control over my actions. It is a very scary thing. Not everyone experiences OCD this way. For some people OCD is acting on compulsions to try and ease anxiety. For a while, I figured that I was in a similar boat and kind of pushed away the stories that people told me. I had to have some semblance of control, didn’t I?

I recorded some of my last episode—at the request of my Neurologist—and was shocked to watch my behavior play back later, and immediately follow it up with what was going on in my head. I used to tell someone that I really trusted that I was safe. You don’t need to check on my shower, I have control, I won’t do it. But she would check anyway, adjust the temperature if needed. Sometimes she would turn off the water and calm me down until I was okay enough to rinse and get out. She did the same thing for my hand washing. She would wrestle me away from the sink and hold me until the terror went away; neither of us understanding the full meaning of what we were dealing with. Two people struggling with mental illness taking care of each other and not getting enough outside help… it wasn’t the best idea.

Regardless, I am going to try and help some of you learn about OCD today.

Now, I haven’t had a chance to read a copy of the DSM-V, but  I have been able to read a couple short essays that the DSM website has released, and I do have access to a DSM-IV. According to the information on www.dsm5.org, there are some new disorders added to the “Obsessive-Compulsive and Related disorders” including the previous, it includes: obsessive-compulsive disorder, body dysmorphic disorder, trichotillomania (hair-pulling), hording disorder, and excoriation (Skin-picking). All of these disorders present with anxiety and distress.

For today, I am just going to discuss general OCD. If you would like me to post about other disorders, please comment below or send me a message.

First, if you double check things, if you like to have things lined up just right or it bugs you when a picture frame is tilted. If you worry about getting sick or if you might accidentally hurt someone, or if you have a proper grasp on what is right or wrong. If you wash your hands a couple times or are worried about having clean dishes and floors and counter tops. If you check to make sure that the door is locked and the stove is off. None if this means that you have OCD.

According to http://iocdf.org/about-ocd/, they explain OCD in the following way:

“Imagine that your mind got stuck on a certain thought or image… Then this thought or image got replayed in your mind over and over again no matter what you did… You don’t want these thoughts—it feels like an avalanche…Along with the thoughts come intense feelings of anxiety…

“Anxiety is your brain’s alarm system. When you feel anxious, it feel like you are in danger. Anxiety is an emotion that tells you to respond, react, protect yourself, DO SOMETHING!

“On the one hand, you might recognize that the fear doesn’t make sense, doesn’t seem reasonable, yet it still feels very real, intense, and true…

“Why would your brain lie? Why would you have these feelings if they weren’t true? Feelings don’t like… Do they? Unfortunately, if you have OCD, they do like. If you have OCD, the warning system in your brain is not working correctly. Your brain is telling you that you are in danger when you are not.

“When scientists compare pictures of the brains of groups of people with OCD, they can see that some areas of the brain are different than the brains of people who don’t have OCD. Those tortured with OCD are desperately trying to get away from paralyzing unending anxiety…”

(I am not 100% positive that this quote originated from here, but they do not have a quoted source.)

Obsession (noun): an idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person’s mind. –Fixation, passion, mania, preoccupation, infatuation, fetish, craze, neurosis, hang-up—

Thoughts, images, or impulses that occur over and over seemingly out of the individual’s control.

These thoughts are usually paired with anxiety, disgust, fear, etc. The obsessions are time consuming and cause distress. It is more than just a “personality trait” or someone being “anal” about cleaning. It is more than having to have things a certain way because you like it that way and more of having to have it done a certain way and be “just right” because fear and anxiety and panic take over if it is not. This is not being an ass, it is a psychological disorder—It is also not attention seeking, or weakness.

Obsessions: (some not all)

Contamination: Bodily fluids, dirt, environmental, chemicals, germs, disease.

Losing control: harm to oneself, harm to others, violent images in the mind, etc.

Perfectionism: needing to know or remember, evenness, exactness, numbers, etc.

Religious (scrupulosity): Excessive concern with morality, concern with pleasing or offending god.

Unwanted sexual thoughts: unhealthy obsession with violent or disturbing pornography or sexual acts, fear of sexual aggression towards others, etc.

Compulsion (noun): an irresistible urge to behave in a certain way, especially against one’s conscious wishes. –Urge, impulse, need, desire, pressure, duress, drive, fixation, addiction, temptation—

Repetitive behaviors or thoughts an individual uses in an attempt to neutralize obsessive thoughts or anxiety cause by such thoughts.

These actions are a temporary solution and are used to either stop the anxiety or to try and avoid anxiety provoking situations. Not all compulsions belong in an OCD category because they are not used in the same way. Those with OCD do not want to have to do these things, but they feel as if they have to.

Compulsions: (some not all)

Checking: checking and rechecking homework, housework, or work assignments to make sure there was not a mistake (excessively); over checking body condition; concerned reassurance that one did not harm oneself or others.

Cleaning: Excessive hand washing (or a certain way, or a certain number of times); Excessive grooming (showering, bathing, tooth-brushing, hair brushing, toilet routines, etc.), Repeatedly cleaning/sanitizing household items, etc.

Mental: continuously praying to prevent harm, counting to a specific number, “canceling” or “undoing” actions. Etc.

Repeating: Numbers, movements, rereading, rewriting, up and down.

Also: avoidance, asking for reassurance, and rearranging.

According to WebMD: “OCD is a potentially disabling illness that traps people in endless cycles of repetitive thoughts and behaviors.”

Though the cause of OCD is unknown, there are several factors believed to contribute to the possibility of someone having or developing OCD. It is shown that OCD can be passed on genetically. There is also evidence that untreated Strep viruses can end up causing vulnerability to the development of OCD. Trauma is another factor that can cause OCD. Things that could similarly cause PTSD, can also cause OCD; such as, Abuse, illness, death of a loved one, etc.

I am not the only one living in distress. On http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/index.shtml I found some quotes from people who shared their experience living with OCD.

“I couldn’t do anything without rituals. They invaded every aspect of my life. Counting really bogged me down. I would wash my hair three times as opposed to once because three was a good luck number and one wasn’t. It took me longer to read because I’d count the lines in a paragraph. When I set my alarm at night, I had to set it to a number that wouldn’t add up to a ‘bad’ number.”

“Getting dressed in the morning was tough, because I had a routine, and if I didn’t follow the routine, I’d get anxious and would have to get dressed again. I always worried that if I didn’t do something, my parents were going to die. I’d have these terrible thoughts of harming my parents. I knew that was completely irrational, but the thoughts triggered more anxiety and more senseless behavior. Because of the time I spent on rituals, I was unable to do a lot of things that were important to me.”

“I knew the rituals didn’t make sense, and I was deeply ashamed of them, but I couldn’t seem to overcome them until I got treatment.”

I was asked recently if I could take some sort of anxiety drug for my OCD “something like an inhaler” to help me come out of an episode. The answer for me is no. Thought medications work for some people. Some cases of OCD respond to antidepressants. But most cases are treated with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, something that I have not had. –Because my therapist is a trauma therapist and is more focused on trying to help me combat my PTSD—.

OCD is like my own personal demon on my back, constantly breathing in my ear, just waiting to jump in and take control. For some people, their demon is constantly talking, telling them irrational things, making them do irrational actions so that irrational imaginary things won’t happen. I don’t know why I have my OCD demon digging it’s claws into my back. I don’t know what it is that I am trying to avoid.

I know that part of it, the part that NEEDS the scalding water, it thinks that I am dirty and someday I might be able to wash my rapist off of me. It is irrational, but it is not something that I control. My rational mind knows that I am not dirty. My rational mind knows that I am not broken… The part of my demon that need things a certain way… I think that might me control.

When I was little—I’ve had OCD my whole life, it has just evolved as I have grown—I HAD to have my room a mess. I HAD to. I knew were everything was, I slept well, and I was happier. When my father cleaned my room, without fail—and I am not ashamed to admit this—I would wet the bed and had nightmares. This happened through the age of 4 or 5. . . After that, I just couldn’t really sleep and got really sick to my stomach.

One of my things was that I could not start something and not finish it; but not quite as simple as that. I would start a book and I couldn’t sleep until I finished it. I would get sick and anxious and agitated, and I would fidget, and I couldn’t pay attention… It got so bad on a couple different occasions that I was actually throwing up—off and on—until I could finish the book.

There are so many things that I used to do, and honestly, still do. I just won’t admit some of them here. I wish I had more control, but it is going to take me some time to figure out my triggers and find help getting past everything else. Maybe someday I will share more of my life with you all, though I am reluctant to share much of what I have experienced online.

However, if you are one of my close friends and would like to know more, you should know how to get a hold of me. Just ask.

Until next time.

~The Resident Femme~

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#10: My fear of dogs.

This isn’t a perfect post, but what post is? Take a minute to learn about fear.

Many people don’t understand my “irrational” fear of dogs. So I’m going to take a little bit of time and give some back story on the childhood of a sheltered little girl.

I was raised around animals. My parents lived with my paternal grandparents until I was five and a half years old. It was an old farm that my great-grandparents had started. Much of the family either lived on the property, near-by, or visited often.

This might sound like a tight squeeze, but my great-grandparents did fairly well for themselves. The house we were all living in was the first house that great-grandpa had built for his wife. He later built another house and left the first house to his children. My grandfather later added onto the house. In total there were 8 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, 2 kitchens, 3 living areas… etc.

My aunt and uncle kept several types of animals: dogs, cats, horses, donkeys, mules, goats, chickens, rats, mice, guinea pigs, snakes, etc. (and my dad had a llama for a while). I was not a stranger to animals. I was taught to respect living creatures. I loved taking corn husks out to feed to the horses, Laying with the family dog out on the front lawn, and chasing the cats around the barn. (As a note, it is NOT safe to run behind horses. I was very lucky.)

I am getting off track. Point is, I loved animals. I cared a lot about almost all of the animals that I was around—even wild birds.

One day my life changed.

My dad liked to go up to the point of the mountain (near Lehi, Utah) and paraglide. I don’t remember his instructor much, but I do remember goofing around with my little brother and my mom while my dad was goofing off doing dangerous things.

One windy day I was standing right outside our car eating a banana. I was a good car length or so away from the stack of paragliders that the instructor brought to teach new students with (or to rent out to practicing gliders). He would leave his large dog to guard his bags while he was out teaching so that they would not get stolen.

Up until this point in my life, I really hadn’t met any malicious dogs. There were a couple mean dogs and I was always a little nervous around new dogs. But I was never mean to dogs at all, so I didn’t really fear them.

As I took a bite of my banana a good chunk fell off and rolled towards this large dog. He took it as a threat and leapt at me.

Now here is where things get a little fuzzy. I remember the banana. I remember a streak of fur in my vision, then pain all over my face. My vision was dark red and I was screaming. People were yelling in the distance but I don’t know what they said. I don’t remember if I went to the hospital or how I got cleaned up. I’m sure I was in shock. My next memory, the instructor is there yelling. I thought I was in trouble. I found out later that the dog was the one in trouble.

The dog was trained to guard the paraglider bags against theft. He was trained to be safe around children, and I had not done anything to provoke the dog.

Now, I am going to pause right here and make something very clear before I move on. I am not telling this story to bring about fear of dogs. I am not telling this story to condone the putting down of dogs for provoked attacks. However, there are some cases when dogs attack unprovoked and it is unsafe for them to be around people. I feel the same way about cats. If a cat came out and attacked a child unprovoked, and it was my cat…

My parents insisted that it must have been a misunderstanding and that they would just keep me away from the dog in the future; however, the owner of the dog felt that it was safest if the dog was no longer around people. In the end, after more aggression, he was put down.

This isn’t a proud story.

At the age of seven I became deathly afraid of dogs. I developed a phobia from my traumatic experience. Knowing that I had PTSD, it took me several years to realize that this is probably one of my “episodes”, but it is something that I have been working on for a very long time. From the time of the attack until just over four years ago, I could not go near a dog without being so afraid that I would go into panic mode.

A friend started working really hard with me to try to help me have less anxiety around dogs. She would place herself between the dogs we came across and me. Slowly, we would find dogs that were very calm and we could work up to me petting the dog for a few seconds. But every new dog the battle started again.

October 2013 I moved in with the family of one of my oldest friends. She is on a mission but both she and her family are very accepting of me and who I am. They had a very old dog in the house. (He died in December.) I spent a little over a year with this dog, and in the end, tried to help him be as comfortable as possible in his last days.

One of my new friends has a couple dogs and was shocked to find out that I am so afraid of dogs. (One of which is a pit bull.) On the way to her house she kept telling me just how much I was going to love her sweet dog. I had a fairly bad anxiety attack that night. She had given me a treat to give one of the dogs and as he jumped up to get the treat from me, suddenly I was seven again and a huge dog was jumping for my head.

I dropped the treat and jumped backwards. The second try she held my hand still while he jumped and took the treat from me. I was almost crying. I was so terrified I was shaking and nauseous. Yes, I have been working on my fear, but bygods that was hard. Several more times at her house and I can pet both dogs, but only if they are facing away from me. If either of them has their face towards me I start to shake.

This is a fairly choppy post, and I am not really going to bother with fixing it. My hope here is that people can understand more clearly that my fear is based on a traumatic event from my childhood. I am trying to work through it, but it is a slow process and trying to make me acclimate faster is not going to do anything.

As a side note, my mother was shocked the other day when I was with her in the car with my window down and not freak out when a dog without a leash ran by. So I am improving. Just be patient.

 

**Update almost 2 years later: So about a year and a half ago, I met a dog with human eyes, she looked into my soul and my fear was washed away. I still have some issues with dogs getting too close to my face, but I am relieved to find that most of my fear is finally gone.

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#6: Mental Illness – Part 2: The difference between “Emo” and Depression

(Read part one here)

As a life-long sufferer of dysthymia (chronic minor depression), I have experienced the phenomenon of being referred to as “emo”. My goal today is to explain the difference between “emo” (emotional) and depression.

These two terms are widely different, almost opposite.

Emo: the act of being overly emotional. Using “heightened” emotions as a possible way to find both positive and negative attention. This sort of behavior CAN stem from depression based on certain problems, but is generally just teen angst.

Being “emo”, one is generally fairly /active/. They—those that are considered “emo”—are fairly forward in their actions and behavior. Everything tends to be a melodramatic, over-exaggeration and over the top reactions. Everything is intensely one thing or another and there is never usually an in between. Everything could be considered a tragedy.

I will repeat: teen angst.

Depression, however, is much more complicated. Depressed is not the same as sad, or emotional. Sad is a specific emotion, and depression consists of … duller? emotions; sometimes a lack of proper emotions at all. There is a huge lack of motivation, energy, hope, etc. . . One is trapped in what seems to be an endless cycle of internal pain, confusion, hopelessness, and sometimes fear.

When people who are depressed “react” things are generally less dramatic, but more helpless. They are not fishing for attention, just feeling hopeless and lost. There are few people whom they will feel motivated to talk to, usually they won’t even let people know of their symptoms. These people tend to be quiet, reserved… And accused of being “emo”.

I speak from experience here, though my words may seem distanced. My depression has basically been my whole life. I didn’t really know that there was more than my lack of “normality”. I was diagnosed with Dysthymia February of 2014. I was sitting in the psychiatrist’s office and he asked me when my last happy memory was.  I couldn’t immediately pull up a happy memory. I sat and thought for a long while and still couldn’t really bring anything up.

Now, let me  go off for just a moment, not everyone understands depression. I have been told by several different people to just “get over” my depression. For some people, as I have mentioned in a previous post, depression hits as a “one off” thing. They have a passing down-ness and can get passed it rather quickly. However, every single person deals with life in a different way.

For one thing, our bodies are built differently. Balances of emotions, hormones, life experiences, and more, help to determine how we can handle our lives. So those that don’t understand the overwhelming control that depression takes over its sufferers should not criticize those that are there.

Now, to return to my story: The psychiatrist asked me several other questions and determined that I have dealt with chronic depression since early childhood. Though I didn’t want them, I was prescribed anti-depressants. My first couple days I felt very strange… I felt like something was wrong with me, and this was wrong.

Even now, if I want to remember something happy from my past, I have to think really hard for several minutes, and even then, the memories are short and vague.

In high school I was a little melodramatic, most of us are. However, I kept mostly to myself. I didn’t have many, if any, friends. Either I did not eat lunch or I ate alone. Typically I either sat in my class or reading in the library. I honestly kept to myself a lot of the time. I tended to wear darker colors because it was easier. Fewer decisions and bright colors got you noticed.

I was not, however, an over-the-top attention-seeker, not intentionally.

Taking this to the next step, I also have PTSD. The symptoms of this caused me to sometimes act out in strange ways, these could appear to some to be attention-seeking behavior. These actions were usually reactions to my anxiety, flashbacks, high stress levels, and trying to find ways to make the internal pain go away.

After I was raped, My behavior got more confusing. Brace yourself, this is where I get “crazy” though I am not supposed to use that word… in the raw sense of the word, at the time, it was true.

My logical self didn’t know how to make sense of what had happened to me. My OCD intensified. I was “dirty”, I was “broken”, I was… those were thought of a self-punishing, PTSD-triggered OCD, Dysthymic, scared woman.

I was alone for the first time, living in a freshman dorm, and for a long time I was “that strange girl” (honestly I have been that girl all through my school career, because I didn’t know why I acted the way I did. I own it now and thrive off of my differences.) It took me overly-long to admit to myself that I wasn’t at fault. Sadly I kept my secret for several months more, wondering why no-one liked me, why I wouldn’t make friends.

One night, a hall-mate burst into my room while I was crying and demanded that I talk to her. Bless her heart. I finally had a support. My story flowed out of me through broken memories that couldn’t have made much sense to her, but she pulled me into her arms, held me while sobs racked my small body. She repeated to me again and again that it wasn’t my fault. I wasn’t broken. I wasn’t dirty. I was strong, and beautiful, and confused. It was the first time I had gotten so much out and I had gotten love in response.

She gave few enough details to others in the hall that she considered close friends, just enough for them to understand why I was so “strange” but not enough for anyone to have any ammo to judge me. I honestly don’t know what she told them, but suddenly I had friends. Over the next few days I was approached by different people insisting that if he ever showed up to the school, they would tear him apart.

For the first time in my life I felt accepted, welcomed, protected, by friends. I think I have gone off on a tangent. The point of all of that was to attempt to give you an insight into how I lived with my depression. Understand that even now: I struggle with my depression every day. I have a combination of both therapy and anti-depressants… but that doesn’t make me weak. Even though I am still fighting my depression, I am not a lesser person I am still fighting. I am strong.

The most important thing to understand: depression is an illness and it cannot change overnight. Those with depression need support and love. Do what you can to try and make their day a brighter one by being supportive. KNOW that they may not have a different attitude that day, but know that they felt your love. I know that it’s a tiring process. Trust me: I know. But do not doubt that they are also tired of being depressed. If we could change at the drop of a hat, we would.

If you yourself, or someone that you know, has issues understanding depression or how depression affects others, and this post did not help, I urge you to read or share part 1 of the mental health series. Thank you.

I encourage you to comment: agree or disagree with me. I will try to explain everything in a scientific way if needed.

Thank you.

(Read part three)

The Resident Femme

*Note: I may not be a medical professional, but I have lived with depression my entire life.

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