Saturday, August 4, 2007

Time Magazine Discusses OCD

I was pleasantly surprised when I opened my Time Magazine this evening and found a writeup on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I devoured the article quickly and finished it somewhat unsatisfied. I was happy to receive some new information, but the presentation was lacking some information as well.

The article did broaden my definition of OCD. The article outlined the most common expressions of OCD and listed two that I was unfamiliar with: Relationship Substantiation and Obsessive Hypochondria. (Time Magazine left out "checking" as a common expression of OCD, however.) Time indicates that Relationship Substantiation is "A compulsive search for tiny but disqualifying flaws in a partner or spouse." Also, Time writes that Obsessive Hypochondria goes beyond ordinary hypochondria in that the sufferers will have "what-if" worries about a doctor's misdiagnosis or other medical errors.

Time's discussion of managing OCD seemed to be heavily weighted on Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy. Other than trying this myself, I've never had any therapist even mention this type of therapy. I don't know if this is an oversight on my therapists' part or on Time's part.

Time also mentioned some up-and-coming biological approaches to combating OCD such as new drugs that decrease secretion of glutamate (a brain chemical that stimulates signalling among neurons) and more invasive treatments with brain-embedded electrodes.

Even though the article was a bit lacking in information, it was worth the read and was a great jumping-off point for more personal research.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

It's All A Rich Tapestry

In response to my last two posts, a reader has asked me if I can pinpoint the cause for my fear of toilet snakes. After I gave it some thought, I was reminded of a quote from an episode of FOX's sitcom The Simpsons called Fear of Flying. In that episode, Marge realizes that she has an extreme fear of flying. While she and her psychologist explore her cause for this fear, the psychologist says "Yes, yes, it's all a rich tapestry."

I think that I can apply this theory to my life as well. There have been several things that have happened throughout my life that have caused my many fears and worries. Some occurances may have more weight than others, but "I" am the sum of my many experiences.

If I look back at the many experiences that may have contributed to my obsession with toilet snakes, then I can point to the following happenings as major culprits:

1. As a young child (0-5 years)I lived in a very rural setting on a dirt road. The only other house in the "neighborhood" was abandoned and resembled (in my mind) the spooky rundown mansion that is shown during the opening of Scooby Doo episodes. In my memory, this forsaken area was teaming (or so it seemed) with large black snakes. Every nook and cranny either harbored a slithering creature or threatened to. Even the inside of my house was not safe from intrusion. Snakes would appear in our washing machine, often in the basement, and at least once in my toy box. I used to scream at night for my father to come and rescue me from the imaginary snakes crawling under the covers on my bed.

2. In those early days described above, my grandparents house was between 1-2 miles away. It resided on 40 acres that had been owned by my family for three generations. While my father was growing up, the old things of the earlier generations (outdoor shower, outdoor toilets, oneroom school house, hand dug well, hand dug septic system) were still in existence and were still being used. Their property was crawling with snakes, too. I can remember stories of my father taking an outdoor shower and looking up to find a snake hanging from the shower head. I found a few snakes there myself, usually sunning themselves on rocks in the pasture.

3. After my family moved to the city, we would still visit my grandparents on the farm. The outhouse was no longer in use, but critters still prevailed. My grandfather found a bat in the toilet one day. I'm not really afraid of bats, though. However, if a bat could get into a toilet, my young mind told me that a snake could get in as well.

4. I have kind of a macbre facination with snakes overall. I love to see them when they are behind glass at a zoo or behind the glass of my TV screen. Therefore, I have induldged every opportunity to gawk at them and marvel at the shivers that they provoke in myself and most of our population.

While writing and looking through this list, one thing strikes me as being odd. I've never actually encountered a snake in my toilet. Yes, the thought of such an occurance is traumatic. The possibility of it happening is extremely slim. I've never had the pleasure and have never heard of anyone meeting a toilet snake. Yet, I've wasted emotion and energy on fear that will never be realized.

Even though my many experiences have added up to this particular fear....and the fear is real and has real effects....the possibility of the compenents of my fear ever becoming tangible is nearly ZERO.

Hmmm...this equation is not blanced.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Conquering My Toilet Snakes: Exposure Response Therapy

In my previous post If You Are Afraid of Toilet Snakes, Don't Read This, I discussed my fear of toilet snakes and my onset of obsession with them. I guess maybe a few besides me are afraid of toilet snakes, because I didn't get any comments on the post. Ha! Ha!

Laying in bed at night, thinking about toilet snakes started to cause me to lose sleep. My toilet snake ritual of turning on the bathroom light and inspecting the toilet every time I used the bathroom at night was also an annoyance for my husband (even though I closed the bathroom door when I did it).

A few months before this obsession started to take control, I learned about Exposure Response Therapy as outlined in the article Treatments for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I was very skeptical of this therapy ever working for me, because I have a tendency to put a life-or-death spin on my obsessions.

I thought that I might be able to apply it here, though, because I was able to see a silly side to this obsession and compulsion. Because of my husband's annoyance, I have begun to use the bathroom with just the glow of the moon (moon in the sky and not the one on my behind), again. I just glance into the bowl before I sit down. With repeated exposure, I hope to dispel the thought of toilet snakes from my bathroom trips completely.

I also needed a way to put my worrying to sleep. (I have enough things going on in my life to keep me from sleeping already.) I decided to think about the idea of toilet snakes in the most humorous way possible. I imagined myself being a stand-up comic talking about what I would do with my toilet snake when it arrived in the toilet.

It goes a little like this...

"I received a toilet snake in the restroom yesterday. Lucky that! My son's been wanting a pet and now I've got one for free."

Wait for laughter.

"We didn't have any snake food handy, so we decided to feed him macaroni and cheese. On second thought, spaghetti might have been better...he's a little too lumpy now."

Wait for laughter.

"I don't know much about snakes and I'm a bit foggy on the proper sleeping arrangements for them. I decided to let the snake choose between my husband's underwear drawer, a tube sock and a Pringle's can. He chose pringles. He may be regretting his choice today, though. My son's been in a snacky mood lately."

Pretty bad, eh??? Well, it beats laying in bed at night calculating the odds of a snake making into my toilet. I will take barely humorous comedy over ritualized math any day!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

If You Are Afraid of Toilet Snakes, Don't Read This!

It is 3:19 AM and I am posting on my blog because I can't sleep. You see, about 30 minutes earlier, I had to make a pilgramage to the bathroom and was reminded of my fear of toilet snakes. It's the same old routine as always, really.

1. Get out of bed.
2. Walk to the bathroom.
3. Close the door.
4. Turn on the light.
5. Lift the toilet seat cover.
6. Search for toilet snake.
7. Discover no toilet snake.
8. Feel the relief of discovering no toilet snake.
9. Go back to bed and back to sleep.

This time, however, I can't seem to get back to sleep. My mind keeps thinking about toilet snakes and the possibility that I will ever find a toilet snake. I've designed a bit of plumbing in my engineering career so I decided to logically think out the scenerio that would introduce a snake into my own personal water closet. This was a big mistake!!!!

At first, my internal debate went pretty well because I thought of some really good reasons why I will never find a toilet snake in my water closet.

1. I live in an urban environment and I have never seen a snake at all, ever, on my property. Any snake siting, even on the ground, would be once-in-a-lifetime.

2. I know that usually, when animals get into a toilet it happens because they crawl down the vent pipe from the roof. I have no trees overhanging my roof and no way for the once-in-a-lifetime snake to ever crawl onto my roof or seek refuge in the vent pipe.

Pretty good reasons, eh? Then I began to think about the possibility of a snake making his or her way (I could never be sure) into my toilet from the sewer. (I've been to wastewater treatment plants and have seen dead snakes on wastewater plant equipment.) Beware! Now starts the "what if's"?

1. What if some local sadistic child decides to flush a snake down down his or her (I could never be sure) toilet in an attempt to terrorize his or her neighbors?

2. What if the snake survives the watery plunge into the sewer and beyond?

3. What if the snake makes his way into MY SEWAGE PIPES???

4. What if I open my toilet lid some night and see a toilet snake straining for freedom?

5. Worse, yet, what if I DON'T see the toilet snake straining for freedom?

Then the modern thought pops into my head "do a little research on toilet snakes on the world wide web".

I've stopped here. I'm afraid to do research really. I have a feeling that I will search and search until I find documented instances (could be false or true) of toilet snakes and some horrid photos of toilet snake sitings. (Because in the wretched instance of finding a snake in one's toilet, one must reach for one's camera!!! Sorry, I'm reaching for the flush handle instead!)

So, instead of researching, I will just talk about my fear on my blog. I hesitated to do this at first because I became afraid that some of my OCD blog buds may be alarmed by my posting and will begin obsessing about toilet snakes themselves. I prefer to be the only victim of my obsessions.

If you are wondering about the toilet photo above, I took the photo in a hotel in Sicily. I like to take photos of foreign plumbing fixtures. It's my "anti-drug".

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Dog Fighting and Depravity

Caution: This post is off-topic a bit, possibly.

There have been a lot of images and reports recently in the media about the world of dog fighting for money or entertainment. This type of activity sickens me!!!

I know first-hand how dangerous and disturbing two fighting dogs can be. Unfortunately for my family, our two beloved corgis began to fight each other about a year ago. The occurrences started with a growl and a nip and ended (most recently) with blood and eye surgery. We decided to give away our female and keep our male (pictured above) for their safety and for my 4-year old son's safety.

Keep in mind that the dog fights I was witness to were between two household dogs that (for all other purposes) loved each other. The fights would only last a few seconds before we had to physically rip them apart amidst an unsavory spray of blood and saliva. Dogs can do a lot of damage to themselves and to others in a short period of time when their teeth and claws meet flesh. I suffered some severe (but not permanent) tissue damage from one dog bite that occurred when I tried to break my sweeties apart. (My vet says to never become mixed in a dog fight, but what can you do when you see your pets tearing each other apart and no other method is working?)

The thought that there are people that intentionally antagonize dogs to orchestrate a dog fight is a thought that victimizes me. When I hear about the incidents or see videos that precede a dog fighting ring being reported on the news, I want to vomit. The people that are involved in such an atrocious activity as dog fighting and derive some sort of pleasure from it are depraved. The pain that the act elicits is akin to torture. The individuals that take part in such psychotic acts are like the ancient Colosseum organizers that doomed Christians and gladiators, with the exception that these modern sadists lack creativity.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Antidepressants and Bone Loss

I had a bad fall on Saturday. I was at the off-leash area with my dog and I wasn't watching where I was going until I fell flat on my face. I attempted to catch myself, but about a nanosecond before I hit the ground I realized that it was no use and I let myself go limp. I think that the limpness helped and I was able to walk away with nothing more than a severely bruised knee.

I was lucky. Even so, the accident made me think about my potential for bone breakage. I'm only 35, but I was diagnosed with Premature Ovarian Failure (POF) over 1-year ago. The condition leaves me prone to severe bone loss and fracture during my middle-aged years. For more information on POF, please see my Helium article "Premature Ovarian Failure Examined"

The fall also brought to mind a blog post that I had seen last month at Anxiety, Addiction and Depression Treatments citing a study that found that certian antidepressant medications can also cause bone loss for women over 50. The study was not conclusive, but I wonder if my generic Prozac will cause bone loss in addition to that lost due to my POF.

I have a 6-month old order from my doctor to get a bone density scan. Maybe it's time for me to finally get that done!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A Painting In My Mind

There is a painting in my mind
with colors truer than a photograph would tell.
I've been warned not to look at it,
for within it's image is hidden every color of my fear.
If I look at it too closely or for too long,
if I study it at all,
the fear colors will flow together into a powerful reaching hand
that will engulf me,
captivate me,
as my eyes roll inward.

This painting teases and tempts me.
It dances behind me and before.
My neck strains as I avert my eyes.

Why can't I slash this painting?
Why can't I annihilate the beast?
My fearful blindness is my only weapon
against the painting's stubborn frame.