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.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

My OCD Tool Box

My father was a junior high algebra teacher and I was lucky enough to be a student in his class for two semesters. He always spoke about keeping a toolbox full of tools to help us solve our algebra problems. These tools and toolbox were simply metaphors for methods, skills and our own young adult brains. I've used the same metaphor of "tools" to characterize the methods I use to manage my OCD.

Tools In My OCD Tool Box

  1. Anti-anxiety medication is my first and foremost method of managing my OCD. It gives my other tools the ability to do their jobs.
  2. Distraction often helps me overcome the urge to give into compulsions or to be overwhelmed by obsessions. Thinking about someone's needs instead of my own often helps me to leave my introspective state of obsessive consciousness. Other distractions include: thinking about a favorite book, song, TV show, or movie.
  3. Stopping to take a brisk walk is another great tool. Sometimes expending some adrenaline can help me focus more on what I really need to do rather than obsessing or stressing. If I happen upon someone to talk to about something completely unrelated to my stress or obsession it will allow me to step out of the panic and reorganize my brain. (I guess there's a little distraction in here, too.)
  4. When I find that my OCD is hindering my efficiency at work (because I've been focusing on one tidbit of a project for way too long), I write a to do list which is organized with my most critical tasks first. If I can start working on some other items in a logical order, then I can start to relax a little. Often stepping back to look at the big picture can help me to stop obsessing about just one aspect and will cut down on subsequent checking of my work.
  5. If the to do list (in item 4) starts to stress me out, I will try to distract myself and complete one little task. I'll start with the task I want to do the most.
  6. If my OCD is getting the better of me, I make an emergency appointment to see my psychologist or psychiatrist or I talk with a trusted friend. Just talking about my stressers and getting some sort of 3rd party feedback can help to calm me down. (The hideous aspect of this tool is that I am often tempted to abuse it. Sometimes I find myself going to people again and again for reassurance. The incessant need for reassurance is also a symptom of OCD.)
  7. When my OCD really gets me down, I will retreat into The OCD Workbook by Hyman and Pedrick. Reading excerpts from this book can help remind me when my actions have skipped past due diligence into obsessive compulsive behavior. Once I realize that what I am doing is textbook OCD, I can then readdress methods to combat my "bad" behavior.

I may be overlooking some of the tools in my box at this time. I will update this list with old, new, and improved tools as they become apparent.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Pin The Tail On the Disorder

I may blog about my OCD, but I don't go running through the streets yelling, "Look at me! I have OCD!"

I try to keep as much of my "specialness" to myself as I can and I only let those very close to me know...on a need-to-know basis.

I was quite disheartened when I received some paperwork to complete after winning my dream job at my son's preschool for this coming school year. This particular paperwork came from the state health department and required a methodical recounting of all medications that I take and the reason that they are being taken. I do take generic Prozac to help manage my OCD and I stated this on the form...but reluctantly so. I am afraid of the fallout that might occur once the Christian preschool receives my completed form. Will they be knowledgeable about my condition or will they see me as a threat?

This business is rekindling memories of my application for a security clearance with the Department of Energy a year before my son was born. The clearance was required for a project I was doing with my corporation. The application required 10-years of regurgitation of names, dates, addresses, jobs, and therapy. Once it was discovered that I saw a therapist for something other than marital reasons, an army of interviewers and psychologists were dispatched to go over my case and determine if I was fit to work with secure materials.

The nonsense was a huge hassle for me as well as an emotional drain. I'm sure that thousands of dollars and over a year were spent determining that I wasn't a threat. All-in-all it became a humiliating experience when I was forced to talk to people (human resources and character witnesses) in my company to explain why a band of people were investigating me. Most of my peers received their clearance in only a few weeks, while it took me well over a year.

Ironically, I never did any work on the project.