Monday, May 2, 2016

Just Do It

I have a problem.  If something is uncomfortable, I put it off.  Especially if it's big and overwhelming.  Like figuring out our finances or organizing medical bills (do we really owe that much?!).  Or potty training.  Or sleep training.  Or fill-in-the-blank.  Obviously, this is neither helpful nor productive.

But do you know what's even more uncomfortable than actually dealing with those things?  Having them hang over your head because you're avoiding them.  The angst that comes with the build up.  The thought of all that it will take to fulfill these responsibilities.

Simply dealing with an issue outright is usually WAY easier than adding the dread of anticipation to the actual issue.

There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it. Alfred Hitchcock

A list of examples (sorry, kids):

Nighttime Potty Training:
Do you know how much I did NOT want to mess with this?  I pictured my five-year-old waking up multiple times in the middle of the night - wet - and needing help with pajamas and sheets and such.  Or waking up his little brother who shares his room.

 NO THANKS.  I'm up enough in the middle of the night with the baby as it is.

But, alas, it's been past time for awhile now.  So we just did it.  We jumped right in, told him that he was old enough to sleep in underwear now but that if he wasn't dry in the morning that it was okay, and we went for it.

I am HAPPY to report that I have lost zero minutes of sleep since we put him to bed in underwear Thursday night for the first time.  I realize it's only been a few nights, but there have been no middle-of-the-night wakings, and he's been totally dry twice in the morning already.  So far, so good!

*Note: My husband volunteered to help him in the middle of the night.  Everyone needs sleep, but for those of us with mental health issues, it's especially important.

Daytime Potty Training:
My middle child turned three in March, and he's been ready to potty train for awhile.  He's a little bit of a firecracker, and I wasn't sure how it would go.  And with the mental health roller coaster I've been on over the past six months, it was just so much easier to put him in a diaper.  On the really bad days, it was all I could do to just take care of everyone's basic needs - food, clothing, healthy interaction, etc.  Piling potty training on top of that just didn't make the top of my list.

But again, we jumped in (after I was feeling better).  He is now always in underwear at home unless he is sleeping.  There have been a few accidents (of both varieties - fun times) and some strong protests, but overall he has done really well.  The 20-minute timer, constant reminders from us, and semi-sweet chocolate chips have helped, too.

Sleep Training:
The baby has had some sleep issues (you can read about our recent experiences here).  She has never slept through the night consistently, but if I fed her when she woke, she would go right back to sleep.  I knew that I was training her to be a night feeder by doing this (confirmed recently by out pediatrician's nurse), but we have all been so tired that it just seemed easier.  Because when she went back to sleep, so could I.

When I spoke to the nurse on Thursday afternoon, she said that by 8 months old, babies definitely do not need to eat in the middle of the night.  As long as she is in her crib and I know that she is okay, she just needs to cry and learn to soothe herself in ways other than by eating (which is a good skill to have at any age, right?!).

I decided just to go for it.  That night, we tried the (controversial) Ferber method, also known as graduated extinction, that we used to train the boys.  When she woke up in the middle of Thursday night crying, I checked her, patted her back, and told her it was time to go back to sleep.  She hated that.  I waited three minutes and went back in and did the same thing.  Then I waited 5 minutes and did the same thing.  The next night, and with each subsequent night, the intervals were a little bit longer.  The goal is for her to eventually figure out that she doesn't need to eat (she's getting plenty throughout the day) and really just needs to go back to sleep.

Since we started, she actually did sleep through one night.  The other three nights she woke up once for less than 30 minutes each time.  WOO HOO!!!  I should have done this a long time ago.

What does this have to do with OCD?
There are certain things (like not giving in to compulsions) that are in my best interest in fighting OCD.  But it just feels so hard.  And it's WAY easier in the moment to give in to the compulsions and relieve that immediate anxiety.

For instance, I wrote recently about the compulsion of reading my Bible.  My therapist suggested that I read through the New Testament 1-2 chapters per day.  It's not difficult to see how his could become compulsive.  The compulsion was to read my Bible during the first amount of free time that I had during the day (I also have OCD related to time).  If I didn't, then that meant that I wasn't putting God first and was choosing to do other things over spending time with Him.  If I just read my selection for that day, then the anxiety would go away and I could go on with my day (until it happened the next morning).

Over the weekend, I spoke to my husband about it, and he told me that when it feels compulsive like that - I MUST read my Bible - to just not read my Bible that day.  And that feels really uncomfortable, but I know that's the right thing to do.   The temporary anxiety (though high) is better than the prolonged anxiety that comes from giving in to the compulsions.  So instead of putting it off, I chose to not read my Bible that very day (and the next).  And it helped!

UPDATE: See my post "I was wrong" about scrupulosity and OCD - changing my mind after getting advice from my therapist.

Bottom Line
I think that Nike - with their "Just Do It" slogan - is on to something.  Sometimes we have to force ourselves to "Just Do It" instead of putting something off.  Jumping in with both feet is healthier than avoiding a responsibility and breeding dread.  Dread just makes a responsibility harder to fulfill.

What things do you tend to put off?  How have you chosen to "Just Do It?"