Friday, October 24, 2014
OCD and "the unknown"
I am about 5 months into my self-guided ERP program. I can honestly say that I did not expect I would come this far without professional help. I still have a long ways to go, but I like being able to take this at my own pace. There is a quote that says you never really know how strong you are, until you have to be. That definitely applies here. In order to overcome OCD, you have to be motivated. It is so scary to think about facing the precise things that you have been trying to avoid for so long. I have probably had a 25-30% reduction in my symptoms in the last 5 months, and I am happy with that. It's really odd, because I almost feel like I'm coming out of OCD the opposite way that I came into it. For instance, if you looked at a time line of all of my symptoms throughout the years, I'm going backwards and taking out the ones that haven't been ingrained for so long. I'm at a much higher level of functioning than I was last year at this time. The better you get, the more motivated you become, and you kind of start reversing the cycle. As opposed to the "I'm so deep into OCD and so depressed, that everyday I keep getting worse" cycle that I was in last year. I'm really trying not to listen to my OCD all the time, which is definitely a work in progress. One of my most time consuming problems up to this point has been the manner in which I've handled doing laundry--all kinds of rituals and rules....the highest fear is that somehow the sewage water will get into the washing machine, so I don't flush toilets while the laundry is going, and I turn off the water supply to a couple of them before I do the laundry (because I think there is a venting problem with those 2 toilets and they randomly flush on their own. Freaks me out). I KNOW it's irrational, I KNOW it doesn't make sense, but it has greatly affected how I do my laundry. A couple of days ago, when I was finished with 3 loads of laundry, I went downstairs to turn back on the water supply to the downstairs toilet and found that it was already on. When I turn the crank, I can hear the water supply return and it didn't that time. So one of two things happened: either I forgot entirely to turn it off in the morning, OR I maybe just didn't flush the toilet after turning the supply off (to clear the line). In either case, it drove me absolutely crazy because I just didn't know which one it was. If I forgot to turn it off, then all of my laundry could possibly be "contaminated". If it was that I had turned it off, but forgotten to "clear the line" by flushing, then the first load I did would be contaminated, but none of the rest. In the past, I would have responded to this by redoing all the laundry again, because I just wouldn't be able to take the "what-if"s, even if that "what-if" was only a .01% chance. I am proud to say though that I didn't rewash the laundry. I just put it away and actually am wearing one of the shirts today, and slept in the sheets. I can honestly say it is not even bothering me today. Now, of course I'm not ready to purposely wash my clothes with those toilets not turned off and do my laundry, but I was able to tolerate the uncertainty of it without it causing me really anxiety at all today;. So that is what I call progress. And really, that is what OCD is, is unable to tolerate the uncertainty of things. Constantly obsessing over "did this happen, did that happen? Well I better do this just in case". And then pretty soon you've got yourself a whole list of rituals and a way of doing things that is not necessary. And you start avoiding things, and things spiral out of control. As far as the other 70-75% of my symptoms, I will eventually get to those too. I am taking things one step at a time, and so far it is working well for me. This laundry is just one example in so many things that I have been working on. It is solely to give an example of the lengths one with OCD will go to avoid the "what-ifs". I am starting to feel myself have a little more control over this disorder. Every exposure I do, and every time I face a fear or face "the unknown", I get one step closer to getting my life back free of OCD. And that may take awhile, but I am closer than I was before. Many steps closer to breaking free of this.