Thursday, July 30, 2015
A Breakthrough Exposure
I believe that part of my mental preparation with this exposure, was knowing that there was no way to protect my clothes during this event. When I go out socially normally, I am so worried that there might be a chance someone might hug me or touch my clothes with their hands, and I want so badly to "protect" my clothes. If someone hugged me, then I would have to clean my carseat, wash that laundry separately a couple of times (or even toss out), and so I would avoid the whole ordeal and skip out on social events because it was easier that way. But it was making me worse in the meantime. Isolating me too. Avoidance is one of the worst things you can do to get further drawn into OCD's web. I knew that because I graduated in a class of about 275 people, that I was definitely going to be hugged and touched by many people that night, and there wasn't going to be one darn thing I could do about. So, I went. I didn't give in, because I knew this could potentially be a wonderful chance at exposure. And I am SO glad I did. I truly believe this could be a breakthrough for me
They had a photo both there, and one of my old friends grabbed me immediately and took me right over. Of course they have an assortment of things you can "wear", that have been worn by all kinds of other people. Hats, scarves, eyewear. Stuff I would never normally wear. But I figured I was there, and I was going to expose myself, and I was just going to pretend I didn't have OCD for the night, the best that I could. My friend immediately put on a police helmet and handed me one too, so we could match. So, I just slipped it right on and tried not to think about it. As I thought would happen, I hugged multiple people that night. It was very crowded in the private room, so people were sliding by constantly and I was in very close quarters with everyone. I was surprised by how little these things bothered me. By the end of the night I was even touching my own clothes, to adjust my shirt, or fluff up my hair a little bit. And I don't EVER touch my own clothes normally, especially when I have been touching things out in public--doorknobs, etc.
As far as how did I wash my clothing when I got home? A few days later, I washed the outfit I wore in a sanitary washing setting--just one time through--and all the clothes are currently back in my closet ready to be incorporated back into my normal wardrobe. No need to consider them contaminated anymore.
All in all, it was really a success. They key here is that I need to continue to go out to social events. I have proven to myself that I can do it. My hope is that I continue to do it, that all of my outside clothes will eventually be contaminated, and that there will be nothing to protect anymore. I am thinking that the way to keep going about this is to work on contaminating myself in the outside world, and then eventually moving to my own home/safe spaces.
This event made me realize how truly important it is to be involved socially. I have not been out with friends in years. I actually had a lot of fun. I smiled, I laughed, I had a great time. I even stayed longer than I anticipated. And I kind of wished I had bought tickets for the entire reunion (that went on the whole weekend).
This just goes to show, as the picture above portrays, that you do have to be willing to be uncomfortable to change. If we stay in our "comfort zone" in OCD, we will never truly get better. It is when we take those big steps and let ourselves feel the discomfort, that we truly create change...and start getting our lives back.