I have struggled with OCD for all 39 years of my life. Recently I have embarked on a journey of ERP (Exposure and Response Prevention). I want to show you that there IS a way through OCD of any kind. I am very inspired by Brene Brown's book 'Daring Greatly'.
Sometimes I think OCD is a very clever way of masking what really matters to us and who we really are. It can be amazing to take the time to listen to the dialogue under the illness. It can be healing. I hope you like what I wrote about it:
I’m scared to death that this might be my last breath I am utterly and totally exposed trying to transpose my fear for faith. The deconstruction and gradual reconstruction of my faith has left me a waif I shake like a leaf on a windless night clutching to the bough with all my might and after 40 long years and too many tears I finally know I finally know of what I’m afraid. Myself. Who I really am What I really need That child inside crying out for my mum to sooth the aches and erase the pain but I will never ignore her again. I didn’t give her a voice nor did anyone else I guess it’s time to stand up for myself. Let’s find out who Anna really is. I’m shaking like a leaf.
Like any parasite looking for a host, OCD will look for anything to latch onto. And you know the best thing to do? Let it. If you have done any ERP, you will know that fighting OCD requires special weapons. It requires a type of reverse psychology. Sometimes, when you’re on a roll, it’s hard to ever imagine a relapse.
Let me share my relapse for you and the steps I’m taking to recover.
I recently went through an extremely hard time – my Granddad passed away, my cat got eaten by a hawk and then person and after person around me started falling like flies and were wanting me to be there. I was too weak and too polite to decline to get involved and in one situation, it was a potentially life and death situation. So I have this constant stress and adrenaline surging through my body and mind. My thoughts are completely occupied by the struggles at hand. Then I realise that I feel compelled to help in these situations and neglect exercise and eating well. But overall, no blame OCD.
Finally, when the situations that weren’t ongoing, resolved – I collapsed. I slept and slept and I let the stress trickle out of me. The next day, my husband said something to me about not feeding the good peaches to the (poor, starving) sheep and when I said how selfish he’d been and my OCD was just going for it, his voice changed tone – a trigger for me. Blam! Fight or flight pounced. I felt helpless, hopeless, like running forever, tight-chested and full of blame for his change in tone. Now, I am not talking about shouting, I’m talking about a tone change. But it’s OCD, you can’t explain it.
Can you see how the conditions leading up to my ‘meltdown’ were perfect? I was coming down from a high-stress situation my guard was lowered and I didn’t have the energy to even shower.
I am still working through this one. But what did I do to help myself? I agreed with the OCD that Andrew was a meany and then I hung out with him as much as possible. I exposed myself to this ‘nasty’ (AKA incredibly lovely) guy and went for a walk along the beach with him, ate with him, talked with him and let him cook for me.
And I know I’ll win this battle. Because the truth always wins.
I started noticing a few weird symptoms and sensations. When I visited my neuropsychiatrist, I told him that sometimes I had voices in my head. Don’t get me wrong, these were not auditory hallucinations but I felt ‘compelled’ to do x, y and z and became very confused when I couldn’t stop them and thought I was having some kind of psychosis.
Apparently, these ‘thoughts’ are completely normal in one who has Obsessive Compulsive Order and the best thing to do is a little ERP (Exposure and Response Prevention) and allow them to stay – welcome them even.
Very shortly afterwards, the feeling that I was going crazy subsided.
Especially when I am tired, I find that there are dialogues in my head – conversations that seem to take place without me. Ridiculous? Apparently not.
Sometimes, all we need to know is that OCD is a very mixed bag that does not conform to a certain set of criteria (terrible for those of us who want to control it!).
By letting go of the fear and accepting the thoughts (and choosing to let them drift by if that helps), you ironically are more in charge of your head.
Have you noticed any unusual symptoms? I bet we’ve all had them at some stage.