I’m going along nicely I think. ERP is slowly but surely allowing me to stare my fear in the face and overcome it. It was hardest in the beginning – not asking for reassurance, not self-reassuring and feeling what was like a crushing weight of the world on the very top of my head.
I have had about a month of just enjoying life. This has never happened to me before. I start not to fear fear itself and I start to realise, just maybe, I can keep my OCD from controlling me and affecting others. I also have several chronic illnesses so a month of doing well looks like being able to do my business from home when I want to, visiting the odd friend or neighbour, going out for dinner(!) and doing things all by myself and in harmony with Andrew.
I’ve had an uncanny sense of wellbeing which I have (rightly) chosen not to question. After about a month since my last ERP session, I skype my therapist and she is absolutely thrilled at how I am doing. Both she and I can see several positive changes. I think more positively, logically and less catastrophically. I enjoy being in the moment rather than trying to escape it. I hit a few major speedbumps where my OCD tried to take on different forms and I successfully allowed it to be, and it went away for the most part. My therapist started talking about dialling back the treatment. Wow!
Then yesterday happened. What was so different about yesterday? Well, I was vulnerable and tired from my therapy session as I always am. I was feeling especially ‘triggery’ and on edge. So I do, what I realise now, was perhaps partly stupid and perhaps partly prudent and I avoided my husband and my dog. I slept the day away and woke up extremely perturbed.
Sure enough, later that night, I was triggered and I couldn’t just let it go or even let it explode inside of me and let the feelings be as they were. I went straight to Andrew for reassurance. What disturbs me the most was the way in which I did it. I’m so used now to being completely transparent and honest and not hinty or manipulative in any of my responses. Unfortunately, I reverted to an old habit of asking to be reassured in a way that was whiny and just ‘old-school’ for me. I started getting more and more worked up, Andrew said more of the ‘wrong thing’ and I felt completely exposed, raw and angry. I don’t often get angry, but there was so much pre-frontal cortex, amygdala and basal ganglia stuff going on that I was ropeable. I cried, I railed, I wanted to escape and just go somewhere peaceful in my mind but I was STUCK – entrenched in old patterns and had worked myself up to the point that I wanted to argue or go somewhere population-less and scream at the top of my lungs. I couldn’t think of anything else, my blood pressure was rising, I was pacing – I thought that stuff had gone a loooong time ago.
Thanks to Andrew (who I am still slowly letting back into my world), he did not engage me in an argument when he realised I was in distress, but instead acknowledged the shitstorm that had happen. He admitted he really had inadvertently crossed the line with my triggers and said unhelpful things. In reality, everyone does this – exposures or triggers happen when you are not prepared or ready for them at that stage. I also acknowledged that I said some hurtful things.
Now the healing begins (again!). And it hurts like hell because I thought I’d had my final meltdown months ago. But I will do the opposite of what my OCD wants – I will sit here typing this in the same room as my husband and my dog, I will offer him a drink even though I don’t feel like it, soon I will meet his eyes and not look at him like the enemy.
I think the lesson to take away is that there will be relapses, mistakes, triggers, upset and heartache along the way. OCD is an old and seemingly ‘safe’ friend. I think the lesson is also that an incident like this is normal, I will be uncomfortable in the moment but it might not always be that way. I may think this is the straw that broke the camel’s back but I may find myself even forgetting parts of this painful time, we both might. I might find that I am creating again in a few days and might even crack a smile. Maybe I won’t?
I think the biggest lesson overall is that I am not my illness. I am actually a really nice, cool and loving person. Take away the OCD and I’m really quite normal(ish).
So I’ve had a meltdown. But that’s OK.