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.
I have had a few specific OCD incidents that were so deeply ingrained, I honestly felt that they could never be dealt with. Every time I checked my mind, there they were haunting me. Whenever I’d have a moment of peace, it would be interrupted with ‘but you’ve always got this hanging over your head…’.
After the gift of doing ERP therapy and after much work and angst, one day it just didn’t matter anymore. I can not explain it other than it ceased to be an issue. It has tried to flare up but has never had the power over me it used to. It used to bring me to my knees – literally.
I actually agreed with the thought and went ‘yeah, this might ruin my life’ and allowed it just to be. After a while, it lost its grip because I had finally got to the stage where I did not care. Wow, it sounds huge saying that. Huge. And it’s not everybody’s experience.
I hope and pray you end up giving OCD the big finger and see it for the kitty cat (not the ravenous lion), it really is. Don’t get me wrong, OCD in general can still sometimes be a lion. But I have a victory and I’ll sing it from the rooftops.
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.