I have OCD…SOOO now what…?

In my last post I talked about all the distressing thoughts that OCD puts in my mind and about he type of OCD I have (harm OCD) but it can be treated! I may always struggle with some aspects of OCD and depression BUT it will be manageable. I am fighting super-hard with homework from my group so that someday I will be able to live a normal life that is not controlled by OCD.

OCD makes up all these rules that become mental compulsions. (If a person has contamination obsessions, they compulsively wash their hands as a reaction to the contamination thought.) In reaction to my violent obsessions I repeatedly count by 3s up to 33 to neutralize the thoughts, distract myself, or suppress the thoughts. Also, in reaction to my thoughts I have given the colour red special power. I avoid the colour red as often as possible-I dont look at it and I dont touch or use-anything red because I am afraid that the colour will make me lose control. I also have superstitious compulsions. I am afraid that stepping on vertical lines will make me loose control and make me act on one of my thoughts. I know that these things are ridiculous! But at the same time, I just cannot bring myself to do (or not do) these silly actions. Thats Just how OCD works.


So how do I recover from OCD?

My treatment for OCD involves medication to help with the strong anxiety (& depression) and also cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT is a way of re-training my brain and body. The compulsions are so strongly engraved in my mind that they are just automatic! Sometimes I dont even realize I am counting!

On Tuesdays my CBT group learns about OCD and the cognitive part of therapy. The cognitive part of therapy focuses on the mind and the thought processes. On Fridays my CBT group does exposures which focus on challenging behaviours. When I say “exposures” I mean exposing myself to the things I am really afraid of or exposing myself to the extremely high anxiety that comes from not doing a compulsion. Now, that Is the really hard part because it‘s the exact opposite of what OCD is telling me to do! (And may I add… OCD is preeeetty convincing…)

For example, I have a fear of my thoughts and feel that the colour red will make me lose control and act on my thoughts. That is why I don’t look at red, touch red, and or wear red…and certainly not do any of these things while having terrible thoughts. So, to help get rid of that fear I need to expose myself to both red & my thoughts.

We start out with “easy” [quotations because it’s not really easy at all…just the most ‘do-able’] exposures-things that cause me anxiety but not so much anxiety that I wouldn‘t be able to sit with it. Then we build on it.

1. My first exposure was just to simply write down my thoughts-even though that felt like it was making these disgusting, horrible, images and thoughts even more real.

2. My second exposure was to look at something red for a while and allow my thoughts to come.

{Allowing my thoughts to just be there instead of pushing them away, fighting them, or distracting myself has turned out to be the most difficult peice of all the exposures}.

I began by looking just as long as long as I could stand the anxiety. Then, as I pushed myself, I could look at red for longer periods of time . It seems like a simple task but It caused me so much anxiety!

3. Then I wrote my thoughts in red. And eventually posted them on my wall (DEFINITELY not something I wanted hanging there-but that way I could be exposing my self even more to the thoughts).

4. For my fourth exposure I started to wear red shoes AND allow my thoughts to just come rather than pushing them away, fighting them, or distracting myself with counting.

5. THEN… I BOUGHT A RED SWEATER TO WEAR! (Around the house)

6. This week I am starting to wear red

A L L. T H E. T I M E.

Right Now: sometimes I can look at red things without even thinking about it!! Other times I am still able to easily challenge myself when | automatically look away. I catch myself looking away and I can say to myself,

“Hey, It’s just a colour. I CAN look at it. Nothing bad is going to happen.”

Then I force myself to look at it.

When I started wearing red my anxiety level would stay between 80/100-100/100.
Right Now: wearing my red shoes while there is no “dangerous” situations my distress level is only 20/100 and wearing the red sweater while I’m at home with no “dangerous” situations my distress can sit at just 50/100! {Just 2 weeks ago the lowest it would go is 70/100 after sitting for several hours with 85-95/100}.

I get so easily discouraged when I think about how far I still need to go to be in control of ODC but I really need to keep it in perspective. I have been living with ODC for 12 years and I have only been in this group for 9 weeks.

These 9 weeks are the only time in the 12 years that there has been improvement!*
 Before this group started I would have said that ALL of the exposures I have now done were completely impossible but praise the Lord I’ve make it this far and that Never Once have I ever walked alone.
song by: Matt Redman-Never Once:

*See…I even used red font there!

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