November 1, 2010

Living with Uncertainty - the goal of recovery

I’ve learned so much about OCD and recovery since my latest "OCD breakdown".  Dr. Jonathan Grayson’s book “Freedom from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder” was very helpful for a few reasons:
1.       Dr. Grayson addresses my sub-set of OCD.  Very few books about OCD actually dedicate much time discussing Pure Obsessional OCD, let alone Gay OCD. 
2.       He addresses the need to be able to learn to live with uncertainty in order to fully recover from this horrible disorder.  I agree completely!  When I initially read Dr. Grayson’s book, I don’t think I fully grasped exactly what he was talking about.  “You mean I have to learn to be OK with the idea that someday I might realize I’m in denial and actually a lesbian?  I have to be OK with the idea that not “trying to figure this out” might cause me a lifetime of unhappiness?  I have to learn to be OK with the fact that someday, I might decide that I’m gay, that might mean breaking up with my boyfriend and not only hurting him immensely, but ending all of my hopes and dreams?”
Learning to accept uncertainty with regards to whatever theme one’s OCD takes seems like a crazy notion.  But I totally get it.  On some days I feel like with this goal I am resigning myself to a life of despair.  LOGICALLY I completely understand what Dr. Grayson is saying.  It makes complete sense to me. After all, he is correct – there is as much, or greater chance that I’ll get hit by a car when driving my car to the grocery store, but I don’t stop driving, do I? 
Dr. Grayson also discusses getting clear about what your feared consequences are and facing those “head on”.  This is something else that I have never done, and when I try to think about it now – whoa!  It’s tough.  This aspect will definitely need to be integrated into my treatment. 
Last night was a rough night for me.  I did some exposure yesterday and immediately started with the mental checking - trying to remember things about my past to decide whether or not I have ever felt any sort of attraction for a woman.  In the middle of the night I woke out of a dead sleep and started ritualizing again.  And I HAD TO FIGURE IT OUT RIGHT THEN.  If I didn’t, wasn’t I being neglectful to myself and my boyfriend?  If there is ANY POSSIBILITY that I might be in denial about my sexuality, shouldn’t I be trying to figure it out RIGHT NOW so as not to hurt anyone?  As you can see, I am still struggling with living with uncertainty about whether or not I am, or will become a lesbian. 
I hate having these thoughts.  But I’ve also realized that because my rituals are mostly mental in nature, I can quickly fall into the “mental checking” and “figuring out” rabbit holes without even realizing it.  And before you know it my anxiety is sky rocketing, and I am not sure why.  Then, I want the thoughts gone even more. 
Ultimately I have to accept that someday I might realize I am gay.  This is a goal I am working towards, but I can honestly say I am not OK with right now.  Wow – that’s a huge risk to take.  Does this mean I’m not ready for treatment? Does this mean that every exposure I do is for naught?  (You don’t have to answer those questions – they have become obsessions too.) 
I certainly hope not. 


  1. Ah, I love your blog - I can relate so much to the way to the way you describe your thought processes!

    I can also relate to waking up in the middle of the night and feeling the need to ritualize. NOW. OCD can make us do ridiculous things - either in our heads or in the form of physical behaviors - any time of day. When I was at my worst, I would regularly have OCD nightmares (oh wait...I still have those...) and I would sometimes actually get up from my bed just to wash my hands, afraid that what I had done in my dream was something I had actually done. Or, sometimes I would wake up and wash simply because I felt "dirty" even though I knew that that feeling was just the product of a dream. Oh silly OCD...

    I feel for you with your obsessions! I have met others with sexual orientation OCD, some of which who have really managed to overcome it. One of the things that always struck me about discussions of this type of OCD is the realization that we all have thoughts that we might consider "gay," but for some reason or another people with this type of OCD latch on to these thoughts and give them more importance than they necessarily deserve. My therapist always says that thoughts are just thoughts with no intrinsic value - it's how we react to them that seems to give some thoughts greater value than others.

    I do a lot of mental checking/retracing, etc. myself. I thought this was an interesting article on how to catch yourself in the process and work on not doing it:

    Anyways, not to provide you with reassurance or anything, but it's perfectly fine and normal NOT to be okay with your feared outcome. I'm certainly not okay with half the things I fear doing exposures will mean about me. But that's why I'm doing CBT and ERP - with hopes that these thoughts will one day not be so problematic and that I will develop better ways of dealing with them when they do bother me!

    (Oh, and sorry - I totally didn't see this post before I commented on your most recent one. You had already mentioned Jonathon Grayson's book, and I hadn't even noticed!)

  2. Fellow - I read that article and its great - thanks! I'll add that to my list of resources. The uncertainty is something I continue to struggle with. I started something new on my hierarchy today so it's been a difficult day. I was OK with uncertainty with the other stuff but this?! Not so much. Oh well - I shall perservere.....