January 13, 2011

Answering the elusive QUESTION

I am always amazed at how OCD finds a way of permeating my life.  Just when I think I am starting to gain control over the OCD monster, it finds ways of posing a question that is different enough to stop me in my tracks and in a split second I have started……..ritualizing again.  Compulsively trying to find the answer – whether that be through checking the internet, reassuring myself, or analyzing things down to every minute detail until I am absolutely mentally exhausted.  The worst, most frustrating part of this is that I have not yet become skilled enough to see it for what it is – yet another OCD question – dressed up quite nicely in a new costume, but in the end it has the same goal – to try to get certainty in the area of my OCD fears.  Expwoman seems to do a great job at "externalizing" her OCD and identifying when the OCD monster is trying to take hold of her thoughts.  She and I have been corresponding about this lately.  I think being able to recognize the pattern is very helpful in achieving recovery. 
I picked up Dr. Grayson’s book again and started reading it for the third time.  I think I will need to read it again, and again, and again.  He very effectively explains the nature of living with uncertainty and how this is the goal for all people in treatment for OCD.  If you have been reading my prior posts – you will know that I’ve struggled with this immensely.  The concept of not being certain about one’s sexuality, or certain about one’s choice in partner seemed so foreign to me.  I even wrote a post that gave examples of people who seemed to have "found the answer" and achieved "certainty".  But I think I am starting to understand this concept now, and the notion that for non-OCD sufferers, they may be able to FEEL certain about something, but that doesn’t mean that it IS certain.  I even have this type of certainty in other non-OCD areas of my life.  I remember writing an example in a previous blog post about picking up my dog’s poop, and having the thought “I could get worms”.  I definitely in that moment felt certain that I didn’t have worms, but I also could have been wrong.  Just because I feel certain about something doesn't mean that I am right.  And I wouldn’t have found out for sure until later. 
Dr. Grayson explains that the key to recovery is allowing oneself to have the disturbing thoughts without ever knowing what they mean.  I could always get my head around how that would relate to other’s OCD concerns – for example – those with violent obsessions.  But for someone like me – someone who struggles with the fear of becoming a lesbian, or the fear that I might be in the wrong relationship – letting go of trying to figure it all out is a much tougher concept.  Shouldn’t I be TRYING to figure all this stuff out?  Isn’t that the whole point of life?  Self-discovery in the quest for greater happiness?  There is a great risk for me in not compulsively trying to find the answer.  I feel like by not searching for the answer – I am allowing myself the possibility to be in denial (about my sexuality and about my relationship).  And that could be very hurtful – for myself and for my boyfriend.  (As an aside – this was great insight for me and I think will help when writing out exposure scripts and facing my feared consequences.)
When I look back on how I have approached treatment in the last few months – it has been with various amounts of consistency when it comes to stopping ritualizing.  Some days it was because I just couldn’t take the anxiety that I was feeling, and other days it was because I didn’t know I was ritualizing!  Either way, I hope that I have moved through to a new level of understanding of this disorder armed with more resolve for fighting. 


  1. It took a lot of practice for me to get some distance from my compulsive thought processes--I've been in ERP therapy for 4 years--don't let that scare you. It was so worth practicing, especially since the alternative would've been going deeper into the ocd and losing even more of my life. Remember, if you listen to the argument that "Shouldn't people figure out relationships? What if I don't and it harms my relationship with my bf?" this doesn't come without a cost--the more I gave into my compulsions, the harder it was on my relationship with my husband, even though I was supposedly compulsing in order to protect and strengthen my relationship.

  2. Expwoman - I am actually relieved to hear that you've been practicing ERP for 4 years because as you know - lately I seem to think I should have this OCD "licked" because I've been doing ERP for 5 months! I read somewhere that one of the OCD experts said a moderate - severe case of OCD could take up to two years to see good results - that also made me feel better. (I know - this is becoming another obsession of mine!) I agree - the irony is that in trying to protect certain things and "avoid" bad things from happening - we actually seemingly bring them on. I will keep practicing though today seems to be going better.