January 30, 2011

Whoa exposure!!!

One of the things I’ve been struggling with lately is the fact that I’m so “in the closet” about my OCD.  I think it might be another compulsion for me.  The fear here is that if I tell people that I have OCD they will ask me more info (I'm not a hand washer after all), and if I tell anyone that I have sexual orientation OCD, they will think “Sure you have OCD – just face it – you’re probably a lesbian.”  I guess what I’m saying is that so few people have a true understanding of OCD, and how it manifests in people, let alone me telling them that I worry about my sexual orientation.  "No, - HOCD isn't another word for someone who is a lesbian in denial."  (Of course, I suppose there's always that chance.  There's also a chance that I could get worms from picking up my dog's poo.) So, basically I’m avoiding the fear that people might – due to a misunderstanding of what HOCD is – think that I’m actually a lesbian.  And what would that mean?  It would mean that maybe they're right - maybe I really am a lesbian.  It would bring up the "Maybe this isn't OCD, but really a sexual orientation crisis" thoughts (Believe me - the way I'm thinking and feeling lately is making me wonder.)  Perhaps there is a part of me that is avoiding potential rejection from people too.  Though – I don’t have many (if any) friends who would reject me even if I did suddenly someday decide that I'm gay. 
As I mentioned in my last post – I’m feeling pretty “hopeless” these days about relationships and my ability to have a healthy one.  How is it really possible to have a healthy relationship with HOCD and ROCD? (If some of my fellow bloggers have any comments on this I would love to hear them.) Of course, as I also previously mentioned – this has taken my mind to the place of: “Well – if you don’t think there is hope to be in a healthy relationship with a man – then maybe you should just give up and be with a woman.  Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad.  Maybe it’s your only hope of not ending up alone and lonely forever.  You've tried so hard to make it work with a man.  There are after all some real benefits of being with a woman.  Maybe for once and for all you'll get your emotional needs met.”  These thoughts kill me.  They are so hard to have.  They make me feel so sad and hopeless, and even more defective.  I’m not sure – maybe these thoughts are “normal” given what I’ve gone through recently and my "baggage".  Or – maybe I’m just a seriously emotionally broken, defective individual.  After all, my ex-boyfriend is one of the most decent men I know.  He has values that I respect, and he treated me with great care.  And I still managed to screw it up. 
Another thing that I avoid doing, is sharing any of these thoughts and feelings with my friends – again – for the same fear that they will think I truly am a lesbian.  Like “Ahhhh – now it all makes sense.”  Or – even worse - maybe they will agree with me – that healthy relationships with men really are hopeless (especially my ability to be healthy in one), and I might as well just declare myself a lesbian today.  That said, not only have I been feeling crappy because I haven’t been doing a lot of exposure lately, I have also been beating myself up and telling myself that I’m just a big “fraud” – not being sincere or honest about who I truly am because I’m not sharing a big part of myself – namely the fact that I have OCD.  (Don’t think that I have missed the irony of all of this – I’m sure this is how a person who REALLY is gay feels when he/she is in the closet – the lack of authenticity.)
So, today I decided to take a leap – and expose myself to these fears.  I was texting with one of my friends, talking about how I’m not feeling in the mood for a “happily ever after” chick flick tonight because I’m feeling pretty cynical about relationships.  Then I said it:  “Maybe I’ll just become a lesbian. Hehe.”  Her response was “Don’t think like that”.  Fairly benign – and really it doesn’t matter to me what her response was in the grand scheme of things.  Now though, is when the hard work comes.  It is really hard for me to live with the fear that she might think I’m gay.  But – it’s done.  It’s out there, and I would be lying if I told you that I wasn’t anxious as hell. 
Then, a little later on, I decided to push it even further.  I was emailing with my cousin, who is recently divorced and quite cynical herself about relationships.  And I said the same thing:  “Ugh – maybe the only answer is for me to become a lesbian.”  And of course – one of my fears came true!  She wrote back: “Don’t write the option off yet.  It may be the best one when you consider how women relate to each other.”  WHAM!  She hit one of my worst fears on the head:  THAT IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR ME TO RELATE IN A HEALTHY WAY WITH A MAN AND REALLY THE ONLY ANSWER FOR TRUE HAPPINESS MIGHT BE FOR ME TO BECOME A LESBIAN.
We continued our emailing conversation, and discussed our relationships and our roles in how we screwed them up.  At the moment I’m a basket case…..full of anxiety.  But – I’m glad I did it.  I was true to myself, my struggles, and what I’m going through right now.  We joked about being "cougar lesbians".  It was funny on some levels, but truly deep down inside I was terrified, and it was all I could do to not think "Hmmmmm....do you really mean this stuff?  You really are going through a difficult time right now.  You really do seem to struggle in intimate relationships with men." And blah, blah, blah.  Truth be told, I am having those thoughts.  But I'm doing everything I can not to DWELL on the thoughts. I am reminding myself not to try to "figure it out" right now. 

You see – I’m learning that I'm the kind of person who has lots of crazy, silly, "out there" type thoughts.  I’m also HIGHLY analytical, and highly emotional.  When I am “gagging” myself, for fear of what someone will think, I am doing myself NO FAVOURS.  All Im doing is reinforcing the idea that there is something to be scared of.  I know that I did this a lot in my relationship.  I was scared of saying lots of crazy, silly things to my ex-boyfriend, for fear that he would think I'm crazy, or a lesbian, or whatever.  In the end, that was one of the things that really effected our ability to be truly intimate with one another. I take a lot of responsibility for that.  But, I also know that at the beginning of our relationship, I tried to put myself out there a few times, and the response that I got gave me the message that it wasn't safe to be myself - crazy and all.  Now that I look back, I can see that neither of us knew what we were dealing with.  I'm sure my ex's response was not meant to be hurtful, or give me the message that it wasn't "safe" to express myself.  And I didn't express to him how important it was for me to be able to do this in order to "feel safe".   

I need to be able to put whatever is on my mind “out there”.  And – usually I do.  For most things, that don't have anything to do with my OCD fears, I am pretty open.  I'm learning though, that I do much better with people who understand that about me – and when I don’t feel like I have to modify my words, for fear of being judged as crazy……or worse yet – a lesbian.  In fact - I think that this trait is one of the very special things about me - and I really do want to be with someone who appreciates my "openess" as one of the very special things that make up who I am.  Isn't that what true intimacy is about? 

P.S  This anxiety makes me HIGHLY irritable. 


  1. Good job with the exposures and just going with them. And oh, man, I can relate to anxiety making you irritable!

  2. Ann - thanks for the encouragement - I need it right now! I didn't sleep well lastnight and I am still VERY UNCOMFORTABLE. I feel like crying most of the time. I wish anxiety would go away quickly after exposure!!!

  3. Oh, I know this one well. The "maybe I'm not being true to myself, living a lie, being a fraud" obsession. Not to mention the "maybe men and women can't be healthy together" obsession. I majored in feminist theory as an undergrad. That didn't help my ocd. I think I was hoping that I'd get the "answer" if I read enough feminist writing. None of these obsessions are answerable. OCD makes it feel like there's a short-cut to relief if you just test everything out, verify, analyze, compulse--but it's very short-lived relief. I know this from experience!!

  4. Expwoman - WOW - talk about exposure though - reading feminist writing!!! I'll never forget when I heard that Gloria Steinam (sp?) was getting married. That was "reassurance" for me! Haha! Funny how I can laugh at that now but still have the same obsessions. Just different "forms" - the same end fear. I'm so glad for your wisdom - thanks for the post. BTW - I feel SO MUCH better now after doing that exposure. The obsession virtually vanished! I say "virtually" because it's always lurking there - waiting for another weak moment.