March 5, 2011

Practicing not giving OCD Power

I’ve taken a small step back from my fantastic week.  But – I accept that recovery is not a straight line and I feel really good about the path that I’m on with my therapist.  I was doing SO WELL – it was almost like I didn’t have OCD anymore.  (Don’t you love weeks like that?)  And I think this might have been part of the problem.  I hate this disorder so much that during “good times” I am happy to “forget” that I even have OCD.  Though I know from looking back on my week that I was actually doing a really good job of recognizing the “OCD monster” and stopping it in its tracks, there was a part of me that was really quick to stop “associating myself” with OCD.  This has happened to me before, and has, in my opinion, led me to relapse.  Anyway, more on that topic in some other posts.  Someone on the Yahoo OCD Support Group made a really good point about this:  the key to recovery is accepting fully that we have OCD and being thankful for the good days, so that when an inevitable slip happens (and it will), we don’t feel so bad, and don’t spend as much time beating ourselves up for the slip.  I think that’s great advice.    
So what happened?  It was inevitable actually – at this point in my therapy.  It was  A BIG TRIGGER.  I sat down to enjoy watching Oprah just before I went to bed.  It was going to be a nice ending to a great day.  But – Merideth Baxter was Oprah's guest.  For those who don’t know – Merideth Baxter came out as a lesbian much later in life, after several failed marriages and a very difficult childhood.  THIS, AS MY FOLLOWERS KNOW, HITS SMACK ON THE HEAD OF MY BIGGEST FEARED OUTCOME.  I think I did OK in handling it, but I’ve definitely slid back and I’m struggling again to externalize the OCD and recognize and let go of my compulsions.  In general – I’m just more anxious. 
Despite all of that yuckiness, I am happy to report that today I had a very small “OCD win”.  It was helpful for me because I did a really good job of recognizing the OCD pattern and the lure that the monster was trying to pull me into. 
This is what happened
When my ex-boyfriend and I broke up, he very clearly said to me that – given the difficulties that I am currently experiencing – a sick mother, and trying to conquer my OCD – he would be there for me if I ever needed him.  This is HUGE for me because one of my core beliefs is that I am a worthless loser and no man could ever love me given my weaknesses. 
Anyway – yesterday my mom told me that one of my nephews mentioned to my sister-in-law that he really misses my ex-boyfriend.  My nephew is going through a really rough time at the moment (he’s 12 years old) because his parents are going through a separation.  So – I emailed my ex-boyfriend and asked him if he would feel comfortable getting in contact with my nephew. 
A few hours later, my ex-boyfriend called me and left a message wishing me Happy Birthday (it was my birthday yesterday).  I missed the phone call, so as soon as I listened to his message I texted him and thanked him for thinking of me and let him know that I had sent him an email about my nephew. 
My ex-boyfriend didn’t text me back. 
I was OK at first.  I was busy getting ready to go out for dinner with my friends for my birthday.  Thoughts were definitely starting to pop into my mind, just a few at first, and very quietly:  “Why isn’t he texting you back?  He’s always really good at getting back to you.  He must be mad at you. He’s avoiding you for some reason. What could it be?” 
I went out for dinner and had a great time with my friends.  When I got home, the thoughts were a little louder: “It’s been 7 hours now and he hasn’t returned your text or email.  He always gets back to you.  What did I do?  Why is he avoiding me?  This is evidence that you are a loser and crazy and he’s finally figured it out and doesn’t want to have anything to do with you.  See – all men are complete jerks and you’d be so much better with a woman.  Women would never do something like this.” 
So, I texted him.   Yup.  I did it.  And the whole time I knew in the back of my mind that I shouldn’t be doing it, but my OCD rationalized the behaviour, saying it was “OK”. 
This morning I woke up and what do you think was the first thought to pop into my mind?  YOU GOT IT – “I wonder if my ex-boyfriend has texted me back.”  So – I immediately checked my Blackberry, which was right on my night stand (of course I RARELY bring my Blackberry to bed with me, but this was an dire situation!).  NOPE.  NOTHING. 
At this point I was highly anxious and my mind was spinning.  I tried really hard to re-focus.  I could SEE that it was OCD.  I tried to think about what my biggest fear was, and I tried to use cognitive restructuring to recognize the distortions in my thinking (I know that at that point cognitive restructuring was only serving as a ritual.), but nothing was working.  I worked myself up to a horrible state. 
I then texted a mutual friend of ours.  I said:  “Do you know if EX-BOYFRIEND is getting his texts these days?  You mentioned that he’s been kind of hard to get a hold lately.”  To which she responded:  “I think everything is fine.”  GREAT.  There’s nothing wrong with his phone. 
I stewed – WOW – did I stew.  I was depressed.  I was anxious.  I was angry.  How could he do this to me?  I was getting mad at my ex-boyfriend, rather than getting mad at the hold my OCD had over me.  Let’s put this all in perspective:  It hadn’t even been 24 hours since I sent my first email reaching out to my ex-boyfriend.  It wasn’t like a few days had passed and I hadn’t heard from him. 
I called him.  He didn’t answer.  Seriously???????  So I left a message and asked if there was a reason he wasn’t getting back to me, and if there was, could he please let me know. 
At this point I was WOUND UP LIKE A TOP.  I was sick to my stomach.  So – I did the only thing I thought would help.  I turned to the Yahoo OCD Support group and typed out post for the board.  I knew I had to stop with the checking, reassurance seeking, etc etc.  I got EXACTLY what I needed from that group.  Someone told me to STOP checking, and STOP reassurance seeking.  It was great.  Thank you. 
I then decided that I would get on with my day.  I would write out my thoughts, and later evaluate them for cognitive distortions, and then I would go out and do what I had planned to do today.  I would not bring my Blackberry.  And I would not bring it up to anyone. 
It worked.  I felt so much better.  I didn’t give OCD the power.  I caught on to the lure of its promises.  I was anxious at first and had thoughts like: “how will I know if he’s ignoring me?  When?  In three days?”  But eventually, after I could really see the pattern, and fully committed to not letting the OCD win, I felt so much better.    
And you know what?  My ex-boyfriend wrote me back. 
Today was a good lesson for me and really helped me realize how my OCD affects so many people around me.  This INTENSE desire for certainty in so many areas of my life creates so much pressure for so many people. 
I’m doing my very best to conquer the OCD monster.  For myself, and for everyone I care about.    Regardless though, I hope that those who know me will love me despite my OCD and realize that I'm still pretty loveable.  :o)

1 comment:

  1. Very Good Source for info. on OCD