May 27, 2011

The Ups and Downs of Recovery

What happened to all those wonderful insights I had last week?  I don’t know.  It’s so frustrating how one minute I can seem as though I’ve got this horrible battle under control – that I have the upper hand over OCD.  And then – the next minute – it floats away like leaves on a stream. 

I’ve been very busy these last three weeks.  Lots of work demands, and that – I think – has prevented me from being as aware of my compulsions as I would like.  Is that it?  I don’t know.  I suppose I shouldn’t spend too much time trying to analyze how things went from “fantastic” to “really yucky”.  It doesn’t matter.  What matters now is that I have to get back to doing the work that needs to be done.  OCD has managed to scare me.  It’s managed to get my attention. 

A couple of days after I wrote my last post I started doing a diet “cleanse”.  The purpose was to rid myself of the massive sugar cravings that I get so often.  My diet has become quite unhealthy as of late, and I am trying to make some positive changes in my physical well being too.  I would definitely go as far as saying that I’m a sugar addict, and I was even getting to the point where I would binge on bags of candy a couple of times per week.  Not good, especially with a history of Diabetes in my family.  Anyway – I started this diet “cleanse” on Sunday.  And since then it’s all gone downhill.  Perhaps it’s the lack of sugar that is causing the increase in OCD symptoms.  My therapist says that sugar increases serotonin levels in the brain.  I don’t know.  All I know is that I feel like crap. 

My last exposure exercise went OK.  Definitely not a slam dunk like a few of the others had been, but I got through it to the point where it wasn’t bothering me as much.  More importantly – I was so keen to the OCD words – and I wasn’t doing any compulsions.  And then the wheels fell off. 

My ERP homework this week is to watch some videos on AfterEllen.com.  Today was my second day, and HOLY CRAP – it’s hard.  The OCD voice is saying so many things that scare me and that I want to latch on to.  I am trying so hard to see it for what it is.  I just want to cry. 

I was going to skip my ERP homework tonight after having a horrible day.  But I sent an email to my therapist, and he reminded me that it would be important to persevere.  So, that’s what I did.  Do I feel better for having done my homework?  Nope.  Do I want to curl up in a ball and cry?  Yep. 
I hate OCD. 

May 19, 2011

OCD is Insidious

If you read ExpWoman’s blog, you will know that she is doing a series of blog posts called OCD: A to Z.  I have identified so well with all of the posts in her series, and today, as I was finishing my exposure therapy, I came up with a great word that would have worked well for her series under the “I”.  The word is INSIDIOUS. 

As I progress through ERP therapy, I have definitely had some ups and downs.  All of the exposures that I have done thus far have started out causing me immense anxiety and horrible, distressing thoughts.  But I seem to have actually mastered some of them to the point that not only does it not bother me to do some of these things, I actually enjoy them.  Each time I start a new exposure though, I seem to forget the distress the last exposure initially caused me, and my OCD says “This is the worst one yet.  This situation REALLY is dangerous.  You better run or do something (compulsion) to protect yourself.” Starting a new assignment on the exposure hierarchy is just plain yucky, and my most recent assignment has been quite difficult.  Whereas some of my previous exposures have actually become enjoyable for me (watching “The Talk for example), looking at Afterellen.com is something that I just do not enjoy. 

My OCD is fighting hard to stay alive.  It’s amazing how tricky it is, and the thoughts it comes up with in order to try to shock me into paying attention, and reacting (ie: compulsing).  My therapist warned me that OCD would do this.  He warned me that OCD can be incredibly creative, and that once I mastered one angle – it would come back fighting even stronger with a different variation on the same theme.  This is what is happening lately, as I complete my most recent exposure assignment. 

Jon Hershfield, a psychotherapist from The OCD Center of Los Angeles wrote a great post on the clinic’s blog about the various manifestations that sexual orientation OCD can take.  I encourage you to click here and take a moment to read his post.  I can identify with many of these sub-themes, and different exposures can trigger thoughts related to one or more of the variations.  When I first read Jon’s post, I was struck by how well he understands the OCD mind, and amazed that he was able to identify so clearly these various HOCD themes. Reading Jon’s post has helped prepare myself for the inevitable time when OCD throws a curve ball at me and tries to shock me into submission.  Aha!  I can say to myself now.  More of the same.  OCD – you can’t trick me.”  At least I am able to do this more and more often.  :o) 

The good news is that I am starting to habituate to looking at AfterEllen.com.  Most days, it really doesn’t bother me that much.  I am starting to see the OCD so clearly; to stare it straight in the face and tell it to give me its best shot.  I realize that I am going to have to do a lot more exposure though, in order to habituate to all of the permutations and combinations of thoughts that OCD is going to throw at me. 

I wonder what my therapist has up his sleeve for me next.  Actually, no – I am not ready to think about that yet.  :o)

May 15, 2011

A Long OCD Hill to Climb

I am doing better.  I am starting to feel like there’s a light at the end of the perverbial OCD tunnel.  The two original exposures that I had to do, and wrote about in this post, have now actually become enjoyable for me!  I can’t believe it myself.  I am actually enjoying reading my book, and I really like to watch “The Talk”.  The thoughts have virtually gone away.  I can’t believe it. 

I don’t want to diminish my progress, but I also realize that I don’t want to get myself into a false sense of security.  The more work I do in therapy with my awesome psychologist, the more I realize how OCD’s tentacles have wrapped itself around so many parts of my life.  So – ironically, while I can see the little bit of progress I’ve made, and I’m feeling better than I’ve felt in a long time, I also see how much more work I have to do; how many more things I have to expose myself too. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I still have bad days.  Days when a spontaneous, unplanned “spike” bowls me over with intense anxiety and I just can’t hold off on compulsing.  Where I have made progress here, I think, is in recognizing it for what it is – IN THE MOMENT – so that it doesn’t take over like a tsunami, and last for days on end.  I’m almost scared of writing about my progress, and the insight and small amount of control that I have gained over my OCD, because I am worried that it will jinx me.  (That’s not Magical Thikning at work – eh?)

My ERP assignment for this week is significantly harder.  I have to look at the site "AfterEllen" for only five minutes.  The site has a fairly benign pop culture theme, but the focus is on lesbian lifestyle.  So, there are articles about the lesbian couple from “Grey’s Anatomy”, and the lesbian that participated in “The Amazing Race” (who knew?).  But wow – looking at this site gives me immense anxiety, and I am very thankful that I was only assigned to look at it for five minutes this week.  Of course, knowing my therapist, next week it will be for longer – which of course makes sense.  YAY for next week!  (Not.)  Though I’m not enjoying doing this exposure AT ALL, and it gives me intense anxiety – I can say that when I am finished with doing my assignment, I am able to stop obsessing, and move on to something else.  This is HUGE progress for me.  In the past, after doing exposure, I would continue to obsess, and then ritualize for hours on end.  So I am moving forward – albeit slowly. 

I am happy with the pace of my progress, and ERP.  It may cost me thousands of dollars to progress through treatment, but I am willing to take my time and do this at my own pace.  I have had OCD for so many years, that I have finally accepted that it may take a long time to be truly free of the disorder.  I am just thankful that I have a therapist that I can maintain a long term relationship with, so that when I have progressed to the point where I only need to see him once per month (or whatever), I know that he will be available for me.  OCD is a chronic condition, and I think I have finally accepted that.   

May 3, 2011

Go Figure - OCD Progress!!!

I am doing really well.  I had a fantastic session with my therapist last week and we "unveiled" some of OCD's tricks.  I guess this past week I have been keenly aware of when I am ritualizing. 

Last week my three homework assignments were to:

1. Continue watching "The Talk".
2. Read a book written by a lesbian author (no lesbian content).
3. Listen to lesbian musicians (ie: KD Lang, Melissa Etheridge etc.)

I am now at the point where I look forward to watching "The Talk" at night.  Go figure?!  The show is so funny!  And - I don't even pay any attention to thoughts like: "You look forward to watching it because there's a lesbian on the show."  I feel like for the first time in a long time I am starting to outwit OCD!  I am trying to use mindfulness to be aware of how great I"ve been feeling and exercise some grace so that inevitably - when I slip backwards - I don't fall into yet another OCD trap of thinking I'll be in a bad spot forever. 

I've started reading a book called "Room" which is written by a lesbian author, but is actually about a boy and his mom who are held captive in a room for several years.  It's creepy which definitely starts the OCD, but after a few days the anxiety went away and now I'm just reading an interesting book. 

As for listening to lesbian musicians - I haven't done that.  Only because I haven't gotten organized enough to download some onto my iPod and figure out how to listen to my iPod in my car.  It will happen - at some point. 

Now - these exposure exercises may seem easy and relatively low on the hierarchy, and they are.  But after mastering these few things, my confidence has increased.  I feel like I am ready to move foward to something higher.  As an example of how much I've been avoiding these types of triggers for SO LONG - I was watching our national news morning show and I saw the review of the book "Room".  I thought the book sounded intriguing and interesting, but as soon as I heard that it was written by a lesbian there was NO WAY I was going to go anywhere near that book.  And now I'm doing it!!! 

Giving myself a small pat on the back.