March 31, 2012

Working up the ERP hierarchy....

PMS is approaching.....just as I’m about to leave on my much-needed vacation.  Ugh.  And alas – my OCD has started to ramp up too. 

I don’t really have anything new to report, except to say that the ERP that I’m doing right now is really high on my hierarchy and WOW – it’s hard....especially harder during PMS time.  Damn OCD. 

I’ve been doing so well lately with learning to live in the grey area!  But it is scary, REALLY scary.  The latest lesbian movie that I watched was a Spanish movie entitled “Eloise’s Lover”.  It was actually a really good movie!  (In the past I would never have even ALLOWED myself to enjoy a movie with lesbian-themed content – so that’s huge progress for me.)  But of course the very fact that I enjoyed some aspects of the movie, and the fact that it was more relatable to me in some ways has my OCD jumping all over me.  I just finished watching the last part of the movie and it was sad.  And the sex scenes were VERY sensual.  And I feel more uncomfortable than I have felt in a pretty long time.  Are you sure you’re not in the process of coming out of the closet since you could relate to some aspects of this movie?  Are you sure you weren’t turned on when you watched that sex scene?  Do you even have the capacity to fall in love with a woman?  Sure, you don’t think you’re gay right now, but what if someday you meet a lesbian and fall in love with her?” This movie even touched on some of my ROCD fears: "What if you end up in a boring, loveless marriage?"

It’s times like these that I have to remind myself of what one of my fellow blogging friends commented to me on one of my posts:  “Every time you feel anxious, remind yourself that you are healing as you live through it.”  What wonderful, inspiring words – thank you 71 & Sunny for writing them.   

I also have to send a HUGE shout out and THANK YOU to my wonderful supportive therapist.  It’s funny, because at my last session on Thursday he commented that he felt like he hadn’t spoken to me in ages.  It was really only two weeks, but since working with him that is probably the longest I have gone without any sort of communication with him.  He truly is awesome and consistently there for me.  Immediately after finishing my ERP I emailed him and let him know how I was feeling.  He replied with fantastic advice and coaching. 

So my anxiety level right now is pretty high.  I am noticing a HUGE urge to sit down and compulse, analyze it all, try and figure it all out NOW.  Instead I am going to start working on my list of chores and do my very best not to do any mental compulsions.  This too shall pass. 

March 25, 2012

OCD Therapy Rant


I continue to do “well”.  And by that I mean that lately I am consistently applying my CBT, mindfulness and ERP skills.  But I am trying really hard not to take that for granted.  There are times throughout the week that I stop, and mindfully become aware of how well I am doing.  It’s amazing how I am even dealing so much better with stressful situations too.  But I am also aware that it’s all part of the process and ups and downs of life.  I am still doing ERP – watching movies with lesbian themes – and yes – it still gives me anxiety.  But I am able to let it all go so much quicker....and I am able to stop myself from compulsively analyzing every thought, feeling and sensation. 

I have been really busy with work and life in the last little while.  I’m not dating anyone at the moment, which isn’t for lack of trying.  I just haven’t met anyone that I am really interested in spending any time with.  Though this probably isn’t great for challenging my OCD (from an ERP perspective), I am also not trying to over-control my life either. 

Anyway, that’s my update. 

Today I want to comment about therapy for OCD.  And I want to get feedback from others – do they feel the same way as me?  Did they have the same impressions when they started therapy?  Please comment and let me know. 

It seems that there is a prevailing notion “out there” that CBT is a quick, short-term therapy.  That it’s a matter of teaching clients some simple, quick skills and techniques, and then you’re finished and life is good.  That ERP is as simple as spending a couple of hours writing a hierarchy, working through the hierarchy in a few weeks, and then you’re all better.  That you “just” face your fears, wait a few minutes and the anxiety will go away and then you will realize that there’s nothing to be scared of and your OCD will all go away. 

If you’ve spent any time reading my blog, you know that has not been my experience with therapy or OCD.  My “recovery” has not been that simple OR that linear.  I’m sure there are those who have had a quick, linear experience with therapy, just as there are those who have gone on medication and it has magically taken away all of their OCD.  But I would be willing to bet that those people are the outliers.  I bet that most people’s experience with OCD and therapy are more similar to mine – fraught with lots of bumps along the road.  In fact, I’ve stopped expecting that final destination called “recovery”.  Instead I’ve started to look at it as one big journey, with good days and bad days along the way.  Hopefully as time passes, the good days will outnumber the bad days, but there are no guarantees.   

In my opinion, the notion that CBT and ERP are “just do this and you’ll get better” techniques sets people up for failure.  For the longest time I would think to myself “I’m doing all of this stuff – why aren’t things getting better???”  I felt like a failure, which just made things worse.  In reality – none of this is easy.  Anxiety doesn’t always go away immediately after doing exposure.  Sometimes it can take DAYS for me to let go an obsession after doing exposure.  And if I knew how to recognize some of my irrational thoughts, and start thinking more rationally, I wouldn’t be in this situation in the first place! 

Lately I have changed some of my attitude and expectations.  I prefer not to think of any of my therapy for OCD as a “destination”.  I would say that even “recovered” OCD patients still have to utilize the skills they have learned, and still struggle sometimes.  It really is a journey.  The Buddhist saying “This too shall pass” has helped me to realize not to take for granted the OCD –free days, and to also know that the days when I am struggling with OCD torment, that it won’t last.  It never does. 

March 18, 2012

Learning to live in the grey area......

Mindfulness has helped me to get back on track.  Or should I say....mindfulness combined with continued ERP.  I know I said this in previous posts, but the book “The Mindful way through Anxiety” is like a bible to me.  I also said that I would post a book review - and I promise - I will do so in the next couple of blog posts. 

The obsessing about my original “crush” has slowed down significantly.  I’ve stopped with a lot of the compulsions – thanks to being mindfully aware of when I’m doing them.  I’ve also reminded myself of one of my favourite quotes (which I’m quite sure I’ve also posted here but bears repeating):

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space.  In that space is your power to choose your response.  In our response lies our growth and freedom.” – Viktor Frankl

I still have the URGE to compulse and figure everything out (whether he would be a good partner, whether he will ask me out, whether I like him, whether he likes me etc etc), but I just know that it is not possible to know these answers right now, and all the compulsing in the world will do nothing but sabotage any chance that I have for growth.  In all honesty, it has sucked so much energy out of me that it’s taken away from the fun and excitement of it all. 

I’ve been faced with so many opportunities for exposure lately regarding ROCD and in some weird way, I am thankful for them.  But let me tell you – it hasn’t been easy.  At the moment, one of my jobs is working part-time at a bank, and a guy that I have liked for awhile came into the bank for the first time in a really long time.  I won’t bore you with all the details, suffice it to say that a colleague of mine and I concocted this plan to give him my phone number.  I left a note for him that asked him about his tattoo artist, and I left my email address and phone number.  Of course, after I knew that he received the note (I didn’t hand it to him), the obsessing began.  What will he do?  Does he like me?  Will I like him?  If he doesn’t get back to me right away that means he doesn’t like me.”  After not hearing from him for three days, I started to let the whole thing go, mostly to save my sanity because I just HAD TO KNOW WHAT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN.   

Do you see how my mind so DESPERATELY wants an answer to things?  It is almost IMPOSSIBLE for me to sit in the grey area and just live with uncertainty. 

Well he came into the bank three days later and asked for me.  He said he tried to text me - did I not receive it? (Hmmmmm....a bit skeptical about that!) I said that I hadn’t that perhaps he had put the number in wrong or that I had written it down incorrectly.  Anyway, we spoke, had a great conversation for about fifteen minutes, and he then gave me the information about the tattoo artist.  But – he didn’t ask me out.  So, I took one more chance, and wrote my phone number down on a piece of paper again, and handed it to him as he was leaving the bank.  He looked at me confused, and said “I already have your number – it’s on a piece of paper in the car?”.  To which I replied:  “Yes, but maybe that one won’t work.” 

Anyway – the point of all the details here is that I really have NO IDEA if this guy likes me or not.  I have analyzed and mentally reviewed our conversation.  I have asked my friends for reassurance.  And there is nothing that anyone can say that is going to make me feel better.  The answer lies in being able to live in the grey area.  To live with the uncertainty and to not try to FORCE THE ANSWER. 

Wow – this is huge growth experience for me, and honestly – very painful.  It’s like running 15 marathons over and over again. 

But it’s a VERY GOOD lesson. 


March 10, 2012

OCD in my life these days....

I knew it wouldn’t last.  And I have to remind myself that this little “blip” won’t last either.  Analyzing and figuring out is my compulsion of choice these days.....with a little mental checking thrown in for good measure.  Ugh.  It’s painful. 

Good old relationship OCD has set in.....in a big way.  And I don’t think I’m coping very well. 

To be fair, this is really the first time I’ve struggled with these themes in over three years....especially since I’ve been working with my current therapist.  So I am hopeful that I will be able to get some great insight during our session on Wednesday.  Wednesday just can’t come soon enough. 

So – the dating stuff.  I was doing great dating the one guy.  I didn’t really like him that much, but I was fine continuing to date for a little longer.  That came to an end, but not because of OCD (YAY! Some progress!) – mostly because I just didn’t like him.  And I KNEW I didn’t like him.  And the relationship just wasn’t going anywhere.  All good. 

After that ended though I felt a little anxious.  Perhaps the excitement that I felt was inadvertently giving me reassurance that yes, I am lovable, yes there are nice guys out there, and no, I don't have to result to becoming a lesbian in order to find love.  I don’t know. 

Anyway – on Monday something happened that set me off on another yucky OCD course.  You see there’s this guy who I’ve known as an acquaintance for awhile.  We don’t see each other a lot, and I’ve always thought he was cute.  I saw him on Monday, and it was that day that I decided that I liked him and that I would actually like to go on a date with him.  I suppose you could say I developed a “crush”.  And WHAM – it all started. 

I CANNOT STOP OBSESSING ABOUT HIM. 

I can't stop trying to figure out if I should ask him out or wait to see if he asks me out.  I can't stop trying to figure out if he could even possibly like me????  I can't stop my brain from trying to figure out if he is the “right guy” for me, or if even pursuing him would be a grave mistake and would cause me a lot of pain. 

MY MIND WILL NOT STOP. 

And then the HOCD stuff started: “This is only happening because of your relationship with men.  If you became a lesbian, you wouldn’t have the pain of obsessing.  You would actually be able to have a normal relationship.” 

Obsessing on top of obsessing.  Nice. 

It’s been a painful week, and absolutely NOTHING has happened with the guy.  I feel numb, and honestly, I don’t know if he is even aware that I exist (which of course my HOCD is all over as well “See – you always pick the wrong guys.  All men are just jerks.”).  I feel horrible.  And tired....and I want to cry. 

I so very badly want to have success with this.  I WANT TO BE SUCCESSFUL.  I want to be able to date like a normal human being without constantly feeling horrible and crappy and full of self-doubt.   Right now I feel buried in OCD thoughts. 
Why does my brain feel the need to constantly find evidence to support my deepest, darkest, thoughts?  Why is it so quick to point out situations that PROVE that my core beliefs are correct?  That I need to be really careful because all of this is so dangerous and I might be horribly hurt?  Why can’t I be like other people who are happy, and believe in themselves, and are resilient, and don’t think that relationships are just a big scary thing? 

March 4, 2012

OCD life and ERP

I made it through PMS relatively un-scathed.  Don’t get me wrong, I definitely had OCD thoughts, about the guy I’ve been dating, and thoughts with HOCD content, but for some reason I’ve been able to let them go.  I wish I knew the “magic answer” to why......but I don’t.  One of my theories is that I’m reassured by the fact that I am actually EXCITED to date a guy, and even feeling attracted to him.  Not to mention, his admiration of me has been a huge confidence boost! 

That being said, I think a lot of my progress has to do with the fact that I’m just not believing my thoughts anymore.  I am coming to a better understanding of why I have some of the thoughts that I do – and why my brain is so quick to jump in and warn me about impending danger.  I know that this notion has been explained to me time and time again, and that I’ve read it multiple times in books......but for some reason....now I think it is finally sinking in.  (Knock on wood!!!)

So I’ve been doing well.  I’ve managed my thoughts really well, and when HOCD exposure opportunities have come up, I haven’t avoided them.  BUT (there’s always a “but” with OCD isn’t there?) – the very nature of my life doesn’t provide for very many natural HOCD ERP opportunities.  In my opinion, just the dating is great ERP for me.  (I remember several months ago – dating was on the top of my hierarchy list!)  And I’m doing it now!  And – I want to do even more!  The guy I’m dating is definitely not the guy for me, but I’m in no rush to make a decision or figure it all out!  That is HUGE progress for me.  I am learning to trust myself. 

Believe me when I say that I realize that any OCD “success” or “progress” is like sitting in a glass house.  What I mean is that I am fully aware of the fact that the peace of mind that I have felt in the last several weeks could vanish in a split second.  So, as we have all said in various posts – I am going to enjoy the moment, but not take for granted the fact that I have a chronic mental health problem, so that when (and when is a reality) it returns, I am not disappointed. 

Yesterday my therapist assigned more ERP for me.  My initial reaction was “ugh – will this ever be over?”.  No.  No it won’t.  And that’s the point.  I’m back watching lesbian-themed movies.  It’s funny how my anxiety ramped up immediately.  Says something I suppose.  I also noticed how my mind found every excuse in the book to pre-emptively avoid doing the exposure.  I had to remind myself “I can do this. “  I DO still find it frustrating that I am so controlled by my OCD and anxiety.  But this morning I nipped it in the bud and went on to the internet and started watching a movie about lesbians.  Yes it made me anxious, but the point is that I did it.  And I will do it again – several times – in fact – I will do it as many times as I have to.  It’s just a movie. 

In hindsight I’m glad he assigned that homework, because it is a reminder to me that I have to continue to expose myself to that which I am afraid of.  It’s also helping to remind me that just because I’m dating men now, and quite happy about it – doesn’t preclude me from someday deciding that I want to date women.  It’s all about living with uncertainty......being able to live in the moment and enjoy the moment while not knowing what might be ahead.  And I can definitely say that I’m not a pro at that one yet.