April 27, 2012

OCD and Emotions

I know that those of us who suffer from OCD know all too well what it’s like to experience extreme anxiety.  But are there any others out there who sometimes experience other overwhelming emotions?  Shame?  Guilt?  Anger? 

I am particularly curious about anger.  I’m curious because it is a feeling that has lead me to wonder if perhaps I have OCPD (Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder) in addition to OCD.  There are situations, people, and moments that can really set me off and boy-oh-boy – do I feel angry.  I don’t know if it’s my immense sense of justice, or that I tend to be an extremely emotional person.  OCPD is defined as someone who is preoccupied with rules, orderliness and control.  Would an incredible sense of justice correlate to someone who is preoccupied with rules?  Not sure. 

Feeling as though I have (or someone else has) been “wronged” definitely sets me off.  I immediately sense the anger welling up in my body.  I can feel it in my throat and at the back of my head.  My mind starts spinning, ruminating – a very similar reaction to when I am feeling extreme anxiety. 

An incident happened yesterday that upset me so much.  I received an email from someone that I am working with on a special project.  This person and I have never really spent a lot of time together, so we haven't established a personal relationship.  Most of our communication is via email and phone.  But for some reason, something about my personality has rubbed her the wrong way, and, well, let’s just say we are not “clicking”.  The email she sent me was incredibly condescending and downright rude.  And it made me VERY angry.  As an aside, this is the second time I have received an email like this from her. 

When this happens, OCD latches on.  You better resolve this situation because if you don’t something bad might happen and it will be all your fault.”.  “You must have done something wrong.  There’s something with YOU that made her dislike you.  It’s YOUR FAULT.” 

Not to mention some of the core beliefs that start screaming at me: “Feeling intense anger is bad and you better control these feelings.”  “If you express your anger, people will think you’re high maintenance (or crazy, or difficult to work with or whatever....the list goes on and on)” and the big one “Don’t express your feelings and needs because you’re already difficult to get along with.”

Luckily, immediately after I received the upsetting email, I had a Skype session with my therapist.  He helped me through my reactivity and compulsive urges to lash out and write a scathing email that I might regret.  I am proud of myself that I was able to sit with my anger without attempting to deny it or do something else to get rid of it.  In the past I would have needed reassurance from others in order to justify my angry feelings.  I know I’ve made progress because I no longer require that reassurance.  I’m pissed.  I don’t care if other’s don’t see my point of view. 

There is a definite issue here with this individual which will need to be addressed at some point.  But I am glad that I didn’t react and say or do something that might not have been productive (the reaction could have been anything from crying to lashing out in angry way).  The issue WILL be addressed, but it’s not urgent.  My OCD tries to tell me that it is – that if I don’t deal with this NOW something horrible will happen. 

I guess I just have to take that risk. 
I would love to hear how other’s cope with difficult feelings. 

April 16, 2012

What if?????

I’m back from my vacation, and amazingly – OCD gave me some much-needed reprieve.  The hardest parts from an anxiety perspective were “getting there” and “getting back”.  Don’t ask me why. 

I was in Palm Springs with three friends.  One of them was my closest girlfriend who I’ve known for over 25 years.  We don’t live in the same city anymore, and she is married with kids, so it was a fantastic chance to re-connect, re-live old funny memories (we laughed so much!) and just relax.  The weather was fantastic, and I had a wonderful time. 

While we were visiting Palm Springs one of the large events taking place was an event called The White Party, which is a HUGE gay party.  I laughed with my therapist that this would be a fantastic exposure for some of his male HOCD clients.  For me, not so much.  It was just a bunch of great looking athletic men walking around town.  I did have a few triggers while on holiday though.  One of them was reading one of the local tourist magazines - I read that Palm Springs has a large gay and lesbian population.  Estimates are that at least 40% of the population is gay or lesbian.  My mind said to me “With that large of population what are the odds that you’re not going to run into a lesbian???”  Amazingly though, it wasn’t on my mind continuously.  Another trigger was while we were at a restaurant.  I was just people watching, and I saw two women walking out of the restaurant with their arms around each other.  Then one of the women proceeded to grab the other’s bum.  A small surge of anxiety, but nothing much. 

I’m struggling with my exposure.  And when I returned from my holiday, my therapist slammed me with reality.  He was pretty hard on me (well, as hard as he can be on me.....he’s really a very kind guy).  But he was realistic.  You see, my latest BIG fear is that someday, given my history (horrible father relationship, unsuccessful relationships with men), I will meet a lesbian woman, become friends with her, and then fall in love.  It’s along the same lines of my ROCD fear that I have when I’m in a relationship.  I avoid other men because I’m afraid that I’ll fall in love with someone else and have to leave my partner etc etc.  My therapists response to this was: “Would that be so horrible if for some reason you found yourself in love with a woman?”  (Of course then my OCD says “your therapist really thinks you’re bi-sexual and he’s now trying to help you come to terms with that”.)

WHAT?  OF COURSE IT WOULD BE HORRIBLE!!!  That’s why I have HOCD!! 

I just really want to be able to let go of this fear.  And my OCD wants me to figure out WHY I have this fear.  Does it mean that I’m really afraid of my true self?  Does it mean that I won’t ever truly be able to be happy until I figure this out?  It’s so hard to find love these days, am I sacrificing my whole happiness by not opening myself up to being with a woman? Maybe I’m really bi-sexual?  All of these crazy thoughts go through my head.  It’s horrible. 

(Just writing this blog post is an exposure for me, because my OCD is saying “These people are going to read this and think that I really DO sound like I might be bi-sexual.”)

Why can’t I just be like anyone else and live my life until something actually happens????

This theme is rampant in the lesbian community too.  I’ve watched three movies with this theme.  It goes something like this:  The woman is living happily with her male partner, thinking, feeling straight, and along comes a lesbian woman who woos her into her web and their life is perfect, and wonderful and fantastic forever more.  Learning to accept the fact that this might happen to me, and not avoiding is one BIG hurdle I have in order to overcome my OCD.  It scares the crap outta me. 

Another big theme we’re working on at the moment is the wonderful “groinal” response and arousal etc.  For any of you who suffer from any kind of sexual obsession, you will understand the distress that this causes.  I watched one of those aforementioned lesbian movies a few weeks ago, and I actually thought the movie was pretty good!  (It was practically impossible for me to actually allow myself to like a lesbian movie by the way.)  And watching some of those sex scenes were pretty darn sensual.  Was I sexually aroused?  I don’t know.  Maybe?  My therapist explains to me that people can get aroused from watching many types of sex scenes.  But then my OCD says “You don’t get turned on when you watch heterosexual sex scenes.”.  Some times I feel like my OCD wants me to just throw my arms up in the air and say “I’m gay!”.  And be done with it all.  Anyway, this “groinal response” is another big hurdle for me to overcome in my recovery.  My therapist wants me to try and become sexually aroused while watching these lesbian movies.  And live with the consequences.  Right now I’m just trying not to figure it out one way or the other. 
At the end of the day I have to accept that I COULD find myself falling in love with a woman someday.  I have to accept that watching lesbian porn MIGHT turn me on sexually.  But at this point COULD = WILL, and MIGHT = DOES.  My therapist says that I have to want to overcome my OCD more than avoiding this possibility.  When he puts it that way I find it SO HARD to commit.  It’s days/times like these that I feel like I haven’t made any progress AT ALL.