Photo credit: autumn_bliss / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)
As regular readers may know, I have been struggling very hard with anxiety and depression. The past two weeks have been particularly bad.
It has been very hard to do my regular blog posts, as my moods have been up and down like a yo-yo. I’ve gone from feeling monstrously tired (as in barely keep my eyes open) to manically agitated, sometimes in the space of just a few hours. This is something I am not used to and I have found it very hard to concentrate.
Fortunately, I know why I have been feeling the way I have. I am certain that this is down to my efforts to give up my OCD.
At my last session my therapist discussed what kind of time-scales would be reasonable for my full recovery (I think we are looking at around six to twelve months taking into considerations about possible Asperger’s diagnosis).
We had already established that anxiety and OCD were my primary diagnoses – it was her firm belief that the depression would lift as a result of treating these two problems. Strictly speaking I’m probably getting more one to one help than would normally be available but it is her belief that if I am not treated correctly now I may be in danger of developing a full-blow eating disorder (this I’ll explain fully in the next couple of posts).
That frightens me. But in a good way.
I need to stop this now, before it gets any worse.
The OCD Challenge
I was given two exercises to complete (minimum) which we will use as discussion points in therapy. These exercises are called The Vicious Flower and The Virtuous Flower and I will post on these separately later this week.
I was also asked to specifically challenge one of my beliefs about OCD.
“I can’t control my compulsions!”
Can’t I. Or is it just that I find it really hard?
Question: How would I challenge that?
Answer: By proving that I can control my compulsions.
I am generally wedded to my routines – The first thing I normally do in the morning after I get out of bed is scan.
Scan and Check.
It involves me looking in the mirror and running my fingers over my face foraging for imperfections and signs of infection. On a really bad day I can get stuck for hours.
I could disrupt my routine by forcing myself to start it later – this would involve delaying the initial fingertip scan and looking at a mirror. As I work from home right now, I could wait until midday to do my checks.
So that was that.
My challenge for the week, postpone the checks.
Okay, I know it doesn’t sound that great as I am still scanning, checking and doing as much damage to my skin as before but this is to prove a point.
Being able to delay checking is still a sign of having some control and it was very important to me that I was able to complete the task.
I was tempted on some days just to sleep in and wake up after midday but that would feel like cheating so I woke at my normal time and just endured.
It was horrible.
Endurance and Success
I had extended crying spells. I punched pillows. Felt lousy. Had those horrendous mood swings. My anxiety was still above the baseline after my first check and scan ritual of the day – a build up of stress hormones from having to wait so long.
What kept me going was the massive support I got from my friends on social media and my blog readers.
I have succeeded and done my challenge for the week. I won’t be doing a new challenge yet for a couple of weeks until I see my therapist again.
I have a sneaky suspicion that the next challenge might involve “exposure”. Meaning I will probably have to do something like touch an imperfect area and then delay picking. I am not looking forward to this either but it must be done. I must endure it to move forward for I want to be well more than anything in the entire world.
NOTE: To anyone who doesn’t have OCD – it cannot be underestimated quite how scary having OCD is. I believe its likely that even after I have recovered my brain will still want to send me more scary thoughts than the “average” person. I don’t think I will be able to control that but hopefully I will have control over the compulsions part.
While I believe that the common statement “a little bit OCD” is misleading (it is normally said by someone who thinks they have perfectionist Type A tendencies and who doesn’t get distressed by obsessions or compulsions), OCD is said to be a spectrum disorder and hence the level of distress, intensity of the obsessions and compulsions will vary from person to person. Having seen some good documentaries on OCD I think I come out at the mild to moderate end (with a bit of ebb and flow within those ranges).
The point I’m trying to make is that if I make a recovery, I don’t want my account to be used to guilt someone who isn’t making or can’t make progress with OCD recovery. I also expect that relapse could be part of the picture (although I am aiming for the maximum outcome). We are all different though we share a common diagnosis. The most important thing is compassion for ourselves and for others.
As I’m not any kind of medical professional, don’t just take my word for it – please seek out a qualified professional if you have any specific concerns about your symptoms or that of a friend or loved one.