My first proper experience with therapy or seeing a psychologist for my OCD came in the form of a group session. It just so happened that there was a group meeting with my newly chosen psychologist on the very day my husband called to schedule an appointment. I dragged myself out of the house and nervously went.
Listening and observing
Without sharing any specific stories or details about the other individuals there, let’s just say that group therapy was a great place to start. We sat next to each other, in a kind of awkward oval. One by one we introduced ourselves and told our stories. Some of the people knew each other already, having been in previous group sessions together. I listened intently; having studied sociology in college and grad school, I thrive on observing and hearing people’s stories. Sometimes I would think something like, “Wow, that’s such a strange obsession (or compulsion). I can’t believe someone would think that way” or “I’m glad I don’t have that type of OCD” and other times I would think, “Wait what? That’s OCD? I’ve had OCD in many more ways and for way longer than I thought!”
We would ask each other questions or to get clarification. The doctor would do the same, as well as make recommendations for exposures. And we would nod in solidarity because even though our obsessions and compulsions were different, we could understand why and how each person felt—sure, maybe not completely, but in a much deeper and more exact way than someone without OCD could.
You can do it!
One thing I relished about group was the confidence it gave me. I still think that is one of the greatest things about participating in group therapy. There are people there at such different levels of recovery, and for someone (like me at the time) who is just starting their fight, seeing others who have fought and are winning is amazing. It’s proof that OCD doesn’t always have to be the victor. Because though the process of overcoming OCD feels daunting, being able to talk to people who are farther along in the battle is so valuable. Just being able to ask them questions and hear their tips on how to get the best of OCD gave me a boost of energy and the ability to go through another day.
…And then the time came during group where I had to share my story. It was so fresh, so raw, and so personal at that time that I basically cried my way through it. I felt the full emotional weight of what the OCD was doing to me and my family, and I just felt so ashamed. But instead of the other group members scoffing at me or looking away awkwardly or not knowing what to do or say, they handed me a tissue. I think someone held my hand. And they thanked me.
Together is better
Finding others who are going through obsessive compulsive disorder and discussing it with them is such a powerful tool as you start to accept and fight the OCD. You are able to realize that it’s not just you. Other people can and do understand. There are ways to make progress and find your life again. And other people have done it and can help you.
If you are able to join a therapy group for OCD and haven’t had the opportunity to do so yet, I highly recommend it. I’m not currently in a group, but I have been to both a small group in a doctor’s office and a free, large group that met monthly. I enjoyed both settings, though they were definitely different in some respects. Give it a try. You might find the help you need or be the help that someone else needs.