I mentioned in yesterday’s post about how weaning off the medication has brought certain worries or obsessions/compulsions back into my awareness that I hadn’t been thinking about as much. This is not unexpected, and it shouldn’t be unexpected for anyone weaning off of medication. OCD doesn’t like to give up easily. It likes to shape shift and put up a fight, especially when you are weak or not quite ready or looking for one.
So how do we deal with recurrence?
Well, it’s actually relatively simple (but not easy). You just put your cognitive behavioral therapy tools into action. You do exposures, purposefully and as they naturally arise. You put yourself in uncomfortable situations and you stay there. You remember how it was before, when you had the upper hand. You remember how the world didn’t fall apart, how people didn’t get sick, how mass epidemics were avoided or people were safe and left unharmed. You remind yourself that OCD is a liar. You take what you consider to be risks. You go overboard and do things that maybe don’t need to do but that will help you overcome your worries. You trust the doctor and you trust yourself. You do not trust the OCD. You fight the OCD.
Simple, yes. But dang hard. The obsessions still come. You still worry that X, Y, or Z will happen if you don’t engage in the compulsion. You may worry badly. You may feel like you can’t do it. You may fall back into the mindset that it doesn’t really matter if you do that one compulsion just to feel better. This is so hard for me. I think, “But I’ll feel fine if I just wash my hands one more time. It’s not that big of a deal.” But then I have to follow up that thought with the reality that if I do engage in a compulsion (even if it’s “small”), I am letting the OCD gain a foothold. I am losing. And if I do it enough times, I will be right back where I was before, a victim and hostage to the OCD in my mind, doing compulsions not because I chose to do them but because I couldn’t chose not to do them.
When you give into OCD, you are taking a step back. It’s that simple. Each time you give in, you make the choice not to win. You make it harder for yourself to chose against the OCD in the future. I have to remind myself of that each time I want to wash an extra time, wipe just once more, use hand sanitizer, etc. I feel like I’m in a battle against myself, and I have to tell myself that I’m doing it for my own good. I have to be strong or else I will end up being weak.
Winning and losing
I am not always successful. Sometimes my brain is consumed with worry. Sometimes I think it would just be easier to do the compulsion. A lot of the time I think that. But I don’t want to lose my progress either. It can feel like you haven’t made any progress when you hear the obsessions and anxieties screaming at you, but don’t get discouraged. Remember your successes and don’t be too depressed when you do fall back into old habits. It will happen, even accidentally sometimes. Just do better next time.
OCD doesn’t get magically cured once and for all. It’s not like a cold or the flu. But you do have tools to fight those times when it comes back and tries to take over. Use them, and don’t give up!