Someone I respect in the OCD community commented with a question lately asking me why I decided to wean off my medication.
That question struck me. Why? Why am I doing it? Why risk it? I still have obsessions and still engage in compulsions through surely I have made significant progress in regaining my life. So why go off the medication that I know helped me?
I wish I had grand noble reasons, but my main ones are not so grand nor noble.
First of all, my psychologist recommended it. Okay, maybe that’s noble. He implied that he doesn’t like having people stay on medications for too long. Since I seemed to be making good progress, he encouraged me to talk to my doctor about a gradual weaning off of my medication, assuring me that if I had relapses or hard times I could increase my visits with him.
Secondly, I have a theory that the medication has “helped” me gain about 10 pounds and frankly, it would be awesome to lose ten pounds just by going off a medication. So far this has not come to fruition, but I’m not giving up all hope yet. Even five pounds would be awesome, right?
So those are my main reasons and I guess they aren’t terrible, though maybe one is sort of vain. But we can say they are both motivated by health reasons, right? And who can fault that?
But I keep thinking of an OCD group I attended in Seattle. I remember an older woman who seemed very distraught. Her medicine, the thing that she had relied upon to keep her OCD in check, “stopped” working. She didn’t seem to have the tools to manage her OCD without the medication. I saw her, and must have subconsciously decided that I didn’t want to be in her shoes someday. I didn’t want my OCD to be manageable only through medication because what if one day it stopped working? What then? Try different medications? Trial and error?
For me, medication has always been an assistant to cognitive behavioral therapy. I went on medication to calm myself down so that I could engage in exposures. The medication took an edge off of the aggressive anxiety and made CBT possible. Now that I know the methods of exposure response prevention and CBT, I feel more comfortable going off of the medication. I don’t want to need to have that crutch, though I am not ashamed of having taken medication and would not be judgmental of anyone who does need to be on medication for OCD or other mental health problems.
Dealing with OCD is not easy. Making the choice of how to fight it is not easy either, and there are so many of them. If medication: what type? what dosage? how long? If therapy: group? individual? how often? how long? When engaging in exposures: how? what? when? etc.
It’s about consistency and, cheesy as it may sound, remaining aware of how you are doing. It’s not like every day is easier or better than the day before. One day could be great and the next day severely difficult. It is so important to remain positive. It’s important to believe in yourself and give yourself second, third, fourth…. etc. chances. Don’t give up on yourself if you fall back into old habits. Just try and do better the next time.
I’m trying to do this. I’m still trying to figure out my recovery process. I know it won’t be an entirely downhill cruise but I hope it won’t be an all uphill battle either. I guess I’ll have to wait and see what happens.