I had recently stopped my fluoxetine. I was ready for the day, and I think my kids had just finished up their breakfast or were getting close to it. My son had to go the bathroom. For some reason, I decided to go in after he’d been in there a little bit and check on him. He touched my sweater, a new sweater I had just recently purchased, with his hand that he had been using to wipe his bottom. 

I kind of lost it. In my mind, there was the very real potential that my son had gotten poop on my brand new sweater. There were multiple options of compulsions swirling around in my mind, and I verbally freaked out. I involved my husband. I was angry with my son for touching me for no reason. I sought reassurance on whether or not he had any poop on his fingers. And I felt myself sliding back to how I had behaved a year previously when my contamination OCD ruled my life.

OCD brain

In my mind this was a critical moment. I convinced myself that if I didn’t throw out the sweater, I was putting myself right back where the whole contamination fears started: with washing something that had poop on it with other clothes in the laundry machine. I would be restarting the entire process that had taken months to pull myself out of again. I hysterically decided that I needed to throw out the sweater, and, in doing so, prevent the entire problem and situation from presenting itself again.

Intervention

My husband attempted to defuse the situation. He reminded me of my cognitive behavioral therapy. He told me that engaging in that compulsion would not defuse the OCD but fuel it. Doing what I imagined would help would actually be making things worse in the long run. Most importantly, he asked me to wait. He urged me to not make any decision, but to just stay in the moment. He encouraged me to be uncomfortable.

It’s so easy to encourage myself and others to do just that when I’m writing this blog but much harder to actually do it in a real, threatening (to me) situation. But I realized he was right. I had to wait. I had to do what the OCD didn’t want me to do.

Practice

I wore the sweater. We went out to lunch, and I remained wearing the sweater. I may have wiped the sleeve down with disinfectant wipes, so it wasn’t a total victory, but I still put the sweater in my normal laundry. I washed it with other clothes. I didn’t throw it away. I have worn it since.

It’s these small victories that matter. Sure, it could have been a larger victory. Ideally, someday something like that happening won’t even be an issue at all. But it’s so important to remember to wait it out, to stay uncomfortable, and to outwit the OCD. It’s not easy, but it’s so important.

Has your spouse or someone else helped you maintain your CBT in a crisis situation? How so?

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