The Unhelpful Remarks from Loved Ones

The last year and a half has been a grueling challenge — among finding my place at my job and company, learning how to love myself, treating my OCD, getting through panic attacks, and learning how to be completely independent — it’s no wonder the only thing I want to do on weekends is Netflix Marathons. When I panic, I think about all of the hard work I go through and eventually I get to this “it’s not fair” mentality. That there are people who don’t have to deal with thinking about every thought and feeling they have at all times.

I get tired of rethinking the last day and evaluating every feeling. I get tired of rethinking a tiny desire I have for my significant other to do things simply because other people’s significant others do it. I get tired of evaluating what my desires mean in the grander scheme of things and wondering if any desire or feeling or thought I have is indicative of the failure on my part to be a functioning person.

Perfection is a bitch. I don’t want to want to be perfect. I don’t want to want my relationship to be perfect. And I’m tired of thinking about everything all the time. It’s not just necessarily that I have obsessions. It’s that I fret and worry and wonder about every tiny little firing neuron in my mind.

Here is the thing: I am lucky. I am so lucky to have such a supportive, understanding partner who listens to me and validates my feelings. Who understands my jealousy and doesn’t shame me for it. Who lets me read his text messages because why not, he doesn’t have anything to hide. My closest friends respond in meaningful ways to my concerns about anxiety. They listen to me repeat the same obsessive concerns over and over, without making fun of me or telling me to shut up. My support system, for the most part, is impeccable. But there are some people in my life who are not supportive. And the scary thing is, they don’t know that they’re being destructive.

When I try to express myself to some (read: one) of my loved ones, they say dismissive and unhelpful things. These reactions nearly silence me; lately, I’ve been standing up for myself. I’ve been removing myself from these situations instead of letting the invalidating behavior affect me or deter me from trying to better myself.

Here are some of the things that have been said:
“You’ve got a great job, you’re successful, you’re moving in with your boyfriend who is fantastic..I don’t understand why you’re unhappy.”
“Little things shouldn’t stress you out, you should be able to handle this.”
“Your psychiatrist is only trying to get more money out of you. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

When I first suspected I had OCD, someone in my support system kept telling me over and over again that I didn’t have OCD. They did this in some misplaced effort to be helpful. But, in fact, it was detrimental. I was having all of these intrusive, disturbing thoughts that were indicative of OCD, and by the person telling me I didn’t, it made me feel like the thoughts were real, or reflective of my actual desires. This made me feel worse.

My new psychiatrist is entertaining the idea that I might have undiagnosed ADD and that ADD might be the cause of some of my anxiety. While I don’t necessarily think I meet the criteria for ADD, there are a lot of things about me that meet the criteria, and I think it’s smart on my psychiatrist’s part to eliminate all possibilities. Of course, when I mentioned this to the same person mentioned above, this is what happened:

Them: You don’t have ADD.
Me: I think I’ll leave that up to the mental health professional to decide.
Them: I’ve seen more kids with ADD than your psychiatrist can shake a stick at. You don’t have ADD.
Me: I think it’s a good idea to consider all possibilities, here.
Them: He’s just trying to get more money out of you. You don’t have ADD.
Me: I have to go. I’ll talk to you later.

And I hung up the phone. These kinds of remarks were so unhelpful, especially with the recent occurrence of “I don’t understand why you’re so unhappy” or “You shouldn’t get this stressed out.” How does a person think these things are helpful? It’s so frustrating. It’s so frustrating to hear someone you love say these dismissive and awful things. All it does is serve to drag me down. It makes me feel like I’m not enough. Like I’m not doing enough. Which, frankly, is bullshit. I do so much to better myself. And to hear someone say “why are you so unhappy?” I want to scream. I’m struggling with abnormal anxiety. I’ve battled depression my entire life. It must be so nice to not have these problems.

I’m tired of standing up for myself to this person. It’s exhausting. It is driving me away from them. The worst part is, I can’t cut them out of my life. For the most part, they are a good person to have around. But when it comes to my struggles, they have hardly ever done anything to help me. And I can’t say these things because it will make me seem ungrateful. I just have to grin and bear it and pretend like I don’t care. So I won’t talk to them about my anxiety. I won’t talk about the medication I’m taking. I won’t talk to them about what I’m going through. And that makes me sad.

I’ll stick to my supportive significant other and my friends with their inexhaustible empathy. I’m so thankful for my boyfriend and my friends. I guess, like me, my support system can’t be perfect. I just never expected the breach in the hull would be with someone who is supposed to love me unconditionally.

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Quiet, Powerful Women

Jessamyn Fitzpatrick

I am fascinated by quiet women.

I, who have always been afraid of being too loud. Too big. Too much.

“You have a lot to say.” A second grade teacher once told me. Tell me about it. I grew up understanding that there was a shame in silence. Be quiet. When you had an opinion a teacher didn’t like. Be quiet. When a grown-up didn’t want to answer your question. Be Quiet. When a parent was angry with you. Silence was never a kind of freedom for me. It was a prison. A punishment. And so I grew-up believing in full-disclosure. Believing that “not going there” is simply a coward’s way of pretending that there does not exist and I refuse to be afraid. Afraid of my own experiences, my own heart. Or perhaps what I fear the most is becoming invisible.

Quiet women challenge that fear.

They frighten me…

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The Tangled Web of Obsession

Inasmuch as OCD utilizes a singularity, worry is multi-faceted and layered. An obsession or repetitive worry, the kind that I have, begin with my mind’s uncanny ability to hyper-focus on a single thing – whatever it is – for what seems like ages. It starts with that singularity and builds an entire universe of worry – worry about literal things, worry about potentialities and (un)likelihoods. The simplicity of the singularity is almost hilarious, once you can unravel the multitude of tangled yarns that make up the knot of anxiety.

The difficulty resides in, not necessarily stopping the trigger (this is easy with practiced, life-long avoidance skills), but changing the thinking patterns surrounding the anxiety once the machine has started. By the time I’ve reached an emotional overwhelming (sobbing uncontrollably) or an anxiety attack, I’m already surrounded by that tangled web of yarns.

But despite the complexity of the knot, I always have to start somewhere. It’s a large undertaking. Have you ever had 20 different things to do that, at the very least, felt urgent and important? You put your head between your hands and look around maniacally at all the things you have to do and the thought crosses your mind: Where the fuck do I start?

You have a tangled web of yarns to unravel and you have to start somewhere, right? So you pick a thread. Do you cut it? Do you try to untangle it? It’s hard to say, with my experience with OCD and abnormal anxiety, whether or not it’s better to untangle the yarn or cut it. Often times, as a way to cope with the mess that is an anxiety attack, I would visualize (a good method for coping, by the way) a knot of tarn on the inside of my head between my ears.

I would simply start cutting lines. And then I think from there I would begin the huge undertaking of untangling. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to just set it all on fire, but if I do that, I can’t learn from it, can I? I’ll never make progress if I don’t try to understand the silly, ridiculous connections my mind makes from one ear to the other.

So I cut the severely irrational lines. “Everyone is going to leave me.” That’s a nonsense statement. I mean, when you think about it, it is true. At some point, everyone in my life will be gone from me, whether by their death, my own, or simple expiration of relationships. But that’s a fact of life, and worrying about it is more of a waste of time than anything else.

“My boyfriend is cheating on me.” That’s also a nonsense statement. Mostly because it’s far from the truth and highly unlikely. Is there a chance that he could at some point be unfaithful? Sure, maybe there’s a small possibility; much as I’d like to, I can’t predict what he is going to do next week, next year, or 10 years from now. But given the circumstances of our relationship and his own desires about me and his own life, I know that evaluating this statement is worthless and unproductive. So I cut the line.

“I don’t deserve to be happy.” This might be worth looking at. I’ve learned to stop cutting lines look at strings of thought that my therapist might ask me questions about. This is something we might spend a lot of time talking about in a session. So instead of cutting the line, I untangle it from the knot. I start telling myself positive statements about how I do deserve to be happy. I try to speak over my Mean Voice and tell myself that I am a good person. That I work hard, in many aspects of my life, including my job, my friendships, and my relationship and I deserve to have these people in my life. That this condition is not a judgment set down by the universe. That I don’t deserve to have this condition and that it is merely a part of me that needs to be rewired.

As I write this, I realize that this method of getting through the web has changed over time. And that my capability to sever lines of thought and dismiss some of the severely irrational thoughts fairly easily is not a static ability. It has changed over the course of my work in therapy and self-awareness. A year ago, I know I spent time trying to unravel the statement “My boyfriend is cheating on me.” I had to work through that line of thought and figure out where that worry came from and nurture myself away from negative thought patterns and self-judgment. Now, I know that what my boyfriend may or may not do is not a reflection of my self worth.

At some point, very early in my recovery “Everyone is going to leave me.” is something I also had to work through. My irrational fears of abandonment drive a lot of my abnormal anxieties, to the point where, if my significant other leaves the room when I am upset, my overwhelmed emotional state will manifest into an anxiety attack. Sometimes this is a statement I do have to take head on. It’s a large part of the issues that I have, and many times even during non-spike times, I have to nurture myself through that abandonment fear.

Maybe sometime soon “I don’t deserve to be happy” will be a line that I cut instead of the small knot that I untangle. After all, evaluating these statements and working through them take a lot of time. The time I spend in the throes of a full-blown obsessive web of shit (involving crying, an anxiety attack, and self-abusive thoughts) has reduced dramatically over the course of the last year.

But that tangled web of obsessive nonsense is a Beast, regardless of my recovery. When my anxiety spikes and I lose control of myself emotionally, it looms over me as a challenge as big as it felt when I first walked into therapy. But I see myself differently than I did then. I see myself as almost wholly separate from my condition. That my condition, while it may never be eradicated or completely cured, is manageable and it does not make me who I am. That tangled web of lies that my mind tells me is not a reflection on what I think, believe, or feel. And I’m learning to trust myself and believe that it does not determine my worth.

Misconceptions about the Severity Spectrum of OCD

The spectrum charts here is the most concise illustration of the difference between what people THINK OCD is and what OCD ACTUALLY is.

My OCD Voice

Every once in a while I will search on YouTube for videos raising awareness about OCD. In some videos the person making it will interview people without OCD, asking what they think OCD is. (Here are two prime examples: 1  and 2). I find these interviews fascinating.  Not only are there huge misunderstandings held by many people about what OCD is, but there also seem to be general trends within these misunderstandings.

I noticed a lot of the misconceptions about OCD were about what the spectrum looks like. The misconceptions revealed in these interviews kept painting in a picture in my head about what people seem to think the spectrum looks like and what it actually looks like. I decided to finally make an attempt to draw the chart I was imaging.

Many people seem to think everyone is a little OCD and a few people they may have heard about in the news…

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Seasonal Depression and Obsession Over the Years

It’s the beginning of February, which means I made it through January without losing my mind (though, I think a couple of times I came close). January is the toughest month of the year for me. Every year, the same week, I get severely depressed and my obsessions become a constant problem. Two years ago and one year ago, I ended up back in therapy on the same exact day of the year. My cycle of mood is THAT pedantic. Same day every year, I get virtually suicidal, because the second I have several suicidal thoughts, I rush into therapy. I don’t fuck around. I’ve been to rock bottom before. I’m not going there again.

Anyway, two years ago, at the end of January, is when my really disturbing thoughts occurred. (You can read about this incident in more detail on a previous post.) Last year, at the same time, I was obsessing about breaking up with my awesome boyfriend whom I love. A thought that so very obviously did not align with my desires. It drove me mad for weeks.

And this last week or so, I’ve been trying to beat off obsessions with a stick. I’m becoming more efficient, and I can DEFINITELY function now in a way I couldn’t before (last year, I was sobbing in the bathroom for half of the day – not an exaggeration). Now, I can talk about my obsessions with my significant other and tell him what’s going on. I can work, cry a little in the bathroom if I need to, and move on relatively quickly.

This weekend, I had a tough day. Like, a really bad day. I was on the verge of panic several times. But the operative phrase here is “on the verge.” The day was awful, and I felt terrible shame and guilt (Oh no, anything but shame!). But it didn’t form into full blown panic attacks. My hyper-focus on my feelings and actions fueled my Mean Voice and then I felt guilty for having “bad” thoughts. It was a bad spiral that lasted the entire day.

I bounced back from it, though. My obsessions are still threatening to bug me, I’m hyper-focusing on myself in a way that isn’t productive, and now I can feel the old jealous thoughts starting to threaten the edge of my emotional periphery. My mean voice is more active than it has been previously.

Luckily, I have more tools. I have been seeking reassurance less and less (correct me if I’m wrong), I’ve taken notice that I apologize compulsively regardless of whether or not it’s merited and if it’s already been forgiven, and I’ve been working to try and correct these behaviors on a daily basis. I’m taking vitamin D supplements, and I’ve been using one of those light therapy lamps as often as I can remember. The vitamin D helps immensely.

A year ago, I couldn’t control my head. I was wrought with grief over my obsessions and crying incessantly. And while I do still feel guilt and shame over my obsessions sometimes, I’m learning to forgive myself.

That awful obsession I had two years ago that started all of this? I don’t worry about it anymore. It doesn’t affect me. Fuck you Mean Voice, I’ve forgiven myself for it. Therapy is working. The work I’m doing on a daily basis is converting into long-term growth. I can see my growth week over week, month over month, and year over year. Yes, sometimes, it gets a hold of me and I get tired. I am tired of dealing with this bullshit. But I am not my obsessions anymore. I can feel myself splitting off and moving away from being a part of the Mean Voice. It is isolated in my emotional being and tucked away in a corner for now while I try to deal with it. And forgive myself for it being a part of me.

Hopefully, this time next year, I won’t have any obsessions at all.

Baggage, Jealousy, and the Shame Caused by Both

Recently, I had a breakthrough that might be categorized by most people as a completely unimportant event. I had an “impure” thought and said it out loud when it occurred. My significant other didn’t react perfectly to it, and immediately I began to feel shame for A) having the thought, B) expressing the thought, and C) potentially hurting his feelings. It was one of those moments where I had a hard time articulating what I meant, and there was a blip in our usually-very-effective communication. I got nervous as I was trying to explain, and he seemed to let it go, but my stomach tied in knots and I began to feel guilty. Instead of wallowing in the guilt and abusing myself in my head, I said to him “Now I’ve made myself upset.”

Expressing this, for me, is an extreme challenge. Because I had completely circumvented my rumination process and got right to the point: I was ashamed for what I had said even though the thought, feeling, and expression of it was completely normal. I think the standard issue with obsessives is that they think the thoughts they are having (that are upsetting) are abnormal and that other people don’t experience them.

The truth is, most people have disturbing thoughts all the time. Mostly everyone empathizes with a villain momentarily, or perhaps has an image of being violent towards a person, or has sexual thoughts about inappropriate people. But the difference is, most people are able to ignore them, or even don’t realize they have them. Because I (and other people like me) are so obsessed with perfection, purity of thought is of the upmost importance. At some point, in my mind, I made the connection that having a thought makes something true.

This aggravates a lot of standard feelings and thoughts I have, specifically in my relationship. Because of my previous experiences in relationships, I somehow have put all the responsibility on myself for this relationship to succeed and, because of my penchant for perfection, and irrational paradigms of what it means to be a good partner by people who treated me poorly in the past, I have unreasonable standards for how I am supposed to behave.

Case in point: jealousy. This is probably the most obvious issue I have in trying to exist in my relationship with obsessions. Most of my obsessions are wildly untrue and fabrications of an incredibly warped reality in my head. I can talk myself down from them easily because they are counter to behavior (by myself or my significant other). Jealousy is different because it exists almost entirely internally. My significant other does not do anything that really merits a jealous reaction (what I mean is: he doesn’t flirt with other people, doesn’t talk about other people in such a way as to raise red flags, is faithful and shows no interest in the doings of most other people). Jealousy is simply common for most people in any kind of relationship. It’s natural to feel like we cannot fulfill the people we love in every way they need to be fulfilled. It just isn’t possible.

But, because of how my previous significant others reacted to jealousy, I have categorized it as “bad girlfriend behavior” in my head and therefore punish myself for having jealous thoughts. Almost everyone I know has some minorly-serious jealousy about one of their significant other’s exes. Why not? Why shouldn’t you be jealous that your significant other, at one time, loved and slept with another person? Of course it’s upsetting.

My problem is not the jealousy itself (or the ex, for that matter); my problem is that I cannot tolerate a single thought about it. And because my mind is so efficient with making associations (thank you English degree) and has such a vivid memory, it’s hard for me to break connections or forget about things I’ve heard.

My poor boyfriend, in the midst of all this, has to deal with my coming home one day, sobbing and telling him that thoughts about his ex, who I don’t even really know anything about, have plagued me all day.

I try to contextualize it. If I think about my exes, it isn’t a fond thought. It usually isn’t even an angry or resentful thought (unless I’m considering one who was emotionally abusive). A memory of an ex is usually, for me – since I’m constantly psychoanalyzing myself – a way for me to explain my own behavior to myself. “Why do I hate myself for feeling jealous? –Well, self, because your ex-girlfriend did shit constantly on purpose to make you jealous. Or your ex-boyfriend cheated on you relentlessly and lied about it. Self, I think that’s a fair reason to chastise yourself for feeling jealous.”

I had a realization recently: I have never been the primary desire in an adult romantic relationship until now. Everyone who I have had an intimate relationship with has either A) openly desired another person or people or B) slept with other people.

If I’m being honest, I’m ashamed that this still has an effect on me. I feel stunted. I feel like a fucking thirteen year old. Everyone around me seems to have no fucking problem letting go of their baggage or getting over shit or dealing with day to day relationship things like jealousy and here I am obsessing over my boyfriend’s ex existing somewhere and relentlessly not forgiving myself for having somehow failed in the past as a mate.

As if all of the ways I was mistreated in my past are my fault. Of course they’re my fault. Because I’m unworthy of a good life or have somehow misbehaved in those relationships and caused my significant others to be driven away from me.

No wonder I’m so petrified that my anxiety will drive my boyfriend away from me. Because I’m the only one responsible for the success of this relationship.

I know what the solution is. I have to forgive myself. For what? Not being perfect? For being with shitty people in the past who certainly didn’t create my emotional problems (I had OCD long before I met them) but didn’t do anything helpful and in some cases may have made it all worse? That isn’t really their fault either. Life isn’t fair and sometimes you’re incompatible with people you end up with for a time.

But then I say to myself: how do you forgive a person who was abusive? Who has made you so fearful of having normal emotional reactions that it causes panic? And then I have this self-hatred that comes from these thoughts – I hate that someone I used to be with could have such control over who I am today, even though they may have been manipulative and abusive.

Is the expectation that I shouldn’t have baggage from an emotionally abusive and sexually coercive relationship too high of an expectation? Is this me being too hard on myself?

All of these very normal, common relationship difficulties that we all have to learn to navigate through and on top of it, I’ve got to deal with an incredibly visceral fear of abandonment AND the baggage of an emotionally abusive relationship. And I somehow expect myself to just be over all of the hardship that I’ve somehow managed to endure. Don’t get me wrong, I have grieved the death of my father, and I have gotten over the pain of the previous relationship, years and years ago. But these are the things that drive my panic, and I have to confront them.

I know my significant other. I know that he will not abandon me or mistreat me. This confidence in him is not the same blind, repressive trust that I put in that abusive and manipulative ex. I know that. My boyfriend is not the same as the people in my past who have hurt me (however they have hurt me). He is a safe place.

And I suppose that’s why I feel so much shame for all of it: the unfounded jealousy, the obsessions, the occasional anger towards people who have mistreated me in the past. It makes me feel stunted an incapable. And most importantly: it makes me feel like a bad girlfriend.

A few days ago, in a fit of PMS-induced emotional outburst, I said this to him: “I feel like a bad girlfriend.” And I couldn’t articulate why. I’m not perfect, that’s why. And the rational, reasonable side of me feels terrible for the abnormal, Mean Voice-induced Child Me. When the machine is running at full speed, I’m in a constant state of being two people at once. The Me that understands how this all functions and wants to comfort the other Me who is screaming and angry and sad and afraid. I’m trying to nurture that “lesser” side of me. I’m trying to drown out my Mean Voice and talk to it the way I would talk to my boyfriend or a close friend or any person I loved.

I have to learn to love that “inferior” side of me instead of ridiculing it. Because, after all, it IS still a part of me.

The Path of My Ruminations

What most people conceptualize as OCD is only a sliver of what actually occurs. The truth is that hand-washing, counting, re-locking doors, and checking faucets is the tip of the iceberg. I don’t have these kinds of compulsions. If I’m being embarrassingly honest, sometimes I wish I did, because then people could see not only how much I suffer, but how often. How very repetitive my obsessions are.

The compulsion that I have is called ruminating. It’s a mental checking and rechecking of feelings, thoughts, emotions, fears over and over again in order to achieve 100% certainty about how I feel about something. The problem is: there is no such thing as 100% certainty – at least as far as the human mind is concerned.

I’ve written about what my ruminations are and how I overcome them, but I don’t think I’ve laid out how they work and what the path of the thoughts to emotions and actions are. In my experience, there are two kinds of ruminations, triggered and untriggered. Untriggered ruminations come to me naturally and without any prompt. Triggered ruminations come from an event or a statement or an action.

For the sake of transparency (I’ve mentioned this in previous posts), my ruminations usually revolve around my relationship. You can read about the general gist of the different types of OCD here.

Untriggered Ruminations
Anxious thoughts drive me to feel depressed pretty much every morning. Every morning, while I am unmedicated (I stopped taking my daily meds a few weeks ago and only take them as needed), I wake up a significant amount of time before my alarm (usually between 3 – 4:30 AM). By the time I realize I’m awake and that my alarm hasn’t gone off yet, my mind is already in full force. I am contemplating pretty much every aspect of my life. Am I happy? Am I satisfied? Do I feel jealous today? Am I attracted to other people? Does my boyfriend love me? Do I love him? Does he want me around? Do I want him around? etc…

Every morning, I am greeted with this. And every morning, after I arrive at my train station, surrounded by strangers in business suits, I write in a notebook to help purge the racing ruminations. To find the real ME beneath all of the negativity and chaos running through my mind. Every morning (to varying degrees) I contemplate my relationship. Why? Baggage and fear, most likely. I have a fear of repression – of being in a shitty relationship and not realizing it. This, on top of needing control, and a diabolical fear of loss and abandonment most likely account for most, if not all, of my relationship-themed OCD. So, in order to combat this, I check and recheck how I feel about any given facet or circumstance.

Ninety-nine percent of the time, the resulting conclusion of all this thinking is: my relationship is fine/wonderful/fulfilling/great, and I am satisfied with it, the outlying 1% being standard minor complaints or dissatisfaction that occur in any relationship from time to time which can range from “Hey, he could probably help cook more often but it isn’t really that big of a deal” to circumstantial issues such as not being able to live together yet or both of us being tight on money. (I’m making a distinct effort here to not say that I am 100% satisfied because requiring certainty is a major problem related to my anxiety and I need to learn to accept less than certainty.)

These ruminations are patterned and easy to overcome (“easy” is relative. It takes lots of daily long-term work, but not nearly as much work as triggered ruminations). Because they happen daily, I can often compartmentalize them into “this is just a daily rumination, I don’t need to worry about it.” Also, these ruminations can be completely eliminated by taking medication (which I have chosen not to do).

 

Triggered Ruminations
Triggered ruminations are much more complicated and complex. They occur as a result of an outside force: a statement, a song, an occurrence in a film, an exchange between me and my significant other, a story someone tells me about a relationship, etc. Anything can be a trigger, really. And once something becomes a trigger, I have a tendency to want to avoid it (this is a common trait for people with OCD and/or intrusive thoughts).

Something like this follows a distinct path that sometimes can escalate into a panic attack. In fact, this is usually the cause of my panic attacks. Here is the course it follows (I know this method of laying it out is chaotic and messy, but I’m trying to illustrate the chaotic nature of it. It is not quite this linear, but writing is linear and limiting. This usually happens the way a fractal would function – like a tree, with a base, a trunk, and then branches giving way to more branches):

>Trigger
>Feeling of doom – inside: heart drops into stomach, heat rises to my head and face, racing thoughts start, ache in my gut that spreads to all parts of my body manifesting in anxiety symptoms.
>Fear of racing thoughts ensues. Outside: fighting back tears, avoiding eye contact, attempting distraction.
>My behavior changes, I begin to avoid people around me, usually my significant other.
>Mean voice conjures several possible negative conclusions about the trigger arise, and my mind begins to search for evidence.
>Ruminate
>Ruminate
>Ruminate
>Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) kicks in and I try to find evidence against the negative conclusion(s) my mean voice has conjured.
>Deep breaths, become calmer
>Trigger replays in my mind
>Feeling of doom repeats, anxiety escalates, sadness/fear/general upsetness escalates.
>CBT
>Grounding (holding an object or focusing on present to circumvent the fixation on the thought)
>Deep breaths, become calmer
>Trigger replays
>Feeling of doom repeats, anxiety escalates, sadness/fear/general upsetness escalates.
>Thoughts of low self-worth drive negative conclusions and I begin to realize that I need to talk about what’s in my head.
>Ruminate
>Ruminate
>Ruminate
>Feelings of shame arise as I consider discussing my thoughts.
>Hold conversation in my mind (read: practice)  about what I should say to express my thoughts without hurting feelings.
>Ruminate about how the conversation will go (this used to take weeks, now it takes a couple of minutes or an hour). It is basically a rumination process within a rumination process.
>Finally say what’s on my mind.
>Feel shame.
>Get down on myself for having the thoughts.
>Get down on myself for getting upset by the thoughts.
>Trigger repeats – now followed by anger at the thoughts, anger with self.
>Mean voice gets louder, telling me I deserve nothing.
>Branches into two potential results:

  1. Panic attack (about 20 minutes) > Lethargy > Feel better
  2. Talk through mean voice > (get reassurance) > overcome feelings of low-self worth > emotional state lowers gradually into a calm state (sometimes the anxiety cycle can reactivate all over again if I am still affected by the trigger) > feel better

 

And often, at some point, usually about when CBT kicks in, the rumination will be ABOUT the anxiety. Instead of making me upset content-wise, I realize that the thoughts are irrational, my rational mind takes over, and the rumination just keeps going on its own – like a swinging pendulum, unaffecting and unaided. The simple fact that I am ruminating can cause anxiety and emotional upheaval. It becomes about the abusive voice in my mind and no longer about the thing I’m thinking about.

Obsessions, once triggered, can continue for merely hours or days, but can go for weeks or months. Once I overcome a particular obsession, the content of it doesn’t bother me. I can think about the thing without obsessing. But months later, the obsession may occur again – triggered or not – and the same pattern will repeat.

I’ve gotten better at working through the rumination, and by “better” I mean more efficiently and quickly. It used to take me weeks to get to a rational conclusion that I can now achieve in an hour.

So there is a lot of progress – AND, now I am more likely to discuss what’s going on in my head. I am beginning to overcome the shame and avoidance, which is good in the long term. It means that I’m getting better and that I am overcoming my OCD. Maybe sometime in the near future, I won’t have to do so much work every time I am blind-sided by intrusive or upsetting thoughts.