Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Learning to Live with Uncertainty


My ERP therapist is fond of saying, "The goal of treatment of OCD is to learn to live with uncertainty." The selective filters of OCD are insidious in their stealthiness. I used to feel angry and frustrated when listening to my therapist describe all the ways in which I do tolerate uncertainty, except of course in my OCD hot spots.

My first impulse was to say, "So what?" Yeah, I drive without worrying that every odd clank I hear means that I hit a pedestrian. Yeah, I work at a hospital, and often ride elevators with patients and family and doctors come in and out of my office all day, and even though I run through all sorts of scenarios of contamination in my mind, they pass through. Sometimes I do obsess that I'll start obsessing about these things. . .

My next impulse was to want him to shut up. I don't want to think about other things I could obsess about. Ironically, the first time he told me that I tolerate the uncertainty of getting in the car and driving to work, risking death and destruction, I then backed my car out of the therapy center parking lot directly into a car parked in front of the neighboring garage. The car was there for smoothing out a dent in the roof from a golf ball, and I put a much larger dent in the side of the door. But I dealt with it. It sucked. I put $400 dollars on my credit card to pay for the necessary parts. It was a very expensive therapy session. But I still don't obsess about driving.(Though this wasn't always the case.)

But if it's a body symptom that I notice, a spot, an asymmetry, a miniscule white area, a twinge, a bump, then my OCD is all over it. I want certainty about what it means, right now. I want to know the future, how it will all turn out. I crave doing tons of research trying to figure out what it means. I keep checking the area, prodding it, touching it, comparing both sides, using a flashlight, a magnifying mirror. I want to know what it is, definitively and for all time. This isn't something humans get. I can usually diagnose myself with great accuracy, but it doesn't stick. If it were someone else, I would assume it was benign--a mole, a normal variation. And I would go to doctors frequently for reassurance, but relief would only last a second, because what if they missed something?

And yes, sometimes doctors do miss something. That's a part of the pain of living. I hate that. But putting my life on hold to figure out symptoms, to ward them off, figure them out, analyze and classify them is even more painful.

1 comment:

  1. It sounds like you have a pretty good therapist. Seems like so many people have stories of their rotten therapist-especially for OCD- I'm glad there are some good ones out there.

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