Friday, April 16, 2010

Things that Help: Writing my thoughts down

How to put your thoughts on paper- Front Cover
One my blogger friends wrote a post about the notebook she keeps of all her symptoms, and how she wishes she could throw it away, that it's not a journal but a type of compulsion. I have a whole collection of dayplanners full of notations about body symptoms, plus charts I sketched out on big sheets of paper to try and figure it all out. I felt anxious if I "lost" a symptom--couldn't remember when it started or what it used to be like, and I felt compelled to document it all. Logging symptoms can be useful in some contexts, but in the context of OCD, it can be a ritual.

When I started treatment with Leonard, he suggested I write down my obsessive thoughts, as a way to recognize that they are thoughts, not facts, giving myself something breathing room, some distance. I was still dealing with remnants of an OCD meltdown that drove me into treatment, so I started writing thoughts down, even though the perfectionist aspect of my OCD threw a fit, "Are you sure you doing this right?" It was a fascinating revelation when I realized I could just write that thought down as well.

I'd done thought records in the past where the assignment was to dispute the thoughts, but this would quickly bog down in self-loathing of my perceived inadequacy in thinking. But writing down the thoughts and simply labeling the thoughts wasn't as scary, because *I* was the observer. Leonard likes to say that I've never been gone, that I'm in there, that my OCD thoughts do not define me, and I am not defective.

Everytime I write the word "Thoughts" at the top of a page, and then begin with quote marks, I feel freedom to just observe, rather than getting into a battle that usually ends with even more obsessive thoughts than when I started. Some labels became very familiar, "critical voice," "self-loathing," "figuring out," "retracing," and I had enough support from Leonard to risk looking at my thoughts without spiralling into even more self-loathing.


  1. I just saw this post and it is an interesting one for me. I too have practiced writing down my thoughts, but never as much as recently. When I started treatment with my current psychologist, I started writing my thoughts down, and I found it helped. I then emailed them to her prior to our session. During our last session she said that she thought that this act - writing down my thoughts and THEN sending them to her - had become a ritual. And she was right. I am still convinced that someone (either myself or her) is going to read something into my thoughts that is going to have her "figure out" the truth of who I am. That I'm gay, or that I shouldn't be with my boyfriend. It definitely helped me to gain distance at first, and still does IF I don't have the expectation that I am going to send them to my therapist to "check" the thoughts.

  2. Pure O Canuck--I used to do that with my previous therapist(who knew very little about OCD)--I'd write her letters every week, and mail them before the next session. Your therapist seems very in tune with the ways of OCD! I used to make lists of everything I wanted to talk to my current OCD therapist about, as if I could somehow include *everything* and therefore get it all figured out and not miss anything.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.