Monday, June 7, 2010

Challenging OCD One Step at a Time

The expression "Not seeing the forest for the trees" resonates with my experience of being in the OCD. I get lost in these trees, seeing every rock, every bit of moss, tiny insects, and getting cold and exhausted. I've been practicing the skill of taking an aerial view and seeing the forest of this disorder as a whole. Often I am disappointed when I catch a glimpse from the treetops, and my heart sinks, "Oh, no, I'm obessing again," but seeing that I'm obsessing can be the first step to challenging the OCD.

What do you do when you realize you are obsessing and doing compulsions? Often I condemn myself, feel angry at myself, feel despair, and most detrimental, assume I've already ruined the day, and that there is no hope of salvaging it. OCD thrives in black-and-white thinking. Either the day is perfect or it is ruined. Either I am challenging my OCD all the time, or I am a failure. And OCD fully exploits this by dismissing how humans really learn, which is by trial and error, bit by bit, and my anxiety rockets up, and I do even more compulsions trying to get the anxiety back down.

When it comes to challenging OCD, anything above zero is good. I'm serious about this. At times it's hard, because my progress seems so meager, and that's why going to a support group helps. Members of my group knew that if I lasted 5 minutes before researching a health symptom, this was a victory, because in the past I'd be searching before I even realized it and the day would be gone.

At times OCD seems like something from Grimm's Fairytales. OCD tells a tale of a happy ending if you just do whatever it demands. Of course the original stories by the Grimm brothers are full of violence, fear and destruction, not nearly what we imagine to be a "fairytale" in our era. One way I challenge my OCD is to ask,
Is it promising something I can't really have? Is it offering an illusion of a happy ending?

If I am honest with myself, the answer is yes. OCD is promising I can know things in advance, omnisciently, and perfectly, that I can know absolutely that I am making the right decision, that I can protect everyone I love completely, that I can make sure bad things never ever happen. The more I listen to the OCD, the longer I wander in the thicket.

Related Post:
Going Back to my OCD Support Group


  1. I found your blog. We must be twins seperated @ birth. I too am a 40 year old that has had OCD since I was 9! So many of your posts I could have wrote myself. I am off to bed now, I will be back tomorrow to finish reading.

  2. We do sound like twins! I'm sorry you've had to struggle with ocd--I know it sucks. But I'm glad you've found my blog and I look forward to any comments you might want to leave, or just knowing you are a reader.