So what now? This question could stop me instantly. As a college student, I dreaded weekends and holidays, when I had more control over what I could do with my time, because of an obsessive fear that I would choose the wrong thing at any given moment, and be haunted by my mistake, and have to live with intolerable anxiety. Then I got a job working alone, a self-directed, independent position, with no coworkers, and my OCD got worse. Now I had to decide what to do each and every moment, and I was petrified that I would choose wrong.
My compulsion was avoidance of making the decision, through web searching, researching, analyzing and waiting until I felt "just right" about taking an action. If there was an urgent deadline, I could meet it, because I could feel the "rightness" of completing that assignment, but inbetween these islands of clarity was a rushing river of confusion and overwhelm.
On my days off I would stay in bed after the alarm with an ominous sense of inadequacy. What would I do with my day? Would I screw it up? How would I know which things to do and when? Once out of bed, I might think of something to do, and then feel a pervasive dread that I might be making a mistake, and I'd put off doing anything(which of course is a decision in itself). I'd get ravenous because I couldn't decide what to eat for lunch. I'd turn on the tv and flip channels for hours as a distraction. The only thing that saved me from web searching was my slow dial-up connection.
When I started ERP Therapy, I started to realize that I wanted to know for certain what my next action should be, but most people without OCD didn't get stuck on this. From my perspective, it seemed that non-OCD people were randomly guessing what to do next, and that scared me. I also realized that in my indecision I wasn't getting anything done, and I was losing whole swaths of my life to the ritual of choosing "perfectly."
One of my first Exposures that occurred to me, was making a schedule for the day, with a 15 minute time limit, and then following my schedule. I did this for several months, and I learned a lot from it. First, some of my choices were better than others, but I got a lot more done by "guessing" what I might need to do, and in what order. Second, the urge to make a "perfect schedule" was very strong, as was the desire to perfectly follow the schedule, and I practiced purposely choosing something that didn't feel "exactly right," or deviating from the schedule. Third, it helped to record a script about what I was losing when I gave into my compulsions, primarily the direction of my own life, and abdication to the OCD. I felt distress giving up my illusion that I really could choose the right things if I just tried hard enough, but also relief.
OCD and Transitions
2 days ago