Friday, August 6, 2010

Doing OCD Homework and Fear of Failing

Wednesday in therapy, Leonard had me record a description of the moment at which I feel the compulsion to ritualize, followed by my values list. My homework is to listen to it 12 times a day. The idea is that I will start building new connections to my values, so that when my anxiety spikes, my values have more of a chance of coming to the surface. I've had 15 years of a job where if I started to feel anxious, I could distract myself on the computer, and the habit is deeply ingrained. Now I have all this time at home since I lost my job, and the old critical perfectionist voice is getting loud. "You have all this time now. Why are you wasting it being compulsive?" Which then gets the OCD ramped up, because I don't want to have the thought that I am wasting time, or doing things imperfectly, and I get back on the computer to distract myself and waste more time.

Leonard's idea makes sense to me, but it almost seems to make too much sense(if that makes any sense!!) Some convoluted OCD logic, "This could work, but what if you try it and it doesn't work? And this proves you are a worthless failure. You'd better avoid doing it." I see the irony in the fact that there were many times I wanted to quit my job, because the OCD was so tied to walking into my office, feeling immediately incompetent and scared, and seeing the computer, sitting down and then wondering where the day went. Part of me hoped that if I didn't have the job, my OCD would go away. I remember starting on an SSRI, and having a bad dream that I was starting to feel better, but this meant I would have to stay at my job forever.

I suspected that quitting my job wouldn't eradicate my OCD, and that what I really needed was treatment for the OCD, before reevaluating what to do with my life. OCD isn't very sophisticated, and spent its time screaming, "You are wasting your life at this job," which sent me into a frenzy of compulsive distraction, but OCD couldn't give me any other alternative. And of course, it was the OCD that was mostly responsible for whatever wasting of my life I was doing at work. If there had been a video camera in my office, the film would've shown a woman sitting very still, moving the mouse barely perceptibly with her left hand(because she injured her right hand, and in order to keep websearching, had to switch to her left).

Today has been a lurching through various forms of perfectionism, but I listened to my recording 3 times today so far. I will give myself credit for that.


  1. I feel like I am always with you, no matter what you write! I had a very, very similar experience with my job, and while essentially quitting it did make it easier to fight my OCD because I wasn't constantly overwhelmed with the feeling of failure, my OCD continues on and sometimes takes advantage of the amount of free time I have.

    I have also been trying to sort of reprogram my response to OCD thoughts. When I decide to do something compulsive, I often forget that there is an alternative and a reason to NOT to do the compulsive thing. Last night I ran into exactly such a situation (and a million others), but I began thinking about what I wrote yesterday, and my goals, and trusting my therapist, and decided not to engage in the compulsion. It was certainly a victory! But what was even more amazing to me was realizing how quickly I just decided to do the compulsion, forgetting all else in that moment. It is not instinctual yet for me to think of the bigger picture that my compulsions fall into before doing them. It is amazing how easy it is to just get sucked in without even really thinking about it!

    I like the idea of your new exercise - learning to pair that moment where you consider ritualizing with a pause to think about your values before acting. It sounds like a great idea to me. And if it doesn't always work, you certainly AREN'T a failure. Just taking the chance of trying this new method is something you certainly do deserve credit for!

  2. Queen of OptimismAugust 6, 2010 at 6:21 PM

    Have I told you lately that you are amazing? Really. Your head-on approach. Your straightforwardness. Your commitment to change. You inspire me. Thank you.

  3. Good for you for listening to it three times--that's fabulous! Each time you listen to it, you are one step closer to total freedom.

  4. Good for you for listening to it three times--that's fabulous! Each time you listen to it, you are one step closer to total freedom.

  5. I appreciate all of your comments so much!