An early strategy at a young age was I would stop everything and focus on the sensation, which soon would lead to not feeling anything else but that sensation, and then despair that that's all I could feel. I have a diary from when I was 11, with Holly Hobbie on the front cover, a tiny lock and key and gold dusted page edges, and several entries are descriptions of things I've noticed in my body, and trying to reassure myself, "Not to worry."
By the time I was an adult, I was convinced that if I had any pressure or awareness of my bladder, then I couldn't focus on anything else, couldn't enjoy whatever I was doing at the time. As soon as my internal conversation plunged into "I can't enjoy this vacation, this movie, this walk, this concert. . .because this sensation in my body is intruding, and it's all I can think about," I would plummet into hopelessness.
Part of this is simply being human and having consciousness--we are aware we are going to die, we remember sad things from the past, we can ask "what if?" But OCD wants to control what we are conscious of, either by making certain thoughts go away, or insisting the future be know-able. Squawk. Squawk. What sucks is that some painful sensations and memories never go away, and OCD gets locked into combat with them, making them even worse, but lying and saying, "No, really, I can make this go away. Just stick with me. Don't give in. Don't do anything until I solve this with compulsions."
I do have a lot more freedom since I started doing exposures in therapy, and outside of therapy. For a couple years I would drive by a fabulous Mom and Pop donut shop on my way from therapy to work, right around the time I started to feel pressure in my bladder from the long drive, but I wanted those donuts, and I'd stop to get a couple. At first I'd tell myself to wait until I got to work, so I could hit the bathroom, and then enjoy the donuts perfectly, but they were so good, I'd end up eating them on the drive.
What I discovered is that although I preferred not having the bladder sensations, I could still enjoy other things(like donuts!) at the same time. This may not seem like rocket science, but when you have OCD, this was like knowing how to turn straw into gold, or water into wine.
What we practice we tend to get better at. My therapist likes to say this, and I sometimes find it irritating, but it took a year of practice to distance myself from bladder panic, which can sound daunting, but after 30+ years of being limited by my need to find a bathroom at all times, I am very grateful for my new freedom.
Do I have to go? Bladder Fears and OCD