Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Field Guide to OCD: Feeling on Trial

I feel like I'm on trial by OCD. This is one of the clues to recognizing being in the OCD. The OCD thrusts the burden of proof on me. I must prove all things beyond any reasonable doubt, which of course, OCD doesn't ever recognize. When I started Exposure Therapy, my OCD had a lot of power and credibility.

Right now, I am on the computer, after being on Skype. I called at 8:00 am, the time I used to start work when I was employed, and once I got off the phone, I was back in my old work pattern of compulsion, which was to stay on the computer, in a kind of trance, because anything else I might do could be the "wrong" thing, and I would be in for harsh cross-examination from my OCD thinking. I'm doing my mental rituals of checking of what time it is, how many minutes have passed, diverted into the "why am I doing this? What is wrong with me?" line of questioning, followed by, "you can't undo this. you've ruined your day, you can't salvage it. you suck."

This adversarial mode adds more fuel to the OCD fire. And OCD talks a confident way, a dictatorial, demanding way that is intimidating, and uses a kind of brute force, saying the same thing over and over, louder and louder. What if! What if! What if!

A cross-examination complete with, "Just answer the question. Don't explain. Just answer yes or no. Strike everything else from the record." What if I am fucking up my life? What if I am making a horrible mistake? What if I really am bad? What if I don't really deserve any compassion? What if I am wasting my life and this is unforgiveable? What if I am beyond redemption?

Often my own thinking seems pallid and inconsequential, signifiying nothing, powerless. But it's my own thinking that allowed me to get into treatment, and start doing things with my life, and learn to have compassion for myself. This is the act of faith, to trust the quiet still voice, without knowing for sure if it really is my own thinking--the OCD chips away at that too, demanding I know for certain if I'm thinking for myself or if it's OCD.

This is crazymaking stuff. Depending on the context, the my current line of questioning can completely contradict another line of questioning from just a second before. From "Don't trust your thinking" to "What's wrong with you that you don't trust your own thinking?" to "Ok. But are you sure this is your own thinking and not the OCD?"

What is the fruit of your OCD? What kind of fruit does it bear? Does it bring peace or joy or meaning to your life? If I am brave and take a minute to observe, I can see the destruction it wreaks, the poisonous fruit OCD bears, the mess my life became when I was totally in grips of it. OCD certainly promises peace, and promises if I just stay at the computer and answer all the questions, that I will avoid the turmoil of getting up, and facing my day in a backlash of obsessiveness, but I know from experience, if I stay on the computer a few more hours, until my back hurts, and I've thoroughly exhausted myself and my mood has deteriorated, that any peace I get is an illusion.


  1. Hello,

    I'm a follower of yours on Twitter and, until today, didn't realize you also have an informative blog. Thank you so much for opening yourself up and attempting to educate the public about this wildly misunderstood condition.

    I am a romance author, and while I don't have a blog committed to battling the OCD stigma, I do have a page devoted to my OCD story and coping mechanisms I find helpful. I would like very much to link you and other OCD-related blogs just so I can help get the word out.

    You can find me here.

  2. I am right there with you on this one! I think the worst part of OCD is that it completely makes you doubt the very core of who you are. At least it does for me. I like how you described it as "crazymaking" - because that's how I feel sometimes. Lately I have had a good handle on my HOCD, but the ROCD is tough....which is causing some big relationship struggles, which just makes the OCD even worse. :o( Thanks for describing so well what goes on in the OCD's mind.

  3. I feel like I am still so at war with my OCD that I can hardly conceptualize all the ways it plays in role in my life. It's dug its claws in so well that I think the OCD thoughts really are my own. I don't know where I stop and the disorder starts. It's all too intertwined.

    I can relate to the contradictory nature of OCD - challenging you one minute for doing or thinking something and then challenging you just a minute later for the opposite. I have to remind myself that just engaging in the ritual of trying to decide whether or not something is "really OCD" is a compulsion in and of itself. Performing that ritual is to have already given up ground to the OCD. The only thing I can do is to urge myself to keep moving forward with my day, whether or not I have resolved the "problem" at hand.

  4. Your words, "A cross-examination complete with, 'Just answer the question. Don't explain. Just answer yes or no,'" describe it well. There are those lost moments when I'm not even sure where exactly ocd is or what it's doing. I forget that ocd's thoughts don't have to be mine. I forget the progress I have made.

  5. Rosalie--Welcome! I would love to have you link to my blog on your site! I appreciate your encouragement!

    Pure O--I am always glad to know I have described something well, because I know the times I've read an accurate description of my ocd, it has helped me get some distance.

    Fellow Sufferer--Yeah, that "is it really ocd?" thing is so hard, but once I started recognizing the pattern, I was better able to challenge it by keeping moving.

    Abigail--I forget the progress I've made quite frequently and it's frustrating. But I remember a lot more than I used to, and am more able to choose to follow my own thoughts.

  6. I have added your blog (and stolen a bunch of your links) to mine.

    Thank you. :)

  7. You are so right when you say that the peace is an illusion. I have often wondered whether I actually gain peace or simply exhaust myself into caring less.

    Great post. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Greg--I know that feeling well of exhausting myself in order to care less.