Thursday, May 5, 2011

OCD A to Z: C is for Courage


Facing OCD takes courage. My therapist tells me that we only have one nervous system, and the danger we perceive through our obsessions feels as real as any other danger. Who would want to face their deepest fears? It's important to find people who en-courage you, cheer you on with every small step of facing your fears, who have the ability to see that what looks "silly" or "easy" or "ridiculous" to them feels terrifying to you.

This isn't the same as having people go along with our compulsions in order to keep the peace, or because they don't want to cause you pain. The true pain comes from feeding the OCD with every ritual performed, every reassuring question answered over and over. An en-courager will help you tap into the courage you didn't even know you had in order to reclaim your life by doing exposures.

Finally, there are some people who will dis-courage you, who will mock your compulsions, or mock your attempts to do exposures to what you fear, saying "no big deal" or "it's about time." Yes, it can be frustrating to those who love us and work with us when we are pouring huge amounts of energy into doing compulsions rather than fighting the compulsions. I understand this. My mother had health anxiety , and when I was growing up, no one knew how to treat it, and this caused a lot of pain in my life. It took me a long time to understand that being harsh and critical of myself depleted my courage rather than building it up. What gives you courage to face your triggers or do exposures?


  1. Hello. It does take courage to face the demons as OCD'ers so often come across. And to break the ritualizing. When I was a child I had compulsions. Now, the compulsions aren't as bad but the obsessive thoughts are without bounds.

  2. I think people with mental illnesses are courageous. Courageous to keep going through all their brain throws at them.

    I guess that means I should think I'm courageous, too.

    Anger is one of my strong motivators for fighting ocd. Not wanting to loose a freedom I was starting to get helps me not stop ERP (as often?).

  3. I really enjoy your posts, keep up the good work. I was thinking, for me another 'C' is control, or more specifically, the lack of. I can't control how I feel, how I think, sometimes how I act. Well that's what I'm led to believe anyway. We crave certainty which comes from control and yet can never have that. Feeling like I don't control my life is the hardest reality to deal with. Courage on the other hand doesn't offer a solution, but it says ' no matter what happens, I can choose to be brave, to confront my fears and not give up'. A very important 'C'.

  4. MDK--Welcome! I believed my obsessive thoughts had no bounds, but a good ERP therapist helped me find the mental rituals that were feeding them.

    Abigail--I love that "I guess that means I should think I'm courageous too." The truth sometimes sneaks up on us!

    MCat--Thanks for another C word--control is also a struggle for me.

  5. I completely agree - courage is HUGE!!! I have been gaining courage lately - because I've had success facing some of the fears on my exposure hierarchy. But - yesterday I did a "spotaneous" exposure (not planned) and that threw me off so I've gone backwards a step. Accepting that this is the nature of progress is a big one for me.

  6. Pure O--yeah, the spontaneous exposures can really knock me for a loop! But I like the image of an upward spiral--we seem to go over the same ground or backward, but ultimately we are heading upward!