It's been a hard month, and when I thought of what to do for Y, the phrase "Yet Again" came into my head. There's a jolt of surprise every time anxiety intrudes into my life, and a heart sinking disappointment. I have been learning to expect the anxiety, with less of a "yet again" and more of a "oh, it's you again." My therapist likes to tell me that I've had years practicing the old OCD stuff, and to expect it to come back. This isn't the same as being doomed, and that's the hard thread to hold onto when I'm having a hard time. If I expect the OCD to be there, and don't give into the "Oh, no, it's back. How can this be?" compulsion of figuring out, it's less likely to get worked into a big flare up.
The last month started with my husband being away for a week, which I find stressful, and stress makes my OCD worse, and since I've been doing so much better in the past 6 months, I was taken by surprise at all the old crap. My mother had her heart surgery), got released and then had to go back the next week for fluid under her lung.
Then, last week, I absentmindedly scratched at an itch on my ear, and it started to bleed, in the area of the spot where my squamous cell skin cancer was 5 or 6 years ago. I spent some time trying to see it in the mirror, actually two mirrors, and a flashlight, because it's part of my ear that's really hard to get a look at. I did remember that this is one of my compulsions, and the more I look at it, the more anxious I get. I haven't looked anything up on the internet. After a day of free-falling anxiety, I called my dermatologist. Her first available appointment was October 24th, but then the receptionist asked what I was coming in for and she said, "Hmmm. That sounds like something to come in sooner for." In the irony of OCD, I couldn't decide if this made feel better or worse!
Part of OCD is perfectionistic, and a fear of guessing wrong, and being humiliated at the doctor's office if I went for "nothing," so that part of me was relieved. Part of my OCD is health anxiety, and that part of me was like "WTF"?? So I'm seeing the dermatologist on Wednesday. Next, I called my therapist, and made an appointment for Thursday. He told me that it's unlikely I could diagnose a cancer by touch or by getting a look at it. . .and to go on with living my life, so that I don't lose that time, and also that the thoughts and anxiety will pop into my head, and that's normal, and if I don't do my compulsions, I'm less likely to relapse with my OCD this week. I could have a recurrence of cancer, or I could have a pimple, or sharp fingernails. As much as my OCD insists I can diagnose it, I can't, especially not by repeated checking.
Then I had coffee with my best friend yesterday. She's going through the possibility of a divorce, and first week at a new job, and all the old critical voices of her abusive childhood blaring full blast. She doesn't have OCD, but she understands the nature of insistent beliefs from the past, on high volume. (And got even more insight to the irrational fears of OCD, when she was offered the new job and suddenly feared she'd fail the drug test, even though she doesn't take drugs.) So she talked about her sadness with her marriage, and I talked about all the old health anxiety and perfectionistic voices saying "what's wrong with you? why did you scratch at your ear? why do you notice the smallest thing? or maybe you should've noticed it long ago? you are a bad person, you should know what's wrong", and it was a relief that she got it.
As I approach this gauntlet of a week, I would appreciate all your thoughts and prayers!