Sunday, April 15, 2012

OCD Recovery as a Continuum Rather than All or Nothing

Two laundry baskets, two cats.

Right now I'm reading Monica Ramirez Basco's book Never Good Enough, about dealing with perfectionism. She is a cognitive behavioral therapist(CBT), and describes common thought patterns for people who are perfectionists, including "two basket thinking," where everything either falls into good or bad, right or wrong, safe or dangerous, done or undone, all or nothing, one basket or the other. Basco offers a continuum as the alternative, rating experiences, feelings or events on a scale of 0 to 100%.

Two basket thinking causes me a lot of distress, especially in relation to my OCD treatment, where I assumed I would go from having OCD to not having OCD, jumping from one basket to the other in a single leap, and anything inbetween was failure, hopelessness and despair.

Basco argues that most victories in life are small ones and if we discount those, we are missing much of our progress in pursuit of making the big jump. Paradoxically the harder I try to skip all the middle stuff and just make OCD go away, the more likely I will get stuck in an OCD flare-up, trying to accomplish something that is impossible. When I encourage myself, I gain more energy to fight my OCD and make that journey inbetween the two baskets.

18 comments:

  1. Great post, and I love the kitties!

    I tend to mark a big difference between "done" and "undone." I'm working on an exposure now to go through a pile of paper and sort/file/throw away. It's hard for me to see myself as accomplishing much because it's not all "done." I'll try to look at it on a continuum. Thanks for sharing this!

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    1. Yes, when I go through a pile, if I throw away something but not everything, then I assume I haven't done anything!

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  2. This is a very good point and thank you for reminding me. I love how the author says that most victories in life are small ones and discounting those victories leaves us feeling helpless - I fall into that situation VERY often. Great post. :o)

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  3. Kitties! Love that.
    Yes, I am very much an all-or-nothing person when it comes to I Am or I Am Not. I, too, thought ocd would be gone one day. I've come to accept that it will probably always be my companion, BUT the rituals may very well be gone one day. It is a process, a lifelong one I would guess. Great post.

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  4. Very good point. When I really finally understood that OCD would most likely be with me for the rest of my life, I was pretty angry and somewhat despondent. Fast forward two and a half years later, I'm enjoying a wonderful quality of life that I never thought was possible. Yep, I still have OCD, but it no longer has me.

    Oh, and by the way, it was a series of small victories that added up to my significant recovery. It's important to celebrate any progress.

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    1. I like how you say, "I still have OCD, but it no longer has me." Sounds like a good goal for areas where I still struggle more.

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    2. I like how Sunny put that as well--OCD doesn't have to "have" us.

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  5. Love the kitties! Yes, it is hard to accept that getting a grip on ocd isn't done in 1 big leap, but 1 step at a time. And even those steps don't have to be done 'perfectly'. My was of dealing with that was to 'grade' my exposures, giving myself points out of 10 for different parts. So if i screw up a bit, i can see that i still did better than giving up.

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  6. That's such a good picture of the cats in the baskets! I like the "two basket thinking" term. I think if I use the "two basket thinking" term for a bit instead of "black and white thinking" it might help me - variety. :)

    I sometimes get scared because my OCD isn't in the black basket anymore. That must mean I'm in the white basket, I think, so why can't I handle life yet? Maybe because I'm not in the white basket, either.

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    1. I too have had difficulty with the idea of "black and white" or "all or nothing" as metaphors--the two basket one seemed more clear to me. I have been there with the "Ok, you are getting better so now you need to save the world and actually BE perfect"--definitely makes it hard to celebrate successes!

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  7. One of my greatest challenges has been finding the gray area between black and white. It is a messy place, but so much more compassionate.

    The comments about victories made me think of this quote I've always liked "The moment of victory is much too short to live for that and nothing else." Martina Navratilova We can get so obsessed over reaching goals ... we end up forgetting to just go on and live our lives.
    Adventures in Anxiety Land

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    1. Oh wow, what an awesome quote! Yes, yes, the journey is where we live most of the time so we should enjoy that too!

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    2. yes, I have discovered that compassion exists in that area between the baskets, the messy place, and the healing place.

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  8. Oh my goodness..just what I have been thinking about. How important the baby steps are. I had a Dr. tell me years and years ago that I thought of things as black and white, there was no grey area and I was so mad that he said that. Cause I considered myself a progressive thinker and how dare he. But it is true. If I can't do it perfect, why do it at all was my motto for many years. Great Post.

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    1. I had the desire when I first started dealing with my perfectionism, to deal with it perfectly. . .

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  9. I think that looking at OCD recovery as a continuum is a great idea! I think too often I give up and give in to my OCD because I feel like I can't control it all of the time. Instead, I should see all the little steps and victories I have over OCD. One website that has helped me deal with my OCD symptoms is http://onlineceucredit.com/edu/social-work-ceus-ocd. I hope others with OCD find this site to be a great resource.

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  10. Great post which reminds me of my son Dan's "black and white" thinking. Once he was aware of this and learned to appreciate the "grey," everything about his OCD (symptoms and recovery
    ) seemed to improve.

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  11. i both agree and disagree with Basco's book (according to your account of it).
    dealing with our automatic thought and reactions is a life long process and even after successful treatment for OCD you will always need to practice what you learn.

    on the other hand fast change is possible especially because changing your mode from danger (anxiety) mode to routine (calm) mode in regards to your obsessive thoughts and fears makes all the difference! if you learn how to "flip the switch" from danger mode to calm mode then it is that simple not to get into the OCD trap.

    being a cbt therapist, treating People suffering from OCD, i see a great deal of them learning how to flip the switch and making it "easy" not to fall to (or get out of) their OCD traps- again flipping the switch back to calm is a life long process

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