Monday, June 4, 2012

Finding Hope in the Midst of Anxiety and Obsessing: It IS Possible

Hope Mosaic by Exposure Woman

Awhile back, one of my readers asked if I would post some of my art.  This is an even bigger exposure than making a video about my OCD for my last post!  As I wrote in Your one wild and precious life, my love of art gives me strength for facing my OCD.  The joy I feel when making art is something that allowed me a glimmer of hope that my life could be my own, rather than in the thrall of OCD.

Hope means looking forward to something, and some suggest that it is related to hop, to leaping in expectation.

The first time I read an article by Jonathan Grayson about obsessing about obsessing, I felt a leap of hope that someone understood what I was experiencing, the angst that I would do something to trigger my obsessing, and trying to figure out if I really was obsessing.  Grayson believed that exposure therapy could work for obsessions of the mind.

Meeting my exposure therapist, Leonard, for the first time also made my heart leap with hope.  He was a worthy foe of my OCD.

None of these things meant I was certain I'd get better or that someone could help me or that I could do exposures and survive them.  OCD had been demanding I be certain for quite some time--certain I had OCD, certain I had the right therapist, certain I was doing my exposures correctly--and this eroded my hope in the guise of helping me.   If your OCD is anything like mine it may sound like this:

You don't have enough hope.  You'll never get better.  What are the signs of hope in your life?  Figure that out.  Do a search on the effects of hope on dealing with mental illness.   What is wrong with you? Why do you feel despair?  You'll never get better.  
Whoever you are, if you suffer with anxiety and the exhaustion of worries chasing each other, remember that there is hope.  It is possible to get better.  It is possible to claim your one wild and precious life.  You are not broken, irredeemable, beyond mending or repair or healing.  If you don't have hope, you can borrow some of mine.


H is for Hope

14 comments:

  1. Your art is beautiful!!! I am reading a lot of books on Buddhism these days, and they discuss letting go of "hope" because it keeps us from fully accepting the moment just as it is. This was a notion that I struggled with for awhile because for me, the "hope" that things will "get better" is something I cling to - sometimes more than others. But it really does make sense. We always have a choice in the moment to do something different, and if we don't then we must fully accept that reality. My reading on Buddhism really has helped me on my path with living with OCD. I'd be curious to know what you think of it.

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    1. My therapist suggested a book for me, Tara Brach's Radical Acceptance. I haven't read it yet, but it's based on Buddhist principles of accepting the present moment. It's interesting that as I've seen my therapist he's become more and more involved in mindfulness meditation as an aspect of doing ERP. You are making a useful distinction when you talk about "clinging to the hope that you'll get better" --my OCD had very specific ideas about what getting better looked like, and if my reality didn't match it, another wave of obsessing started. I had no idea that I would end up making art, or this kind of art--I couldn't have predicted this.

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    2. Yes that book is on my "to read" list. I've been reading Pema Chodron - it's helped me tremendously with my OCD. Letting go of attachment to the outcome was (and still sometimes is!) huge for me.

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  2. Thank you for writing this. It is beautiful, and brought tears to my eyes. Not sad tears, but tears of hope, that maybe things are going to work out to have that one wild and precious life.

    The mosaic is gorgeous--I love it!

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    1. Thank you for your kind words about my mosaic. I am moved that you found some beauty in my words as well.

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  3. I love this. A post on Hope which is something accessible to me rather than "You must reach for happiness." Which seems irrelevant, in that you can have happy moments, and unattainable, in that our illness is not going to magically leave us. We will always have to deal with OCD but we can hope that it will be easier!♥

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    1. Hi Shannon,
      I'm glad this resonated with you and that you found an accessible version of hope! My OCD would latch onto the idea that I couldn't survive pain or sadness or depression, and that I must find ways to undo those. It is empowering to discover that I have survived, that I can grow.

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  4. That mosaic is GORGEOUS! Love that. Hope is my favorite word now. I actually made myself a little keepsake with the word "hope" on it, and it sits on a little tile table I found with the word "hope" on it too!

    There IS always hope. I feel like living proof of that. There was certainly a time when I had none, but luckily others had it for me.

    Thanks for such an uplifting post!

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  5. The Mosaic is utterly beautiful as is this post.

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  6. I like how you finished, "If you don't have hope, you can borrow some of mine." Right now I have hope, but there were definately times I lived on borrowed hope from my psychiatrist or from other people. Thanks for sharing yours!

    Working on art helps me feel better, too. Thanks for sharing this picture

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  7. Your artwork truly is beautiful. I know hope is what kept me going when my son was dealing with severe OCD. So not only is hope important to those with OCD, it is also important to those who love them and have to watch them suffer. Thanks for the inspiring post.

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  8. I was just talking about this very subject today. I can assure you that a multitude of folks feel the same despair that you do, however your words do ring of encouragement. I also believe that some kind of art form does give the sufferer an identity that no one can claim. The thing is would OCD drown out a feeling of accomplishement?

    Vinnie
    thecoparazzi.blogspot.com

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  9. A very insightful post and an absolutely gorgeous piece of art! You can see how much care went into it. A good reminder that there is always hope, somewhere.
    Adventures in Anxiety Land

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  10. I love your mosaic. It is beautiful!!!

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