So clearly my original plan to report back daily on my success or lack thereof in adhering to my exposure guidelines has not gone so well so far. Let's just say there's not much to report...
I had an unusually long period of exposure in visiting a friend this weekend, and though I stuck it out reasonably well while I was visiting her, when I came home I immediately tossed all the clothes I had worn at her place in the laundry hamper and took a 50 minute shower not long after.
It's the usual few steps forward on one front and a few steps (or perhaps several) back on another. I feel like it's like trying to over-stuff a box or a suitcase. You shove everything in on one side only to realize things have managed to pop out on the other. I chip away at my fears and habits in one way, but end up giving in somewhere else.
Nevertheless, I don't think the work that I did this weekend while away was all for naught. I did several things that I always avoid (playing with a dog, sitting on my friend's bed in regular clothes, sleeping in my friend's bed in clothes worn around the house, using a public restroom, touching books and DVDs at a public library). Those things will now be a little bit easier the next time I face them. What I need to work on now is the response prevention part of things. I did the exposure but then came home and thoroughly cleansed myself. While I don't think that I completely undid the benefit of the exposure, I think I probably greatly decreased its potential to help me move forward. I know now that I can handle the exposure, but I have not yet shown my brain that I can do the exposure without ritualizing later. And that is where the detriment lies. I may have shown myself that I am capable of doing such things, but I have also reinforced the association between doing these exposures and having to ritualize, an association that is already quite strong.
So it's time to get back on the wagon as best I can. Perhaps if I simplify my goals, I will find it easier. I still plan on trying to do all that I am supposed to, but more than anything, I want to focus on washing for just 60 seconds. I know I can do it. It's just a matter of doing it even if it doesn't always "feel right" and even if my OCD mind says, "No, no this time is different! This time is an exception!" I have faced and overcome such arguments before, and I will do it again.