Thursday, July 1, 2010

New Home, New Rules: Part 1

One all-nighter and two very sore feet later, I have completed my move!! I have a new home - at least for the time being.

Along with this new home comes a revision of my exposures. A new more compact, to the point plan that challenges me but is still within my reach. I hope to improve my rate of compliance and push my reluctant self forward into the unknown of recovery. It may sound strange but one of my biggest fears is success in treatment! Who will I be? What will I become?

Though, at its worst, my relapse incapacitated me to say the least, I fear getting better. Why? I'm not exactly sure, but I think that it has to do in part with the happiness that discovering I have OCD has brought me. This may also seem paradoxical, but learning that I have this disorder has been a true source of relief. I have struggled to fight my most recent spate of contamination concerns, but on the other hand, learning about OCD has allowed me to eliminate many other compulsions I was constantly battling, things I didn't recognize as compulsions until reading more about this illness and the various ways it often manifests itself.

One of these little compulsions that I have had for a while has to do with saving a picture in my mind of places and events - mentally capturing them and their essence and stashing them away for future reference. Most of it goes on in my head, but when it gets bad it can crossover into the realm of physical compulsions. I will actually take pictures of things simply to remember them, which I suppose is often the purpose of photos, but I think for me it really takes on a compulsive nature.

For example, before I began dismantling my apartment for the move, I took pictures of each room from multiple angles so as to have a digital representation of my home "as it was" in case my mental picture of it failed or grew fuzzy. I think I probably took around 50 pictures. I even took a picture of the bathroom. The bathroom! My little palace of cruel and inhumane torture. Why would I want to remember exactly what my bathroom looked like? No idea. That is, no idea other than to quell the fear that I might one day want to be able to remember this particular bathroom and won't be able to do so. Sounds silly but I think it's a manifestation of the classic "but what if I want it later? but what if I need it in the future?" hoarder attitude, except with thoughts and mental imagery.

Anyways, I still did some of this as I moved out (obviously, since I took the 50 pics) but to a much lesser degree than in the past. I saw the greatest difference in my ability to limit the length and degree to which I performed this compulsion, even if I engaged in it just as frequently as in the past. Before I would often do such things again ... and again ... and again. I would take my mental picture, and it would feel right for a flash, but as I would turn around to bolt from the scene to escape yet another repetition, it would suddenly seem incomplete. So I would turn around and do it again, and again, and again, until I built up enough frustration to just force myself to walk away.

This time around after the first or second time or turning back, it might still feel incomplete, but I could just remind myself that this was OCD telling me that I needed to get this right, otherwise I wouldn't feel right, or worse, that I would have to keep mentally picturing the place after I had left it behind until it felt "right," if I didn't manage to capture that feeling in the actual presence of the scene. Though most of my work in treatment has focused on contamination concerns, the small victories I have had, and the realization that I don't have to do every little thing my mind tells me "must" be done to feel okay, have allowed me to move forward far more easily. This is what brings me happiness. The small victories and the realization that I don't have to do the million and one little compulsions that I hardly realized I was doing.

Thus, finding out I have OCD has brought me this happiness, and I fear that as I get better I will lose touch with this joy that I now find in such small things - the excitement of simply being able to carry out everyday activities that "normal" people do without second thought. I don't want to lose that appreciation, that thrill. But at the same time, is it worth maintaining or not fighting new compulsions just to feel that joy? Probably not. But still, it is something I fear.

There are other reasons I fear success and getting better, but this is more than enough for today! For now I will try to keep pushing forward, living life in this "new place" both physically and mentally.


  1. Good luck. :) A new place is a great place to be - both with OCD and with life. Hope you enjoy it. :)

  2. OCD wants to reproduce itself--it has no other agenda--so it will latch onto every bit of your joy and insist that you obsess about whether you will lose it. I've been there! Congrats on your move!



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