Thursday, July 8, 2010

New Home, New Rules: Part 2

It's been a week since I moved into my new home, and it's looking more and more like I might stick around for more than just a month. That said, it has also been a week since I saw my therapist for the first time after the move, which was when we devised my new improved rules/exposures system. And while I am slowly chipping away at my OCD as a whole, I am a reluctant and all too often non-compliant participant in my own homework assignments which I agreed to.

Usually I prefer to utilize this space as a place where I can record and share all the random thoughts and musings I have about OCD, thoughts that I really can't share anywhere else (except in therapy...but, uh, there's not enough time in therapy for all the things I wish I could say). This is a great outlet for those things I can't discuss anywhere or with anyone else. There are still many, many aspects of my experiences with OCD that I would love to write about, observations and random reflections, but perhaps I should also put this blog to more immediate practical use as well - as a motivational tool.

I go see my therapist once a week, but I have this bad habit of peaking in compliance and enthusiasm for my homework right after seeing him and then slowly giving up more and more as the week goes on. My motivation begins to disappear as I let one thing slide and then another. And after going against the rules or failing to do my exposures repeatedly, I often feel like there is no reason to fight, no reason to find a way to get back on the wagon, until my next session. Of course, this pattern of declining motivation week to week is frustrating and problematic. I want something to grab onto, a nice handhold on my motivation, as I climb up the OCD mountain and eventually conquer it. But all too often I feel myself slipping, struggling to hang on and regain my hold on my determination, until I finally let go, dangling in space until I can see my therapist again, at which time I recommit myself to the difficult climb.

Anyways, I have a history of wearing out every motivational tool in the book. I have tried many different things, but I always feel like I'm slipping as my determination to improve grows weaker the further I get from my last session. I know I have, overall, made considerable gains. I have improved SO, so much, in just the last 6 months or so. I am in a much better place than I was at my worst. But, even so, it would be nice to feel more productive in my fight, instead of giving up half way through the week, and just waiting for the other half to pass so I can see my therapist again and get back on board with the program.

So, as much as I prefer to use this as a space to reflect on OCD in general, I think it might also be helpful for me to list my rules/exposures here to keep me honest, to make me feel more accountable (since I clearly don't feel accountable to myself or even my therapist). Hopefully by posting my guidelines here and regularly reporting where I succeeded or could have done better, in addition to writing about other things, I will be inspired to stay on track and not break the rules :). That's the plan, anyway! And maybe others will even find my mini homework reports helpful (or incredibly redundant!).

So here they rules and my exposures, divided into four overarching categories: hand-washing, showering, bed, and laundry.

  • No more than 60 seconds per wash (including rinsing).
  • Only use cold water.
  • Only use 1 pump of soap per wash.
  • Touch the faucet with HANDS (I'm the master at inventing inconvenient ways to turn on faucets.)
  • Dry hands w/towel (not paper towels).
  • No more than one cycle (soap, lather, rinse) per wash.
  • Only one hand wash at a time (I am also the master of sneaking in the so-called "pre-wash" which makes all of the above rules much easier to follow when I get to my "actual" wash...)
  • And finally, the somewhat ambiguous "no washing when anxious" - I find this one difficult to understand because I start to think, well, at what point does my concern cross over into full-fledged anxiety? I mostly conceptualize this one as, "no washing when I'm SUPER anxious and know I shouldn't and would normally be able to resist..."
  • Less than 30 minutes in length (I was doing really well with this one regularly but then started slipping...trying to get back on track because I know I can!)
  • No hand-washing during shower
  • No washing mesh bath sponge thingy (only allowed to rinse it for 10 seconds before beginning to wash)
  • Only shower every other day
  • Wear pajamas to bed even if worn around house prior to going to bed
  • Only go through one pair of pajamas a week (I can go through a new pair every single night or more than one pair each night because of my tendency to condemn sleeping clothes that come into contact with things outside my bedroom...thus the reason for the first rule).
  • Clothes can only be separated based on color - lights and darks - for washing; no separating clothes based on relative cleanliness within these two categories; basically, mix "extra dirty" lights with "dirty" lights and "extra dirty" darks with "dirty" darks (this makes laundry SO much simpler when I actually do it!)
  • And an actual exposure: wear a new article of clothing from the dirty laundry hamper everyday for at least an hour, regardless of what it has touched in the hamper; no washing because of putting on said article of clothing, and no avoiding things because of it
That, is my new, compact rule/exposure list. My goal is to maintain my motivation to adhere to these rules as best I can, throughout the week, and not just at the beginning of it. I think I have managed to do every one of these things at one time or another, but not consistently or on any sort of regular basis. So here's to hoping that writing these goals down here and reporting daily on my progress, will increase my rate of compliance!

And now, time for some laundry!

Related post: New Home, New Rules: Part 1

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