Sunday, August 15, 2010

Letting Myself Be Free

I often have a hard time knowing what to do because I sometimes feel like I am forcing myself, or even choosing, to perpetuate my OCD through the performance of rituals.  I get confused and go around in circles in my head, wondering if, unlike everyone else out there with OCD, I should be held more responsible for my symptoms and am less deserving of help because I might actually be "making myself" have the disorder.  However, trying to figure this question out is next to impossible, and I suspect that needing an answer is really just another compulsion - feeling like I need to know the answer to this before I can engage fully in treatment is just another OCD trap.

On the flip side, I often have a hard time with myself because I feel like I should be performing more rituals and doing them better.  Instead of feeling bad for choosing to do compulsions, as described above, I feel bad for not choosing to do them, as well.  After all that I have learned about OCD, after all the time I have spent in treatment trying to deliberately NOT perform rituals or to perform them poorly by OCD standards, I somehow still often manage to fight with myself about whether or not to engage in a compulsion and then get angry at myself if I don't perform it or don't do it "well enough."  The internal self-abuse is sparked, and as much as I know the more responsible thing to do, in the long run, is to avoid compulsions and get my OCD under control, OCD is always saying, "No, no, no, you're wrong you lazy slob!"  And it's hard not to listen, not to give in to satisfy the OCD voice which says "you're not doing your rituals for the wrong reasons.  You're not doing them or doing them half-heartedly because you are lazy and don't want to, not because you want to fight your OCD."

And the solution according to OCD?  "If you don't feel like doing rituals, it must be because you are lazy, so you must do them, because you are just a terrible, lazy human being if you don't."  According to OCD, I can only NOT do rituals when I really really WANT to do them, which are the times when I feel like I need to perform them the most and have the hardest time not giving in, in the first place.  Thus, listening to OCD is a lose/lose situation.  It keeps me feeling like I can't fight back pretty much all the time by distracting and disorienting me when fighting back would be easiest.  I want to fight.  I want to get better.  But OCD has found a pretty sneaky way to slow the process down.

Nevertheless, I am starting to let myself off the hook in certain situations.  I ignore the OCD voice in my head that says, "Hey, you need to ritualize better!  No excuses!  This time, this situation, is no exception!"  There are more and more times when I choose to just do what I want despite the continual looping of OCD's little monologue in the background, a monologue that is constantly judging every move I make for what seems like almost all the time.

The thing is, pressing play on this loop track in my head isn't always involuntary.  In fact, sometimes I choose to play this voice in the background, probably compulsively.  And really, I'm not exactly sure why.  Why do I insist on making it harder for myself?  Why do I need to intentionally question what I am doing?  All I can fathom is that I am somehow checking, somehow trying to ascertain whether I have made the right decision or not.  It is something that can get me stuck on decisions as small as whether or not I should stop washing my hands at 40 seconds...or 50 seconds...or 60 seconds this time around, whether I should start washing my arms at the top or the bottom in the shower, whether just going once through my washing routine is okay or if I need to repeat it.  Every minute decision can be challenged when I am in a particularly bad state.

But just as I am learning to disregard the involuntary sound of this insidious OCD monologue, I am also learning to disregard the feeling that I have to play it over and over again every time I am confronted with the decision of whether to engage in compulsive behavior or not.

I am learning to give myself a break, to turn the constant voluntary version of the interrogation off, and to let myself just be - to stay in the present.


  1. Hey Fellow Sufferer--I've been there, and am often there. . .I'm glad you are learning to give yourself a break. That is still a challenge for me but I am much better at it than in the past. OCD will latch onto anything,and it's really frustrating. Remember that doing rituals "on purpose" is really the nature of the disorder--the rituals make the anxiety level go down. It's not crazy--it's a strategy to reduce anxiety. You don't need to know any more "why" you do the compulsions.

  2. I had originally left a much longer comment, but I think it got lost somewhere in cyberspace and now I'm too annoyed to try and remember what I said ;) At any rate, I just found your blog and thank you so much for articulating my exact thoughts. I look forward to reading more, as this is a subject I tackle in my own posts, although not quite as eloquently!

  3. Abby - how frustrating! I can definitely relate - all to often I write a comment or part of a post and then suddenly it disappears and I have to decide whether to sit with the aggravation of writing it again or the anxiety of not attempting to reproduce what I wanted to say. Thank you for commenting, though. And thank you, also, for your kind words. I'm sorry your original comment got lost but I'm glad you still decided to say something anyway! :)

    I look forward to reading your posts, as well. I always enjoy finding others out there with whom I can relate and who I hope can relate to me, too. I'm glad you stopped by!



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