Tuesday, October 19, 2010

OCD? Who me? Nah...

This guy's fooled many a fruit loop-bearing hiker or cheetoh-offering friend into thinking he's a chipmunk...but we know the truth tiny rodent...someone forgot their face stripes and WE know that he's just another squirrel like the rest of them.  Now get your paws off my shoe!!   And while you're at it, go wash your paws before eating anymore food begged off unwitting strangers!  What an audacious (and filthy) little fraud...I bet he didn't wash after using the restroom either ;).
This morning I woke up after a particularly long night of sleep only to be greeted by my good old friend, more commonly known as the "fear of not really having OCD and somehow faking out the world as well as my self..."  Umm, yeah.

The exposures for this sort of fear, as I have mentioned before, are the same as my usual exposures - do my homework successfully, because, if I can do my OCD homework successfully, then I must be a "fraud," right?  I mean, if I can do my exposures no problem then there's no way I could have OCD for real - at least that's what OCD wants me to believe!

The problem is, I don't always do my homework successfully all the time.  And because OCD likes to bring any and every detail to my attention that might give its argument some weight, it definitely doesn't miss this little snippet of information.   OCD adamantly waves this fact in my face, and I enter into its game, which is never good.  The best way to beat it is not to argue with it in the first place.  That doesn't go anywhere good.  I can point out distorted ways of thinking, but that's not usually what happens in the moment.  In the moment I am desperately trying to prove OCD wrong, to gain some sort of foothold against it when really I should just walk away.

So anyway, in trying not to engage this fear today, I think I have inadvertently been fueling it.  Without realizing it, I am trying to fight back.  To prove it wrong.  To gain some sort of certainty or proof that I am not, in fact, a "fraud."  When washing my hands, for example, I run into this fear.  Normally I have a very pre-determined pattern and sequence for washing my hands.  Some days I manage to do it all at once, making it to the end and stopping without starting over.  Other times, I make it through part of the sequence, have a thought that I might not have done the preceding steps or may have done them "wrong," and I start over and over until I feel "sure" or until I remember that feeling "sure" is next to impossible and not what I should be going for.

Usually, when I am able to make it all the way through in a minimal amount of time, it's because I let pass all the thoughts of, "Wait did you really do that step?"  "Did you skip that entire section that you thought you had already done?"  "Better start over."  I make to the "end," per se, mostly because I don't respond to these thoughts.  I don't let them affect my behavior.  I remember that my goal, in that moment, is to just move on as much as I am willing to, without feeling "sure" about things being done "right."  Logically I realize that washing my hands "right" is probably no better, no more cleansing, than doing it "wrong,"  But I try not to beat myself over the head with this fact, because then I just get anxious about why I won't stop washing excessively, even if I know it doesn't matter, even if I think I don't feel "anxiety," and even if it is taking a clearly detrimental toll on my life.  Because, when I get anxious about that, then I have an even harder time trying to stop.  For whatever reason, whether it makes any sense to me or not, it must cause me discomfort on some level to not attempt to do things the "right" way.  It might even be because I have OCD ;).

My point in describing all this is that my consistency in fighting my OCD changes all the time.  Some days I am better at accepting feeling unsure than others.  Some days I do well in limiting the amount of time spent washing.  Other days are not as good.  So, when on days like this, when I feel the fear of "oh my, I must be misleading everyone, even myself, into believing that really have OCD," I panic and compulsively try to determine whether or not I am doing "too well" or if not doing a certain ritual, a certain step "really bothers" me.  And of course, like checking for any other feeling, checking for my own discomfort makes that feeling harder to identify.  I end up scrutinizing everything I do, thinking, "Wait would I normally be okay with that?  Would I normally feel like I could take that step and fight back against OCD in that situation?  Or would that be going too far for me usually?" 

Trying to determine what I would "normally be okay with" is impossible because it changes from day to day.  Not only that, only doing what I would "normally be okay with" takes any chance of fighting my OCD and progressing away from me.  As I try to err on the "safe side," to dispel the fear that I am not a "fake," I end up doing WORSE in fighting my OCD than I normally would, because normally I WOULD fight back to a certain degree.  But when this version of my fears comes into play, it knocks the ability to fight back right out of my hands, because in anything I do, in anything I attempt that involves my contamination fears, OCD can recall a time or an incident where I would not allow myself to fight back in that situation.  It presents that to me as the reason why "I can't fight back now" because, according to the OCD, if I do fight back in a situation I may not have always fought back back, it becomes proof that that situation may not "really bother" me and the act I have putting on is exposed.  "I must be a fake," OCD says, if I can't feel anxiety where I think I should or where I think I have in the past.

This is very confusing.  I think I'm even confusing myself in trying to put the insane logic of my OCD into words, for myself and anyone else who attempts to read this convoluted explanation of the even more convoluted things that go on in my head.  But if I or anyone else managed to follow along with all that, the result of the anxiety caused by my "fear of being a fraud" and my attempts to determine what I would "normally be okay with doing" leads to an overly-cautious approach to fighting my OCD.  Even if I have often been able to stop this compulsion or that compulsion, if there have been times where I failed, OCD points to those times and says, "Hey, you wouldn't normally be okay with that!  But now you are thinking about not doing that compulsion?  What, you aren't even sure if not doing it would even bother you?  What's wrong with you?  You must be a fake. FAKE, FAKE!  I caught you fake!!!! FAKE!"

And then, confronted by this anxiety, I cave.  I do the compulsion just to be on the "safe" side, because at one time or another I have felt that I "had to" do it and felt that "couldn't resist" even if resisting was part of my exposure homework.

OCD is brilliant - it cuts off my very will to fight back by using any success as proof that it must not exist, that I must be making all this up, that I must be sort of terrible con artist who should just "stop acting already" and "face the real world."  Someone who should stop "playing games" and "get back to work" in order to "support herself and take care of the responsibilities that we all have to grow up and take care of eventually."   I fear that "it's time to stop messing around.  That it's time to face 'the truth,' to go on about the daily business of life like everybody else, and to stop avoiding it by trying convince myself and everybody else that I can't because I have OCD..."  And these thoughts cause anxiety, and in that anxiety I turn to what I know - compulsions, relinquishing what progress I have made in "fighting back" because I am afraid that any ability to challenge my OCD is proof that it does not, that it cannot exist.  That it's all an act.  And that I have a responsibility to stop doing all compulsions right now and get back to living a normal life.  And if I don't stop doing all rituals right now, as I should be able to since it's an act, I am just evading life.  I am shirking my responsibilities because I have convinced myself that I can't "just stop" because I have this mysterious thing called OCD.  And I fear that if I just tried "hard enough" I could snap back to reality from the "delusional" OCD world I have carefully constructed, the finely-constructed illusion that I have a disorder that I don't really have.  If I just "tried harder" to see it, I would realize that I don't have OCD at all...

So what should I do in this situation?  Trying to identify how much I would "normally be willing to fight back" is problematic for the lengthy reasons already listed.  I suppose when I am terrified by the "lack of discomfort," I should deal with that anxiety like I would deal with anxiety from any other source - that is, to push myself to accept as much anxiety about being a potential fraud as I can handle, and to leave it at that.  Trying to do more or trying to identify "how I would normally do things" only causes more distress.  And that distress backfires in the form of greater compulsivity.

Whew.  I think I know what to do now!  Maybe trying to figure out how to face this type of anxiety is just yet another compulsion.  But of course, that would be assuming that I even have OCD in the first place ;).


  1. Yet another post I can relate to! OCD is so slimy it manages to slither its way into your life in every way possible! For me - it's not the fear that I'm a fake. For me - it's a fear that I'm in denial. That my life is a fraud. That I'm in denial about what makes me happy, that I'm in denial about being gay etc etc. So it goes like this. I have been working my way up my hierarchy with some success. When I start to habitualize and think "This isn't so bad. Good for you for facing this stuff." Wonderful OCD (and I am being facetious obviously) kicks in and says "Maybe you don't mind this stuff because you're in the process of coming out as a lesbian. Maybe you've been in denial the whole time." So - OCD finds a way to be counter productive in so many ways! Very frustrating. The other part I relate to is the fact that some days are just "easier" than others. Some days it's easier to not compulse, some days it's easier to let the thoughts be there and not be bothered by them. For someone like me who thinks I need to "find the answer" in order to solve my OCD problem, I can immediately start compulsing, analyzing and disecting my day to "figure out" what is different...in an effort to avoid the thoughts from coming back!

  2. Pure O Canuck - Ah, I can relate to your comment, too! I have never had HOCD take root, but I can see how it could worm its way in. There have been times that I've had thoughts like the ones you mentioned. Sometimes they have produced some anxiety, but they just never took hold like my current obsessions. Seems that that's how OCD goes - it hangs around and tries different ways to provoke us until one sticks (or until we let one stick by changing our behavior to accommodate it!). And oh, the "find the answer" urge. Sometimes I think if I just "found the answer" for once I would get myself out...but supposedly that's not how it works :). I'm doing my best to go by the tried and true method - ERP!



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