Friday, March 4, 2011

What I Want to Want

This is my life.  I live with OCD day in and day out and suspect that I always have.  And because I have lived with it for quite some time, I have a hard time seeing it and just how much it affects my life.  I forget the cost, the toll, of giving into OCD's wishes, because, frankly, I have grown used to the sacrifices.  Indeed, I'm not even sure I know what it's like to not make SOME sort of sacrifice to keep this disorder appeased.  The more I learn about myself and how OCD has wriggled its way into the nooks and crannies of my life, I begin to wonder - how many of my decisions, in the past and in the present, have been based on my attempts to quell OCD's insatiable need for certainty, for feeling "right"?

I have been a bit more reflective on these things this past week as I decided to take some time off from therapy.  I'm not giving up.  I'm certainly not done with treatment by any means, but I have been feeling, well, complacent, lately, and I felt like I needed a break from the never-ending assault on my OCD in order to regroup and re-solidify my will to fight back.

And there it is:  complacency.  I want to get better.  Yes, yes, yes.  And yet, as the compulsions become less severe, less pain-staking, less onerous, I lose my will to keep fighting back.  Before there seemed to be no choice.  I just couldn't continue on the path I was on.  It was awful.  I was imprisoned by the rules my mind developed and OCD's insistence that I follow those rules.  I couldn't keep going, so I had to fight back.  The alternative - just complying with OCD's every demand - was more than I could bear.  So, I fought back.

Now compulsions are still a regular part of my day, but they have been toned down to a point where they seem manageable.  Can I have the life I want while maintaining this level of engagement with OCD?  No, not at all.  But can I get by?  Can I face my days without wishing I never had to get out of bed in the first place?  Yes.  I most certainly can and continue to do so.  But somewhere in that transition from terribly unmanageable to manageable, my motivation, my reason to push forward in treatment, seems to have been subdued.  Before fighting back didn't really seem like a choice.  I just COULDN'T keep going like I was.  It was too hard.  The choices were fight back or dread every decision, every task of my day.

But I'm beyond that now.  I feel like I have far greater control over my decisions and the choice as to whether or not I will give in to a compulsion.  There is so much more flexibility.  Not performing a compulsion just seems uncomfortable, not utterly devastating.  I feel like, when I really have to, I can choose not to perform the compulsion and be okay.  I can make therapeutically helpful decisions without it resulting in a terrifying contagion of post-exposure compulsions that I just can't seem to resist. This is absolutely wonderful, but to a certain extent, it leaves me with a vaccuum of will power where my desire to fight back and control my disorder should be.  Before I was being propelled forward by the urgent need to free myself from the exhausting compulsions I was engaging in.  Now that the compulsions are not quite so exhausting (but still fairly inhibiting), that urgency has dissipated, and I feel like I have to reevaluate my reasons for committing to this process.  Because I'm reaching a point where the compulsions seem to provide a sense of peace more equivalent to the amount of effort put in - in other words, I don't have to go to nearly as much trouble as I used to for my compulsions to bring me some sense of peace.  Thus, compulsions have become a more attractive option as they have become less elaborate and less painful to endure.  Dire need to escape the hellish regimen of ritual can no longer be the driving force for my treatment.  Somehow, I need to find motivation that doesn't come from a desperate need to escape - because I no longer feel the absolute need to fight back just to keep my head above water.  I'm still stuck in the middle of the OCD ocean, but I'm not constantly on the verge of drowning anymore. 

Just to put things into perspective:  I still sleep on my floor sometimes when I feel too dirty to sleep in my bed.  I still don't cook or bake even though I now have time to.  I have largely subsisted on a strange combination of frozen foods that could be microwaved, sandwiches, other goods that don't have to be cooked, and eating out - certainly not the healthiest, most interesting, or most well-balanced diet.  I still avoid certain social situations or activities because I might have to use a public bathroom or might find myself in a position at odds with my OCD.  I still don't feel like I can even consider initiating another relationship (I broke up with my boyfriend of a few years when things really started going downhill a year and a half ago), because I can hardly tolerate the possibility of contaminating my environment myself - adding a whole other person to the equation seems preposterous (plus the avoidance of any sort of physical intimacy that began at the time of my big contamination "relapse" a year and a half ago just makes a relationship seem sort of unrealistic right now. Even if I did decide I wanted to date, this issue would soon become apparent and cause strife in any relationship I tried to start).  I still am not really able to keep my home environment clean or use it comfortably because of my OCD, and I still spend a certain portion of my day figuring out how I will work my life into the intricate dance of my OCD rituals.  Finally, I still deny myself opportunities and a number of things I would like to do because of OCD.  Because at this point, I have adjusted to all these sacrifices, to this modified way of existing.  So while the compulsions have become less harrowing, I have, at the same time, become accustomed to the sacrifices I make on a daily basis so that I am hardly able to recognize what it is that I actually am sacrificing.  Put these two trends together and you get complacency.  I may not be satisfied with this way of existing, yet as the pain of rituals and the desire to escape them lessens (and as I grow more and more used to my dysfunctional way of life), the drive to find a way out, a way to break free from OCD, also lessens.

As I told my therapist last week, before my little vacation from therapy began, I "want to want to get better."  I want to want it.  How do I find and maintain that desire to keep fighting back?  To keep improving so that one day I can live a fuller life again?

How do you continue, day in and day out, to fuel the desire to get better?  I would love to hear how others deal with this challenge as I am struggling with this at the moment!


  1. Fellow - I struggle with this too sometimes. My life for the most part is "OK" with OCD. Of course - until I try to propell myself forward and grow and then the "niche" I have carved out for myself starts to become very uncomfortable and then it all flares up. I don't know if I've explained that very well, but as an example - dating. Since I have ROCD this is a hot issue for me. I'm definitely less spikey since breaking up with my boyfriend - I don't have that trigger in my life anymore. So - avoiding relationships seems like it could be fairly easy for me to do for the rest of my life. The way I see it after living in my "fairly comfortable niche" for a long time - is it all boils down to the fact that you're either moving forward or backward. BUT - there's no shame in taking a rest!! You've had a lot of intensive therapy in the last little while. Maybe you need to just figure out what this "you" looks like first and re-charge your batteries. Keep posting!! I missed your insight!!

  2. Can't tell you how much I appreciate your encouragement, Pure O Canuck, both in terms of fighting my OCD and continuing to write! I think I needed a bit of both! I think I know what you mean by how your "niche," which seemed fine, becomes increasingly uncomfortable as you try to challenge your OCD. Sometimes it's not until you try to push the OCD boundaries that you realize just how comfortable you've gotten! I'm always that way when I finally agree to a new exposure with my therapist. I start to think, "This is ridiculous! Why is this an exposure? It's so basic." OR "This is ridiculous! Why would I ever do THAT? Normal people wouldn't even do that!" And then, when these things are hard, I realize just how entrenched in my OCD ways I have become.

    Thanks again for the encouragement!

  3. Sometimes when I'm not in a big increase of OCD symptoms, it's easy to think "Oh, since it's not totally destroying me right now, it's no big deal if I give into this obsession or this compulsion." But I also know that OCD is a VERY slippery slope, and I make a point of constantly reminding myself of that--that yeah, maybe allowing myself to obsess or check something once might not be a big deal. But, it could lead to me checking again. And again. And it could essentially cause me to be back in that incredibly-anxious, high-presence-of-symptom state. So it's great that you've made such progress! But, you have to be vigilant and keep working at it to avoid getting back to that point you were at before.

    Take care!

  4. My motivation is not very good and I haven't done much in the line of intentional exposures in a couple months - at least the kind semi-planned ahead of time.
    My brain says, if you fight the ocd, your depression will get worse, so just keep the ocd calm and that will be the most helpful thing right now. Not the best thought to get me fighting the ocd.
    So I'm probably not the best one to give advice. One friend told me during rough spots a few months ago to just stop thinking (rent a movie). And I also find it helpful (but annoying) to go back to little steps. Because having stepped off the ERP horse, I'm scared to get back on it.
    I hope your break goes well and that we both get more motivated. :)

  5. I know this place well. I would judge myself harshly for not being motivated enough, or working hard enough, or feeling the motivation perfectly, or completely. I don't believe that the complacency is a condemnation of your value as a human being--for me complacency was a sign of fear and pain, of trying to shield myself from suffering. But compulsions don't actually protect me--they steal away my life, and anything I want or enjoy. I used to think I didn't deserve to get better or enjoy anything--this made it much easier to accept the compulsions, since I didn't merit anything other comfort.



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