Challenging OCD: Day 1

I wrote about my OCD here. The following will make more sense if you read that first.

The most effective treatment for OCD is a combination of medication (usually an SSRI such as sertraline/Zoloft, sometimes combined with other meds too) and a specific therapeutic technique known as ERP (exposure and response prevention).

What is ERP? 

ERP is counter-intuitive. Generally speaking, if someone has negative thoughts about harming themselves or someone else, the priority is to make sure the person is in a safe place, then to figure out the reason for these thoughts and take steps to change them. However, with OCD it’s the exact opposite: exposing yourself to your intrusive/frightening thoughts and not doing any compulsions to get rid of or neutralise them. For example: if someone with OCD fears that they are going to stab a random stranger in the street, one ERP technique would be to have the person imagine themselves doing this very thing. For me, I have intrusive thoughts that I want to commit suicide (…happy days), so my ERP involves facing these thoughts again and again without running from them, without distracting myself and without trying to out-think them.

The challenge

For the next seven days I will use ERP methods at least twice a day to face my fear, and write about it on this blog. The main reason I am doing this is so that I will actually do it rather than starting then deciding it’s too horrible to face. I am increasingly coming to the realisation that for OCD, the only way out is through.

Day 1

I bought some sheets of A1 size paper and a marker pen. I sat down and wrote out all the suicidal OCD thoughts that came into my head for about half an hour, not including repetitions. Most of these thoughts came up several times, as they do throughout my day. I have done this two or three times and this is what half of it looks like (I filled two of these sheets):

The black marker pen ran out (!) so tomorrow morning my mission is to go back to the shop and buy more paper and markers.

Today the thoughts have been there all day at a fairly low volume, always creating anxiety.

I will beat this.

[It’s absurd: on one wall of my room I have some lovely notes and cards from friends, and on the other wall there are two massive bits of paper saying things like “you should die sooner rather than later because it’ll put you out of your misery” and “I don’t have OCD at all – I’m just in denial and a total coward.” I hope my landlady doesn’t decide to let herself in while I’m not here.]

6 comments

  1. Best of luck with your journey, I myself suffer/suffered acutely at one time with OCD. It is still there but just not at the forefront. I sincerely wish you all the very best.

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      • Each day at a time. For me touching a door handle was basically inconceivable, no I dont think about it. It can be done.

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      • That’s great. I’ve had it for years, and it gets much worse when I am stressed or feeling low for whatever reason. It’s robbed me of about 4 years of my life altogether, but I feel more hopeful than I have in about three years that there is a way through. X

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      • Same it was about the same time frame for me, first 2 years I was a ghost, if people havent lived it they will never understand. Its hell. x

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  2. […] But what does it matter about a diagnosis, anyway? After all, that which we call a mental health problem by any other name would feel as shit. But I think it does matter. For a start, the treatment (both pharmacological and therapeutic) is different depending on your diagnosis, so getting it right could mean the difference between harmful/time-wasting or life-saving interventions. People spend extortionate amounts of money and time on ineffective therapy. This is perhaps especially true with OCD, which can mimic so many other mental health disorders yet only responds to certain meds and a specific type of cognitive behavioural therapy called ERP. […]

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