Well August 1st has come and gone and I have completed my first visit with a new therapist who will I will be doing ERP with. The first step in ERP is always making a hierarchy or a list of things that cause you to obsess or cause you to do compulsions. For me the process of composing this list is an exposure in and of itself because it makes me very anxious and the more things I think of to put in my hierarchy the more crazy I think I am. Before I started writing it I thought it would be one or two pages long but it is already five pages and I am not finished yet! Does five pages equal five times more crazy? It has been a battle over the past few days to think otherwise.
To help me write my hierarchy I decided to use the OCD Challenge website (ocdchallenge.com) and I was extremely impressed with the ease of use and the comprehensiveness of the site. If you don't know about the site it takes you step by step in filling out questionnaires and answering surveys in order to determine which areas of OCD you are affected by the most. The goal of the site is to help you perform ERP on yourself with yourself. The first part of the site concentrates on helping you make your hierarchy by keeping a week long log of all the triggers you have that set off your OCD. I am to that log part of the site right now and by next week I should have completed my hierarchy on there as well as the one I wrote myself and should be good to go on diving right into ERP.
The more things I write down about myself and my OCD the more I realize just how many completely ingrained behaviors I have that I never noticed before because I have never REALLY been asked to look at myself in terms of what my OCD triggers are. Just in the past couple of days I have come upon things about myself that I thought were just me and never gave a second thought, but when I look at them in terms of the questions on OCD Challenge it seems that suddenly I am aware that these things are in fact OCD and are not things that a person without OCD would struggle with. The realization of this fact is a difficult one to say the least because I am going from thinking that I don't really have too many OCD behaviors left to get rid of, to thinking that I have a long road of hard work ahead of me to get where I want to be and to be free of this OCD that has plagued me so long.
The road will be long and I know the battle will be hard but in order to exorcise this demon I first must recognize my demons for what they are. These hidden and ingrained behaviors are not me and for so long I have thought that they were. In turn have punished myself for such behaviors because not realizing until recently that they were ocd, I defaulted to my normal mentality of thinking I am a bad and horrible person because I do and think these things. I have always thought I had quite good insight into my own OCD but this disorder is so very strong and so very sly in the way it attaches to us and makes us believe that it is a REAL part of our being and not some toxic trash to be thrown out immediately.
The past week has been full of anxiety in anticipation of writing a hierarchy and full of even more anxiety while writing the hierarchy but if I am going to get to where I want to be I am going to have to learn to just be in such anxiety, to feel the feelings and do it anyway. I have spent over three decades of my life trying to avoid and get rid of anxiety but no more my friends, no more. The time has come to sit with my anxiety, to dwell in it and then to tell it to go to hell because it will not control me anymore.
I am learning that I am strong, that I can do anything and that I will succeed and surgically remove this Siamese twin that has been latching on to me for 34 years. As Eleanor Roosevelt said so insight-fully "We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I lived through this horror and I can take the next thing that comes along. We must do that which we think we cannot."