Living with OCD
As I sit on the train, I am counting to six in my head. I am also slightly panicking that I just wrote that down for the first time because no one knows that six is my lucky, unlucky obsessive compulsive number.
I try to do everything in sixes. To name a few, I get into bed on a six, I take six steps before I sit down and I will only close a book every sixth page. This may sound crazy to some people, but to me if I don't do everything on a six I am risking my family’s health.
In my head, I believe that if I were to get into bed on a five, (10:05) my family may not wake up. I know it is strange to think that I can control the future and the destiny of my family, but in my head I truly believe this and anything I can do to keep my family healthy and safe, I do.
This is one of my many compulsions. Obsessive compulsive disorder is a disease that is characterized by unreasonable thoughts or fears (obsessions) that lead to compulsive behaviors. OCD usually centers around a theme and for me that theme is health. I obsess all day about my health and my family’s health.
OCD is a painful, hard thing to live with. Thinking that I am responsible for my family’s health and that one step off can lead to something bad happening, is a very scary thought. However, being in cognitive behavioral therapy has helped me develop skills to live a better life. There is no cure for OCD but there are many skills that can help.
One type of CBT that I find helpful is ERP (exposure and response prevention). ERP works by helping you confront your obsessions and resist the urge of carrying out your compulsions. For me, I have tried to get into bed when I want to without looking at a clock. I then sit there uncomfortable thinking that something bad might happen to my family and that I wasn’t doing anything to prevent it. My therapist asked me to write down my thoughts during my panic and I remember writing that if something bad happened, it would be all my fault. I laid in bed anxious until I fell asleep and in the morning I was happy to hear everyone was safe.
Facing your fears and obsessions helps take the power out of them. Giving into your compulsions makes the fears even scarier than they already are.