Why "71º & Sunny?"

I consider 71º to be the perfect temperature. Not too cold and not too hot. I also love perfect sunny days. The vast majority of days are not 71º & Sunny and yet, all days were created by God's hand and they are still gifts, even if they don't fit my ridiculous definition of perfection. My struggle with OCD has at times imprisoned me in an impossible attempt to achieve perfection. I'm now learning to love all kinds of days that don't even come close to 71º & Sunny.

Please leave me a comment below. I really want to know what you are thinking!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Pain With A Purpose

“Don’t turn around. Keep on walking. You’re OK. Don’t turn around. Keep on walking. You’re OK.” These phrases cycled through my mind over and over again as I walked away from the subway platform. The surge of adrenaline spiking through my body caused such incredible shaking that I was sure others could see it as I passed by them. I knew I could not allow myself to look back. Every atom in my body wanted to look back. Just once. Just to check and see if I knocked someone off of the platform and onto the tracks below. I was beyond desperate to put an end to my uncertainty. Something inside whispered that I did not knock any poor unsuspecting soul over. That was my voice of reason, fleeting as it was. I would have heard screams, wouldn’t I have?

Everyone who’s been in an automobile accident has experienced an adrenaline rush. It’s a terrible feeling. Your stomach is in knots. Sometimes you break out into a cold sweat. Your body is ready to spring into action at any moment. You can get a sort of tunnel vision, where you only see what is directly in front of you. That was what this felt like. My body was screaming for me to glance back at the destruction that I must have surely left behind. However, I did not turn around. I willed my feet to move forward, though I could not really feel the motion of my legs. When I finally arrived at my waiting car, I had to sit until my breathing returned to normal and it was safe enough for me to drive away.

I don’t remember exactly when this incident occurred. It was a while after I’d been in CBT. By this point, I had learned that performing Exposure and Response Prevention can, over time, literally make visible changes to the brain. I compelled myself to keep walking because I was aware that with each painful step I made, I was re-wiring my circuitry. Experiencing that terrible anxiety was simply proof of the positive changes going on in my brain. Later, after some reflection, I was pleased that I had this strong physical reaction because of what it meant to my recovery.

At times, ERP will seem so incredibly painful. However, my psychologist reminded me more than once that I was already in terrible pain. With ERP, you twist that pain around and make it work for you, instead of against you. Eventually, the pain subsides, even during an ERP. Today, when I do exposures, the pain is never as bad, nor does it last as long as it previously did. Now, I even have times throughout my day when I am anxiety free.

You can walk away from the “subway platform” of your OCD too. One tiny step at a time. That is all it takes to get started. Don’t turn around. Keep on walking. You’re OK.

4 comments:

  1. A wonderful post! So well-written and helpful. That is a great way to put it--ERP twists the pain into something helpful. I had never thought of it, but I also tend to be glad when I am doing an exposure--like refusing to push the shower handle "off" one more time--and I feel the anxiety, because then I know that I'm working with/on something that is really bothering me. I'm still at the point where, if it feels too easy, I don't feel like I'm really working on anything.

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    1. Thanks so much Tina! That's great you realize the anxiety of ERP is healing. You're probably right about it feeling too easy. My doc always said to aim for something around a 7 out of 10 on my SUDS scale for an exposure. (Not that I always did! ha ha)

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  2. What a great post! It is so helpful for those of us without OCD to hear these detailed descriptions of what ERP Therapy feels like (or used to feel like!). You describe your intense anxiety in a way I can easily relate to. Thank you.

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    1. Thank you Janet. I'm glad you could relate to it. There's probably not one person on the planet who hasn't experienced a bit of anxiety at least a couple times in their life. It's just a matter of degrees. I'm very pleased when people who don't have OCD can understand. I think it makes the illness seem like less of a strange mystery and hopefully encourages compassion and understanding. I've done some reading about other serious mental illnesses and they seem less scary to me now. I'm hoping that all of our blogs will have the same impact on the stigma surrounding OCD.

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