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!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Making The Most Of ERP

Sometimes (ok, maybe most of the time!) ERPs can be quite painful. It is for that reason that we should try to get the most out of them so we don't waste our efforts. My psychologist was really great about educating me in the proper way to do ERPs. She introduced me to the concept of "looping" them. Essentially, it is not enough to do an ERP just once and then wait days or weeks to attempt it once more. In fact, if we do it just once, it can be so painful that we may be afraid to ever do it again in the future.

To loop an ERP, simply means to re-do the ERP. For example, perhaps I am anxious about touching a public toilet. What I need to do is touch the toilet and then rate where I am on the SUDS scale (it can be 1-10, or 1-100). I like to use a 1-100 scale. Maybe after touching the toilet, my level is 80, which means I am experiencing a LOT of anxiety. At this level of anxiety, I am usually crying and shaking, and hating those three little letters: OCD. At some point, though, my anxiety will drop. When my anxiety reaches a 40, (half of my initial peak of anxiety), I need to go back and touch the toilet again. Once more, my anxiety will peak. I might only peak at a 70 this time. Once the anxiety drops to 35 (again - half of my peak), I need to loop back and touch the toilet. I will experience another peak and another drop. I think you get the idea from here.

To get more effectiveness from looping, it's helpful to loop it every day, as often as you can. Before you know it, touching that toilet will get easier and easier! I did not loop my exposure when I sat down in my finished basement the first time after it was cleaned. In fact, when my anxiety got really high, I left the room. Big mistake. Of course, this made it harder to go back down again days later. It took me a lot longer to get used to the basement room than it probably would have if I had looped it.

Looping seems easy to apply with contamination type items, but I'm sure it can work for other types of OCD too. Obviously, there are some obsessions that can't be physically looped because of safety reasons, or perhaps they are impossible to duplicate. That might be a great time to script out a worst case scenario of what you fear, read the script and sit with the anxiety, and then go back and re-read that worse case scenario once the anxiety comes down by half. Jonathan Grayson's book (see his book listed under Helpful Books to the right) gives directions on how to do scripting.

I thought my psychologist's idea of looping was great, so I wanted to share it with you. I wish I could say I did lots of looping. (Sunny writes this with her head hung low.) I wonder how much more quickly I would have gotten better if I had. It certainly does take time, effort, and planning. If you decide to try looping, I would love to hear if and how it worked for you. I'm always thankful to receive helpful tips and strategies from my fellow OCD sufferers to add to my own recovery "toolbox." Good luck!

24 comments:

  1. Looping sounds like a really good idea. Thanks for sharing about it. What is SUDS?

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    1. Great question, Kristina! I realized as I wrote this that I never discussed SUDS before. It is Subjective Unit(s) of Discomfort. In fact, my next post will be about this in more detail. It's how much anxiety you feel (you rate it yourself on a scale).

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  2. Sunny, this is an excellent post! It was so helpful for me to learn more about looping, and I'm going to try it. It makes sense, though it does sound stressful. But as you say, if it can help us get better more quickly, it's worth it.

    I'll look forward to your post about the anxiety scale, too.

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    1. Oh, I'm so glad you found it helpful, Tina! I always like to have someone around that I trust when I do ERPs. They are hard - but as you say, they are worth it - it was the way I got a lot of my life back.

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  3. I had never heard of the looping until you told me about it Sunny. It totally made sense to me as soon as you explained it to me - and it was the very last thing I wanted to do but I knew that I had to do it. I am planning to do a major loop today as a matter of fact. My daughter threw a load of our tennis shoes in the washer this morning and I am going to take them out and not wash my hands. I was actually only thinking of doing it, but now that I wrote it, it is official. lol

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    1. Ha ha ha I hear you Krystal Lynn - there is definitely something more permanent about writing it, isn't there? I KNOW you can do this. It is hard, but you've got this - you've already proven that when you touched the washing machine the other day. I am totally rooting for you. Woo Hoo Krystal Lynn - you go for it!!!! Let us know how it goes.

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  4. I think it's time for you to hang out your shingle, Sunny! What a helpful post. I never heard Dan talk about looping in his therapy, and apparently a lot of people are not familiar with it. As you say, it's something great to put into your "toolbox."

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    1. Janet, your comments always make me giggle! You are too funny. My doc was so great about educating me on purpose so that I would not have to spend the rest of my life in her office! In fact, it was funny, because before she would "release" me from treatment she wanted to make sure I remembered some of the important stuff about ERP!

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  5. Sunny, once again I am being educated. I have never heard of this term. I appreciate you being so open and honest and sharing. Helps me to understand more just what you and many others go through. My heart cries out to you. Safe hugs.

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    1. Thanks, JBR, for being so genuinely interested in an illness that you don't even have! I am always so touched when someone really cares to learn about OCD even though it does not personally affect them. Who knows, maybe someone with OCD will cross your path someday and you can be their lifeline. Hugs to you too. : )

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  6. Brilliant, Sunny! If this is CBT I'm all for it...I wonder if I can apply looping to my own problems?

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    1. Thank you, Jean!

      That's a really interesting question. I bet you could apply this to anything that you are struggling with. You'll need to tailor it more specifically for you of course, but I suspect it would work. I think the key word is again: practice, practice, practice. Which can be tiring, tiring, tiring - but it sure does work so it's worth it. I hope you can come up with a method to incorporate it in a way that helps you.

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  7. I've heard of loop tapes, but I don't remember looping specifically. It is a good idea. I think I use a modified version (or rather, have it in my mind as a goal?). I've never got the SUDS thing to work too well for me. I think it has to do with forgetting the exposure too quickly. But I do know repetition is important. The first time can break the ice, but if you don't re-do it, the ice might freeze over again. Like my going swimming a week and a half ago. Great anxiety victory followed by... avoidance, which upped the anxiety again.

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    1. I know what you are talking about when you say you struggled with SUDS, Abigail. I also struggled some with it too. I like how you say that "the ice might freeze over again." Really, really great description of what happens. I'm sorry the swimming has been so hard for you. I understand though, because I've done the exact same thing about not following up with another exposure sooner. I know better, but some times it is really hard . . .

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  8. This is great advice. Thanks for sharing it.

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  9. Sunny you explain so clearly how to do looping and the effect of your OCD. This will be of such help to people and in fact I think it would help someone with a fear whether it is caused by OCD or otherwise. I respect you very much. It must require a lot of courage and will power to face your OCD and work toward coping and minimizing it's effects. You are a courageous person. Blessings.

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    1. Well, I don't feel too courageous! ha ha I do, however, feel really blessed to have such a wonderful team of docs, family, friends, and support group who helped get me through the worst of the OCD. You are much too kind! : )

      I also do hope that it will help those who struggle with any type of fear - not just anxiety disorder stuff. 'Cause let's face it, we're probably all afraid of something!

      Blessings to you too.

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  10. I've come to appreciate my therapist ... but I still don't like going to my appointments, ugh. In fact I canceled my appointment for this week. I did that because I had something big already to do this week and I don't do well with having to do two big things in a week. By big I mean things that work up some tension and anxiety in me.

    Blessigs, Deanna

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    1. Sorry Deanna - I just saw your comment this a.m.!

      I know what you mean about dreading your appointments. There was a time when my psychologist and I were working on really tough exposures and I would literally feel sick to my stomach driving to her office. That really stunk because her office was like an hour and a half away too! It's really hard to change and do what we need to, to get healthy. Yep, there are definitely times when I put off dealing with stuff too, because I also have other big things going on. Personally, I think that is ok - it's good that we both know our limits.

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  11. I need to clean out my daughter's contaminated room. I've been avoiding doing it for weeks. Should i clean it all up on the same day, plowing thru the anxiety, or do it a bit at a time over a number of days? ... I guess cleaning it out just means doing what i would normally do and not decontaminating it right? I think i know the answer. As long as i don't decontaminate it it doesn't matter which way i do it because i will get daily looping just by touching the books, the blanket etc.... I had planned to do a decontamination job, i think. Now i realize i can't if i want it to be an exposure prevention. Thanks for yoru help, Sunny!

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    1. Hello Karin! Ugh, I'm sorry about the big job ahead of you. I definitely can relate to this one. This is EXACTLY the kind of thing I struggle with all the time. I'm so proud of you for deciding to tackle this and turning it into an ERP. You are so brave.

      Hmm . . . that is a great question. I suspect you may be right - it probably doesn't matter which way you do it, I guess as long as you keep constantly touching the "contaminated" items to loop your exposure. It also probably depends on how much you can take in one day. If it will be an all day project to clean it up and it's freaking you out, maybe break it into several days of an hour or so? Or maybe it freaks you out more to let it sit partly done for days on end and it's better to get right through it. Let me know what you decide and definitely keep me updated - I really want to hear how this goes for you. I'm rooting for you and sending great big hugs. You CAN do it. Remember your "coat of victory?" I know you can do it again.

      I guess now I'm going to have to tackle a scary ERP in the basement. I mean, I can't let you do this type of thing alone now, can I? ha ha

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    2. Fortunately my daughter doesn't have a very big bedroom- not with a double bed in it anyway (which is great for reading to her and sleeping with her when dh snores away so i can't sleep). Anyway it's just putting all her toys in a bin, all her clothes in the laundry, all the books on the shelves. All while i'm thinking that some of those stuffed animals MIGHT have touched mouse droppings because she got them from her cousin's house and i remember they had mice- or a mouse- once years and years ago. DH says there's nothing contaminating about them, but i think tonight he's letting dd sleep in our bed( i was reading her to sleep in our bed because i didn't want to be in her bed)...so that makes me wonder if he thinks I might be right??? Bruce can be sooo confusing when he's trying to help me - ocd takes his acquiescence as 'ha, i'm right' and me, well, i'm just caught in the middle.

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    3. Oh, I know what you mean, Karin! There are times when I think, "Aha! I was right!" when my husband gives in on certain items. But then, I really secretly didn't want him to give in. You know what I mean? Maybe you can just ask him if that was the reason why he let your daughter sleep in your bed?

      My hubby and I went to see a marriage counselor who specialized in working with couples where one part of the couple had gone through CBT due to an anxiety disorder. My hubby finally got the point that he really had to be strong with ERPs and really not give in. It was a very hard lesson for him to learn because he's very easygoing with me. It really helped though, and it's helped me make progress. Though sometimes I'm not too happy with him when he doesn't give in! I really want it both ways, don't I? Ugh.

      Hang in there. I know how tough this is. You're gonna get through it, I just know it.

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