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!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Thirteen Years

Thirteen years. That's how long I waited to start Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) after I was first officially diagnosed with OCD. Thirteen years. Not weeks, or months, but years. I was that deathly afraid of CBT/ERP. I think you could call that the mother of all anticipatory anxiety.

Around the time I was diagnosed, in 1996, I did some research online about the proper treatment for OCD. After reading about ERP, I convinced myself that I could never do it. That I could never touch that contaminated item, or that I could never drive over that bump without doubling back to check for an injured pedestrian left languishing on the road. I once heard Dr. Michael Jenike say that most OCD patients wait until their life is unbearable before they seek out CBT/ERP because they are so frightened of it. That is certainly my experience. So I did what I tend to do when I'm scared of something: I avoided treatment. I truly regret that. My family and I continued to suffer needlessly for an additional thirteen years because of my fear.

Would I be completely OCD free now if I had received the right kind of treatment earlier? I doubt it. However, I do think my family and I would have suffered a lot less, and perhaps I would be further along in my recovery than I am now. Sigh. It is what it is. But I would love to encourage you to seek treatment earlier rather than later. It will not be easy. I will not sugar-coat it for you. You will probably have to work harder at this than at anything else you've ever worked on in your life. The first few months of my treatment were brutal, probably in large part because I waited so long. Today though, oh life is so incredibly sweet! Yes, I still live with some of the symptoms, but finally, I am actually living. The difficult treatment was absolutely, without a doubt, totally worth the level of freedom I have today.

From what I understand, OCD generally does not get better on its own. Rather, it tends to worsen without good treatment. Please, if you are thinking about seeking CBT/ERP, then I urge you to do it. There is help available. I KNOW it seems impossible, but it's truly not. You can do it. You are a lot stronger than you think. Hey, you're surviving life with OCD aren't you? That's proof enough of how strong you are.

12 comments:

  1. I'm glad you did make the decision to get the therapy that you needed. That's what's most important--you DID get the help you needed.

    I remember a psychiatrist I went to in the early 90s mentioning some kind of cognitive behavior therapy that I could try. But I wasn't interested. I don't think I had fear of it as much as I just didn't want to have to keep going to therapy. I couldn't imagine that any kind of therapy other than medication could help me. Of course, I was wrong. But I have managed to cobble together treatments that have helped me tremendously, including ERP (done mostly on my own, which probably slowed me way down).

    Your central message here is so important, and let me add my voice to it: seek help if you have OCD. There IS help out there. You CAN get better.

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    1. Oh it's true about the whole "cobbling together some treatments" isn't it, Tina! Obviously the therapy and meds were the biggest part of my recovery, but there are always little additional things we can do to help improve our health. Yes, at least I did finally get the right treatment. The rest of my life will be much improved because of it.

      I'm glad you've been able to piece together what you need as well.

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  2. Sunny, Out of all the posts any of us have ever written about OCD, I think this one is the most important. Nothing like hearing it from someone who has been there. Thirteen years! Wow. This post will inspire people to get help sooner and so your thirteen years of waiting will have served a real purpose...to help others. Even though my son Dan got help relatively early (within the first year after his OCD became completely debilitating), I remember how difficult the ERP Therapy was for him, creating panic attacks, etc. But as you say, it was SO WORTH IT! He was suffering so much from OCD, so why not suffer through therapy, where you can at least get some positive results! Thanks for this post!

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    1. Great point, Janet. My psychologist used to say ALL the time, " You're already suffering, why not do the therapy and put that suffering to good use and get better?!"

      Well, I certainly do hope this encourages people to get help. And I agree - I choose to not think of those years as wasted. I learned a lot (painfully) and I've grown from it.

      Thanks for always being so supportive!

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  3. "Would I be completely OCD free now if I had received the right kind of treatment earlier?"
    Oh Sunny, how I have mulled over that question. Sometimes I think maybe I could have nipped it in the bud..like, maybe not built up so many compulsions if I'd gotten treatment right away. And worse, I feel kind of angry sometimes knowing that doctors treated me for years before I got the right treatment, before anyone even mentioned ERP. Of course it doesn't help to dwell on all that because it is what it is, as far as the past. But I guess where it helps to think about that question, is to do what you have done in this post and tell people not to wait to seek help or not to settle for therapy that isn't working (in my case talk therapy for 20 years). ERP is hard work, it is not like taking a pill and calling back the doctor in the morning , but much of life is not easy. ERP indeed does work and I am so very grateful for what it has done for me.

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    1. Hey Krystal Lynn, it's so great to hear from you! I hope you are doing well.

      Yes, I know that ERP has been very helpful for you too. I always admire how you always push yourself to fight. Sometimes I get mad too, but in my case I have no one to blame but myself. And really, blame is pretty useless so I try not to think about it.

      I too wonder if hanging on for another 13 years helped to reinforce all the bad stuff of OCD. It probably did. Oh well. Nothing to be done about that now.

      Take care and hope to hear again from you soon!

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  4. I love this post, and I am so proud of you, Suns! :-) (Yes, apparently, I just nicknamed you Suns.)

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    1. Ha ha ha thanks, Jackie! And you can call me whatever you like! ; )

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  5. How much you hit the nail with the hammer- I could have wrote something almost like this too:)
    CBT. oh no I was never, ever going to go. However, it is when things became so unbearable is when I went ((sigh)).

    Through all that you write I can tell that this is something that you've probably surely had to work the hardest at. You are a TROOPER! and an ENCOURAGER!

    Blessings!

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  6. Aw thanks, Deanna. Yes, it sure was the hardest thing I EVER did. There were times during the process that I was just sure I wouldn't get to the other side. I'm soooooo glad I was wrong. And really, if I could do it, then ANYONE could. Believe me, there is nothing special about me. I'm a sufferer just like anyone else, just trying to muddle through it all.

    I know you have worked really hard on your own recovery. Glad to be in the fight with ya!

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  7. You are a power of example to so many who are suffering. Congratulations on the steps you have taken and on all you have accomplished.

    Madison:)

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    1. Thank you so much Madison for your kind words. I really appreciate it!

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