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, January 14, 2014

Accepting What Is

Acceptance. Blah, blah, blah. I heard that word a lot through my treatment for OCD. Honestly, it really didn't mean all that much to me. I had a very simple (and uninformed) understanding of what acceptance is and so it seemed pretty meaningless. That is, until I actually went through it. I've discovered that acceptance is absolutely crucial to healing and recovery - of any type of difficulty. It doesn't have to be an anxiety disorder.

Most of us will face something painful in our lives. Whether it's the loss of a dream, or a job, our health, or worst of all, someone we love. I've come to believe that learning true acceptance of one's circumstances is the foundation to being able to move on with life. Oh, but it's so hard! It takes time, and effort, like anything worth doing. For me, it is an intentional act, not just something that happens. I had a terrible time accepting the chronic nature of my illness. Now I realize, it just is. I can fight it, but it's a complete waste of my time and energy. I've got too many other important things to do these days!

An online friend of mine recently linked to an excellent article by Frederick Penzel, Ph.D., entitled Acceptance and OCD. It is not an easy read, in that there are some hard truths about the reality of life. But I do believe there is a LOT of wisdom in this article, and following Dr. Penzel's advice can ultimately lead to much freedom from pain.

Even if you do not suffer from OCD, but you struggle with any type of emotional pain, I suggest that you read the article and substitute your issue every time the letters OCD appear. It won't fit perfectly, but I believe there is still enough there to help most everyone. Personally, I plan to print it out and carry it with me.

Here's to real recovery. Yours and mine.

26 comments:

  1. Acceptance is so important, isn't it? I was like you for a long time--didn't really understand the concept or how really important it is. When I've deliberately, intentionally accepted circumstances I couldn't change, I was amazed at how freeing it actually was. My problem is knowing when to accept and when to go about trying to change something. The serenity prayer is a very good prayer for me!

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    1. Yes, I like the Serenity Prayer too. It is hard to tell the difference between what is changeable and what is not. I might be slow, but I figure stuff out eventually!

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  2. This is a really good article--I've read some of his articles on OCD and they all seem to be spot on to me. However, "you will experience anxiety and discomfort at times" is the biggest understatement of the year (at least in my experience!)

    We know OCD is chronic, but it is something I try not to think about often because it really makes me sad. Does it make you sad too? Maybe it's just me. I've wondered how things would be on the other side--to be "done" with ocd--and how life would be different even though OCD is still chronic. How does getting through ocd treatment look like when OCD is still chronic?

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    1. Hey C! Ha ha, it sure is an understatement!

      Yes, it used to make me sad, AND angry. But, as I've come to terms with it, I (usually) have less emotion over it. Hmmm, I don't know that most people ever get "done" with OCD. But it definitely can become a much smaller factor in your life. According to my psychologist (and I thoroughly agree) when you can live a life that is compatible with your values, you have sort of gotten through treatment. Not that you won't have more work, but OCD is no longer the focus. It's chronic in that it's still there, but in my case, it usually does not bring the same amount of pain anymore, nor does it happen nearly as often as it used to. Chronic does not have to mean it's not better.

      Does this answer your question? If I remember correctly, you are still in the early stages of treatment, right? This stuff really takes time to work through. I think that acceptance also takes time. We have to get used to a new reality. I know you're suffering. I'm sorry. : (

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  3. Acceptance is crucial, dear Monique, I agree!

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  4. Such a good post - I wish I could just go ahead and accept OCD and get that over with, but I get the feeling from your post it's more complicated than that . . . ;) So, so hard.

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    1. Oh, you'll get there, Anna! Well, it was definitely complicated for me. Like I said to C, some of this is just a function of time. I believe there is a grieving process, and we all go through it at our own pace. Don't forget, I've been out of therapy for almost 2 years, and I was in therapy for 2 1/2 years, so I've had plenty of time!

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    1. Aw, thanks Regine! Glad you visited. God bless you too.

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  6. Thanks for the recommendation, Sunny, and I'm heading over to read that article. As yous ay, whether we have OCD or not, we all need to accept the things we cannot change, as much as we'd like to!

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    1. Absolutely, Janet. Life is always changing, and I believe our ability to adapt and accept those changes can have a huge impact on the quality of our lives.

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  7. Hi, Monique. I would like to thank you for trying to help people who suffer from OCD, a terrible, tricky, and debilitating disease. Short background, I was born and raised in an ultra orthodox Jewish family, and I developed a very strong OCD in high-school, and I didn't seek treatment until the rituals, and especially the thoughts took over my entire life. The reason I point out that I'm Jewish is because the Jewish literature talks a lot about the concept of accepting that everything is from God. But, from my experience, the intrusive thoughts doesn't even allow me enough room for considering what means acceptance. And if it does, I tend to accept many bad things that are unrealistic and saddening.

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  8. Hi Motty. Oh, I'm so, so sorry you are in so much pain. Intrusive thoughts are absolutely horrible! They are mostly a minor symptom for me, but I have experienced them enough and know enough about them to realize how terrorizing they are.

    I have no idea if this is what you are going through, but for me, at times, my Christianity was a complicating issue in my OCD. Well, maybe I should say that my misinterpretation of Christianity was a complicating issue in my OCD. I mention this, because if this is a problem for you, I do know of a man (I believe he may be a Rabbi?) who specializes in treatment of OCD in people who are Jewish. I can get you his name, if you like.

    I think that it may be very hard to reach acceptance of OCD if the symptoms are still really bad and overtaking your life. In fact, when my OCD was at its worst, I pretty much couldn't do anything, never mind accept my circumstances. You said that you received treatment. Was it CBT/ERP? Are you still in treatment now? Perhaps this is a subject you can bring up with your therapist.

    I would love to hear from you again, Motty.

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  9. Thanks for replying, Monique. I first went to treatment when I wasn't able to eat because as soon as I bit one side of a sandwich I right away thought that the other side will get contaminated before I finish it. Tears come down my face when I reflect about that time. Nevertheless, I was in therapy for 3 years (No meds) and my physical symptoms, like not being able to eat, vanished; or to be more accurate, I learned how to preclude the rituals. Now, during the whole process, I was breaking free from the way I was brought up. Meaning I started looking into the outside world, movies, internet, etc. things that my other sibiling don't do. Then I started giving up religion gradually and only internally, because if had done something that appears to be forbidden, I would be criticized, at best. Now after therapy, worries persisted but i thought they weren't OCD. So, I decided that I would fix my life if I turn to rabbis, so I went to multiple famous rabbis that tried to convince me why religion is so beautiful. After I met with rabbis, I started getting back to religion, but for short periodSOS only. , before the - what if there is No God started coming into my brain. I felt helpless, so I sought another therapist, who is working with me currently. This therapist tries to blame my upbringing to my OCD development which doesn't do any good to my relationship with my mother. Another thing, I suspect that the days that I was terrified for my life at any given moment affected my way of thinking. Thanks for reading.

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    1. Wow, that is awesome that you were able to overcome that eating contamination! How good for you. I'm sure that was not easy.

      Hmmm, that's interesting to me that your current therapist is spending time on your past and what could have caused your OCD. My psychologist didn't spend much time on my past. She wasn't even interested in why I had OCD, she was just interested in getting me better today. Interesting.

      So I'm assuming the rabbis you spoke to probably had very little understanding of OCD? The reason I say this is that it was probably hard for them to be helpful if they didn't understand the OCD mind.

      I have found that OCD (especially when it was at its worst) most definitely affects (affected) my way of thinking. Do you know about cognitive distortions? I used to specialize in those!

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    2. What is cognitive distortion?

      Do you have any OCD symptoms left, or you were able to overcome all of them?

      One of the hardest things about OCD is in situation when it's difficult to distinguish between what is normal and what is OCD.


      There is a book published by a rabbi about 50 years ago, where he says that a person with ocd should be relinquished from any decision making, meaning that someone should decide everything for the sufferer whether it's OCD or not.

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    3. Hey Motty. A cognitive distortion is kind of a faulty way of thinking. Most people struggle with them, but those of us with anxiety tend to have significant cognitive distortions. Some examples are polarized thinking, catastrophizing, emotional reasoning, etc. These distortions get in the way of thinking clearly and effectively fighting anxiety.

      Yes, I still do have a lot of OCD symptoms left. However, when I started CBT/ERP in 2009, I had a very severe case, so I am much, much better and I am able to enjoy a lot of life now. I would be even better, but I have not been working on my ERPs!

      At times, in the past, I would have a very hard time telling if something was OCD or not. This was partly because of those pesky cognitive distortions. Now I can usually tell if it is. If I start wondering if it is OCD, it usually is! I often look to other people I trust to see how they act, and I try to copy it.

      That sounds like an interesting book. It seems to me that the rabbi was trying to be very compassionate to OCD sufferers. In the last few decades, though, researchers have found out that that kind of approach would not be good for an anxiety sufferer. We need to fight our illness, and to start making decisions for ourselves as we grow in recovery. Does this make sense?

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    4. Hi, Monique. It's very saddening to hear that you still have a lot of OCD left.

      I don't know the nature of your OCD symptoms but if they are related to physical fear I can suggest you the following: The bigger the step you take is, the better you will get. OCD is looking for an easy way out, when in reality it doesn't exist. After you take a big leap, you will suffer for a short period, but then the anxiety is guaranteed to recede and you will get this feeling that for the first time in months, the sun actually came out.

      In essence, all we want and long for as OCD sufferers is the inner-peace we felt before the onset of the OCD. I sometimes stare at pictures of me as a 11 year old boy on vacation, it is something I keep on my phone so I don't forget what peace of mind is...

      The fact that people from all background can suffer from OCD serves as proof to me that my OCD isn't related to the fact that I drifted from religion, which is good since what can be worse of a feeling than guilt?

      God bless you.


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    5. Oh I'm really ok Motty. Yes I still have symptoms, but they are NOTHING like they were previously. The sun has definitely come out for me and there are periods of time (quite a few) when I do feel peace of mind. When I actually get around to doing ERPs these days, they are much easier to do and the anxiety goes away surprisingly fast. I would be much further along, but since I feel better, it's hard to push myself to feel a lot of pain again to continue my recovery. But continue I must and I'm currently thinking about how to motivate myself to move forward as I think I am trending slightly backward, as will happen if we don't keep moving forward. But my level of suffering is so much less than it used to be. I've definitely learned to tolerate distress much better and that is huge. I think it is great how much progress you've made. And sadly, I believe OCD affects all types of people from all types of cultures.

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  10. Thank you for sharing this, I look forward to reading the article. I hope you have a good weekend!

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    1. Thanks for visiting! I hope your weekend is good too! : )

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  11. Monique, blessings to you and thank you for sharing the info.

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  12. I love this article Sunny. I think the acceptance has made me more forgiving of myself when I have failures with OCD. It lets me move on and away from the guilt and all that and be joyful again.

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  13. Hi Krystal Lynn! Oh I so agree. Acceptance can help us in many ways, including forgiveness. We only have so much mental energy and if we spend it fighting reality it doesn't leave much energy left to work on other important things.

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