I noticed it again the other day. I was sitting in the dentist’s chair during the more painful part of a root canal. The drill struck a particularly painful spot, and all of a sudden it happened. Something in my brain told me to use the moment as an ERP training exercise. It was a challenge to habituate myself to the pain. I took a few deep breaths, gave into the pain and let my body relax. Almost instantly the experience changed. It still hurt, but I didn’t care as much. I spent no energy trying to avoid the pain.
(And by the way, if any of the terms like “ERP” or “habituate” are new to you, it might be best to read the Wikipedia entry and then check out the Exposure-Response Prevention section of this blog for first-hand accounts of using this technique to cope with severe OCD symptoms.)
But before we move forward let’s back up. I started trying the Exposure-Response Prevention technique about two years ago. During the worst of my OCD experience I experimented with ERP as a last resort, for hours at a time at first, then daily but for shorter periods, then now only when necessary. And now ERP has become a sort of built-in defense mechanism. The process has become internalized and is triggered by anxiety.
I can honestly say that after two years of practicing ERP and taking Luvox that my whole experience with OCD symptoms is different. It’s like the dentist’s drill. I still experience OCD anxiety, and I still have obsessive thoughts and ritualistic behavior, but I don’t experience them with the same dread and frequency as before. The majority of my time now is spent between OCD thoughts. As a result, they become even more recognizable, and so on.
You’ll quickly notice that there has been more space between my posts as well. The reason is that I don’t think about OCD as much. There is definitely more to say, but now I have the luxury of talking about the climate instead of the weather. That may change, but it is very reassuring to know that, even if the symptoms get worse in the future, I already have a mechanism for coping with them.
I think it is safe to assume the worst is over. And even if that isn’t true, it’s the first time I’ve been optimistic in a while.
In the meantime, there is plenty to read here on just about any point in the OCD-Freak-Out spectrum (and also some music videos). I’m happy to answer any post right away.
Be well. Fight back. Win.