I had lunch with a couple of friends from high school today. We talked about some of the crazy stuff we did in high school (what else?). There were tunnels that ran beneath our high school’s auditorium and into the proscenium arch. We used to go down into the tunnels and explore. (Mind you, there were critters down there, I’m sure. We never saw any, but those tunnels were gross.) At first, I just enjoyed reminiscing with my friends and then I realized something: I went down in those tunnels without having any kind of panic attack or difficulty. I went down in those nasty, dirty tunnels. Sure, as soon as I came out, I doused my hands in hand sanitizer, but I went down there! That was only four years ago. I would be unable to do that today. I would make it as far as standing over the hole in the floor and would probably have a panic attack at the thought of going into such a disgusting place. It was frustrating to realize how much more I was able to ignore just four short years ago.
Keeping up with the little homework my therapist assigned for this week has been much more difficult than I expected it to be. On Monday after therapy, I just forgot about it. I am so used to doing things the way I do them, so used to washing and sanitizing my hands after touching things, that not cleaning didn’t even cross my mind.
On Tuesday, I realized that I had neglected to do my homework the day before and felt like a complete failure. (Did I mention that I’m a perfectionist who is really hard on herself?) So I was determined to accomplish something that day. I turned the pressure up. Bad idea! I ended up so stressed-out over needing to do my homework that I felt compelled to clean even more. Suffice it to say, if you are trying to not perform an OCD ritual, do not stress yourself out over it. You will be much worse off if you pressure yourself. If you mess up, don’t sweat it. It won’t come naturally or even easily. If it were easy, well, then it wouldn’t be OCD.
On Wednesday, I drove out to West Texas to visit family. I love my family and enjoy spending time with them, but regardless of that, visiting is stressful. It’s not bad, just stressful. So between that and being in a car all afternoon, I wasn’t able to get much accomplished. By the time I got into town I was too tired to care whether or not I was giving in to compulsions.
I was still settling in on Thursday, so yet again, I didn’t manage to avoid any rituals. I started getting really frustrated with myself, too. I started thinking that I was never going to be able to do this. If I can’t do these small things, why on Earth do I think I can tackle any of it? I hated myself every time I went to the sink or grabbed my hand sanitizer. Every time, my mind would chant, “Failure! Failure! Failure! Failure!”
Today has been better, though. I’m not sure if the supplements are kicking in or if something else is going on, but I have managed a couple of times today to either delay washing or forgo washing altogether. Even just those couple of times felt monumental to me. When you have OCD, it’s all about the little victories. Yes, 99% of the time that I wanted to wash my hands today, I did. Every other day it has been 100%.
We will see what happens tomorrow. For now, I am proud of myself. I feel silly admitting that because most of you will think that I didn’t really do anything. I know that I did, though. I know that I resisted a compulsion and survived it. That’s a big deal. I’m taking baby steps forward, but the key word here is forward.