As promised, an update. OCD life has been weird lately. It’s definitely still there, and I’m not where I was when I stopped going to therapy in October 2011, but I’m doing pretty well right now. I’m not entirely sure why, but I have a few theories.
It Gets Worse
My life has completely changed in the last few months. Up until October 2012, I’d been dating my last boyfriend for six years. We broke up, and everything was really bad for awhile. I was depressed, and my OCD went out of control. The skin on my wrists and knuckles was cracking really bad, no matter how much lotion I applied. I was going through hand sanitizer too quickly. I was avoiding things that would make me want to wash my hands because I was washing them way too much.
Don’t get me started on obsessive thoughts. They were completely unchecked, and I couldn’t keep up with school. I ended up having to take two incompletes my first semester in this master’s program. Not a great start.
I had also started checking things again, namely my garage door, which I’d managed not to check for months. That was a tough pill to swallow, the first time I turned around and drove home to check it after having left for work. And I was living in my townhome alone, so I started, for the first time ever, checking all of the locks at night. Multiple times.
Even my non-OCD fears got bad. I went back to have a paralyzing fear of the dark, something I only just overcame in the last couple of years.
And dermatillomania was probably the worst it’s ever been. It was embarrassing and disgusting and painful.
I was back to being disabled, and I had no idea how I was going to bounce back from it.
But Then it Gets Better
I felt really helpless, but I did what little I could to fight against this latest onslaught of OCD and general anxiety. I didn’t have a whole lot to fight with, but I was determined not to succumb completely—though some days I was tempted to just let it take over entirely. It would have been so easy.
It’s funny because this time, my improvement wasn’t a result of months of painstakingly difficult work. No, this time things shifted for the better quickly and without any specific effort on my part. In early January, I moved into my own apartment close to my school. I had my parents bring me some furniture from my room back home because all of the furniture at my old place belonged to my ex. It was my first time every having my own place. Since leaving my parents’ houses in 2006, I’d always had a roommate of some kind.
My theory is that this huge lifestyle change flipped some kind of switch in my head and allowed me to retake control. OCD backed off quite a bit. Depression, too. I’m still depressed. It’s going to take awhile to get past that. I’ve spent most of my life holding depression at bay, and it finally got a foothold. I have no idea what I’m doing in that battle. But things with OCD are looking up. For now.
I’m washing my hands less. The cracking has healed. I really only apply lotion at night now instead of throughout the day like I was doing for awhile. My supply of hand sanitizer is lasting a lot longer now, which is good because my industrial-sized pump is running low.
I’m also picking less (thankfully). The skin on my fingers is starting to heal, as are the scabs on my arms. I’m hoping that my nails will grow out soon, too. I’m not ashamed of my hands now. They’ve got a long way to go, and I did some serious damage to them this time, but they’re healing.
Bigger things than that have happened, though. I don’t HAVE to take a shower before bed now. Before this year, I can’t tell you how long it had been since I went to bed without showering first. My bed has always been my ultimate clean zone. I HAD to be clean. It HAD to be clean. If I had the slightest inkling that something had contaminated my sleeping space, the sheets had to immediately be washed, no matter the hour. I always always ALWAYS showered in the evenings. And once I’d showered, I couldn’t leave and go anywhere. Once I’d showered, I was stuck at home until the next day. But lately, sometimes I get home from class or from being out, and it’s late, and I’m tired, so I just go to bed and shower in the morning.
I know, this sounds like no big deal, but trust me, it’s a huge deal for me. The first time I did it, I could barely believe it was happening, but I wasn’t anxious about it at all. Anyway, I won’t keep going on about the showering thing, but I’ve been really excited about it.
My social anxiety has also improved. I’m meeting lots of new people on a regular basis, and I’m handling it really well. And (surprise, surprise) the more people I meet, the easy it is to be around people. Large groups are still scary but slightly less so.
Without so much anxiety bringing me down from all directions, I’m more confident that I’ve ever been, and I’m having so much fun with it. I’m trying all kinds of things I was always too afraid to try (sushi, most recently—amazing, by the way). I’m suddenly finding the courage to face fears I’d only ever dreamed of facing (needles! I know, right?!).
I have just been amazed at the things that I’m finding myself able to do, and I’m trying to take advantage of this while I can. I’m determined to expose myself to as much as I can while I have the strength and guts to do it in hopes that I can gain significant ground in this exhausting fight. I just hope that I don’t burn myself out and backslide. It has happened before. But when it happened before, I was pushing myself the whole way. This time, for whatever reason, anxiety has backed off on its own. I’m not going to let this opportunity slip through my fingers.
Anyway, now is the time to introduce me to new activities and foods. I’ve been really open and spontaneous lately. I know that doesn’t sound like me at all, but I’m having a blast. We’ll see how long this lasts.