I got this idea and it’s been working so I am going to share it with you here.
Although my OCD is mostly gone, I still have trouble dealing with the ups and downs of life. The maladaptive coping strategies I used to deal with my OCD are so ingrained, that when something uncomfortable comes up, I fall right back into using one of those techniques. Some of these maladaptive coping techniques I am referring to would include drinking, self medicating and other forms of escapism, panic, catastrophizing. isolating and avoidance, etc. I learned some healthy strategies to handle stress like exercising and journaling which did help a lot, but sometimes I just did my “tried and true”. I want to be healthy, but sometimes my self-limiting thoughts really get in the way (“I’m not good enough, I’m not worthy, etc”) and it’s not easy to push myself to journal or go workout. The problem with the “tried and true” less healthy ways to handle stress is that often times, the problems did not get fixed and I would stay depressed for a while noticing the self-esteem falling further.
After a pretty scary event, I decided it was time (again) to get serious about restructuring things. It hit me! And this is when I came up with what I call “the Letter Project”. Each day, I would write a letter to myself. The letter would be written from a vulnerable part of myself like the part of me that’s afraid to cry or the part of me that’s afraid I can’t handle things. The next time I felt anxious and maybe temped to self medicate or something, the deal would be that I would first have to read all these letters (which is not something I want to do because it has been a bit emotional to write them) and still think it would be a good idea to do whatever I had in mind. I have been writing letters for about two months and so far I have been successful at employing healthy coping strategies to deal with stress.
I am giving a sense of expression to the small vulnerabilities that I normally try to suppress. It is not easy as with OCD, the norm has been to get far away from discomfort because that small sense of unease might rapidly turn into a spike. These healthy habits I am creating are teaching me that a little discomfort will happen, is normal, usually do not have to turn into more, and will pass.
Learning to be more accepting of yourself and what makes you vulnerable is not easy, but we are fighters! Commit to not quitting and know that you can do this.