OCD – Going Numb

Watching my OCD symptoms diminish was the most incredible and empowering thing, but it scared me because as my compulsions slipped, so did my emotional sensitivity and I was left feeling numb.  

This is a frightening feeling.  I wondered what parts of my personality my OCD would take with it and I felt my identity threatened.  What if Van Gogh or other tortured artists never had their depression? Would they still be artists?  Do you need misery to fuel passion?  

I saw an episode of “House” where Dr. H discusses this in a great way:

“Miserable? You think that by taking meds you’ll lose your edge? Stop making the unique connections that make you a successful doctor?” 
   “If Van Gogh was your patient, he’d be satisfied painting houses instead of ‘The Starry Night’.” 
   “Van Gogh would still be making inspired paintings of the night sky. Just maybe not from the room of his asylum.” 
   “You don’t know that.” 
   “I know both his ears would be intact. And I know his life would be better.”


My therapist showed me to look at my numb feeling like a concert.  When you walk outside a concert where the music was blaring, you feel like there’s clouds in your ears and everything is quieter than it should be.  It’s not that the world suddenly spoke in a whisper, it’s that you get used to high volume and moving into a normal range feels quieter than it really is, BUT it eventually levels out and that “quiet world” starts to sound normal.  

With OCD you feel everything extreme in your emotional range.  Everything is severe, so when you start to turn down the volume on your emotions, it feels numb.  

After my OCD became asymptomatic, I felt euphoric, but then I crashed into an identity crisis.  Who was I without my OCD?  It felt wrong and bad not knowing who I was because I questioned everything in my life from my breakfast choices to my husband, but what I would tell someone else going through the same thing is that don’t beat yourself up during this search for the self.  You’ll find your identity, but it will take time.  

Today I am no longer the “OCD Girl”, but I am a girl with OCD.  My OCD is not the star of the show, but it’s a part of my story, and that’s ok. 

Book Review for “The Mindfulness Workbook for OCD”

I have been reading the “The Mindfulness Workbook for OCD” by Jon Hershfield and Tom Corboy, and I’m not finished with it yet, but I am really enjoying it.  I was pleasantly surprised because so many OCD books tell you stuff you could google, and since many of us OCDers are online looking up this stuff anyway….

The book’s philosophy comes from mindfulness based therapy which I am a huge appreciator of.  This style of therapy is rooted in believing that the patient is not broken or damaged, but needing some reworking of thought processes that lead to low self esteem, depression and false belief systems about reality and the self.  It has a lot to do with learning to accept which is not easy, but in my experience rewarding.  

I’m an analogy person.  It’s how I understand the world around me and how I learn about myself.  There are some good ones in this book, so I am looking forward to finish it.  For example, one thing in particular that I get irritated by is when people say “o, you have OCD?  What do you do, like what are your compulsions?”  It makes me feel like they want to satisfy their intrusive curiosity more than they actually care.  The authors discuss this situation saying “you’d never ask a person with IBS to describe their latest bowel movement”.  So true!  They suggest a few possible responses to this like saying that “it’s personal” or “my symptoms change and evolve over time just as my anxiety does” which could stir the conversation back to the fact that OCD is an anxiety disorder, not a tv show.

 And while books are not a substitute for therapy, I do find that having some useful ones nearby can make some of the tougher times a little less tough.