To Keep or Dismantle My Network of Vices

I have never considered myself to have an “addictive personality”; whatever that means.  For most of my life, I could take or leave alcohol, cigarettes and food, but more recently things have looked very different to me.  I wasn’t using the classic poisons to escape my emotions, but rather self-destructive habits like starving, cutting or casual sex to get out of my conscious.   I have also noticed that when I drink alcohol, a story of regret usually follows.   I do not know if this means I would be better off avoiding my vices or just dealing with it for the time being.  After all, cutting out alcohol, sugar, sex, smoking weed and self-harm sound like a lot.  Logically, I know that I need healthy ways to cope with my emotions, but I feel addicted to my tendencies and am intimidated by the work ahead of me.  I anticipate being alone for quite a while.

One step at a time I guess.

OCD Gone

That’s right; it’s pretty much gone.  The illness that defined me and served as the source for much of my suffering is finally at bay.  I had tried everything (except SSRIs) and many things had helped, but not cured.  I actually did not believe OCD could go away.  Here’s what happened:

I went to a naturopath.  I had seen naturopaths before, but none like this.  In fact, I have seen quite a few medical professionals including your classic MDs, specialists, and alternative practitioners.  To me, I wasn’t on the east or west side of medicine, I just wanted someone, anyone, to help me.

I went to see this particular naturopath for my chronic systemic infections.  I was sick a lot and was told by my current doctors that all the tests had been done and there was nothing more to try, but I am not one to be content with that answer.  And when I say I was sick a lot, I’m talking not serious stuff, but enough to disrupt my life.  During my last quarter in college, I had gotten Whooping Cough twice, Strep Throat once, a Staph infection, a sinus infection, an ear infection, and countless UTIs and yeast infections.  This is why I dropped out of school; I physically was not healthy enough to tolerate the stress.

The naturopath informed me that I had a hormonal imbalance, high cortisol levels, food allergies, a fatty liver and imbalanced serotonin levels.  She told me to avoid certain foods, and to stop smoking pot.  She suggested progesterone cream and some supplements for my hormones.  She also prescribed a host of different supplements.  I followed every bit of advice she gave me to perfection.  That first week, I slept better than I had ever in my whole life.  I was able to get weed out of my routine in a few weeks.  After a month, I was a different person.  I felt calm, I was no longer compulsing and my brain was no longer obsessing.  I tried bringing some of the foods she told me to eliminate back into my diet, and I experienced very unpleasant results, which verified what she had said (not that I needed verification).

I still have my bad days, but the tools I learned in therapy are enough to help me cope with that.

What I have learned from this experience is that health most certainly does not come for free; it takes work.  I have also learned that to heal, one must heal the whole body.  We are a balanced system and if one thing is off, who knows where the symptom might pop up?

I believed that if my OCD would just go away, I would be unstoppable, or at least that my life would be infinitely better.  My life is much better, but I am facing a different set of challenges.  Though the OCD caused a lot of my pain, it was not the source of all my pain.  The OCD is a symptom of even more shit I need to work through.

So, I am in therapy again.

When my OCD was at it’s worst, I wanted nothing more than for it to leave me alone.  Now, I want more…. to be happy.

Self Harm – Sometimes Scars Are Not Worth Having

I have always felt the need to punish myself.  Even as a child in a non-practising religious family, I felt compelled to confess my sins.  Not knowing what I actually wanted was reassurance for my shamefully obsessive thoughts, I wanted justice and forgiveness for thinking the worst things ever to be thought.

It started out with food.  I would deny myself.  I would use the ache of hunger to take my mind out of the mental loops.  Even if I knew I had not done anything terrible, I still wanted to make things “right’.  I felt guilty all the time, even hearing a story on the news about something a thousand miles away.  I started piercing, over and over again.  Letting the piercing site heal and then doing it again.  I started to enjoy the pain.

Then I cut myself.  Drunk, on the floor with a blunt kitchen knife on my wrists.  I had no intention of suicide, it was just a place.  I wanted the scar.  I couldn’t stop and then my legs looked a mess.

I wear pants almost all the time now as I wait for the scars to heal; the scars I wanted as a way of proving that I had atoned.  It was not until something clicked with the help of a councilor that I realized that pain did not mean healing.  It blew my mind.  Pain did not mean healing and it was then that I did not want my scars anymore.  For the first time, I felt that I had hurt myself and that it was wrong.  I felt bad that way I would feel if someone else had hurt me.

I cant even fathom cutting myself again, until those days when I am depressed; then I feel the desire come back a little, but not even close to enough to go through with it.  I can’t accept that anymore.  It’s almost like I am two people at times.

I am now learning to respect myself and it is so challenging in some ways.  I just want to be normal.

“The OCD-Girl”: Identifying with OCD

The idea that OCD and I had this almost Jekyll and Hyde relationship defined me more than I would care to admit. Because of therapy and tending to all my health problems, my OCD is at a minimum. So much so, that I rarely see it as part of my life anymore. This was amazing; not having OCD steer my ship anymore, but it wasn’t that simple. Who was I now that my OCD was mostly gone? I had such severe OCD, that I had trouble keeping a job, few friends, and threw out stuff (opposite of hoarding). I dressed plainer than Jane, hated traveling and feared everything. Now that I was not this girl anymore, I hated my clothes, hated how I acted, hated that I had no career…It was like that movie with Val Kilmer where he plays a blind man, but gets his vision (not as extreme, but you get the idea). He was confused by shadows and mirrors and though he could see, he still lived the life of a bind person. I felt like I was still living the life of OCD and I hated it.

I am sad. At first, I felt spoiled for not being full of pure glee for my new mind, and I assumed that the adjustment period was to blame. I then realized that this sad feeling is too much. For years, I have been told I had depression and I would always deny it. For some reason, I refused to admit to it. Now that OCD is not the main issue, I feel like these other issues are coming to the surface which, though painful, is for the best.  Now I am in therapy again for the depression and continuing to work on my physical health.  That was the biggest difference for me, healing the body as a whole.

I am not the “OCD-Girl” and though it makes me a little unnerved to feel like I don’t know who I am anymore, I feel hope in knowing that I am now free to find out.

How to Find a Good Therapist for OCD?

Ok, you have decided you are finally ready for therapy.  So, how do you find a good therapist?  And when I say “good”, I don’t mean qualified, because most practicing therapists are legally qualified; I’m talking about someone who listens, respects you, has beneficial input and someone with whom you are comfortable with.  It is important that you are comfortable with your therapist because if you don’t have a framework of trust, it’s not going to work.

You can call your insurance company for a list of names, you can seek free or low cost therapy, you can ask your school councilor for referrals, you can google “ocd therapist near….”

Phew!  So, now you have some names, and then you make the calls.  When I called the therapists on my list, I left messages with almost every single one of them.  Many returned my call and when they did, I had a list of questions ready:

  1. Do you have experience treating OCD? If not, then don’t even bother.  Not all therapy is equivalent.  Some types can actually make things worse; so stick with what’s been proven to work.  If they say “no”, you can ask for referrals or advice on how to find one.  This is actually the way I found mine.
  2. Are you accepting new clients? If not, but you really want them, you can wait.  Or move on.
  3. What kind of therapy do you use to treat OCD? i.e. ACT, CBT, EMDR…It is wise to do a little reading on the difference between these types of therapy.  You can always ask the therapist as well.  My therapist asked if I would prefer to go with the ACT approach or the CBT approach.  He explained both and I picked the one that sounded best to me.
  4. What are your rates and do you accept insurance or offer sliding scale?
  5. Ask to setup an orientation or first meeting if you think everything sounds good.  Keep in mind, a first session is most often you discussing your history, filling out a questionnaire and feeling things out.

The first therapist I tried out was awful.  She seemed nice, but when I talked about my history, she made comments that really just pushed my buttons.  I felt judged.  At the end of the session, she gave me some pages from an OCD workbook to do as homework.  I was less than impressed.

I left, not really sure if that was normal or not.  I didn’t like her, I knew that much, but I wasn’t sure if I should give her a few sessions to make sure.  I also wondered if maybe I was trying to get out of therapy subconsciously.  I told the story to my husband and sister and I realized that the more I talked about it, the more it bothered me and I decided not to see her again and to look elsewhere.

I started calling other therapists and I began asking the ones who said they had no experience in treating OCD if they could recommend someone.  One suggested I check with anxiety center in my area and I found a therapy group specifically geared to treat OCD.  I spoke to one on the phone and decided to give him a try.

I had my first session with him and I knew he was going to be the one I wanted to help me.  I felt comfortable and agreed with his philosophies on treatment.  Everything felt “right” and I have been seeing him for a few months now.

The search may be frustrating as it was for me, but when you find a good one, it will be worth it.

HOCD – Horrified to be gay (or straight).

I was trying to explain what this was like to a friend the other day, and it was a bit challenging.  Not only was I trying to simply define the term, I was trying to explain how I figured out I was bisexual despite my obsessions.  I came across this article that I’m not going to even try to sum up because it is THAT GOOD.

Click here to read “Sexual Orientation OCD, aka HOCD / Gay OCD – Part 1” by John Hershfield of the OCD Center, LA.

I learned a lot about myself from this piece and hope others find some interest as well.