Triggered and Exposed – But Free of Recycling Guilt

Anti-Matter is Going to Destroy the World.

Feels like I’m all about the OCD here lately, but can you blame me? For the past several weeks, preparing for the OCD TEXAS conference has been my life – so much so that I had to go to most of my professors and ask for assignment extensions and patience with my lack of class preparedness. Luckily, I have a really great group of professors who, for the most part, are willing to work around my OCD TEXAS commitments.

Now that the conference is over, my work load has decreased slightly in terms of OCD TEXAS. School, INSPIRE, and Interpersonal Relationships are now the primary focuses of my days, at least for the next couple of weeks, as I try to get caught back up and make it through my midterms heading into Spring Break. I’d love to say that it’s nice to not have OCD consuming my life.

But I can’t.

Maybe it’s the fact that the conference IS over. Perhaps it’s because I’m finally able to stop focusing on making sure everything is going perfectly for everyone else. Maybe it’s just God’s way of making sure I don’t forget how to manage OCD in between conferences. I don’t know. Either way, I feel like I’ve jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire. It’s just one of those weeks with the OCD. And now, I’m having to remind MYSELF of all the things I tell the people who come to me asking for help.

Case in point: Trigger Topics and Exposures

We talked about this at the group session I facilitated on Saturday at the conference. Exposures – the treatment method of choice for OCD. More effective than medication, more time consuming, more emotionally scarring. (But then, is it really a good day without a little emotional scarring?) For the uninformed, exposures are exactly what they sound like. Exposing oneself to triggers until the triggers become less terrifying. In group, the question was raised: Are you proactive or reactive? Do you seek out things that trigger your OCD or do you wait for them to happen and then deal with them?

I am a very reactive person, when it comes to OCD. I wasn’t always – I did the work. But these days, I don’t see much good in seeking out things that are going to make me temporarily miserable. It works for some people, the seeking, but I like my method. I get to enjoy the spaces in between the OCD, and when it comes up, I handle it then. Proactive for me leads to obsessing about my OCD, which I refuse to do. No – I’ll live my life. And I’ll wait for the opportunities to arrive. I’ll wait for the OCD to come up.

The problem with this is that when it DOES come up, it can be nasty. In reactive treatment, there is no preparing. I don’t get to choose what my state of mind is like when something bothers me. I don’t get to decide to deal with it when I have time. Convenience? Ha. Would that I should be so lucky. Most days, with reactive treatment, it is inopportune and a massive pain in the ass.

Which is why I’ve spent the last twenty minutes repeating to myself “anti-matter is going to destroy the world,” even though I should be working diligently on my Russian homework. (Blogging I can do during exposures. Homework, not so much.)

My dear friend Identifies-As-An-Anarchist Molly is a lovely girl. She has a tendency to say things that make me turn around, with a look of confusion on my face, and say, “Did you ACTUALLY just say….” Just a little while ago, for example, Molly said to me, “My friend is thinking of dying her rabbit purple. But she’ll need to bleach it first.”

If that’s not a WTF moment, I don’t know what is.

The problem with this is that Molly also says things like “They’ve discovered anti-matter in England and it may destroy the world in six months.”

For me, that is a trigger topic – something that is likely to stick in my head and repeat itself ad nauseam, until I feel so anxious that I’m compelled to do things like wash, straighten, and multiply so that I can somehow prevent the catastrophe from occurring. Everyone with OCD has these topics. Some of us have more of them than others. Often, they’re what-if questions that get into our brains and spiral out of control. And the more you fight the thoughts, the more insistent they become.

On a good day, I could have ignored Molly. Today, I knew as soon as the words came out of her mouth that they were going to be a problem. I can always tell, because the words hit me squarely in the chest and my first thought is aw hell. I have to make a decision. Do I fight it? Do I do an exposure? Do I try to put off the exposure and let the thoughts run rampant in my head while I struggle through workbook pages of Russian homework?

I know what my preference is.

Put it off as long as possible. Procrastinate. Don’t do the work. This is what the OCD Badger tells me to do, I’m convinced, because he knows that the longer I wait, the harder it will be to get past the thought. I can FUNCTION through the anxiety. So why not wait until I have time to deal with it? Right? Shove the nasty thoughts into the back corner of my brain until they become so insistent that I’m having a conversation with someone completely on autopilot.

It’s true. I’ve had entire conversations without ever engaging, because the OCD in my head has taken over.

But today, I won’t. Today I remind myself that doing the exposure – even if it’s silently – will make things better. It is, after all, what I’d tell anyone else to do.

Anti-matter is going to destroy the world.

I keep repeating that, instead of telling myself that Molly is probably wrong. That nothing will happen. Because negating the thought allows me to play what if. Instead, I have to deal with the possibility. And remind myself that it’s a lifelong journey, this battle with OCD.

On the upside… if anti-matter is going to destroy the world in six months, I guess I don’t really have to feel guilty for throwing out my Mt. Dew bottle earlier  instead of recycling it. At least there’s that.



6 Responses to “Triggered and Exposed – But Free of Recycling Guilt”

  1. And at least we will all die together…. or something.
    Hmm now where is this? Austin … an you guys have a rabbit that are purple. Interesting.

  2. Boy, I could save a lot of time worrying about the future if it’s all going to be over in 6 months! Good work on the exposure. And congrats on the successful conference!

  3. Would you mind if I quoted some of this post on my blog? I find the whole proactive vs reactive ERP Therapy interesting…….


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