There seems to be a common phenomenon shared by many after they first start treatment for OCD (or even after they have been engaged in treatment for awhile), and it involves the OCD fighting back.
We’d hope, of course, that OCD suddenly became passive once we decided to stand up to it. Unfortunately, that is not usually the case. Instead, it often seems like the OCD hits back harder when we decide enough is enough and attempt to go on the offensive against it.
Sadly, OCD is not one to go out quietly and admit defeat.
This is unfortunate, especially for those who are more timid or not as convinced that they ought to stand up to the OCD at all, at least at this juncture. It can derail exposures and push a person back five steps, even if they’ve only taken, say, two baby steps forward.
One thing that I’ve found helpful to remember is that we don’t have to keep track of all of our steps forward and backward. It can be discouraging to think, “Okay, I did this one thing to fight the OCD but then I gave in and did three compulsions, so I’m actually behind. Now I have to do four more exposures or five to get ahead… or something.”
Our fight towards recovery doesn’t have to be measured and calculated so precisely. Sometimes we are charging ahead, and sometimes the OCD will push us back. This is not unusual. It does not mean you are doing it wrong or that your recovery is impossible. That is simply what happens. It’s how OCD and the fight against it works. Sometimes you win a battle, sometimes you lose four. But the point, cheesy and cliche as it might be, is that you keep going. You don’t stop.
Yes, there will be some days that feel impossible. You might wake up and feel like you’ve already surrendered the entire day. Lately, I’ve tried reminding myself that each moment and each battle will end. Something will happen. The moment doesn’t last forever. The outcome might not be my ideal scenario, but I can deal with it when it happens. I have choices.
That’s the thing, right? We have choices. Each thing that happens, each obsession we are faced with from the OCD, and each compulsion “carrot” dangling in front of us presents us with a choice. Sometimes we act immediately, on impulse. Usually that kind of choice leads the OCD to win that round. Sometimes we pause and still let OCD win. But even then, it doesn’t mean we have failed forever. The next choice will soon arrive. And we can try again. We can fight back against the OCD fighting back.
It’s tiring, yes, but it’s also somewhat predictable. OCD’s patterns are predictable. Obsession. Discomfort. Compulsion. We just have to try to break the cycle.