The longer I have OCD, the more I realize that it’s not cut and dry. Yes, it follows the same pattern. Yes, “battling it” also follows the same general patterns. But that doesn’t make it easy to overcome or live with, day by day, for us (or for our family members and loved ones).
We are fluid and changing people. Our lives change. Our physical health changes. Medications change. Social situations change. We get new responsibilities or get relieved of old ones. We live in a constant state of flux, and that affects our mental health. We can’t expect things to stay the same with our OCD or mental health when our lives are shifting all the time around it.
I guess I thought that once I “mastered” my OCD, I would be good. I would know what to do and be awesome at doing it. This is not always the case. In fact, some days it’s rarely the case. People might expect me to have it together, but I often don’t. I may have “conquered” an exposure one day, but the next day I might be worried about it again and not want to repeat it.
I feel like living with OCD is climbing the same mountain over and over again. You get to the top and then fall back down the other side. Or you almost get to the top and slide down. Or maybe you only get a few feet up and slip back some inches. But the concept works, at least for me: living with obsessive compulsive means having to climb the same mountain over and over again, for the rest of my life.
Exposure Wins and Losses
Lately, I have been working on wearing clothing for at least two days before washing it. I’m not great at this. I have a lot of anxiety about it and don’t even don’t it that much—definitely not all the time (especially with shirts or dresses). But I’ve noticed that when I attempt to do an exposure that causes me higher anxiety, I slip up in littler ways that I had previously conquered (i.e. hand washing). So, my hand washes and anxiety about hands being unclean has increased while I’m simultaneously trying to do “bigger” exposures like wearing clothes more than one day (or sitting on the ground in my house and outside without a blanket or other “safety measure”).
This is discouraging. It feels like I am winning the war but losing a lot of battles. Or maybe just losing the battles and the war but getting some good shots in every so often. Some days are really hard and I get super discouraged, knowing I could and should be able to do or not do certain things, but I gave in and failed. Yep, some days just feel like failures, and I end the day with sore hands from over washing, knowing that I did a bunch of compulsions when I shouldn’t have.
And it’s hard, you know? It’s really hard because I know that it’s not like someday I will be cured of this and I won’t have to worry about it anymore. OCD isn’t a curable disorder. It’s manageable, but manageable means that you (I) still have to manage it. It takes work. And when you don’t manage or work at it, it usually gets worse. It’s tiring.
And it’s hard because you often have an audience (family members, friends, etc.) who expect you to be moving forward… but sometimes you are just done. You need a break. So don’t get too discouraged. Just take your break and try to climb back up that mountain again. And again. And again.