A few days ago, I was met with a situation that immediately spiked my OCD and irrational thoughts. However, I ended up being one step ahead of my OCD and defeated its logic, which was something I was very surprised at. In a nutshell, I couldn’t attend a therapy appointment because my psychologist was unwell. So cue OCD and immediately starting to think that I had caused her illness because I had been recently challenging some of my compulsions and thus hadn’t been conforming to OCD’s wishes (how dare I), and so I must’ve caused bad things to happen to people because of this. Now I know to most people this seems a completely irrational and flawed explanation of said situation, however, OCD can be so powerful and will honestly trick you into believing it’s logic…So here I was, presented with an OCD ready situation. However, although I initially mentally/internally freaked out, I actually managed to rationalise with myself and took one step in front of my OCD, before it sent me spiralling. So, how did I manage to do this?
I managed to acknowledge that OCD had jumped into the driving seat and realised that I needed to take a step back and assess what was going on. Initially, this was really hard to do, especially due to my initial ‘omg freak out, everything has gone to shit because of me’ response, but sometimes I find I just have to talk over my OCD even if it’s extremely loud and intrusive. I talked myself through the situation in the best way that I could, pinpointing aspects such as the OCD logic suggesting that, for example, by not tapping my shoe rack before I got into bed, I’ve caused ill health on someone I care about.
2) Dispute & Give Evidence
I then tried to dispute the statement with evidence of previous exposures and also skills that I’ve learnt in therapy. So, I started to pull apart the OCD logic in reasonable mind (paying attention to just the empirical facts). Will tapping a shoe rack really cause ill health? Nope. Will choosing the purple towel over the grey towel really cause bad things to happen? Hell no. However, I know that this alone isn’t usually enough to help me get one up on OCD. So next I tried to find evidence to back up my arguments against OCD. I ended up thinking back to some exposures I did over 3 years ago (it’s remarkable how relevant they can still be, which is why exposures are so important people!) where I spent several weeks trying to mentally wish illness upon my psychologist in order to challenge the fear of causing illness. Did I manage to cause ill health? Nope! Sometimes I need to be firm with myself when going through my evidence, as I can easily succumb to the anxiety and OCD thoughts. So, I also said some of my evidence out loud as I felt it gave it a bit more strength.
3) Distract & Keep Occupied
Once I’d tried disputing the OCD logic, I then focused on finding something to distract myself with. I find if I endlessly dispute, I can get tied up in knots and ultimately end up analysing so hard that I actually create evidence from minor details to back up my OCD instead of disputing against it. A whirlwind, I know, but I can actually end up doing this. So I have to be very straight to the point and a little bit harsh with the second step. At the time, I was still feeling pretty anxious, so I knew it was going to be very easy for me to fall back into ruminating about the logic OCD had presented. So I decided to play a video game (LoZ Twilight Princess) for a while. I also made the decision to help make dinner as another way to distract later on in the evening. When I have something else to focus my attention on, it can help block some of the pesky OCD thoughts from having as much power.
4) Briefly Refute OCD Logic When Necessary
Whilst distracting, I was revisited by several intrusions from OCD stating things like ‘but are you sure you didn’t cause ill health? Ya sure buddy?‘ As unfortunately, OCD doesn’t shut up quite as easily as we’d like. Grr. In this situation, I gave a brief, forward response such as ‘No. I did not cause it. This is magical thinking. I can’t think illness upon people‘ and leave it at that. No further disputing or evidence, for the reasons stated above. I did have to keep giving quick responses like that throughout the evening, as OCD would butt in quite regularly but, in the end, I did manage to really tackle situation as a whole and take charge of my OCD and it’s flawed logic.
I know the process above seems really long winded, but it actually occurred quite quickly in the moment. This is also just how I personally manage and tackle my OCD. It may not work for everyone, as we’re all at different stages, but that’s totally okay. It’s all about adapting your own personal strategies and if my strategy ends up being of help and guidance then that’s awesome! Honestly, if you’d told past me that I’d actually be able to manage a situation like the one above, I’d probably keel over. I just wanted to show that it really is possible to have a one up on your OCD. To be in charge of it, rather than it being in charge of you. Whilst it still can tricky at times, I’m so much further forward with tackling my OCD than I ever imagined to be.
I hope this came in handy for some of you and always remember…you are so, so much more than OCD. You da boss.