Sunday, February 21, 2016

OCD Lesson: Don't Reassure the Irrational

My OCD took a jab at me on Friday. It taunted, heckled, harassed.

A foreign physical symptom going on three days could only mean one of three things: imminent death, hospitalization or a serious illness. No exceptions. Those were the menu options of the evening.

I wanted to google (it's a verb now, right?). I've been google-free for months. Sure, the temptation is there from time to time. But Friday, Friday it roared. There should be sponsors for this.

I begged Brandon to do it for me. He could easily weed out bogus sites, obtain information and determine whether or not it's cause for concern. It wouldn't be a process of hours, a process of re-reading and cross-referencing and back again.

But he didn't deem it to be google-able. This was the agreement--to allow him to make the call when OCD considers everything a state of national security.

So he kept watching the basketball game.

I shifted in positions, assessing the sensation depending on how I twisted myself on the couch. Mental compulsion after mental compulsion.

He then casually piped in, "it could be gas."

Never before was I so happy to know it could be gas.

He elaborated that he recalled a friend of his with IBS describing a similar symptom.


It was enough to feed the demon. The menu had expanded. Imminent death, hospitalization, serious illness, or gas. It was enough to take the edge off. Was it reassurance? Maybe. But whatever it was, it weakened OCD's grip.

The fear of what exactly it is remains but on a different level. It's back to lingering in the background, fluctuating in its intensity as it pleases.

I don't know what it's like for someone who hasn't experienced the persuasive power of irrationality.  I don't know what it's like for someone who hasn't felt its urgency while also having the ability to look at the situation from a rational lens, a faint, blurred, rational lens. I don't know what it's like for someone to read this who hasn't been in that grueling battle. It's something that can be understood on an intellectual level, sure. But to truly know the depths of its despair, that's something one can only experience.

So that was Friday. And then Sunday came along.

Ah Sunday, the supposed day of rest. It was different trigger this time, which led to a secondary then tertiary trigger.

Not liking this whole theme of threes.

But for the Sunday portion of the story, I'm not focusing on the content of the triggers. They're scary and they're going to haunt me for awhile, this I know. It's actually kind of surreal that I went from shaking, sobbing and feeling inconsolable to accepting that, yes, these triggers are going to suck.

For the Sunday portion of the story, I'm focusing on my friend who happened to be with me when they occurred. The taunting, heckling and harassing from Friday was nothing. Sunday was time for some straight-up bullying from my OCD.

I don't tend to discuss my triggers as they are unfolding with people. Supporting someone with OCD looks differently. We're so used to offering reassurance and comfort to people when they're in distress: "it's all going to be okay."

With OCD, reassurance fuels the disease. And I've shared this knowledge with her over the past few months, helping her understand me on a level that I sometimes don't understand myself. She sat with me, knowing how OCD operates.

She let me be in my state. I argued with her, I had a "yes, but" for everything. Except she didn't take the bait. She let me argue as I heard glimpses of me in her words. It was as though the rational side of me was supporting the irrational side of me.

"The student has become the teacher," I laughed and sobbed.

As I write this, I pause to think about the triggers themselves and the dread and fear starts creeping back in. But I also think of the progress she pointed out to me--from feeling a sense of terror to then deciding that, yeah, these triggers are going to suck, but I'm not going to let them consume me. And they still want to consume me, do they ever still want to.

But on Sunday, I'm focusing on Krista.

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