There is this false notion that being in recovery from OCD means that it doesn’t affect you anymore or that the intrusive thoughts disappear. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I am absolutely affected by my OCD and I still have intrusive thoughts. The main difference is I am (usually) able to recognize when my OCD has latched onto an idea and I can shrug off most intrusive thoughts. Years of ERP therapy have given me the tools I need to effectively manage my symptoms.
When I’m in it, like I was last week, I try to do these things:
1. I take a moment (or however long I need) to feel all the feelings that I have been trying to repress. Usually its fear and anxiety. Doing this helps me to acknowledge all of that uncomfortable stuff that is building up.
2. Instead of pretending like the obsessions are not running wild, I name them. I say them out loud or I write them down. This is scary because it’s like admitting that some dark part of myself exists but if we cannot admit our fears we cannot face them.
3.I identify my compulsive behaviors and I create boundaries around them. This is really hard to do but since I know it’s important I create a reward system. New shoes, sure! Cutting compulsions is rarely gratifying so doing the hard thing takes an extra push sometimes.
4.I do some imaginal exposures ASAP. This is a quick but detailed script that I read to myself a few times and while I do that I let myself feel the fear and possibility and I just ride it out. WITHOUT REASSURING MYSELF THAT ITS FAKE.
5. I create boundaries with my mind and cut the rumination. Instead of thinking about the obsession (which happens on purpose whether you like that or not), I say NO THANKS NOT DISCUSSING THAT. Or an old favorite, MAYBE THAT WILL HAPPEN. This is when I take another opportunity to feel my feelings. (Ideally we feel the feelings as they come, all the time.)
So there it is. My not easy but reliable tips to dig myself out of an obsession. Save this post for when you need some actionable steps while spiraling. And add in any tips that help you that I missed!