Hi, it’s been a while!
I am writing today because I have been meaning to but in all honesty, and I promised I would be honest in my journey, I have been avoiding. This might not make sense to start with as I talk about recovery but bear with me. I reached recovery a couple of months ago. A place where in January I didn’t think I could ever reach. I worked my socks off in therapy and I was discharged from counselling a few weeks ago. It took me time to accept recovery, a strange concept because I thought I would just know when I was there, that I would feel the obvious ‘recovered’ feeling but it didn’t happen like that for me. It wasn’t a defining moment, or a specific day. It sort of gradually seeped through me. OCD felt more distant at times, like I could breathe. It was a slow process. It was difficult. I took a lot of steps back but also a lot of steps forward. I finally stopped counting down the minutes, hours and days until my next session, I stopped feeling compelled to google for hours and hours during my day (looking through my google history at one point was a scary moment seeing the hundreds, if not thousands of OCD related sites I was delving through daily), I stopped spending relentless hours on the online OCD communities, reading thousands of comments, reaching out for help myself and joining countless groups. All these things I felt trapped into doing began to stop. Yes it was helpful to learn as much as I could, it was necessary at that time. I needed to know as much as I could, I needed to be consumed by it and looking back I know for me that was just what I needed to do to survive at that time. Just over time I began to feel like I had a choice in it all. I could choose or more look at why I would be googling, or reaching out in online groups and I learned in the beginning of treatment, it was because I was looking for that reassurance. I began to stop seeking all the answers that I now know I can’t possible get definite answers to anyway. I began to do more and more things on my hierarchy until I realised I had actually done all of the things on it. I could get through the days without anxiety attacks and I began to function more and more each week. I finally got to a place where I was back to fully functioning, I was active in the home again, helping with chores, caring for our children and feeling like me again before this spike. I was seeing my close friends again, going to family events, enjoying life. There were still some areas that I needed to work on with social anxiety and I knew OCD was still there but overall I was out of that hole I had fallen into during December/January.
The day I was discharged from counselling was a good, but also heavy day. I struggle to describe it because it’s unlike anything I have experienced. I spoke through a few things that had happened that had triggered my OCD and anxiety in the previous weeks because I do still get triggered. I talked through how to keep moving forward and I was sad to say goodbye. My counsellor had been with me for around a year, before this spike, before we even knew I had OCD. She was a safe space for me to share literally anything and everything I needed to and I think it would have taken me a lot longer to get treatment and the diagnosis had I not already been in counselling with her for anxiety issues that I now know were linked in with OCD. She saw what I couldn’t to start with. When I returned after Christmas, after having my fourth baby, and I sat there shaking and quickly breaking during those next few weeks, convinced I must be going crazy, she saw exactly what was happening. What I thought was my mind breaking she knew was OCD. She rescued me and I expect if I was saying this to her she would remind me, I rescued myself with the work I have put in but she gave me the tools, the knowledge, the confidence to fight through this. I don’t think I could ever verbalise how grateful I am for her. So saying goodbye to everything we had shared, and gone through during my treatment was sad but I knew I was ready and I knew she wouldn’t let me go unless she knew I was ready.
Teary eyed I left and my husband and I drove to the same pebble beach we had gone to after my first session just after this spike started. After that first session back in January we drove to this beach and I needed to take medication to even get in the car because I was so anxious and the thoughts were drowning me. I got out of the car, red eyed from crying so much and feeling like I couldn’t even breathe fully. We walked down the steps onto the beach and I couldn’t go any further. I watched the waves, tried to breathe, tried to trust that I would be okay but feeling like I was loosing myself, feeling like in all this open space I was still suffocating, I knew I wasn’t okay. I remember holding my husband and watching the waves, trying to think of my thoughts like them, coming and going, like the waves. We picked up a pebble each, as a symbol of the strength we’d need to find and we placed them on our mantle piece as a reminder that I needed that rock of support.
Well six months on, after my last session we went back there. We took those same pebbles back with us and this time I walked down on to the beach right up to the waves. We watched them coming and going and I thought back to the last time I stood on that beach and how far I had come in that time. We talked about everything these pebbles represented to us… strength, support, the weight of the struggle… and I said to my husband that we don’t need these pebbles any more, we don’t need this strength any more because we have found the strength within us and we don’t need a reminder of that. We shared a kiss and both threw them back into the sea, and let the waves carry them away. It was closure on that part of my journey. I felt positive but also apprehensive.
So this is where it gets to the avoidance. Avoidance is a big compulsion of mine and although I have made huge steps in overcoming that compulsion it did start to creep back in. At first I didn’t like saying I was in recovery because I was worried there would be a trigger lurking at any moment that would send me back to where I was before. I feared saying it out loud then jinxing it so I wouldn’t say it to start with, I would say ‘nearly in recovery’ or ‘just in recovery’ to avoid jinking it. I would also worry that what if I wasn’t in recovery. Was I a fraud if I say I am in recovery but then I find out I’m not? All these silly ‘what ifs’ and fears. Eventually though with exposure I did get more comfortable saying it and typing it but then I noticed I began to withdraw from anything OCD related. I stopped writing on my page, I stopped blogging, I stopped reaching out so often in communities, I stopped googling, and I left pages and groups. I wanted to believe it was because I just didn’t need that extra support but the reality? It was because I began thinking if I now don’t have anything to do with OCD then maybe I can phase it out and not have OCD any more, or if I don’t talk about it or think about it, or I cut it out of my life then I won’t ever have a relapse, I can put it behind me now I am recovered and I can move on with my life and never have to think about it again. Well if you are reading this and you have OCD or know the ins and outs of OCD then you know that is not how it works and actually that was the fast track way to making my OCD and anxiety spike!
And after weeks of this avoidance and not nipping it in the bud, that’s exactly where I am. Last night the physical anxiety, the physical stomach turning started for the first time in months. Yes I could attribute that to a mix of hormones, being the last day of my period, to it being yet another late night, the constant changing weather and recent storms, the fact I had a hemiplegic migraine a few days ago and my stomach not being great, oh and eating take out food full of sugar and junk and it being the start of the summer holidays… yes I am sure it all plays a part but so does the fact I have been avoiding in order to try and prevent another relapse, and ultimately, that behaviour that I think will protect me is the behaviour that feeds the OCD. This morning the anxiety is still there, on and off but bubbling and I am beginning to argue with thoughts and try to reassure myself and question and ruminate and all those compulsions that feed the cycle.
So I grabbed the laptop and began writing. I have been asked for an update on my journey and because I was avoiding, I couldn’t write anything, but feeling that pull of OCD creeping back I refuse to let it grab hold fully again. I know I need to re-ground myself. So I am sharing this, because I need to, I need to share it even if I worry it will somehow jinx it (I know that’s magical and black and white thinking), I know this is what’s happening and I have the tools to work through it so time to get those tools out and stop being so hard on myself. We are in this together and I am sorry I have been quiet while working through my journey.
Even in recovery it’s okay to be triggered and it’s okay to fall but remember to fall forward. It’s about continuing to move forward, no matter how slowly that is, even if you have to crawl, just keep moving through it. I will do another blog later or tomorrow about an area of OCD that has been bubbling recently that I hadn’t really seen mentioned much so felt it would be good to share. Thank you for reading and although I wanted this to be a shining piece of writing on the amazing glowing feeling of being in recovery, it just isn’t like that, that isn’t the reality of living with OCD and that’s okay.