I had my second session of cognitive behavior therapy with my psychologist today, and I left his office with my first assignment.
We talked first about the experiences I’ve had since I saw him a week ago. I’ve been trying to apply the reattribute and refocus steps to my checking rituals, and I’ve had some success.
For example, with the lights and lamps I’m particularly vulnerable to, I try to be as mindful as possible when I turn them off. I tell myself that it’s the OCD that is urging me to check some more. I then walk away to another activity, even if it’s to leave the house to go to work or somewhere else.
I have found that the anxiety I feel fades eventually, sometimes fairly quickly. Later, I realize that I haven’t thought about the light in hours.
I am finding that refocusing is key for me.
I still check too much, though. I stare at the light bulb or lamp too long before I turn away. But I’m working on it.
My big question today was how to apply the steps to avoidance. The answer? Exposure.
I chose to work first on my anxiety surrounding my writing.
My therapist said the OCD might not be responsible for all my writing anxiety, but it’s there when I check the writing over and over, or avoid the writing altogether, because of my obsessions about plagiarism or inaccuracies.
Now plagiarism and inaccurate writing are always possible for anyone. But my conscientiousness goes too far and results in compulsive actions.
At work and at home, I can feel the anxiety ramp up as I start a writing assignment or try to work on my own writing. Once I get going, if I get going, I often am able to go ahead and write.
And I do a lot of writing on my job. I’m getting my assignments done, though not without a lot of anxiety.
But my own writing? That’s a different story, and it has been going on for years. I want it to change.
So, my assignment: Tomorrow morning at 8 a.m., I am to sit down in front of my computer for 30 minutes and write. I cannot do any editing or checking. I have to just sit and write. If I get interrupted, or if I decide to do something else (like check my email), I have to stop the clock (literally if I use a stopwatch) and then restart it when I restart the writing. In other words, I have to write for a cumulative 30 minutes. Then I have to put away the piece of writing.
I will rate my anxiety level during the assignment and for two hours afterwards. It will be an assessment, he said.
He said often we think the motivation has to come before we act, but actually, the motivation follows the action.
Doing this just one time seemed too easy, and I asked if I could do it more than once. He said I can try it as many times as I want, but to not try things that would push my anxiety level over a seven or eight.
He really stresses the goal of learning to tolerate the anxiety that goes along with the obsessions and compulsions.
I think dealing with my contamination issues will cause me higher levels of anxiety, but that will come later.
In the meantime, I’m going to be writing.