Wednesday, October 24, 2012

OCD treatment: Living with uncertainty

“Are you willing to learn to live with uncertainty?”
That is the key question OCD sufferers must answer before embarking on the program in Dr. Jonathan Grayson’s Freedom from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: A Personalized Recovery Program for Living with Uncertainty.
Grayson holds the premise that there is no certainty in life. Even things that we think we can be certain about, we can’t.
One example Grayson uses is the belief we have that our car is in the driveway. But unless we’re looking at it, we can’t guarantee that it’s there. It could have been stolen and no longer be in the driveway.
  In addition, unless our loved ones are right in the room with us, we can’t be sure that they are safe and unharmed.
He says, “The inability to feel or be certain is reasonable. . . . Improbable is not impossible” (p. 9).
Grayson says that those with OCD already know that uncertainty is a given in life. No matter how hard we try with some of our rituals, we can’t arrive at absolute certainty in those things.
I can relate to that. My need for certainty tends to revolve around the safety of my loved ones, and even of people I don’t know. I want assurances that they will be safe and well, and a lot of my OCD ritualizing has to do with efforts to make that happen.
But keeping others 100 percent safe and well is an impossible task for me. I cannot guarantee their safety, and all of us are going to die eventually.
Grayson says that just knowing that uncertainty exists is not enough. We have to be willing to live with uncertainty.

“It is quite likely that you agree with the premise that you can never be certain. Indeed, the persistence of your OCD symptoms and its constant attendant doubt have shown you that certainty is unattainable. Yet you persist in trying to achieve the impossible. Why? Why won’t you accept what you know?
Answering the question with a ‘yes’ means choosing acceptance of what you already know instead of denial” (p. 52).

A way that we hold on to denial is through “fantasy and wishing. In the case of death, denial is not a delusional fantasy of believing the dead are alive; it is comparing the present with how much better life would be if the deceased were still alive” (p. 52).
There is a price to pay for living in denial, according to Grayson: “However, when we compare reality with fantasy, we also destroy and demean the moment” (p. 52).
That statement hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. I had never thought of denying uncertainty as denying reality. I had never thought of denying reality as disrespecting the very moment we’re in.
Acceptance of reality means acceptance of uncertainty. Acceptance of uncertainty, living with uncertainty, means living with the uncertainty of whether the lights in the office are off, whether or not my hands are contaminated, whether or not the stove is off, and so many other uncertainties in life, including the big ones, like whether or not my loved ones are safe and well.
My answer to the question? Yes.

  How important do you think it is to accept uncertainty?

24 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing! I'm not very good with dealing with uncertainity...so unfortunately, I don't have any great tips :( I'm a new GFC follower :)
    xo
    www.domesticsweetheart.com

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  2. This is such a powerful article, Tina.

    I think it gets to the root of OCD and that it is all about uncertainty. It makes me glad to see that you answered 'Yes' to that. I think that accepting uncertainty is very important. For me uncertainty kinda ties in with the whole 'only thing constant is change' idea. You kind of just have to accept that uncertainty is always going to happen all around us and inside of us, and that acceptance might be a very liberating thing.

    Once again, glad to see that you answered 'Yes'.

    ~ Ally @ www.inspireandthrive.blogspot.com

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    1. Thank you for your support, Ally. You make a good point that uncertainty can be around us and inside of us.

      Readers, you may recognize Ally better as Yaya. She has updated her "Adventures in Yayaland" blog, so be sure and ck it out at the address above!

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  3. Tina, I thought that this part of Grayson's book was amazing. It was quite philosophical. I recently heard someone say, and it may even have been Grayson at the OC Conference in July who said it, that, "People with OCD are true philosophers, the difference is that they actually want the answers." I loved that. I also think it was a true statement. We definitely have a different way of looking at the world and all the risk that is involved in living. At one point in the book, Grayson also talks about how those who've learned to battle OCD are actually healthier than your average person who is living in denial of all kinds of things. The person victorious over OCD sees all the risk (and doesn't ignore it like average people) and yet proceeds to live in spite of it. I thought that was pretty cool. His book definitely made me look at myself and other OCDers in a different and more positive light. While there are terrible difficulties that come with our illness, we also have unique gifts and a unique way of looking at life. I'm glad you answered yes. When I answered yes, it was more like, "Y-y-y-yes, I think so." ha ha

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    1. Thank you for your great comment, Sunny. I love the quote about people with OCD being true philosophers. I can relate to that! My yes was yes, but it's not a done deal yet--it's a process! :-)

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    2. Tina, fantastic post-- it really resonated with me! (I have also recently written several posts about uncertainty, so these quotes really hit home.) And Sunny, I love that about obsessive-compulsives being true philosophers! SO TRUE!

      I just love this blogging community. :-)

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    3. Thank you, Jackie, glad it resonated with you!

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  4. Tips made from personal experience are the best one.

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  5. Pfff Tina, difficult question really.
    I just started with ERP with my psychiatrist again and it has not exactly been easy going. The uncertainty is kind of very "fresh" and very difficult to be in.
    But on the other hand, I would be terribly disappointed in myself if I would not say yes to the question too. And that is important because otherwise I can simply not get on with my life.
    Tina I'm so pleased with you and everyone on this blog, it really helps to read other people are going through the same things when I struggle.

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    1. Klaaske, I'm excited that you are going through ERP, too. No, it is not easy, is it? But knowing that you and others are going through the same things helps me.

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    2. Tina, I had actually never heard of the "kind of OCD" I have battled with for quite some time until a few weeks ago. I always took me ages to do something, and with that I mean all sorts of things, from housework to simply putting my teeth in in the morning. I always somehow had to wait for the "right moment". Which was sooo difficult as at the same time I would be afraid someone would come and visit and I would still be without my teeth in. Showering was equally difficult, with the result that I sometimes didn't manage to shower for a whole week. Terrified in the meantime I would have an accident or so and someone would find out about my terrible secret.
      And doing housework was a disaster. Until my new psychiatrist told me it's (hope I translate it right) "obsessively delaying things" and definitely OCD. I could have kissed the good man as I had been thinking I was the craziest person alive! But it's just another form of OCD rearing it's ugly head. And because I've had ERP in the past for another form, things are moving pretty quickly as I've managed to take a shower AND put my teeth in first thing in the morning for the past 3 weeks!!
      It's actually so simple once you know what is wrong, but I thought I was seriously going off my rocker!

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    3. Klaaske, I do some of the same thing and thought it was OCD but didn't know the name for it. "Obsessively delaying things" pretty much describes what I do with a lot of things. It's good to know more about it--thank you!

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  6. I confess to sometimes embracing uncertainty just so I don't have to face up to a situation (blush).

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    1. I think we all do that, Lisa, so no blushing! :-)

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  7. Tina, my little brain hurt just trying to figure this all out! Whether you choose to accept the uncertainty of life or not, life will continue to be uncertain. So whether or not you embrace uncertainty, uncertainty will embrace you.So isn't it better to accept what you cannot change and not waste your time (or whole life) trying to change it? Of course,this is not an easy task for many of us, and certainly (haha) much harder for those with OCD.......great post, Tina, that obviously resonates with many people.

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    1. Thanks, Janet. Yes, it's better to accept what we cannot change, but you're right, it's not an easy task for many people. With OCD, even seemingly little uncertainties--is the light turned off, is the stove turned off, are my hands contaminated--can be overwhelming, unfortunately.

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  8. Dr. Grayson is amazing..he always hits the nail on the head. I think uncertainty is a key element in OCD, almost all of my compulsions are wrapped around making myself "certain" of something and I do that by staring at or checking, or washing over and over. So yeah, "living with uncertainty" is something I NEED to do. Is there a workbook by Grayson that you are doing your work from? If so, then I have it at home. I didn't do it yet, it seemed really overwhelming listing all my compulsions and the hierarchy so I didn't do it but I need to take the time to do it. I am really proud of your determination Tina.

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    1. Thank you, Krystal Lynn. I am using the book and following the instructions in that. I don't think it's considered a workbook. He includes the checklists to use to come up with the obsessions and compulsions that bother me the most, plus some tables and examples of things. I'm just writing things down on my own paper/typing it up.

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  9. Wow Tina what insight this Dr Greyson has. The remark, "A way that we hold on to denial is through “fantasy and wishing. ..." Hit me at my core. And the fact that denial has a price to pay.

    It's true for me that if I can't see my kids then I can get all worked up about their safety and can even imagine all sorts of bad things happening. Not good!!

    My son has been working his part-time job for almost 2 years now and has returned home safely after every shift and so I'm beginning to calm down about the matter.
    And for me, as a Christian I do my best at rerouting my worry to the Lord knowing that he is taking care of my children when I'm not there.

    Love the comparrison to all this with the car in the driveway analogy. It makes me stop and think about how silly some of the things I can work myself up over are just as silly about if I were to fret over my car that I never worry about because I KNOW it's sitting in my drive way.

    Though I don't suffer OCD a lot of what you share about it really helps me in the area of depression and anxiety, thank you for that!

    Blessings, Deanna

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    1. Deanna, I'm glad this post was helpful to you. I think a lot of what Dr. Grayson says will help my depression and anxiety, too.

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  10. Um... I don't like uncertaintity at all.

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