Monday, February 11, 2013

OCD and logic: an unworkable mix

In my journey with OCD, I find myself having to learn some of the same lessons over and over.
I know intellectually that logic can’t play a part in combatting the obsessions and compulsions. I even wrote a post about my therapist’s advice on not using logic.
And, yet, I’ve continued to try to use logic to reach a “satisfied” state while checking, to feel that I don’t need to check again because I don’t feel anxious about it anymore.
For example, I store my razor in the medicine cabinet in my bathroom. I take it out and use it in the shower when I shave my legs. After my shower, I return the razor to the medicine cabinet.
When returning the razor, I’ve been placing it on the shelf and then staring at it, trying to memorize what it looks like on the shelf, waiting to feel satisfied enough with its safety to close the cabinet door.
I’m trying to convince myself that the razor is indeed on the shelf.
It’s orange. It’s sitting on the top shelf. It’s there. It’s there. It’s there.
I do this until I feel the anxiety lessen.
That’s not what I should be doing.
What I should be doing is placing the razor on the shelf, closing the door, and then going on about my business, focusing on something else.
Otherwise, I get caught up in the obsession that the razor really isn’t on the shelf; it’s lying in a place where the cats can get to it and possibly get cut. I get caught up in the compulsion of staring at the razor, moving it around on the shelf.
I get caught up in the OCD and try to use logic to get out of it.
Another example: I did a load of laundry this evening. We have shut-off valves on the washing machine that we turn on when we do a load and turn off when we finish. My husband installed them to lower the chances of a flood in the basement if a pipe bursts.
After I was through with the washer, there I was, pushing on the valves, trying to convince myself in my mind and in my feelings that they were in the off position.
I was waiting to feel no anxiety about it.

But I have to stop doing that if I want to get better. I have to walk away from situations like the razor and the valves while I still feel anxiety about them, when the OCD is still raising doubts.
I have to allow the anxiety to lessen away from the site or situation of the obsessions and compulsions.

There doesn’t seem to be an easy way to do this. I have to work at it. I have to keep on facing situations that I know bring out the obsessions and compulsions. I have to keep on trying to stop the compulsion even though I still feel anxiety and move on to something else.
I have to put up with not being perfect at it.
And I have to do it over and over and over until it becomes easier, second nature, until the lesson is not just learned but ingrained.
No, it’s not easy. But I have to believe the work is worth it in the end.

Have you ever had lessons that you’ve had to learn over and over until they sunk in? What helped you through the process?

18 comments:

  1. YES I have had lessons like these that it took a long time to sink in. I have this issue of being very stubborn when I believe something so sometimes I have to work on that and letting a different reality sink in if it conflicts with my ideas :)

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    1. Keith, good for you for recognizing that the stubbornness could sometimes be a problem and working on it!

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  2. You bring up a good point - strategies, like logic, that may work for non-OCD people, is destructive when we use it to combat OCD. Logic and reasoning are actually 2 of my strongest compulsions, and even strategies that well-meaning friends and family use to help reason us out of OCD. I don't like the alternative - that we have to face the anxiety - but you're right, it will be worth it.

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    1. That's a good point--logic is sometimes a strategy that friends and family use to help us with the OCD. It's not just a matter of using it on ourselves. Usually, logic works quite well, but not with OCD, and it's hard to get away from it.

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  3. --I like that you're aware you are doing this. This is a good thing.

    I believe we all have these compulsions...and it's hard to let go of some of them.

    I know it is for me.

    Thanks for your honesty. xx

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    1. Thank you, Kim. I do think letting go of compulsions is a hard thing for any of us to do. I'm not always aware of what I'm doing, but I'm working on it!

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  4. You're so right that logic does not solve these problems, and some of us have logic in abundance that not only doesn't help, but gets in the way.

    As for me, yes, I've had to learn too many lessons over and over to count. The one that comes most to mind is that I spent years in alcoholic relationships. Like what you describe, I couldn't use logic -- I just had to start walking away from them, over and over, and eventually as I got healthier, I started attracting healthier men.

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    1. Nadine, I tend to have "logic in abundance" too! It's so hard to turn it off sometimes.

      I'm glad you were able to walk away from hurtful relationships.

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  5. I seem to be learning over and over again that everytime I run a marathon I end up injured :-( Not sure if it's sinking in or not though. I have a pretty high level of denial going on.

    I hope it gets easier to walk away from the razor :-)

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    1. Thanks, Lisa. I think it will get easier.

      I'm sorry you get injured every time you run a marathon. I know all about denial, so I feel for you. Maybe the next marathon will be different!

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  6. Yes, outside of OCD I have had to learn lessons over and over too. I am kind of back to eating one meal a day, when I KNOW that I feel more energy and less anxiety if I eat regular throughout the day.
    As far as OCD goes I can certainly relate to your "checking", and know exactly that "satisfied" feeling, the one where I know I can now shut the door or walk away knowing things are exactly how or where they should be and the anxiety dissipates. But the anxiety is gone but a short while, till I have to check the next thing or God forbid go back and re-check something I felt good about 5 minutes earlier. Therein lies the biggest lesson for me; that the anxiety never really goes away and the only way is ever does go away is when I face the anxiety head on and walk away. My personal experience is that if I can do it even once, the next time is easier but the problem is that I can slip back into it so easy too. (I wish it was as hard to slip backwards as it is to move forward.) I have built up so many rituals that it seems overwhelming sometimes and I have found lately that I am doing some "avoidance" so I am not in the position of having to check. Thank you for writing this post, I was feeling kind of defeated this morning and I feel like I needed to read this to propel me forward.

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    1. Krystal Lynn, you make such a good point: the anxiety always comes back when we give in to the checking (or whatever kind of compulsion). The satisfied feeling never lasts. I, too, have a lot of rituals that I discover day by day, and I often feel overwhelmed. Hang in there!

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  7. Tina you're a life saver! I've had such a lousy day, getting stuck with all sorts of things and it really felt like swimming upstream but getting nowhere, but this post really helped! I try to reason myself out of OCD all the time and it just doesn't work.
    You must actually put your mind on "blank" and focus on swimming upstream as hard as you can. Difficult but at least when I'm on this blog I know there are people who understand all too well.
    Don't actually know why this image of swimming comes up, I'm terrified of water!

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    1. Klaaske, I love that image of putting the mind on blank and swimming as hard as possible. Action is what is important in fighting OCD, not thinking logically about how to beat it. I'm going to remember this image--it will help! :-)

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  8. Maybe thinking it is not easy is what keeps it from being hard?

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    1. I've never thought about it in that way, Jodi. Thank you!

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  9. I have been living with OCD for 6 years now. I have finally found some people to talk to. Your posts are fantastic. Thank you. If you can reccomend any others to follow please let me know. I have decided to write one myself.....i think it might help.

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    1. Rob, thank you for reading and commenting. I'm so glad that you have found people to talk with about OCD. It has helped me tremendously to find others who listen to me and give me encouragement. It's great that you're going to write a blog, too. Writing about OCD has been so beneficial to me, and I've learned so much from reading others' blogs.

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