HOCD Story: Meet Mae, Part 2

Yesterday on my blog, I introduced you to Mae. Today, her story continues with a detailed explanation of her experience with exposure therapy. (For more information about ERP, go to jackieleasommers.com/OCD).

mae erp

First of all, if you go to a therapist and they tell you that you are not gay or try to tell you that it’s just a fantasy, look for someone else. This person does not understand ERP and OCD. The goal of ERP is to EXPOSE you to your deepest fears. I know that sounds like the most terrifying thing, especially if  your obsessions are causing so much anxiety.

I will continue to reiterate this- ERP CHANGED MY LIFE. I don’t say this lightly AT ALL. I was extremely doubtful when it first began that any change would take place. I was ready to fight this OCD beast, but I was also scared of what exposures I would have to do.

Your therapist will personalize your therapy to YOU.

At our initial consultation, my therapist helped me rate my anxiety and we started with the things that made me the least anxious and worked up front here. By the end of ERP, the things that once made me the most anxious were not as bad…

For me it began with a few different recordings, or scripts that I listened to several times per day. It also consisted of not allowing myself to continually ask for reassurance from family members, or google anything having to do with OCD. Anyone with OCD knows that the Internet is a big, dark, deep hole that is nearly impossible to escape once you enter.

I began by listening to the scripts and trying my damn hardest to not neutralize thoughts (ex: not telling myself “this isn’t me” or “I’m not really a lesbian”). I was supposed to just simply (was it really that simple?!) listen to the scripts. The first one began with my therapist recording a script in his voice. I listened to this script as much as possible over the course of 2 weeks (5-10 times per day). Some moments it didn’t cause much anxiety at all; at other moments it was EXCRUCIATING. Sometimes the anxiety was just my mind racing, while other times it was a sinking feeling or my chest would get tight. Sometimes, I just cried.

The next script was one in my voice. This one was a little more convincing and harder to listen to… I listened to this one for about 2 weeks as well.

After four weeks of scripts, my therapist and I came up with some “real-time” exposures. For instance, I didn’t avoid any articles that I saw on the Internet regarding homosexuality. I was supposed to read them or at least acknowledge them. I honestly had never really had issues with homosexuality or gay people before this thought popped into my life. I also didn’t have my heart skip a beat or a queasy feeling in my stomach when I would see any kind of news story on homosexuality before this obsession wreaked havoc on my life.

I also had to sit with different thought patterns I had. If I was with a same sex friend that I found attractive, I was supposed to just let my mind wander and let the thoughts be there. I wasn’t supposed to neutralize them or reassure myself.

I went to the gym a lot and if I thought a woman’s butt was hot, I was supposed to  just appreciate her beauty and not doing anything else with the thought. The gym was probably the hardest exposure for me because there were so many different variables. I wouldn’t know who would be there on any given day. For awhile I even avoided a class taught by someone who is openly gay. I thought going to her class would make me suddenly “become a lesbian” or she would know I was having these thoughts…

It wasn’t until about my tenth or eleventh session that I actually noticed my thoughts shifting. I went to 14 ERP sessions. It all depends, but my therapist said ERP can be anywhere from 10-20 sessions.

I am going to list a few things I that have improved in my life since ERP:

1. SLEEP!
2. Being present with friends and family (I felt like I was in a continual fog for quite a few months).
3. An enjoyment of begin at the gym, work, stores with out feeling like I am constantly checking between people.
4. The ability to read a book or watch a show without thoughts/obsessions/compulsions taking over.
5. Weight- I honestly kind of appreciated losing weight at first, but then it became real sucky to not enjoy food at all.
6. A renewed faith in God. I was very, very angry at God for quite some time. Mental illness is no joke. People don’t talk about it and its a very real thing to so many. My brother has struggled with a wide variety of OCD themes since he was 11. This journey has actually made us a lot closer.
7. I have become more “selectively vulnerable.” If I notice someone seems to be struggling, I gently ask some questions. If anxiety, depression, etc. come up I tell them a piece of my journey. I KNOW that my story has been used to impact others. Also, Jackie Lea’s vulnerability helped me to get help. We are all part of this OCD/ERP puzzle.
8. Work- I enjoy my job so much, but during this struggle it was really difficult for me to focus. I actually feel like I have improved at my job since ERP.
9. I’ve embraced the fact that each day is new. You might still experience setback, frustrations, fear, doubt… Yet, each moment and each day are new.
10. People with OCD have been said to be some of the most intelligent and creative people. I will own that. 😉 For real though, I’ve started doing more creative art projects to really hone in on that gift that I’ve been given. I’ve also looked at my “steel trap” memory as an asset instead of a curse. During my darkest days of OCD, I would get so incredibly frustrated by my ability to recall the most random, detailed memories in my life. Now, I use this skill to make people feel valued and honored by acknowledging important details about them.
11. Sex is something I look forward to now. For a period of time, I was going through the motions in every area of life. I actually feared sex with my husband  because I was worried that the thought would pop in during something that was supposed to be enjoyable.

12. Our family went on a big trip this past year and I was honestly dreading it all year. I thought it would be awful. The trip was actually planned right around the time OCD kicked in. I thought, “There is no way I will be doing better in a year.”

With the trip, I was worried about being away from home, I was concerned that OCD would creep back in with its ugly tactics, I thought that OCD would rob me of experiences on a trip that was intended to be lovely. Guess what?! I had a great time on the trip. It was lovely. I enjoyed it so much, which I consider a huge victory.

I want to once again clarify something. OCD will not completely disappear for many people by doing ERP. What it will do is rewire your brain. I would say my symptoms have improved by 85-90%, which is HUGE. The times that OCD likes to sneak back in are when I am stressed, tired, or duing my menstrual cycle. During these times, I remember to do lots of self care. I make sure I set healthy boundaries, take walks, baths, whatever feels best at that time to make sure I am ok.

Note from Jackie: Thank you for sharing, Mae! I would love to interview someone with HOCD who is homosexual, as HOCD effects both straight and gay people. Both of the people I’ve interviewed so far on this blog have been straight. If you are gay and have struggled with HOCD (in which you doubted your homosexuality and feared you might be straight) and have underwent exposure therapy, contact me! I’d love to feature your story on my blog– anonymously, if you prefer!

17 thoughts on “HOCD Story: Meet Mae, Part 2

  1. What happens whenever my hocd thoughts don’t spark anxiety anymore? I’m a lesbian who has always loved girls then all of a sudden I started noticing boys more and picture myself with them, which would gross me out. Now I’ll notice a boy and won’t get so grossed out and just let the thought stay in my head. It feels so real like if I’m excited by the thought. That I must date boys since I think those thoughts. But I don’t want to. It’s hard to explain :/ Ive broken up with my gf multiple times because of this. Everytime I get back with her it gets worse and worse. Idk what to do. I’m also afraid that if I do exposure therapy I’ll end up wanting to be with a boy that a boy will actually excite me.

  2. Hi Jackie.
    I’m a 14 year old girl and the youngest I’ve heard/read about with these worries. For as long as I can remember I’ve been straight. I would have crushes, imagine myself with celebrity crushes, I never doubted my sexuality for a second. Then, out of nowhere about 3 weeks ago, I was watching a show where a gay character was talking about how he had always known his sexuality. This instantly triggered me to wonder, “am I a lesbian?”. Since then I’ve had nonstop anxiety and intrusive thoughts about the topic. I don’t want to like girls and I’ve always imagined myself getting a boyfriend and getting married one day (I’ve never had a boyfriend however.) I was finally able to convince my parents to take me to a therapist, and we’re scheduled to go soon, but I don’t know when. I’m scared that by the time we get there, it will be too late, and I will be completely gay by my own choice. This thought TERRIFIES me to no end. I can’t even imagine myself with another girl. Every time I get nervous and get these thoughts, I feel the need to reassure myself that I am not gay, and that I’ve always been straight. Sometimes I will feel the need to wash my hands, sometimes it can get to the point where my hands bleed.I get scared to relax, because I feel like letting go of my anxiety means “giving in” to these thoughts. I’m afraid that even though I’m not thinking about it I’ll “always be gay in the background”. I’ve been losing interest in activities that I once enjoyed. I’ve been losing weight from loss of appetite. Just sitting here typing makes me want to cry, I’m completely lost and I need help. Please, what do you reccomend? Especially for someone as young as I am, I’m afraid that if they recommend me for ERP that I will begin to believe the things I have to expose myself to, and become gay. I hate that my anxiety is beginning to ruin my life.

    • Hello dear Jasmine! Deep breaths! I really believe it’s going to be okay. ERP doesn’t make someone gay. In fact, I don’t believe anything can make someone gay– I think gay people are born gay! While that might not sound reassuring to you, I do want to just insist that ERP therapy is the very best thing for someone who is dealing with HOCD, which is what your situation sounds like. If your therapist thinks you are gay, then he/she doesn’t understand HOCD, and you should seek a new therapist who understands it better. That said, your exposures will be tough … but you will start small and build up to harder stuff. It really works. Read all my posts about HOCD and ERP to prepare yourself. I’ve also asked Mae (who wrote this post) to chime in if she has time to do so! Hang in there. I know it feels so frightening, but it won’t always be this way. You are doing a tremendously brave thing in seeking out ERP. I am proud of you! Keep us updated!

  3. Hi Jackie,

    I’ve been struggling with HOCD since this past November and it has been hell. I’ve gotten better and although I don’t think I’m gay, I now have the the fear of being Bisexual and its scarring the shit out of me. I don’t want to be gay or bi!! Why won’t this just go away and leave me alone. I’m trying to tell myself not react to the thoughts but it’s hard. I keeping having images in my head of doing things with a girl and it gives me so much anxiety and the question pops into my of “what if you like it?”. And I don’t wanna like it. Before this I had always known I was straight and never questioned it, btw I’m a 17 year old girl. I don’t have anything against gay or bisexual people, but these thoughts scare me. I tell myself to picture doing things with a girl and see if I like it, but instead I getting super anxious and it makes everything worse. I’m constantly online checking out HOCD stories and looking for reassurance, but it doesn’t make it better. And I don’t have anyone to talk to and I can’t tell my parents cause they wouldn’t understand. Sorry for long rant, but I honestly am going crazy!

    • Deep breaths! You’re not crazy! 🙂 You’re just dealing with an illness like any other. The good news is that there is “medicine” for this– a treatment called ERP therapy, which stands for exposure and response prevention. Even better news: you don’t need to see a therapist or tell your parents. You can check a book out of the library and do the treatment on your own.

      I recommend that you start at http://www.jackieleasommers.com/OCD by reading all the posts about ERP and all the posts about HOCD. There is a post about books that will guide you through ERP; check one out of your local library, and you’ll be on your way!

      You can do this. It’s hard … but living life with HOCD is harder. Keep me posted.

      Love,
      Jackie

  4. What did she mean when she said that she appreciated women for their beauty? Did she mean sexually or just like “Oh they’re really pretty I want to be them” ? I’m trying to do self ERP so I just want to make sure.

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  6. hi im 14 years old and a female. all my life I have loved boys I’ve seen my self getting married to a man having children with a man etc. about 4 months ago this question popped into my head I don’t remember how but it did ” am I lesbian ” this would scare me k didn’t want to I cried and cried I have only told one person. I cried just talking about it . I’ve told my self you like men you are going to get married to a man kyliegh no matter what your mind tells you are not matter what. when these thoughts come I stop and say you are straight kyliegh you are straight I know I am I have loved boys! but hocd is scaring me so bad do I actually have hocd ? I love men I have had crushes on boys while this has been going on I really need help I cry a lot I haven’t been able to focus every time these thoughts come I wanna cry I don’t see my friends I hang out with my neighbour which is a guy he’s cute of course but idk what’s wrong I know IM not gay what’s wrong with me 😭

  7. hi I’m a 14 female and I have hocd and I hope I do because I have always loved men I’ve had many relationships ( even though I’m really young ) this is tuning my I haven’t eaten anything for awhile ill maybe eat one or two things a day my life is being ruined when these thoughts come I too and say you are straight what are these thoughts doing I have cried and cried I know IM straight but my mind is making me question it it’s been about 4 months I know I need a therapist I am just scared I’ve told my self kyliegh your getting married to a man and only a man. I’ve tried to see my self married to a women no i wasn’t happy I wanted to cry I couldn’t see it I dream ab guys I’ve had crushes on guys while this us been going on I’ve found guys attractive idk what wrong with me I want to know what’s going on please help it’s ruining me I can’t be around family I want to cry and sleep all day escape my mind what do I do is this hocd or not ?

  8. Hello I’m 14 and is a female and sometimes i can’t tell if i have Hocd or not. I believe that i have Hocd symtoms and just might be bisexual without knowing, i accepted that thought but i’m also scared that might be the case. I don’t want to bi, but i have memories of me wanting an attraction from a girl because she is very different (meaning: might be gay/bi and dresses masculine) and popular. She appears a lot in my social media accounts and i always wind to myself just looking over her accounts, during the moments i didn’t give the thought that i might liked her because I knew i didnt like her somehow now. I always reasure myself by saying that I really just wanted to friends with her but i dont know anymore. I have heard of erp and have been trying to accept the fear that I might be gay/bi. When i do accept the thoughts, I imagine what people would think of me if i were to be gay/bi. I read that the difference between a truly gay/bi person and a sufferer of Hocd is that gay/bi people worry about other peoples reactions and sufferers of Hocd doubt themsleves about it. That justs scares me that i think about peoples reactions. But i just think thats how erp works when you have to face the fears.

    Before I came to realized that this might be Hocd, I did had thoughts if I liked someone of the same gender, ” Did I just liked her?”. But i don’t know why that thought didnt bother me and continued with my day. But now thinking that it didn’t bother me back then, that i thought for a second I might liked her, I could have been bi with out knowing it. And I say Bi because, i just accepted that in that moment i thought i liked her. I know I have stronger attractions to boys and i will always be. Im just scared that if i were to be truly Bi, i could like someone of the same gender more and then the thoughts of people knowing i like the same genders occurs again. I noticed that it goes in a cycle after typing this story hahaha. I really do accept the thoughts, but the thoughts i can’t hurdle over is that i could have been truly attracted to that person, but deep down I know i’m not but, Hocd is a pain in the butt. or at least thats what I’m hoping for. <<— see these thoughts scare me. i fear that after i get over Hocd that i might as well be Bi but thats not what i really want, again i don't know. I know that i can't have reinsurance when dealing with hocd or any ocd. I think if i get over the hocd the thoughts of me liking someone of the same gender will always be there and could happen again. I know that this is all a big rant. Doing erp is hard and accepting the thoughts to get better is getting easier but the thoughts i ranted about above… i feel like they will always be there.

    Is there any tips or helpful guidance? Or is it that with time i get over hocd and i just accept that i'm bi? that really scares me… i honestly don't know what to do anymore. I fear that if i get over this Hocd, I will be bi knowing that I'm truly bi now. Sorry for this rant about the same topic over and over. but i really do hope that im a 100% straight girl who just had a bisexual moment but is straight. thank you for any replys.

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