Here are some OCD-related questions I’ve been asked by blog readers. As always, keep in mind that I’m not a doctor or a therapist, just an OCD survivor. (Note: I’ve been using the term “OCD survivor” a little bit lately, and sometimes I wonder if I “deserve” to use the term survivor— but I remember that OCD is an incurable disorder, a medical illness, and hellish torment. I’m gonna own that survivor title.)
How have medication and therapy worked hand in hand to help you?
The two of them were a dynamic duo for me back in 2008, when I underwent exposure therapy (if you’re new to this blog and don’t know what ERP or exposure and response prevention therapy is, WELCOME! You can read a lot more about this at http://www.jackieleasommers.com/OCD.). Medication, in a way, got me into a place where I was able to approach ERP. Then ERP was the heavy lifting. Since then, medication continues to keep me on the right track.
Everyone has differing thoughts on medication, but all experts agree that ERP is the number one treatment for OCD.
An imperfect metaphor: if ERP is the playing field, meds can sometimes be the bus. The real work, the real healing, happens on the playing field, but you have to be there. For some of us, we can’t get to the playing field without riding the bus. The way our bodies work won’t allow us to get there on our own.
How does OCD compare to other common mental illnesses when it comes to treatment (therapy, medication, etc.)?
This is such a great question and worthy of someone so much wiser than I am. That said, I will say that ERP is not your standard “talk therapy”– you know what I mean, right? ERP is not talking about your feelings one hour a week. It’s doing real homework every day– exposures, things that are tremendously uncomfortable– and moving on to more uncomfortable things. It’s not about being reassured or a pat on the back, and it makes you feel worse before you feel better.
And everything changes.
How has OCD shaped your faith? Did you ever feel OCD was stealing your faith away with you kicking and screaming? Did you ever feel your faith wouldn’t recover? Was there ever a point where you feared you believed the OCD lies?
Likewise, If you could narrow it down to one generalization, what’s the biggest impact in your opinion that OCD has had regarding your faith?
OCD goes after what is important to a person. For me, that is my faith. Sometimes people worry about telling me the details of their obsessive themes– but, honestly, it’s hard to imagine that my mind hasn’t already gone there. I turn 35 next month. Twenty of those 35 years were spent cycling through religious obsessions. If it had to do with God or sin or heaven or hell or Jesus or … I’ve battled through it. Did I feel like OCD was stealing my faith? Yes. How did OCD shape my faith? It made it into an enslaved mockery of what faith should really look like. Did I worry my faith wouldn’t recover? Constantly. And did I believe the lies? Yes. Or enough to change my behavior, enough to ruin things, enough to no longer find enjoyment in the one who embodies joy.
One giant generalization for the way OCD impacted my faith: it enslaved me in a cage of lies.
One giant generalization for the way ERP impacted my faith: it freed me to understand the truth of grace.
God didn’t change in all this. But the way my brain is wired did, and that changed the way I relate to my unchanging God.
I know people can’t be “a little OCD,” but what about people who have obsessive-compulsive tendencies but aren’t diagnosed with OCD? Do you have advice/thoughts for that?
If the obsessive-compulsive tendencies don’t hurt, then I would encourage you to enjoy your quirkiness!
If they hurt, well, you might have OCD. Get that diagnosis and begin exposure therapy.
I would like you to describe your experiencing with OCD when it was at its worst. I believe that this allows fellow OC’ers to recognize that they are not alone.
It was bad. Really, really dark, low times. I’ve tried to detail in a few places on this blog. Check out:
But let’s not end on a downer note, friends. There’s no reason to. Because there IS a treatment for OCD and it WORKS. After twenty years in bondage to OCD, twelve weeks of exposure therapy loosed my chains. The last nine years have been different in every way from the twenty before them. If you can relate to any of the post above, then why not start here with my message of hope to OCD sufferers?
If you have questions, you’re welcome to ask here. Anonymous questions are fine!