“My Therapist’s Crazy Science Experiments”

The following post is from a Guest Blogger who is new to living with OCD. He’s confronting three whopping obsessions, all at the same time and is using ERP to do it. Here’s his triumphant story:

At 27 there were many things I expected to be happening at this point in my life… engagement, getting a dog, planning the next vacation, enjoying life in a brand-new city… the list goes on.

The reality of it has been much different, thanks to my OCD diagnosis. Instead of what I had envisioned, I found myself doing things I never would’ve imagined to confront my fears and obsessive thinking.

Growing up with two older sisters I was used to being dressed up. However, that was over 20 years ago. I didn’t think I’d be playing dress up at 27, trying on my mom’s dresses and jewelry while “I am woman” plays on YouTube. I wish I was kidding but my therapist focuses on Exposure and Response Prevention therapy (E&RP) and this was one of the first exercises she assigned to me.

At first, it was terrifying but it ended up being very entertaining and my parents got a good laugh and some pictures to blackmail me with for the rest of my life. At least I know if I end up trans I can rock the s%&t out of a nice dress.

living with OCD
Another exposure exercise my therapist has me do is a bit more intense… Imagine having to hold a knife to your wrist and gut while having thoughts of killing/stabbing yourself play in your head.

When completing an exposure you’re not allowed to self-talk or re-assure that nothing is going to happen. To make the exposure even more intense my therapist has me say bloody and dark statements as I hold the knife… this definitely gets the anxiety pumping.

I’ve also had to hold the knife to strangers throats in group therapy and also to my parents. If you ever are looking for a way to spice up your weekday nights give it a try… but in all seriousness confronting these fears has been incredibly difficult.

Finally, in a group therapy setting, I came out as “gay” to a bunch of strangers who don’t know anything about me… hitting all three of my fears.

To others reading this post it may not seem like a big deal but to me all of these experiences were terrifying. I always get self-conscious when completing exposures because on top of the anxiety I feel ridiculous and embarrassed I’m having these obsessive thoughts.

But in the end, I can’t worry about it… I must continue to face my fears and continue to be a guinea pig to my therapist’s crazy science experiments because, in the end, it does appear to be working.

My anxiety and compulsions are improving… I still have thoughts but they don’t have the same amount of power over me as they used to and they aren’t as frequent. A lot of trust goes into my relationship with my therapist… I wouldn’t dress up as a woman for just anyone.

In the end, maybe one of these fears/obsessive thoughts will become reality but I can’t continue to live in fear and not attain my hopes and dreams. I will continue to embrace any exposure exercise that comes my way and hope that one day I can look back at it and have a good laugh. In a weird way, this is helping me become more comfortable in my own skin… an unforeseen perk of OCD.

Living With OCD

This young man’s account of the lengths he must take to break free from OCD is astounding. He is brave and strong, with a huge funny bone and an ever-growing mindset. He is determined not to be held hostage by fear. There is nothing he won’t do to #bossitback.

He is a blogger and openly shares his journey at Millennials for Mental Health. He’s candid about the many twists and turns he has encountered along the way. It’s not been easy for him and there are times he still gets tricked by OCD. Visit his blog and he’ll tell you how he stays strong and focused.

You can leave a comment here to help celebrate his victories!

One Thing Bossy-Pants OCD Hates

Bossy-Pants OCDTo cope with bossy-pants OCD, you might have gotten the idea it’s necessary to perform compulsions to feel “just right” or prevent bad things from happening.  Performing compulsions or mental acts might be what you’ve been doing for years. In your mind, it’s what you’re supposed to do or what you’ve got to do. At least, that’s what Bossy-Pants tells you.

Hallelujah, there are times you defy OCD! Somehow you pull it together, and you say, “NO!!! I’m not going to do that ridiculous compulsion.” In this precious moment, you have gained clarity and recognize that OCD is nothing more than a BFL (big fat liar). You resist the compulsion.

The anxiety rises. You ride it out. You use self-talk like, “Maybe it’s true OCD. Maybe it’s not. Time will tell.” Strangely your prediction doesn’t come true. It’s not the end of the world. Nothing bad happens. You tolerate the anxiety better than predicted. The discomfort dissipates. All by itself. No compulsion was needed. 

OCD strategiesTo your surprise, you don’t feel particularly anxious. But, alas you don’t feel amazing either. You don’t even take the time to pump your fist in the air and say, “Take that bossy-pants OCD!!! KAPOW!”

When you win the battle and outlast OCD are you reminded of your strength and courage? Do you feel blessed to have what it takes to be tricky enough to outwit OCD?

Bossy-Pants OCD Hates Gratitude

Developing the skill to break free of OCD involves much more than Exposure & Response Prevention. Without self-appreciation and gratitude, you will only end up white-knuckling your way through most of it.

Whenever you resist a compulsion be sure to savor the victory. If you have OCD then celebrating victories might not occur to you. Patting yourself on the back doesn’t come naturally to you.

Not honoring your achievements is a problem that needs your attention!

Don’t wait for OCD or anybody else to say, “Good job.” You must take time out to be thankful for all that you are doing to break free from OCD. Each success that you experience is a reason to be thankful.

Your ability to #bossitback means that you are developing a hard-earned skill. Give thanks for the ability to say no to OCD. Even if it’s only once in a while or some of the time–give thanks. Don’t ever, EVER minimize your ability to defy OCD.

beat OCDStay in the winning mode and keep your skills sharp by giving thanks. The more time you spend recognizing your victories, the higher the likelihood of beating OCD the next time, and the next time, and the next time.

If someone wants to give you a high five don’t deny; fortify!!!

Accept compliments. Put your hand on your heart and say, “thank you that means a lot to me.” Welcome the support you get from loved ones who are honoring your quest to break free from OCD. Their emotional support and encouragement will help you face the next fear. Recognize the gift your family and friends give to you when they applaud your efforts. Don’t deny or pooh-pooh their praise.

Truly appreciate when others point out your victories. Don’t take for granted people’s acknowledgment of your successes. Give much thought to their praise. Let the sun shine inside your mind and heart. Be happy to hear their kind words. 

When someone tells you how happy they are that you resisted a compulsion, allow yourself to feel inspired and you will endure again. 

When you say, “thanks that means a lot to me” it readies your mind to repeat the success. Embrace the positive feeling of being appreciated. Accept recognition from others. They too are being positively impacted by your hard work.

Even when others forget to recognize all your hard work know that the impact of resisting a compulsion is still just as significant. Other people don’t live in your mind. They don’t know what you’re up against. So if they fail to acknowledge your victories, don’t use it as an excuse to downplay your achievements. Minimizing your success will only cripple you.

It’s quite simple. There are negative consequences if you don’t celebrate your victories.

It is an astounding blessing to be able to accept challenges and bulldoze your way through OCD. Whenever you feel your hope and determination waning, take a moment to recount all of your successes. Don’t drift away from recognizing even the tiniest step forward. If you make light of your victories, you’re leaving the door wide open for OCD to close you out of future triumphs. 

Be grateful for each time you overcome OCD’s senseless demands. Be proud and give thanks when you resist a compulsion. Let the gratitude wash over you. Savor the moment of your victory. Basking in your achievements will rewire your brain!

Be thankful for each opportunity to learn and grow. Find the silver lining. 

Self-Reflection Questions:

  1. When you #bossitback how do you celebrate your victory? Eating a special treat? Listening to your favorite song? 
  2. How do you savor the moment of a triumph and anchor it in your mind? Do you do a happy dance? Clap your hands? High five somebody?
  3. How often do you express gratitude for all your hard work? Not often? How’s that working out for you?
  4. Do you say ‘thanks’ to others when they compliment you?
  5. Can you feel the gratitude of others even if they don’t thank you? If they don’t acknowledge your hard work does that mean they don’t notice it? Maybe in the past, you’ve shown discomfort when they spoke about your accomplishments.
  6. Are you treated differently by others when you pooh-pooh their praise? Do they become less verbal about your triumphs?
  7. What moves you forward: Putting yourself down or picking yourself up?
Gratitude

Gift Idea: Gratitude the Great OCD Sanitizer

How to Turn Off Your Inner Critic

Gratitude: The Great OCD Sanitizer (How to Turn Off Your Inner Critic)

Can gratitude sanitize OCD? You betcha! Count your blessings and discover how the words of gratitude come to be a feeling that warmly washes over you. Sound too good to be true? The benefits of gratitude are scientifically proven! 

The voice of OCD always sounds like a critic: “You can’t handle it. You’re not good enough. You should be doing [this], and you should be doing [that]. You’re going to make a bad decision and mess everything up. If you’re not careful something horrible will happen. What did you do to cause this? It’s all your fault.”

OCD continually questions your motives and intentions. “Why do you have such [weird] thoughts? What do they mean? How come you didn’t use to think like this and now you do? What are you up to? You should feel guilty for thinking like this. Shame on you.”

Practicing gratitude is highly effective if you want to turn off your inner critic.

Decontaminate OCD’s sharp tongue by finding the silver lining. When you speak gratitude, you get energized and gain the courage to face anything OCD throws at you.

With an OCD sideshow running all the time, practicing gratitude isn’t easy to do. Once you get the hang of it though, in just a few minutes you can disinfect the negativity.attitude of gratitudeBy reflecting on your abundance and shifting your focus away from what you lack, you’ll soar above your worst worries!

Once you’ve worked gratitude into your daily routine, you’ll start to notice that your inner critic is much less stressed.

When you have finally let it sink into your subconscious mind that you have many blessings, your stress will start to slip away. OCD loses its grip on you.

How Grateful Are You? Take the Gratitude Test!

12 Fantastic Ways to Express Gratitude With Your Words

  1. I feel grateful for everything I receive today. No matter what occurs find the silver lining. If you end up with a challenge on your hands ask, “What does this make possible?”
  2. Be grateful for all that you have and shift your focus away from thinking about what you lack. Don’t bother comparing and contrasting how much better off someone seems to be. In a split second, all of that can change. “In this moment I have not needed to start a gofundme.com account. For this I am thankful.”
  3. I am grateful for all the activities of daily living I am able to perform. I scan my body and am grateful for the parts that function and help me throughout the day.
  4. I am continually amazed that my circumstances don’t stop me from giving love! No matter what is going on inside my mind or world, I am always capable of showing love.
  5. I overcome, I grow, and I prosper all the time. My abundant blessings, as well as my difficulties, make me better, stronger, and more alive. There is no destination. I choose to grow as I take this journey.

  6. I am so grateful that I GET to take out the garbage. I GET to go to work. I GET to go to school. I GET to have life experiences.

  7. I appreciate and show my sincerest gratitude to my loved ones. Once a day I tell at least one person how they are loved, unique and important.
  8. The universe is looking out for me. There may be trials and tribulations, but I am never alone. 
  9. OCD is a strangely wrapped gift. For [this], I am exceptionally thankful. 
  10. I am so amazed by the tiniest of creations. Just look at how this little inchworm moves or how this tiny ant carries a heavy leaf.
  11. I give thanks for all the abundance that is yet to be revealed to my friends and family. I wish them the strength to endure and the courage to explore.
  12. I am grateful for the experience that caused me to forgive someone.

attitude of gratitude

Spending some time expressing gratitude is one of the most natural “stress relief drugs” you’ll ever take. Gratitude comes with no ill side effects, and it’s free. Giving thanks is user-friendly. It’s also portable–it goes wherever you go.

Strategies to enhance feelings of gratitude:

  • Journaling about things for which to be grateful.
  • Thinking about someone for whom you are grateful.
  • Writing/sending a letter to someone for whom you are grateful.
  • Meditating on gratitude (present moment awareness.)
  • Undertaking the “Count Your Blessings” exercise.
  • Practicing saying, “Thank you that means a lot to me.”
  • Writing thank you notes.
  • Praying about gratitude.

Turn Off the Inner Critic With Gratitude

Studies: The Benefits of Gratitude

Loving Someone with OCD

This is an open letter to those of you who are loving someone with OCD. 

I can’t imagine how frightened you were when your loved one was first hijacked by OCD. Everything was suddenly turned upside down. I’m sure you were terrified that things would never be the same.

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In the beginning, you tried to do whatever made your loved one less anxious. It hurt so much to see your child or family member in such agony. So you tried to end the horror as best you could.

Enabling and Reassuring Doesn’t Work

160_F_87314604_cXY7LMNX2XytR4PZrfpMnu823xukjMrCYou offered constant reassurance and tried over and over to use common sense and logic to get rid of your loved one’s fear and worry. But that part of the brain didn’t seem to be functioning properly. (There’s no logic in OCD!) So you ended up talking and talking until you were blue in the face.

You complied and met every OCD demand because it just seemed easier. You even joined in on some of the rituals like saying “I love you” five times or washing your hands when they weren’t even dirty.

160_F_76900683_xLdS4hkfytRXqf2KOLFEtKVyObB0sn7gYou kept the environment free of triggers and censored people’s words to keep them from triggering your child or family member. People stopped visiting because they didn’t want to make the situation worse.

You lost a lot of sleep and resorted to lecturing and giving the cold shoulder. You lost your cool many times. You thought, “This is so ridiculous. Just stop it!” 

I hope you know that you were coming from a place of love, not doubt, when you cried. And a place of fear, not hate, when you yelled or walked away in frustration. 

Your loved one has a problem with self-compassion. I don’t have to meet you to know you have the same problem. Maybe you weren’t always resourceful but you were always doing your best. Always.

In desperation or out of convenience, you kept enabling and reassuring. But, the relief was only temporary. OCD seemed to just get bigger and bigger. It robbed all of you of everyday pleasures and new experiences. The world got smaller with every passing day.160_F_101490863_zrPBrMmSdlxiWuDh94SwpgK0sRPut9ci

You thought all the reassurance would help ease the anxiety but it actually made it worse. The demands were getting more intense and frequent. Accommodating wasn’t helping anything other than providing one very brief moment of relief.

And then your prayers were answered. You found out that giving in was actually feeding OCD. 

Gradually Stop Accommodating

You knew that if you stopped feeding OCD your loved one would protest. Things were going to get worse before they got better. You worried: What if we’re biting off more than we can chew? 

160_F_111735791_JTouzhQEZie5tshllaRTtlFzFqSq38mDBut, you believed that in order to get a better outcome, the approach needed to change.

You stopped giving in and your loved one cried, “Don’t you love me? Why aren’t you helping me?” Talk about being stabbed in the heart—ouch.

You got tougher and your loved one accused you of not understanding, “You just don’t get it! I’m all alone now.” Ouch, that hurt too.

You stopped enabling but your loved one put you to the test, and said, “Fine, “I’ll go without.” Oh no! So afraid. What if things get worse now?

Support Your Loved One, Not OCD

You validated your loved one’s feelings, “I know this is hard. I can tell this is causing you a lot of pain.” Validate. Acknowledge. But, don’t take away the pain. Soften into the pain. It’s hard to be anxious when you want to be anxious.

160_F_88892850_k54dF5pbMxv6ZBXVl1U40GHXPK8Hh43HYou also showed how much faith you had in your loved one’s ability to overcome, “You’re stronger than you think. I know that you can do this. It’s hard, I know. You’ve done hard before. You’re not alone. I’m going to help you boss it back. I’m not going to feed OCD anymore, but I will help you defeat it.”

As time passed you remained patient. You stayed the course and your loved one began to understand there would be no more avoidance. Your message was loud and clear: THE FEAR HAD TO BE CONFRONTED.

Your loved one had no other way out—but in. No more avoiding.

  • OCD said, “Leave.” Nope, everybody stayed.
  • OCD said, “Don’t go.” Everybody left.
  • OCD said, “Avoid.” Everybody leaned in.
  • OCD asked, “What if?” Everybody shrugged and said, “Whatever.”
  • Your loved one sought reassurance, “Could this happen?” You put it back on them, “I don’t know.”
  • “Will it be okay?” You shrugged, “We’ll deal with it. Whatever happens, happens.”
  • OCD warned, “You’re getting too anxious. You can’t handle it. Do something.” You all said, “Good. We want that anxiety. We need to practice handling it.”

It wasn’t easy to Boss it Back. But feeding OCD wasn’t easy either. It was scary bossing it back, but feeding it was scary too. Both seemed like poison.

Boss it Back or Feed It
Boss it Back or Feed It

You picked the right poison. Which ended up being the antidote—the healing potion.

The catastrophes have ended. Life has returned. No more tiptoeing. Your loved one still has weird thoughts. But, they’re fewer and fewer.

There are still triggers but nothing a good shrug or “yup” can’t fix.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

Honestly, I’m really happy today because I’ve learned that a number of kids, near and dear to me, have returned to school this week with nothing more than a tiny little hiccup. (I’m thankful for the hiccups because they will only build more skills and cause more mastery.)

What About Those Who Are Still Being Accommodated?

I’m thinking now of those who haven’t been set free. Family members who continue to accommodate and reassure. There’s not a lot of bossing it back going on but, there’s a lot of tension. It feels like a hostage situation, I know. 

Perhaps you have OCD and are reading this, realizing the ways YOU are being accommodated and enabled. Whether you’re requiring your family to accommodate you, or just passively allowing it—how’s it working out? Everything you want is on the other side of fear. Go get it!

If you are a family member who is enabling, write down all the ways you are doing this—feeding OCD. Rate each one in terms of which ones you think would have the least impact on your loved one’s life if you stopped doing it.

160_F_85393917_Ld7cw3wo904aefXzfIgDbj04rNRYBVjMDiscuss the list and your ratings with your loved one. Then ask him or her to rate the same list and to “feel free to add to the list” any missed accommodations. Compare the two lists and acknowledge all the difficulties your loved one faces.

The next step shouldn’t be done unless you’re prepared to follow through. I recommend you do this with the help of a therapist who specializes in OCD. An OCD therapist will tell you that accommodation has been tied to poor treatment outcomes. A nonOCD specialist is likely to get caught in the trap of reassuring your loved one a lot.

You can also find expert help and guidance in several books. There are numerous books to guide you through the process too. 

Loving Someone With OCD

There are some people with OCD who will threaten harm to self or others if they are not enabled. Do not be held hostage with this threat. If your loved one makes such a threat or goes on a hunger strike, take your loved one to the emergency room or call 911 immediately. Don’t mess around! 

But, in many cases, your loved one will (begrudgingly) go along with this plan. They don’t want to live like this either! A 25-year-old feeding OCD for almost 10 years now, was asked by someone else’s parent, “What do you wish your parents had done differently?” He answered, “Not accommodate me.” WOW!!! High Five!

Explain Why Things Have to Change

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Explain to your loved one the current method of accommodating isn’t working. “There’s only temporary relief and that’s not good enough! At this rate, we’re all just hamsters in a wheel.” Try to gain permission to stop the enabling. It can be done gradually by withdrawing some of the easier accommodations.

If you don’t get permission to stop, that’s okay. Your loved one will probably be overwhelmed by this conversation but in their heart, they know it’s what’s best.

You’ll be tested. Mean what you say, but don’t say it mean. Explain if they don’t want to participate in the planning you’ll be picking the accommodations that will be stopping yourself. Look at the calendar with your loved one and write down the day you are going to stop each accommodation.

An Example of An Accommodation

Let’s use the example of contamination fears. Are you opening doors for your loved one so that s/he can avoid germs? This is an example of YOU feeding OCD. It’s one thing if your loved one, unfortunately, chooses to feed OCD, but why are you? Your loved one might still feed OCD by using a Kleenex to open the door but at least you’re no longer reinforcing the fear! 

What If You’re the One with OCD?

If you’re the one with OCD being accommodated, do yourself a favor! Get your life back by telling people who love you to stop enabling you! With calendar in hand, sit down with your enablers and say, “This is the day you’re going to stop this accommodation. I’ll need your encouragement but please stop feeding my OCD.”

Accommodating someone with OCD and offering plenty of reassurance is usually the mistake everybody makes in the beginning. If you conduct a cost/benefit analysis on accommodating you’ll discover the costs outweigh the benefits.

Hopefully, you’ll continue to get more informed about how enabling someone with OCD is actually…disabling. Just start with gradual changes and you’ll make good progress.

Bonus: If you want a Quick Guide for 6 kind and gentle ways to stop accommodating your child, Click HERE. It’s great for the fridge! Once you click, just check your email.

By the way, the Quick Guide? It’s good advice for adults with OCD too. ac41290798310afdf52eccaaf1ba73af

As always, your comments are welcome and really make my day. But, in addition to commenting, if you know someone who’s coping with OCD share this post with them!

Nobody’s healed until everybody’s healed!

What Happened at the OCD Conference

This year at the OCD Conference I spent all of my time at the Exhibition Hall. I was exhibiting, “ERP in a BOX“™ and as a result, hundreds of people told me about their challenges with OCD. I’ve never talked with so many people at once about ERP and it was energizing. 

People from all over the world stopped by and shared their stories. We had a lot of laughs with two women from Japan and had a thought-provoking conversation with a young man from Germany who is working hard for the USA on climate change.

I was especially concerned about a couple who stated there is no therapist in India to help them learn about Exposure and Response Prevention. I encouraged them to come back to the USA, rent an apartment and attend an intensive outpatient program like Rogers Behavioral Health.

I met a Mom and Dad who told me how their son had been hijacked by OCD. Thankfully, he broke free and their story brought me to tears. I told them I wanted to meet their son and they introduced me to him later on. His eyes were bright and he grinned from ear to ear. As soon as I laid eyes on him I said, “up top” and we shared a “high-five.” I know how hard he had to work to get free.

What Happened at the OCD Conference

I met two of the girls that were in the movie UNSTUCK. (Which, by the way, should have won an Oscar Award for Documentary Feature.) It was an incredibly moving experience to watch hundreds and hundreds of people thank these kids and their parents for raising awareness about OCD and ERP. 

A very energetic and brilliant doctor introduced herself to me. I wish she saw patients because she reminded me of an OCD whisperer!!!! Instead, she is devoting her time to very important research for the OCD Genetic Study @SUNY Downstate Medical Center. She’s hunting down the OCD gene.

One of the most unique exhibits was a nonprofit organization called pickingme.org. It wasn’t uncommon to see people at this table with stickers on their face and arms. (It’s better to pick at the stickers than the skin.)

Well-known for his treatment of skin picking, the famous Fred Penzel stopped by our exhibit and chatted with us for a while. He’s quite the history buff in addition to being a leading OCD specialist. The doctor who usually treats celebrities with addiction, Dr. Drew, was in the house as a keynote speaker. He only breezed through the Exhibit Hall so we didn’t get to chat.

I’ve seen on Facebook and Twitter “A Penny For Your Intrusive Thoughts” and met one of the founders of this movement. It can be a triggering site for people with OCD. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Right??? It’s an opportunity to practice using #bossitback skills!

This is something I am asked about all the time: Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. This is a noninvasive brain treatment and its FDA application for the treatment of OCD is pending. The doctor at this exhibit approached me inquiring about my availability to help with this research. Yeesh…I don’t know how but I’d certainly try to find the time. TMS and ERP combined to reduce the volume of white matter…KAPOW! 

Near our exhibit, an OCD Foundation affiliate out of Jacksonville Florida had a table displaying very cool FEARLESS swag from Natural Life. If you’re looking for gifts to give people with OCD this is a meaningful place to check out.

One of my favorite moments was being able to hug people I’ve only known through Facebook or through this blog. (I’m so glad you came by to say hello!!!) And finally one of the highlights of the weekend was to see an OCD thriver break out with dance and song at karaoke! She was belting it out! Now that’s a healthy coping skill!

Each year I attend the conference it’s apparent that OCD awareness is reaching new and brighter heights. It was validating to hear so many people say that “ERP in a Box” is brilliant. But, it was invigorating to meet so many OCD thrivers because of ERP! You know what I say, “Nobody is healed until everybody is healed!” I’m not going to stop thinking of ways to beat OCD.

This and so much more happened at the OCD Conference! Save the date. The next one will be 7/19-21 in Austin Texas.

The Little Boy and His Crickets

Let’s talk about ERP.  The initials of ERP stand for Exposure & Response Prevention (preventing the response anxiety is telling you to take) or otherwise known as Exposure and Ritual Prevention.

ERP is the most highly recommended type of therapy used to treat OCD. It’s what’s called an evidenced-based intervention. Evidence from studies has proven ERP is very effective. Basically, you expose yourself to something that makes you uncomfortable and you do nothing to alleviate the discomfort.

160_F_100424984_bJ1ZAQ1ILMccEmbvbMXlDMoMlNI6fJe6First, you build a hierarchy of people, places, things or situations that trigger your anxiety or discomfort. You place them on the hierarchy (ladder) in terms of easiest to hardest to face. “If you were going to face this fear would this be easier to face than this?” Then you make a plan to gradually climb the hierarchy from easiest to hardest. You’ll know it’s time to move to another step when you’ve become bored or desensitized with the step you’re on.

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I once knew a boy who was afraid of crickets. He couldn’t go outside because he was terrified that a cricket would land on him and bite him. He designed a hierarchy of gradually exposing himself to being near crickets. It started with being in a room with crickets living in a secure container. He ran into the room counted to 10 and ran out of the room as fast as he could. Gradually he increased the amount of time to 2 minutes. Eventually, he was quite comfortable being in a room with crickets in a secure container. He could even hold the closed container in his lap. The next phase was to open the lid of the container, and through similar incremental steps, he worked his way up to place his hand in the container.

The response he had to prevent during these exercises was to not reassure himself that crickets were harmless or couldn’t get out of the container. He had to accept the possibility of escape and being bitten. He talked like this to prevent himself from neutralizing his anxiety. This is Response Prevention. He tolerated the discomfort and in fact, I encouraged him to say he wanted the anxiety. He said, “I hope I’m anxious. I don’t care anymore. I want to be able to go outside and play with my friends. So go ahead. Make me anxious.”

At the top of his hierarchy was a plan to go outside where there were crickets freely living in a garden. But before he did that, he said he would need to take his shirt off and allow crickets to climb all over his body. Yikes! First, he did this with his shirt on and then eventually he took his shirt off. Crickets were crawling and hopping all over him. He was pretty tense at first, but suddenly he started to giggle, “It tickles.”

Every now and then I think I hear one of his crickets chirping in my office. I’m reminded of his courage and determination. He makes me smile. I know the bravest people in the world.

Rock Out This Summer!

Do you bounce back-n-forth between feeling either wired or tired? Many people with OCD find it very difficult to have a “moderate” or “ordinary” energy level.  It’s quite unsettling because it seems like there is rarely a happy medium; energy is either blocked or excessive.  

When you’re feeling wired, you tend to burn off your excess energy with unfounded fears. You can literally feel your brain buzzing. If your energy is blocked you’re here, but not here. Some of you describe it as feeling empty, foggy or “out to lunch.”

Wired or tired; you’re ungrounded. It’s the perfect opportunity for OCD to chatter away because when you’re ungrounded, there’s an imbalance of power. OCD knows you’ve only got “one foot on the ground,” and that’s not a stable position.

When you’re ungrounded, you lose control of your focus and become hyper-fixated on nonessentials. OCD wreaks havoc on your sense of reality. You begin to imagine all kinds of things. Everything OCD says seems real. Which leads to compulsive behaviors and useless in-depth analysis.

However, when you’re grounded your energy feels balanced, and you think logically and look upon each day with clarity.

grounding activity

How can you get grounded?

Many people exercise to release excess energy. Exercising provides a grounding effect, especially if you exercise outdoors.

However, exercising isn’t an option for everyone due to physical limitations, time constraints or it’s just not enjoyable.

How can you get grounded if exercise isn’t an option?

The disconnection from the earth is an often overlooked contribution to the imbalance of power—too much anxiety or too much depression.

Connecting the Body to the Earth

Many of you know I highly recommend hugging trees or laying down on the grass or digging into a garden to get grounded. Think of it this way: Direct contact with anything from the ground provides you with “electrical” nutrition. You can find plenty of research about this in the book Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever. Numerous studies are showing that grounding can reduce inflammation, which has been tied to symptoms of OCD.

So…this leads me to rock out this summer!

My latest fascination with grounding techniques involves rocks! Can you believe it! Even rocks provide electrical nutrition!

Rock Out This Summer With These Activities!

Collecting Stones

Even hunting for rocks is nutritional! You will feel balanced and grounded simply looking for rocks–much like walking on the beach looking for shells. Read what one person wrote about his love for rocks:

They are pure magic!

I love when you pick up a boring grey stone and then it sparkles in the sunlight. I love the amazing patterns. I love the geometry of crystals.

I love that crystals can make a radio work. I love that rocks and stones are millions of years old in a world of 2-minute attention spans. I love all the colors.

I love that a stone will look different when it gets wet. I have even been known to lick a stone to see that, but I prefer dribbling some water from my H2O bottle on it.

I love that the Ancient Greeks were able to carve stone and make it look like sheer fabric.

I love the feel of a smooth river stone in your hand.

I love that they hold clues to other worlds. Images of dinosaurs and coral, plants and insects made millions of years before the invention of cameras and Flickr. And I love that some of them have traveled all the way from Mars and beyond, despite the fact that they can’t move on their own.

I love that some can be melted to make glass and that some can, counter-intuitively, float.

I love skipping stones on glass-like water.

I love that people build houses from them that last thousands of years.

I love that I can cross a creek without getting my feet wet by stepping from rock to rock and finding the “best” way across.

I love that I can turn a rock over with my kids and discover a bunch of hidden animals. Salamanders, millipedes, worms, beetles, ants.

I love that all children love to collect pretty rocks and line them up on the porch railing.

I’m pretty sure this person doesn’t have contamination fears! Might as well do an exposure exercise while you’re grounding!

Stone Stacking

I came upon a Rock Cairn one day in my travels, and it piqued my curiosity. I Googled rock stacking and soon discovered it’s used for directional purposes AND a brilliant grounding activity.  

Initially, you might lack confidence. “I don’t think I can find a way to make them balance.” Build it anyway. It’s very rare that people feel confident about trying something new. Confidence is something that is developed AFTER trying something new.

This picture of a rock cairn was sent to me by a client who was on a hike. The top stone is a “beak” or a “duckie” and it’s pointing the direction of the path.grounding activity

Stone Painting

I first became fascinated when I learned of a Facebook Group called Grand Rapid Rocks. They paint stones and then leave them in public places for people to find. What a great idea! It’s a beautiful way to practice random acts of kindness. And, it’s also a fantastic grounding technique.

I’m not crafty at all but, I decided to try painting a stone. I found lots of ideas on Pinterest and selected a bee as my first attempt. (I saved the pin if you want to see the directions.) 

Considering my bug phobia, I thought painting an insect was a kooky choice. I was ill-equipped with only one too-large paintbrush. So at first, I was self-critical of my crooked lines but then I reminded myself it doesn’t matter! Who cares!

Then I let my inner child out and had some fun. 

focus activity

I hope you ROCK OUT this summer!

Connect with the earth and get nourished!

The more grounded you are the more power you have to beat OCD.

p.s. If you have children, rock painting is an excellent grounding activity for the whole family.  Just google Stone Activities for the Backyard.

Using Mental Kung Fu To Combat OCD

Thanks to OCD, is your mind stuck like glue? Do you have a thought or two, or three or more that haunt you? Have you figured out how to break free from OCD?

break free from OCDIt’s not fun to have a sticky mind. Many people with OCD will do whatever compulsion it takes to try and get unstuck. But the release from the stickiness is only temporary.

What’s the best way to handle unwanted intrusive thoughts? 

To begin with, calling them unwanted and intrusive is the first mistake. Think about the message this gives the Fear Center in your brain. You’re telling your brain to be on alert because this thought means something bad is about to go down.

It’s better to call these difficult thought patterns “wanted” and “appreciated.” I know that sounds ludicrous but that’s how you beat OCD. It’s mental Kung Fu–a unique style of combat fought in the mind. break free from OCD

Want the thoughts and the Fear Center feels no threat. Appreciate the thoughts and you develop a growth mindset–an opportunity to use the thoughts to practice your skills.

Break Free From OCD by Using Mental Kung Fu

What is mental Kung Fu? It means accepting a thought with minimal resistance and yet getting maximum effect.

This is how to use mental Kung Fu:

  • Fetch it. Bring the thought in. Summon the thought. “I’m going to trigger the thought on purpose as often as I can.”
  • Pull it in. Take hold of the thought with a force like you are twisting its arm. “I’m going to exaggerate this thought to make it even worse.” 
  • Detain it. Keep it from leaving. “Hey, where do you think you’re going? Oh no, you don’t. You stay right here.”

Here are the results of a poll taken from the last blog post:

poll-results-10012482

As you can see, “I hope I think like this all day long” received the most votes. Good! That goes along with DETAINING the thought. “Good there’s my thought. I want it to last.” It’s not easy to say that about an OCD thought but it’s how to play mental Kung Fu.

The answer that received the second highest number of votes, “I have no idea and never will” is another example of DETAINING the thought. You are prepared to live your life with this thought for the rest of your life.

Thankfully, the answer with zero votes was, “Stay positive there’s an answer to this.” Trying to get to the bottom of an obsession is pointless. OCD cannot be satisfied for very long at all. Just when you think you’ve removed all doubt, another tantalizing question arises.

The fact that “there’s an answer to this” received ZERO votes shows the readers of this blog are well-informed of WHAT NOT TO DO. People with OCD know that trying to get to the bottom of a “what-if” question or trying to get clarity on a “what to do next” decision only leads down the rabbit hole.

Inside the rabbit hole is more confusion than can be imagined. A person with OCD has spent a lot of time in a rabbit hole so they know they don’t want to go down one. So the plan is to accept uncertainty and to NOT seek out answers or try to get relief from all the doubt.

But Wait!!!!!!! Zero votes, and yet seeking answers is the technique most frequently employed by people with OCD. The plan is to NOT SEEK ANSWERS but the feeling of discomfort interferes with that plan.

Mental Kung Fu is sticking with the plan and not letting feelings interfere. No matter how terrible it feels stick with the plan: Fetch it, pull it in and detain it.

It’s also not very effective to label a thought as “just OCD.” Upon first being diagnosed it’s part of the educational process to label thoughts as OCD or part of the doubting disease. But eventually (the sooner the better) it’s crucial to stop labeling thoughts as “just OCD.”

Relabeling your thoughts as “just OCD” won’t work for very long because it doesn’t FEEL like OCD. It feels real. 

The response, “I am inadequate and so what” is a good way to shrug off OCD. What is there to be anxious about if you don’t care? Except, having harmful thoughts can be hard to shrug off. It can be done but for some people, if the thought is so abhorrent it’s hard to say “so what” and mean it!

The response “Yup, I might never think normal” is certainly showing a strong, radical force of acceptance. It’s the complete opposite of trying to wriggle your way out of a thought. But, for many people, radical acceptance is a hard line to walk without becoming self-loathing or despondent.

To PULL IT IN means to agree wholeheartedly with OCD by exaggerating. “My teeth are so large I’m going to trip over them one of these days.” That’s an outstanding way to shrug off OCD! If you have a creative imagination and a dry sense of humor, this approach will be right up your alley. 

Break free from OCD

Break Free From OCD by Using Mental Kung Fu

FETCHING the thought is Mental Kung Fu at its finest. It is an impressive way to employ minimal resistance to get maximum effect. For example, if you obsess that your teeth are too large then go fetch a costume pair of very large teeth and wear them in public. Take that OCD!!! 

FETCH, PULL IT IN and DETAIN OCD! This is known as Exposure & Response Prevention, widely known as the most effective way to break free form OCD. Confront your fears and do nothing to relieve the anxiety caused by the trigger.

Minimal resistance and maximum effect.

Obsessing About Obsessing

I have OCD

Pure O

Then it became a compulsion–how to let thoughts go. I made up a motto, “Don’t go there!” Meaning, don’t think about fixing thoughts. Sounds healthy right? It wasn’t. It became a compulsion. I had to say, “Don’t Go There.” 

I constantly have doubt after one of my thoughts. First, the doubt comes in: “Maybe I’m not good enough.” Then I start thinking about how I thought years ago. Would I have had that doubt back then? Rewind. How did I handle it back then? Should I try that strategy now? Down the rabbit hole, I go. 

Then I’ll come up with strategies of what I can do the next time a thought like that comes in my head. I go through times where I try to turn these “doubt thoughts” into positive thoughts. Then I go through days where my strategy is to agree with the doubt, but then I constantly turnaround and change the strategy as I believe that way wasn’t working. 

Pure O
There’s got to be a way out of this.

I’ve been doing this for so long. When I got a “doubt thought” years ago I would challenge it or turn into a positive, but now I get a “doubt thought” and it’s like I freeze—like I hit a brick wall.  Because, I’m not sure if I should challenge the thought, turn it into a positive thought, agree with the thought or do nothing about the thought. 

I spend hours trying to figure out how to let thoughts go. I just wish I could think normal without trying to change my thoughts. 

The doubt thoughts are not scary. It doesn’t scare me to think I’m inadequate. Like I’ll send a message to a friend, then doubt rushes over me: “Maybe I sent the wrong message.” That’s not what bothers me. I’m scared of what to do to boss it back–to let the thought go. I’m scared I won’t use the right strategy.

This happens after every kind of thought.

I’ve tried medication but nothing ever was like wow! And I can’t up the dosage enough anyway. 

If the “let the thoughts go” didn’t hit me so hard with so much energy behind it, it would be ok but it’s so strong. I keep thinking if I turn it into a positive it’s wrong. No matter what I do it’s going to be wrong.

I’ve read so many articles on google I over think and over read. I’m just constantly trying to think a certain way to beat this OCD.  I did read something that sounded similar, when OCD goes meta, obsessing about obsessing. Maybe that information will lead to a good strategy. 

I Have OCD

This person with OCD, (we’ll call Sam) learned some time ago that’s he’s supposed to let go of unwanted, intrusive thoughts. But, he became tangled up in figuring out how to let go. Choosing the best strategy to “let go” is a decision that sends him into a tailspin. He spends hours researching and analyzing what to do. 

Sometimes he builds a sense of certainty about a specific strategy. “It worked for others maybe it will work for me!” He receives temporary relief. But in no time at all, that strategy stops working. The doubt seeps in: “How do I let go of these thoughts the next time?” And the research and analyzing begin again. He’s trying to engineer the perfect plan.

I imagine a therapist would begin like this:

Therapist: Let the thoughts of inadequacy be there. Allow these thoughts. 

Sam: Okay. So don’t try to fix the thoughts of inadequacy?

Therapist: We’re all inadequate so who cares?

Sam: So agree with the thoughts? Just say, “Yup, OCD, I’m inadequate like everybody else?”

Therapist: Go further than that. Tease OCD. “You know what, OCD? I’m more inadequate than other people. I haven’t climbed Mt. Everest and others have. How’s that for insufficiency, OCD? A 75-year-old completed the Ironman, and I haven’t. How’s that for inadequacy, OCD?”

Sam: Okay, so not only agree with OCD’s worry that I’m inadequate but one-up OCD by flooding?

Therapist: Sure. You could even punch it out like this, “How do you like that OCD! I haven’t even made it into the Guinness Book of World Records. Take that for big headline news, OCD!”

Sam: Okay, so I could even say things like this: “Talk about inadequacy, OCD I forgot to pay my friend for lunch yesterday.  Make sure you write about it, OCD! Put it in the headlines for all to read, OCD! I’m going to shout out my inadequacy from the rooftop! It’s good to tell the world!” Could I punch it out like that?

Therapist: It sounds like sarcasm and a lot of sass. It seems like you’re in a boxing match and you’re winning by taking jabs at OCD. It’s like you’re saying, “Come and get me, OCD.”

Sam: Yeah. I like it. Okay. I’m going to agree with OCD by poking fun at it and flooding. That’s how I … can … let… the … thoughts … go.

Bam! He Just Hit a Wall. A GREAT BIG WALL.

Therapist: Is that your goal? To let go of thoughts?

Sam: Yes, isn’t that what I’m supposed to do?

Therapist: No.

Pure OSam: What??? Am I not trying to let go of thoughts? That doesn’t make sense. All I’ve ever learned is to figure out a way to let go, let go, let go.

Therapist: I’m saying it’s not your goal…to let go of thoughts. The opposite of letting go is to fetch, detain, embrace, engage, keep up, pull in. Do the opposite of letting go.

Sam: But, I’ve been trying to let go of thoughts all these years. Isn’t that what I’m supposed to do!

Therapist: Not if it’s a compulsion.

Sam: If I have an unwanted, intrusive thought I’m supposed to let it be. If I think I’m inadequate, I’m supposed to let that thought be. Just let it go. And you just said I could let it go by agreeing with the thought, poking fun at OCD and going to the extreme by flooding. Now you’re saying not to do that because it’s compulsive. I’m confused.

Therapist: It’s not uncommon for OCD to turn what you’re “supposed” to do, into what you “better do.” Whatever you view as crucial, sacred or precious, OCD will hyper-focus on it and break it down into some nitty-gritty mission to control and keep safe.

Sam: (Heavy sigh.) Okay, tell me please what I’m supposed to do. How should I “boss it back?” I don’t care if I’m inadequate. I want to respond to the thought in the right way. What’s the right way to let go?

Bam! He Just Hit a Wall. A GREAT BIG WALL.

Therapist: I’m not sure the goal to “let go in the right way” is of much help to you. It seems to be leading you into compulsive behavior. Is it time for you to let go of letting go?

Sam: What does that mean?

Therapist: The opposite of letting go is to fetch, detain, embrace, engage, keep up, pull in. 

Sam: What am I fetching? Opportunities to practice being inadequate?

Therapist: If inadequacy bothers you, fetch opportunities to be inadequate. But you’ve said incompetence doesn’t bother you. It seems like your core fear is not being able to let go of thoughts. 

Sam: How do I let go of letting go?

Therapist: The more important question has to do with your motivation. Why do you want to learn a strategy for letting go? What is your reason? What do you hope to achieve by letting go of letting go?

Will He Hit a Wall or Breakthrough Here?

Sam: I just wish I could think normal without trying to change my thoughts. 

Therapist: If your goal is to stop trying to change your thoughts you might want to think about having more of those thoughts. OCD is an opposites game. When you feel like you should think it less, think it more. 

Sam: I don’t want to think more though! I want to think less!

Bam! He Just Hit a Wall. A GREAT BIG WALL.

Therapist: I suspect that has been your goal for many many years–to think less. How has that been working out?

Sam: It’s not! I can’t stop thinking. I want to stop thinking!

Therapist: What do you think would happen if you tried to think more? Fetch, detain and pull in more of these thoughts of not being able to let go.  Upon hearing this how does it make you feel?

Sam: Anxious.

Therapist: Good. Then we’re on to something.

Sam: I’m not sure I understand what to do. It makes me anxious.

Therapist: Good. You want the anxiety. It’s not bad. It’s good. Do you know the thought you need to have more of not less of? 

Take the poll and I’ll respond soon! ~Stay tuned!~

Pure O

Say Something I’m Giving Up On You

OCD
There’s no end to the questions…

OCD thrives on answers. If you stop answering its questions you cut off its oxygen. But, OCD is a trickster and only needs to ask one single irresistible question and POW!!! Down the rabbit hole, you go.

I was watching a mother with her young daughter in the grocery store the other day. This toddler had so many questions! The mother answered every blessed one—no matter how ridiculous. Instead of feeling interrogated she seemed to love her daughter’s curiosity. When she answered the questions her tone of voice was very reassuring. Naturally, the toddler was having fun and enjoyed the attention. So the questions just kept coming.

If you know me—then you know it’s just like me to make an experiment out of the situation and follow this mother and daughter around the store. It’s incredible the Market Bistro even lets me anywhere near the store considering all the ERP I bring my clients to do there! I picture security watching the camera and when they see my car pull into the parking lot they groan, “Oh no. Now, what is she up to.”

There’s no end to the questions

Anyway, I followed this family around in the store because the toddler reminded me of someone I know. Someone who never stops asking questions. The questions are the most absurd, ridiculous and cockamamie you can imagine. This toddler was precisely like OCD, and I wanted to know how this remarkable Mom handled being bombarded with one question after another.

How long could this Mom hold up? When would she get tired and put a stop to it? The questions were relentless. How would the mother get out of this mess??? How could she stop the never-ending questions? Was it even possible?

OCDI could see the mother was getting tired and honestly I don’t think I would have lasted so long. Eventually, Mom’s answers became shorter and vaguer. And then I heard Mom start answering every question with one of these responses: “Because I said so” or “I don’t know why it just is…”

The toddler tried a few more questions. But, Mom didn’t give in. I heard her say, “Maybe. We’ll have to find out later.” The toddler became quiet and looked right at me. I smiled in the most non-creepy way I could. She looked away (probably thinking this weirdo has been following us all over the place.)

In a matter of minutes, the toddler fell asleep in the shopping cart. Wow!! Mom stopped answering, and the toddler GAVE UP! And THIS (as Montell Jordan would sing), IS HOW WE DO IT! I put my hand up to high five the Mom, but for obvious reasons, she turned and went the other way.

Of course, the difference between OCD and a toddler is that the child evolves. Her crawl becomes a walk. But more importantly, she becomes intellectually disciplined. Over time the toddler uses experience and reasoning as a guide to belief and action.

OCD is incapable of developing these critical thinking skills. 

I’m reminded of another song, by A Great Big World called, Say Something I’m Giving Up On You:

Say something; I’m giving up on you
I’ll be the one if you want me to.
Anywhere, I would’ve followed you
Say something; I’m giving up on you.
And I am feeling so small
It was over my head
I know nothing at all

OCD knows nothing at all…hence the nonstop questions. Everything is over its head. And if you don’t talk to it…it feels small and retreats to slumber.

And I will stumble and fall
I’m still learning to love
Just starting to crawl
Say something; I’m giving up on you
I’m sorry that I couldn’t get to you

Finally, bossy pants OCD, admits it’s still crawling. It knows nothing at all. That’s right OCD!!! You can’t GET TO ME!!!

Anywhere, I would’ve followed you
Say something; I’m giving up on you
And I will swallow my pride
You’re the one that I love
And I’m saying goodbye

Good! Bon Voyage, OCD! Sayonara! Hasta la vista, baby!

Go right ahead and give up on me, OCD!

Oh listen, OCD is begging now:

You can answer every question OCD asks and it will never learn anything. Stop answering its questions and it will give up on you.

Don’t answer OCD when it asks, “WHY” or “WHAT IF…”

DON’T ANSWER with anything except this script:

  • I don’t know why…it just is.
  • Maybe, maybe not; time will tell.
  • Whatever. Who cares. So what.
  • If it’s not happening now, it’s not happening.
  • At this moment, right here, right now…it’s pretty okay.
  • If that happens it will be unpleasant and I’ll deal with it.
  • There’s no way to know for sure. Time will tell.
  • I know you’re afraid, OCD. That’s because you know nothing at all.
  • I’d rather take the risk than live like this.

Hasta la vista means, “See you later.”  OCD will give up if you don’t try to reassure it. But, that doesn’t mean OCD won’t try again to engage you. Stick to the script. Even if it means sounding like a broken record.

Free Your Mind. Free Your Life. Defying OCD