Alternative title : Because sometimes dealing with OCD is like smashing yourself in the face with a frying pan … Repeatedly.
Brain : “Where do you think you’re going? You can’t just leave the car there … You need to at least check that it’s locked”
Me : “It’s locked … We heard it click. We can see the handle has moved. It’s locked. And it’s parked under a CCTV camera, on the work’s car park, in a bay bigger than most. It’s fine”
Brain : “You’re not listening to me! It’s NOT safe! We can’t just walk away from it!”
Me : “I shouldn’t even be going through this mental check … It’s locked! End of story!”
Brain : “It’s NOT! IT’S NOT SAFE! You only think that it is but it isn’t and someone will steal it and take it joy riding and hit someone and that person will die and it will be all YOUR FAULT because I told you it wasn’t safe and you wouldn’t check it and you are being negligent!… Stop walking and check the damned door! I’M SERIOUS!”
This how the majority of my mornings (and evenings) are going at the moment. My therapist suggested an experiment of sorts, to see if it would be possible to lessen the Anxiety felt when I didn’t complete a checking ritual by just not starting the ritual. Sounds simple doesn’t it? For example, press the button to lock the car door and then just walk away, cool as you like, don’t even look back.
Except it really isn’t that simple … My palms sweat and my fingers tremble seconds after the button has been pressed, my heart starts to race, the intrusive thoughts begin, my stomach churns and Anxiety shits threaten … By the time I reach my desk my body is ready for a full on meltdown with kicking and screaming and bawling. My brain has already gone into meltdown mode and is shrieking that something terrible is happening at that very moment because I ‘negligently’ didn’t check that the door was locked … That all I need to do to be sure that everything will be perfectly a-ok (and that the car won’t be stolen and that people won’t die) is to go back and complete the ritual. To just grab the handle. To just check.
It’s not a ‘want’ to check, it is a ‘need’ to check. A physical need to check. Your whole body experiences an Anxiety attack of your own creating because you are trying to break the OCD cycle. Because you are trying to control one of the demons rather than have that demon control you.
Managing to get to my desk without turning back has taken months and at times it’s left me wondering what the damned point is as once the ritual is complete I have a sense of relief, it’s one less Anxiety trigger (until the next time of course), so just doing the ritual seems like the logical option but I know that ultimately if I don’t break the cycle there will be more Anxiety to endure (after all, there are times when it is not possible to complete a ritual), there will be more pressure to get the check right (even though I check in 3’s, it ends up as multiples of 3) and in situations of heightened stress I know that the ritualistic checking can be very time consuming (ever checked your car for 30 minutes straight before running into a shop for a pint of milk? … Yeah, it’s a lot more fun in a thunderstorm).
My therapist has advised that dealing with the fall out of an incomplete ritual is all part of the recovery process and while I concede that she has a bloody good point, there is a part of me that feels rather cynical about it. I’m basically poking the demons with pointy sticks to see which one will be baited into biting first.
It all feels a bit catch-22.
Still … If I can make it to my desk without checking I can class that as a small victory right? (Even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time). And small victories should be celebrated …
I have to just remind myself that it is progress … Even if said progress makes me want to pee my pants at the possibility that a door is unlocked.