I am catching up on my emails and here is a shortened relationship OCD success story. I really like two things about this story (but there are many more!):
1 – The analogy used that when we love something (or someone) that does not mean that we should be thinking about it all the time.
2- That success is not measured by not having rOCD thoughts but rather by managing the disease and its symptoms. This means that we can learn to be happy, even when we have rOCD!
About a year ago, I had recently turned 21 and life was going great. I met a girl I really liked and we hit it off for about four months. Suddenly, as I was studying for an exam one night that feeling of happiness was turned upside down with feelings of doubt, anxiety, and depression. I had no idea what hit me and none of my friends knew either. I felt crazy, alone, and desperate for my life to return its former state. Finally, I realized I was feeling anxiety in my relationship and was able to go online and self-diagnose myself with ROCD. The feeling of isolation went away but it would be a long time before I would learn how to cope with this monster.
When I figured it out, I explained it to my parents who were both understanding but I hid it from my girlfriend for 3 heart-wrenching weeks because I was afraid of how she would react. I contacted my therapist who had helped me in the past and encouraged me to tell my girlfriend. He told me to tell her that I loved her but was experiencing obsessive irrational thoughts. When I finally told her, she was very understanding and even proud of me for seeing a therapist to deal with it. That was a huge relief but admittedly still a low point in our relationship. My heart would beat fast around her and I would constantly question whether or not I felt the way “I was supposed to feel” when she sent me a cute text message. I would constantly question whether I even had ROCD or if I just plainly didn’t like her anymore. And when I spoke about it with her, it was a sensitive topic and I would have to reassure her that I loved her. In a summer time where I was supposed to be relaxed on a break from school, I was absolutely miserable.
The first step was education. I had plenty of thoughts that were quickly disproven. All of my thoughts said essentially the same thing: that I needed to be thinking about her all the time, and that I needed to feel something every time she called me, texted me, and saw me. One strong method of disproving these thoughts was comparing my relationship to other things that I loved. For instance, I don’t always think about Mexican food, but does that mean I don’t love it? Of course not. These realizations helped me improve, but I was still tormented by constant obsessive thoughts and heart palpitations. This was because I could not accept my anxiety for the life of me and that made my improvement much harder. Every time I experienced a feeling of “something wrong” or an obsessive thought, I thought “this is so stupid, why is this happening to me?” and I would become anxious about getting anxious and it would spiral into a depression. At one of my lowest points, I learned to accept my anxiety by repeating the phrase “I can allow myself to feel anxious because I know my body is over-exaggerating the threat of danger.”
What I didn’t realize is that the trick to making obsessive thoughts going away, is to not think about them at all. Every time a thought would come up, I would try to rationalize the thought and disprove it instead of just simply ignoring it. It felt as if I was missing something important if I ignored the thought. When I realized how to “thought stop,” I made a lot of progress. Highly effective methods that helped me “thought stop” were visualizing a stop sign, biofeedback, observing my surroundings, zapping myself with a rubber band, and looking at a compiled album on my computer of pictures from Google images or my photo album that make me happy. Also, although I have always lifted weights, running improved my anxiety sensitivity significantly.
All in all, it’s important to have some sort of routine to stay motivated; otherwise progress can be frustrating and discouraging. I recommend that anybody who is struggling should get a therapist and read Bruno’s book which I learned a lot from. I improved without medicine which was hard but worth it in the long run. My key realization was that it’s impossible to try and feel a certain way since that just adds anxiety and works counter-intuitively. The best thing to do is to just think about something else that makes you happy. Currently, my girlfriend and I are happy. I still experience a few anxious moments a day but I give them no importance and they gradually dissipate.