Too bad that it has taken so long to get a show like “Obsessed” on the air.  Not that I could have watched it when my OCD was at its worst– I would have avoided it, most likely.  Watching it now, I am reminded again and again that OCD is such a devastating, life-changing disorder.  I feel so deeply for each and every person on the show; my empathy runs deep for them.

And why shouldn’t it?  When I was diagnosed 14 years ago, no one had ever even heard of OCD:  I’d never heard of it.  I had no idea that when I started avoiding cracks in the sidewalk for fear of ‘something bad happening’ that millions of others were also experiencing similar insanities.  Imagine, walking to class one day, on a sidewalk you’d walked on a thousand times, suddenly having this elementary-school rhyme pop into your head and stay; not only stay, but give you the worst anxiety you’d ever felt?  The absolute belief that if you DID indeed step on one crack, something bad would happen to a family member?

When I saw Karen checking under her bed, I felt a familiar pang.  Years before my life was actually taken over by OCD, I had an isolated incident of checking behaviors.  I do them now, still, on most nights.  I have this tiny apartment, I know that no one can actually fit under my bed, yet I have to check.  In 1989, I lived in a dorm room for one semester.  I had to drop out of college because I could not sleep at night:  I had thoughts of someone being in my room.  I had thoughts of Ted Bundy (even though he was either in jail or dead, not sure which, didn’t matter) coming into my dorm and murdering me.  I could not go to sleep until the sun was up; I slept two hours each night, then got up and went to class.  Every night, I checked the closets, under the bed, over and over again.  It didn’t matter how many times I checked, my mind would not let the thoughts go.  When I did sleep, I slept with the lights on.

So, I dropped out of college.  I couldn’t handle going on two hours of sleep each night; I was literally physically and mentally exhausted.  I did go back, to another university, a few years later.  That’s when the OCD really hit me.

Anyway, back to the show.  Again, both Russ and Karen have had some kind of trauma or loss in their lives.  Both suffered either repeated trauma and or loss of loved ones.  This is a common theme, and it just reinforces the belief I hold that some kind of trauma or stress will bring out OCD.

Russ stated that he became attached to things because he no longer had the people to care about– he associated objects with people he had lost in his life.  We all do this– we all keep mementos, reminders of events or people.  But as he said, letting go is necessary.  I liked the therapist’s approach of one room at a time– I’ve heard that it’s hard for hoarders to do anything about their hoarding because they don’t know where to start.  The task is so overwhelming that they just never begin.

Again, no mention of meds on the show.  Impressive, considering that most therapists want to throw pills at the problem instead of doing the really hard and necessary work.  CBT takes hard work, but it works— it helps more than any other therapy for OCD.  CBT helps the patient, not the drug companies.   14 years ago, when I was first diagnosed, the recent grad who had diagnosed me said that OCD was his specialty in college.  He then gave me a bunch of scripts and brochures.  He never mentioned CBT.  Thank fuck things have changed.

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