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Dr. Shana said “live your life in the face of fear.”  For those that suffer with OCD, anxiety, or similar disorders, is there any other choice?  Yes:  to not live, to hide, to isolate, to avoid.

It amazes me, each time I watch this show, how far OCD and anxiety reach into a person’s life.  How devastating it can be.  How it turns normal, every day activities into fear-inducing, god-awful, time-consuming events.  And yet, there is a twisted logic to it, at times.  In Marie’s case, she suffered the tremendous loss of her son, not yet two years old.  She suffers from a fear of things being too heavy, crashing through the floor, and causing her untimely death.  So a traumatic event shook her world, and she now feels nothing is stable, that anything can happen.  The world became unpredictable;  if her two year old son could die so suddenly, then anything can happen.  Maybe it’s because I have the same OCD thought patterns, but this makes sense.  I would feel the same as Marie.  That feeling of not being able to trust anything, or depend on anything–even the floor or ground beneath you– that’s not just paranoia, but a deeply rooted fear.  Life is unpredictable, yes, but for someone suffering from anxiety, that unpredictability can become a conduit for fear.  I’ve had similar thoughts while sitting in movie theaters:  I felt certain that the floor would give way, and we would all fall.  Not being able to trust the ground beneath you is an uncomfortable feeling.

I think Matt was able to articulate his thoughts and feelings very well, but he seemed to struggle quite a bit with therapy.  He talked a lot about avoidance, and I think that’s the perfect word for how someone with certain phobias acts, what they do.  I have always referred to myself as being ‘flaky’ due to avoidance of certain social situations.  Matt also said three things I relate to:  fear of not getting to a safe place, fear of having anxiety, and fear of being trapped.  It’s odd that claustrophobia and agoraphobia both involve fear of being trapped.  But I think the fear of getting to a safe place is the most interesting– and the most difficult to describe.  This is something that has plagued me for years, and I had no name for it.  When I go for walks in the park, alone, I’m never gone that long:  I feel the need to come back home.  I have a fear of having a panic attack somewhere and not being able to escape, or get somewhere I deem ‘safe’ quickly.  The need to be or feel safe is really a crucial aspect of OCD.  It’s not just avoidance of ‘dangerous’ situations but also a need to feel safe, comfortable.  Ask a person suffering with OCD how often they feel safe or comfortable.  I bet I know the answer.

I like what Matt’s therapist (can’t recall her name) said about the purpose of CBT:  she said it was to make the anxiety rise and fall.  The more you expose yourself to fear-inducing situations, the less the anxiety.  Matt didn’t stick it out with therapy, and his therapist said that his success or failure was his own.  Which is true, and it’s reassuring to know that therapists exist who are not enablers.  She also pointed out how exhausting panic attacks can be; also very true.  The physical component of an anxiety attack is… well, there are no words to describe it.  There are words, but they are insufficient.

Watching Obsessed exhausts me.  It dredges up memories of similar experiences.  It pains me to see others suffering from OCD because I know how it feels.  Empathy is good, but some days it is a complete mind-fuck.

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.

The 2nd installment of the new show “Obsessed” aired tonight, and again, I am impressed.  It’s about time a television show gave a realistic peek into the world of a person who has OCD.  Lately I’ve heard the term OCD used as an adjective more times than I care to count and it angers me each time.   OCD is not an adjective, people!

The exposure and response therapy was much more intense this time.  Trina, who suffers from intrusive thoughts that she might harm others, had to hold a knife to her therapists throat.  As Dr. Shana stated several times, this is the ultimate therapy– the ultimate exposure.  You could see the anxiety on Trina’s face.  But as her therapist pointed out “She has an anxiety disorder, she’s not a serial killer!”  I loved that quote– so completely apt.  OCD is an ANXIETY disorder, pass it on!  Not sure America knows that.  Trina has OCD thoughts of hurting others, of being afraid she will ‘lose control’ and do something horrible.  We all have a fear of losing control, but of course with OCD it’s magnified a thousand times.  It affected Trina’s life to the point that she denied herself a social life and missed out on things; she isolated, she felt lonely.

Nicole’s OCD was a little more problematic, a little harder to understand.  I do get the plugging of her ears:  there are certain sounds I can’t stand either, and just like Nicole, not sure where that stems from.  I’d be interested to know the root of Nicole’s obsessions with her mother and brother’s hands, and the ‘k’ sound.  Nicole did a lot of painful exposure therapy as well, but not much was said about the root of her obsessions.  I did feel very tearful when Nicole talked about the guilt that she felt, especially in regards as to how this was affecting her family.  She also said something about feeling guilty because she knew she wasn’t strong enough– I felt she was blaming herself for her OCD and that made me sad.  A person can’t blame themselves for having OCD any more than they can blame themselves for any other disease!  But guilt seems a strong component to this disease, and I wish her therapist had addressed that a little more.  But in the end, Nicole had the support of her family & felt more assured that they would not give up on her.

I felt a familiar twinge when Nicole said that she didn’t “know what life is like without OCD.”  The fear and anxiety is so strong with this disorder, that sometimes you can even fear its absence.

I guess some of the symptoms and issues shown on this show might be weird or shocking to some; to those of us who have OCD, these symptoms are familiar, easily recognized.  Fifty or so years ago, we didn’t even have this diagnosis and there was no treatment.  I’m thankful that is no longer the case, and that there is help for the many suffering from this ‘doubting disease.’

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