By Katy Marciniak
Lately I’ve been thinking about the person I was a few years back when I finally stumbled into the right therapist’s office, after years of not quite understanding this brain of mine. On one hand it feels so long ago and on the other like it was just yesterday. I’ve been thinking about what I would say to that version of myself, knowing what I know now. It would probably go something like this…
Nah in all seriousness this is what I would say:
I know you’re hurting right now, but this choice you’re making to show up to therapy today and all the days going forward is going to change your life.
It’s going to feel so hard to open up at first, and to let someone in to see your pain and struggles, but this therapy will help you. It will change you. I know all you want right now in life is to have someone “fix” you and make the OCD go away, but you’re going to have to play a role in this. You will need to show up, and that’s going to look different in different phases of your treatment. Maybe it’s disclosing the thoughts that scare you. Maybe it’s letting yourself cry. Maybe it’s asking for more help. Maybe it’s trusting the professional trying to help you. Maybe it’s doing the ERP homework despite how hard and scary it feels. Maybe it’s going to an IOCDF conference. Maybe it’s allowing yourself to share your story with someone else who has OCD. Maybe it’s being kind to yourself. Maybe it’s truly listening to your therapist when they tell you something you don’t necessarily want to hear, but need to. Maybe it’s trying a therapy you didn’t think you would have to do. But all I can say is, just keep showing up for yourself.
Okay, this whole Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) thing. I’m not going to lie, it’s going to feel so hard sometimes. Your mind and everything in you will be screaming at you while you face your fears. Don’t wait for your confidence to show up to start the ERP, just start doing the work and the confidence will come in time. Some days will feel easy, others will be hard, and some days you won’t have it in you to fight your OCD at all. It’s okay to take a beat, and be kind to yourself on those days. Your stamina will come back and you’ll keep on fighting.
Just remember any little victory you can get over your OCD is one stepping stone to where you want to be. Sometimes those little ERP stones will feel so minuscule and unimportant, but I’m telling you now that they are important.
Even more importantly celebrate those little steps.
You deserve it, especially when it feels like you don’t. ERP will feel tedious and cumbersome at times, but one day it will just be a way of life for you. A way of life that quite honestly helps you live the life you want.
Progress, this is a tricky one. Therapy is a journey, and a process, so it will inevitably have some twists and turns. It’s so easy to get stuck in the ruts sometimes, especially on the days that things aren’t clicking. Having OCD is hard and the work to get better and stay better can be exhausting. Just remember the tough feelings don’t last forever. The work is hard and it’s challenging, and what I’ve learned is the more I allow myself to acknowledge that, the easier the work becomes. It feels hard, because it is hard. That doesn’t mean it’s hard for someone else necessarily, but it’s hard for you and that’s why you’re doing the work. You want something for yourself on the other side of all that work.
There will be moments in your journey where you’ll realize in some very mundane moments that all the work you’ve been doing in therapy is paying off, because your OCD just isn’t present where it used to be. Eventually you will see yourself doing things you never could, or even better, things you never even knew you wanted to do. It is so beautifully empowering when you get to those moments.
This one is going to be a hard sell, given where you are mentally right now. But guess what? You don’t have to do this alone.
No matter what that brain of yours is saying. You are NOT alone in this battle anymore. Your therapist can help. Your husband and family can help. And wait for it…You will even get to know a whole community of people that completely get what it’s like to have a brain like yours. It won’t always be easy to let other people into your journey, but the benefits of having others to support you and/or understand what it’s like as a person with OCD will be life-changing. It’s okay to be nervous and scared, but challenge yourself to let those who earn your trust in. They’ll be an important part of your recovery story.
One of the things you need to remember the most though, is that you matter. This journey you are about to embark on matters. You are so incredibly strong and brave, even though you don’t feel like it right now. There is a part of you that you haven’t even discovered existed, because it’s buried under all that OCD. You’re going to get to know that person, and it’s going to be an incredible journey. It will be challenging, yet also life-changing and beautiful.
Keep showing up.