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malina

Is it okay to give in sometimes?

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I've been going through a big OCD relapse in the last few weeks. It's a long story, but my main fears have been about self harm, particularly with knives. I've had this issue for over 15 years, I think it started when a girl in my school was self harming. I have never done anything to hurt myself but did have a crisis about 10 years ago when I felt completely out of control and I sought help. At that point, I was diagnosed with OCD and started CBT. It was a huge struggle but I managed to get a handle on these thoughts and, while they re-emerged from time to time, I was able to brush them aside and continue as normal. However, they are back and I've once again started CBT after several years.

Now my problem is that I know a lot about OCD and I know how CBT works, I have to expose myself to situations that I'm afraid of. I'm afraid of using sharp knives and being at home alone, particularly in the evenings. I went into therapy thinking that I was going to be great and do all this exposure and that I'd be getting back to normal asap. Well, I haven't been, I've been doing a lot of avoiding and I feel really disappointed in myself. I am avoiding using sharp knives, I avoid being home when my partner is not there. I know that avoidance reinforces the OCD and is making it worse. 

I've also been thinking, though, is it okay to just take my time? I have only had 2 sessions of CBT so far. Generally, I think I'm coping quite well, I'm trying to take care of myself, eat well, get rest, keep up with my work and engage in social things. I have also spent some time at home alone, but only during the day, and very briefly used a sharp knife. I'm also trying to face some other things I'm afraid of, like using lifts. I'm thinking that maybe I should just take some of the pressure off and just take it one day at a time and go as far as I'm comfortable.

I don't know...I would love to hear from others about your experiences with this. Am I just letting myself down here by not jumping into it, or is it okay to just take it easy and move forward at a slower pace?

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Hi there malina. 

It takes time to be able to bring on board the necessary thinking and behavioural changes to manage one's OCD. 

It's better, much better, to go at a gentle pace and allow for setbacks to happen - when they do don't beat yourself up, accept it and just rejoin the programme where you left it. 

 

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48 minutes ago, malina said:

I've also been thinking, though, is it okay to just take my time? I have only had 2 sessions of CBT so far. Generally, I think I'm coping quite well, I'm trying to take care of myself, eat well, get rest, keep up with my work and engage in social things. I have also spent some time at home alone, but only during the day, and very briefly used a sharp knife. I'm also trying to face some other things I'm afraid of, like using lifts. I'm thinking that maybe I should just take some of the pressure off and just take it one day at a time and go as far as I'm comfortable.

Hi Malina, 
First, sorry to hear about the struggle you are going through.  It hits close to home for me as I went through a similar experience with anxiety about self harm, in particular knives, about 10 years ago.  It got to the point where I took all the sharp knives in my flat, put them in a tool box and locked them in my storage locker on the first floor of my building for a few weeks.  Talk about avoidance!  Fortunately with some help of CBT and medication adjustments I was able to get back to a healthy place, but it did take awhile.

One of my favorite sayings when it comes to OCD (I don't remember where I first heard it) is that recovery is a marathon, not a sprint.  You'll recover faster if you are able to maintain a slower but steady pace, rather than trying to rush at the beginning and wearing yourself out and having to crawl the rest of the way.  You need to make sure you are doing things outside your comfort zone, thats necessary for recovery, but it doesn't have to be extreme and it doesn't have to be constant.  If you are honest with yourself and honest with your therapist and set mutually agreed upon goals I think you'll have the most success.  Best wishes on your continued recovery.  

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Here's the thing... the slower you go, the slower your recovery. If you are okay with that, then continue on. 

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7 hours ago, dksea said:

Hi Malina, 
First, sorry to hear about the struggle you are going through.  It hits close to home for me as I went through a similar experience with anxiety about self harm, in particular knives, about 10 years ago.  It got to the point where I took all the sharp knives in my flat, put them in a tool box and locked them in my storage locker on the first floor of my building for a few weeks.  Talk about avoidance!  

 

Oh I can completely relate! I've done so much avoidance of knives. Years ago I was sharing an apartment with a friend and once she went away for the weekend and I was so anxious being alone that I threw all our sharp knives away....and then had to pretend like I had no idea what happened to them when she returned! I've had so many different symptoms of OCD and anxiety over the years - guilt, fears about health, claustrophobia, and most recently, physical symptoms, just to name a few...but this is the one that gets to me the most and it has certainly had the biggest impact on my life.

7 hours ago, dksea said:

One of my favorite sayings when it comes to OCD (I don't remember where I first heard it) is that recovery is a marathon, not a sprint.  You'll recover faster if you are able to maintain a slower but steady pace, rather than trying to rush at the beginning and wearing yourself out and having to crawl the rest of the way.  You need to make sure you are doing things outside your comfort zone, thats necessary for recovery, but it doesn't have to be extreme and it doesn't have to be constant.  If you are honest with yourself and honest with your therapist and set mutually agreed upon goals I think you'll have the most success.  Best wishes on your continued recovery.  

 

Thanks for this, it is very helpful to hear! I think I'm happy to balance a somewhat slower recovery with feeling okay in the present. I know that I have to start facing these things and I'm trying to do it bit by bit, I'm alone right now and letting myself sit with these thoughts, so it's a start!

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Hi Malina

Like you I've had a bad relapse this last year after being OK for quite a while. I also thought "right! I know the drill let's do this" thinking I'd hammer it and be better in no time... But I wasn't. The thing is, beating ocd is HARD - and if you put ridiculous amounts of pressure on yourself it just makes the whole thing feel incredibly urgent and pressurised and it can just make it worse. I think it can be wise to take things gently, take care of yourself and move slowly - as long as you are moving. Be careful not to slide backwards with avoidance and compulsions as it can be so easy to do. 

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