Over the next few months, I continued to work through my exposure hierarchy. With hard work and determination, I completed exposures with an anxiety rating of 6/7, on a scale of 0-7. These exposures included “contaminating” the house after touching non-organic fruit, consuming a food item containing Red Dye 40, resisting the urge to seek health-related reassurance from the internet, while experiencing a headache, not washing one body part while showering and many more.
During this time, I also set and achieved progressive ban goals. For example, hand washing started at 100+ times per day. At each session, Damon and I would identify a new goal. Over time, my hand washing decreased, 90, 75, 60, 40 to 30 times per day. I had reached a point where I was only washing my hands when my job, as an Operating Room RN, or my activities of daily living required it. Similarly, I achieved my ban goals for information seeking, superstitious behaviors, checking, perfecting, picking, reassurance seeking and avoidance.
My hard work and commitment was paying off. I was taking control back. The intrusive thoughts were less frequent and less intense. The urge to perform compulsions was waning. I was able to make it through a day without constant interference from my OCD. I was feeling more joy and happiness, with less anxiety and fear.
June 25, 2014 – Discharged. Initial Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale (Y-BOCS): 27. Discharge Y-BOCS: 6. Overall Improvement Recorded: 95%. 22 Sessions. I thanked Damon for his help and walked out of his office, more confident than ever, grinning from ear to ear. I had my life back, so, now it was time to live it.
If only it was that easy. May 4, 2015, I found myself sitting in a very familiar waiting room. Damon smiled as I entered his office. I engaged in pleasantries, “Hi.”, “How have you been?”, but inside I was anxious and distressed. I completed a Y-BOCS, in session, scoring an 18. I reported symptoms including increased obsessional thoughts about harm coming to my children. I confessed that I was engaging in a prayer ritual lasting 15-20 mins, every day, where I begged for “protection” from anything and everything that could potentially harm myself or my family. Sudden stop of the heart, lungs and brain, house fires and tornadoes, spider and snake bites, all types of cancer and murderers, just to name a few. Damon and I decided that there was a definite need to reestablish the treatment plan. Therapy and ERP… here we go again.
A few weeks into treatment, I missed an appointment. This was extremely uncharacteristic for me. I called Damon and expressed my apologies for forgetting the appointment and stated I would call back in a couple days to reschedule. I didn’t call and I didn’t go back. Hindsight, AVOIDANCE, AVOIDANCE, AVOIDANCE. I wasn’t ready to face my demons, so I just avoided them and struggled to keep my head above water.
Fast forward to 2016, when I hit rock bottom. It was cold, dark and lonely. I struggled more than I ever had. I lost myself. Join me as I journey through this time in my life sharing the good, the bad and the ugly. My hopes are to help others as I heal myself.
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