Probably because I'd never been to Wanstead before (I'd ventured outside of familiar surroundings), plus I was tired, I 'took my eye off the ball' insofar as my OCD was concerned, and all of my OCDs came flooding back with a vengeance. I forgave myself, however, because quite frankly I needed a day off from trying so bloody hard all the time to regulate my behaviour. In the end I put this down to having simply been a bad day, and was confident I'd be able to start again from where I left off with ERP tomorrow - something which fortunately, I was able to do.
I carried on practising not compulsively seeking from Jan or writing down reassurances to myself every time I was triggered (which was practically all of the time while I was out of the house); by lone men, a foul-mouthed thug and a man sat beside me with a (potentially contaminating) bandaged wrist on the train, and things that resembled needles on the pavement (yes, my 'pavement checking' OCD has come back a bit recently). Instead, when challenged by these triggers, I physically stroked myself on the arms for comfort, as my counsellor, T. had suggested. This helped to keep me 'in the moment', and I succeeded in procrastinating for hours before finally asking Jan if anyone had hurt me.
This week was also one of major breakthroughs: For the first time in years (with the aid of yoga meditations I've mentioned in previous blogs), I managed not to immediately compulsively seek from Jan or write down reassurances to myself on two occasions when I was completely alone with men in confined spaces (in a train carriage and an office). Resisting this compulsion was so hard, though: Instantly I was beset by brain fog / felt removed from my surroundings; my anxiety levels increased; I couldn't concentrate; my head was a mass of different thoughts mixed in with past trauma of having been alone in rooms I couldn't get out of while my grandad sexually abused me as a child. Eventually I had to check with Jan that I was safe, but having survived these excruciating experiences twice, I knew I'd remember if a lone man attacked me, and that I can trust myself to protect myself.
The more I practise ERP on these most severe of my OCDs, the better I'm getting at snapping myself out of the intrusive thoughts that fuel my obsessive-compulsive behaviour, for example, I used to check again and again letters I'd handwritten to friends, because my OCD would have me believe that I'd written something either insulting or incriminating in them. Now, however, I can say to myself, "It's just my OCD trying to bully me," and pop such letters in their envelopes (after just a couple of read-throughs), and forget about them.
As a result of all my hard work, I've realized that all of my OCDs are part of the same malady; getting 'stuck' on the intrusive thoughts that drive them, and I'm hoping that if I can bear this in mind each I'm triggered, I shall be able to move on more smoothly through my days.
Here are three interviews and articles I found both informative and inspiring: 'Childhood Trauma: Overcoming the Hurt of Invalidation' by Sarah Newman; 'Meet Rebecca Ryan - the girl who has learned to beat her OCD demons' and 'How to Heal from Sexual Assault Through Music' by Amy Oes. I hope you do, too.
Finally, I'd love to hear from any of you I know read this blog, so please feel free to leave a comment! Also, I was invited to contribute to the conversation on #PTSDchat; an excellent online resource for people with PTSD. They have a great website!