I started by setting some ground rules, ie I would:
1. Restrict this exposure and response prevention (ERP) exercise to the bathroom.
2. Put things down with no attempt to position them.
3. Only be allowed to check that the window was locked once before I went out and once before I went to bed.
4. Only be allowed to verify by sight that the taps weren't dripping (rather than by tightening them so hard that I could hardly turn them on again).
These guidelines led to a number of unexpected challenges over the next few days.
Firstly, in restricting my efforts to one room, I effectively had to turn my OCD off and on. This proved difficult, but I couldn't risk extending the 'messing up' to other areas, for fear I'd be overwhelmed - as has happened before.
|Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/
Their displacement didn't initially trouble me. The mind is a tricksy beast, though. Later, I realised I was unconsciously trying to straighten the dispenser while using it; watching my fingers adjusting the container was like an out-of-body experience.
I resolved to pay more attention to what I was doing. It became apparent, however, that I would have to re-learn how to just put things down, rather than position them. I'd lost sight of what normal behaviour was and had nothing to judge mine against.
Until my boyfriend came over for the weekend. Going into the bathroom after him, and seeing the towel ruffled up and the soap dispenser and toothbrush holder askew, I was reminded: this is what normal looks like.
The question was, did I really want that?
A colleague had asked me why I was trying to change my behaviour. I'd been thinking about this and had realised that only certain habits troubled me: the ones I got stuck on, or which had no grounding in practicality or logic, such as leaving the door open a certain amount.
And so, I revised my rules. I identified the compulsions I wanted to drop completely and, for the rest, adopted a 'one touch' only approach. Returning to items again and again was, by far, the most time-wasting feature of my habits. Now I would permit myself to position objects as I put them down, but there would be no going back once I'd let them go.
Although I've heard it said that even quick OCD is still OCD, key elements distinguishing the condition are the distress it causes and the time it takes up. It seemed reasonable to me, therefore, to refocus my efforts on the compulsions that bothered me most.
Week 2 started with my new rules of engagement. Watch this space to find out where they took me.
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Please note that the above is a personal strategy for dealing with my OCD, which may not be suitable for other sufferers. If you think you have OCD, please consult your GP for professional advice.