11 November 2013

Tug of war

I posted recently that Week 2 of my attempt to reduce my compulsions had begun with a fresh set of rules: dropping some habits and adopting a new, 'one touch' only approach to putting things down.

No sooner had I started following these rules, than my OCD told me I needed more. What it suggested, though, would have served only to draw me back into its trap of obsessive order and symmetry.

The first time I put the soap back on the corner of the bath, I placed it diagonally across the space. As I let go, it swivelled through 90 degrees, to point into the bath. My hand moved back towards it, but, no, I wasn't allowed to touch it again; I'd just have to tolerate the soap's wonky position until I next used it. When no doubt the same thing would happen, as it would be equally wet and slippery. My OCD had an idea: create a new rule to cover the soap's unpredictable behaviour. I thought about it, but everything I came up with seemed to be just an excuse to bow to my compulsions, so I resisted.

Then the shampoo bottle slipped out of my grasp, as I went to replace it in its designated spot, which left it standing askew. My OCD tried again: of course, you can have another go, if you drop something, it said.

On another occasion, as I put one item back, I nudged something else out of place, which I hadn't even used. That doesn't count, my OCD reassured me, feel free to put it straight.

Image courtesy of meepoohfoto/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
All week, I battled with that nagging voice, continually trying to twist things in its favour. Somehow, I managed to stick to my original rules, but it wasn't easy.

An email from a fellow writer, Doug Allwright, helped to spur me on through these challenges. Doug had read about how I turn the wooden light pull in my bathroom so that a particular pattern in the grain faces me. In response, he wrote, 'Think of all the grain being beautiful rather than just a part of it. After all it was the life of the tree.' A lovely thought, which I was grateful he had shared.

On into Week 3, during which a combination of work and personal factors led to both increasing anxiety and insomnia. Tired, and with my mind elsewhere, it was hard to focus on breaking my habits, and I found myself slipping back into my old behaviours.

My boyfriend and I went on holiday the following week, so I was away from my usual environment and forced to put my efforts on hold until we got back.

However, when I returned home, I had an urge to re-stamp my authority on my territory and took the conscious decision to give in to my compulsions until I'd unpacked. I just couldn't cope with any more 'mess' alongside the muddle of bags and boxes littering my flat.

So, four weeks on, had I simply arrived back at square one? Not quite. The exercise had been a useful learning experience, and I'd developed both a clearer idea of my goals and new tactics to achieve them. 

The tug of war with my OCD continues.

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