Treatment 101: OCD-Institute & ERP | Article F18

NEW Articles THUMB = 11.29.18

In preparing to write this article I had to do the one thing I’ve wanted to do for ages but never tried: reviewing some of my old journals and two red folders from my time three years ago in the OCD-Institute of McLean hospital. McLean offers one of the three major OCD facilities treating the disorder across the United States (and it’s a world-renowned program). The OCD-I is not a locked unit so I could actually leave the campus for dinner at Friendly’s with family but was expected to be back by, I’d guess 10PM, to sleep there overnight. Besides medication the most used tool for treating OCD is called Exposure and Response Prevention or ERP of which the goal is to expose the client to their distress related to OCD and refrain from using compulsions.

Because this took place three years ago, I can only describe what my experiences were like given my particular circumstance. I was first told about the OCD-I from the Counseling Center on campus as a potential treatment option for myself (at the time experiencing mostly OCD behaviors). Over the spring 2015 semester I transitioned to an OCD specialist therapist whom I saw twice a week for a year. I remember before I landed in my third hospitalization of 2015 I learned that the OCD-I had a three month wait list. The helplessness and hopelessness I felt at that moment was unbearable and led me to accruing more suicidal thoughts that I wanted to act on at the time. However, during my hospitalization I did begin to fill out the application and eventually sent it over to the OCD-I.

In fall 2015, I took a leave of absence from school as I got accepted into the OCD-I around October and stayed there for five weeks. Because it wasn’t a locked unit, we could have laptops and iPods and things to that effect (strings!). People who were dealing with OCD around cleaning or cooking were often the ones serving food and experiencing their ERPs firsthand. We had about four hours of ERPs each day and two hours of them on the weekends. We would often go out on the weekends into the Boston area to practice the skills we were learning at program to apply into the real world. The average stay for an individual was up to three months, but insurance often bottomed out before then. We would follow a set schedule–a goals oriented group in the morning while sitting in a circle, two hours of ERP and track A or track B specific groups, which for me, meant a mindfulness group on some days, intrusive thoughts group, expressive therapy, emotion regulation, and a motivation group.

I find it quite funny that I’ve found some DBT related worksheets from within these red folders that I didn’t realize would play such an important role in my treatment and recovery three years later.

My ERPs had involved exposing myself to methods that I had used in the past to harm myself, saying that I was going to use it to harm myself (which would produce distress) that I then had to shift gears completely from and “live my life. While living my life, I would have to practice mindfulness skills of defusion and practice staying in the moment. Living my life could include just about anything except sleeping and talking about suicide.”

If it sounds slightly warped and unethical, I did have to return the methods after the ERPs were over as they were keeping it behind the nurse’s station.

A few of my notable memories from this time period were some of the friendships that I made and rolling down a big hill out on the campus, “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten and “Stitches” by Shawn Mendes being songs that I danced to, practicing grounding techniques with one of the other clients, a client getting kicked out for stealing and a suicidal crisis that emerged from this consequence, my getting the chance to be my authentic self and make positive messages for the other clients, attending the OCD support group and a few notable lectures.

One of those lectures involved a client focusing on the whiteboard of their values while other clients played their intrusive thoughts. It was a harrowing and emotional experience and even though they cried, they kept their attention forwards and didn’t interact with the ‘thoughts’. Another involved what you would say if you had to give a last speech before you died and another was the memorable speech Alan Rabinowitz gave featured on The Moth titled: “Man and Beast” and the book “The Happiness Trap” which is about ACT.

And finally, there was a set of questions from the OCD-I’s surveys that always stuck with me:

“When I want to feel *more* positive emotions, I change the way I’m thinking” and “when I want to feel *less* negative emotions, I change the way I’m thinking.”

At the time, these two questions were the resounding hum of my treatment after I got released. And from there, well, the rest is history.


Article written: Nov. 21.2018

Present day A/N: I’m trying out the newer layout option and while it’s fancy and nice, I feel it’s also a little more complicated than complicated needs to be. Regardless, here I am.

I hope you guys enjoyed this post! Again, it’s from a while ago but soon I’ll be able to write my final 2 articles to share with you guys here (that I’ll be writing this month, just to clarify). Okay, I hope you’re all well!

I’m thinking I might return to the OCD support group that continues to meet every first Tues of the month as I haven’t gone in a year and I would like to reappear plus I now have a really, really good GPS to bust out. I might send them all an email, too, actually. 🙂 Interesting! ❤ ❤ ❤

I’m typing up my poem next to be uploaded tomorrow on here! 🙂

Stay safe!!! xxx

EDIT: I have no idea what happened but the new layout forced this post into the past and before my MoP one which makes no sense to me so that’s why there’s a discrepancy between the images used and the way the descriptions/A/N’s were written. Sorry about that!! Fucking WordPress.

Bringing Light to the Shadows | Article F18

IMG_0100 --

Photographer & Contributing Writer: Raquel Lyons


Trigger Warning: Depression, suicidal themes

 

“I’ve got no excuses for all of these goodbyes; call me when it’s over, ’cause I’m dying inside. Call me when it’s over and myself has reappeared. I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know why, I do it every time. It’s only when I’m lonely. Sometimes I just want to cave and I don’t want to fight; I try and I try and I try and I try… Momma, I’m so sorry I’m not sober anymore. To the ones who never left me, we’ve been down this road before. I’m so sorry; I’m not sober anymore…I want to be a role model, but I’m only human…I’m sorry that I’m here again, I promise I’ll get help. It wasn’t my intention, I’m sorry to myself.” – Lyrics from Demi Lovato’s song “Sober.”

 

In the aftermath of “Stable, Until Triggered” I listened to this song from my iPod as I stared up at my ceiling, not completely seeing the masked face that I pieced together out of the white shapes and swirls, but instead saw the overpowering thoughts and felt the immense sadness that clung to my shoulders like shadows slowly eating away at my flesh.

 

It was safe to say that I accidentally triggered myself with epiphanies about my place in recovery.

 

Stabilization had given me a sense of pride and absolute happiness which makes the darkness that much more painful. In the hours after, I felt knocked off my pedestal that rose ten feet above the ground, which I have been in so solidly for over six months, and had landed squarely and roughly on my bum to ground zero. In the process of this article’s first draft, I cried profusely, something I hadn’t done in months.

 

I felt a mixture of having been lied to and being lied to continuously from an entity, so to speak, within my skull. There’s the feeling of how easily my happiness and restored identity can be taken away so unexpectedly. It almost feels like the depression is showing me the biggest middle finger and taunting me with its lies. I suppose it’s improvement for me to recognize that what it’s saying isn’t factual, it’s not true. It just feels so very, very convincing.

 

I could tell in the moment that I was judging my judgments. I know that this feeling will go away, albeit a lot slower if I did nothing, so instead I chose to do different actions, or what is known as opposite action, to the harm and death flickering and weaving through my brain. The best way I can describe intrusive images is getting as close to hallucinating without actually hallucinating. At its worst, it’s like being aware that the physical world is around me while being distracted by intense, intrusive images overlaying true reality.

I feel like it’s as if I’ve been kidnapped and am being held hostage, tied to a chair with my eyes opened wide, forced to watch a screen that shows me all these horrible, terrible, painful actions I’m doing to myself, except all of this is happening in my mind and in reality I’m just staring blankly into space. There’s something uniquely disturbing about being forced to mentally watch myself die and be maimed over and over again when in reality, none of it has actually happened. It’s so utterly mind-boggling and it *feels* emotionally like it’s happened, even though it hasn’t at all. (An instance in which checking the facts and mindfulness practices would help.)

 

At the same time, while those images are playing I can also notice my brain trying to convince me that life isn’t worth living if I have to experience these moments which triggers hopelessness of having to experience these crises in the future; the progress I’ve made deceptively being unraveled; the powerlessness I have over being forced to watch the tape and hear the BS; the notion that my suicide is inevitable and that every success I’ve made is meant to be undone by invisible forces.

 

To sum up: mental health conditions are impolite, ruthless, cruel, soul-crushing, seemingly all-consuming forces that have poop stains inherent to their hazy figures because of all their BS. Basically, they suck…a lot.

 

The real sustenance in the face of these matters is how we choose to overcome them–which are an article series I plan to uncover this semester. Maybe it’s not about being knocked from ten feet high to zero; maybe the fact that I got out of bed and wrote this article means something after all. Maybe within the darkness we can find the light again–not to eliminate the shadows but to co-exist within them.

 

And, maybe that’s enough.

 

Stay as safe as you can out there, ride the waves of pain and seek extra support when you need it. You’re doing the best you can.


Written August 29.2018

Originally titled “Surviving Trips in Hell”. I had to edit this one quite a bit, taking out certain things, changing tenses and the like. It was (and still is, in ways) more like a journal entry than a pure article, but I like that I set the pavement down to where I want to explore treatment options in a new and upcoming series. So, in the end, it works out all right. 🙂

Hope you enjoy this read! Let me know what you’ve thought of it in the comments down below. I’ll try to be more active soon–school’s began and I’ve run into technical problems with my coursework (which is so aggravating). Just stressed out, strung out and exhausted in more ways than one. Let’s hope the weekend fixes this up!

Much love,

❤ ❤ ❤ ❤