In light of OCD Awareness week, Lauren Rosen, LMFT, and Kelley Franke, LMFT, share their own OCD stories and experiences on today’s episode.
What If Thoughts
Lauren: …if my mom had told me when I was 7 years old that ‘what if’ thoughts were common, and getting fixated on resolving them was part of OCD, it wouldn’t have taken me 17 years to get an appropriate diagnosis and treatment.
We’re not going to try and figure this out
Lauren: … I remember when I was finally diagnosed and treated for OCD, my therapist told me that, we weren’t going to try and figure this out. I thought, the f*ck we aren’t! What do you mean? The only thing that I wanted to do in life wasto figure it out… I was devastated. It was like getting kicked in the stomach.
Kelley: So for me, I’ve accepted that I’m harming my child emotionally. That’s where my OCD has stayed and likely will always stay at a hovering pace, but that’s manageable. But I think once I accepted that I may feel this way and I might worry that I’m harming her, I can also know on a logical level that I’m not. But regardless, I accept the uncertainty of whether or not I am moral.
Lauren: Yes, and OCD hooks us in because there’s maybe a flavor of reality to it and so it runs with that.
Fear of death
Lauren: My symptoms started when I was about seven. And when they started, it was mostly around fear of death. I was really scared about my death and about my parents dying but it was mostly about what happens in the afterlife, I wondered, will I go to heaven? And what if I don’t go to heaven? And what would that be like? And will I be alright? So that’s where my first manifestation came up.
Lauren: …uncertainty that comes up for so many in the course of OCD about death, about parents dying, about ourselves dying, or whether or not you’re gonna like the afterlife; that fundamental uncertainty does come up for a lot of people. And this is where going through treatment can be really helpful because it can help you to explore and accept all of the uncertainty that there is.
My therapist asked me, “Well, where were you five years before you were born?” She asked me if I was fine five years before I was born. Of course, I said yes. And then she said where would I be five years after I die? Will I be okay? And that’s when it dropped, yeah I’ll probably be fine too.
Kelley: Mine started as separation anxiety, which is around death as well. When my grandfather passed, I wondered how that could be the last time I would see him. My grandparents were such a huge part of my upbringing. The ultimate exposure happened when he dies. It definitely spun me into this existential vortex for months and was such an intense experience.
That’s when I started to think about the afterlife because I had just watched this person die. So it took me 25 years to get to where you got to at only 7 years old.
Talking openly about OCD
Lauren: It’s really a trip though, to be in a place where you can talk so openly about this stuff. I was convinced for a long time that I would never be able to have a substantial relationship. Because who in the world would understand or love somebody who would be afraid that they might relapse over a piece of cake and think about it nonstop for two years? That was my thought process but I look back now and see how wrong I was to think those things.
Kelley: But that’s the secondary part of OCD. It’s that second arrow.
Lauren: Shame, man.
OCD content jumping
Kelley: …it evolved as I got pregnant. And then after pregnancy, it jumped around. Like contamination, existential, and physical harm. No matter how it was presented, it always came back to whether or not I was morally harming her. Your attachment isn’t good enough. You’re not mirroring her well enough. You’re not validating her. You can’t read her cues. She feels neglected, and you don’t even know it.
Lauren: So rude OCD.
Kelley: But I was lucky because I was already immersed in exposure through the current therapy I was receiving. And so it was always about reminding myself that we have to just accept that uncertainty and that our minds are always going to want to do this.
It doesn’t mean that you’re going to have a horrible life, but that you can bring it with you, it can be managed, and you can choose to respond to it differently. So you can buy the shirt it’s selling or you can just say thanks for the offer, but no thanks.
Lauren: … I think the simplicity of coming back to what’s actually happening in the here and now and getting out of whatever it is you’re trying to figure out is really key.
…I think honestly looking back I can see permeating through my whole life is the social anxiety piece. And there’s so much overlap. There’s just I don’t think of them really as different.
Because it’s all about the same thoughts, what if you’re thinking this about me? What if I believed that? What if they hate me? What if I hurt them? kind of getting into the moral scrupulosity? We talked about the construct of concentric circles all the time and how they overlap but I think that it’s the same concept in terms of recovery.
Reference: Biohaven Campaign
Reference: Phobia Family Foundation – treatment for OCD and substance abuse.