A large tree with lush green branches « Blog

By Anonymous

I am writing today, trying to wiggle a small piece of me out from under the OCD spell. Maybe it will only be a finger or, less, a fingernail. Either way it will still be progress for me, regardless of what anyone else or even OCD tells me.


I hung up the phone. The tears that had started accumulating in my eyes were now streaming down my cheeks. My face burned red hot. I was losing it. My mind raced with unwanted intrusive thoughts, catastrophizing, and the all-too-familiar safety and preventative rituals.

I grabbed my script cards and started reading. As I read one, I thought, “I am doing this to cope with the anxiety and uncertainty. I am not trying to distract myself from the negative feelings nor am I trying to avoid thinking about the fear. And so, I read the short script once, then twice, and then again. I did it to stay present. I did it almost instinctively. I was finally facing my fears and the obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) head on this time.

Forty-five minutes later, I realized I was coping sufficiently. I had not yet given into the false sense of urgency by sending an email saying what I should have said, apologizing for doing so many rituals during the call, confessing to things I did wrong in the past, and so on. The mental rituals were fewer, too. I was shifting my attention to what I can do now that would be values-oriented. What do I need right now to be okay? What is the minimum I can do in this moment without giving into the OCD?

For me, THIS is major progress. I am not fighting with the OCD. Yes, I still struggle with effectively resisting rituals and OCD still creates significant dysfunction in my daily functioning. Nevertheless, I am not enveloped in emotion dysregulation or, at its extreme, a panic attack. Maybe I have finally started my recovery from OCD, although not in the way I thought it should be. Even better, I believe I am finally okay with that.


I left residential treatment about 22 months ago. I am nowhere near where I wanted to be. I am nowhere near where I willfully told my treatment team I would be. Yet, maybe that’s normal… Maybe progress for me is non-judgmentally accepting a new evidence-based version of progress and its innate nonlinearity for recovery from OCD.

Did I really expect to undo 30 years of severe, debilitating and undiagnosed OCD and quit cold turkey all rituals ingrained in nearly all aspects of my daily life in a matter of months? Well, the OCD did, and back then everything I did—even breathing in a ritualized manner—was under the spell of OCD.

How did I get to this point of choosing to grab a script card instead of continuing to spiral into a black hole of zero emotional control and trapped by domino-ed ritualizing? Through a lot of grueling hard, painful work and determination to escape the OCD trap I had been in for more than 30 years. AND, through the consistent, full cooperation of an amazing treatment team.

In full, shame-provoking disclosure, I would not have made any progress alone or without finding the right OCD treatment program. I probably would not even be here today if I had not ended up in the professional care of that treatment team. I was that far gone and ready to end everything. They saved me and refused to give up on me, especially when I had lost all hope and wanted to leave the program and check out of all reality. They endured so much of the chaotic state I was in with nothing but seemingly endless patience and always without judgment. For that and more, I feel eternally grateful to them. Yet, I have never told them that.

Yes, I have wanted to write a thank you note and send it to that treatment team and program director. I have attempted to draft one both physically and mentally more times than I can count or remember. I also have wanted to be much more improved first; I thought I had to be. I have even been ashamed for hitting rock bottom about five months after leaving residential treatment. At other times, I have been terrified I can no longer write well. All of these and other reasons, regardless of their content, are the OCD, keeping me from my values…


Today, I am still at the beginning of my OCD treatment and recovery journey. Most days feel like more than I can handle. While I do not get panic attacks much anymore, I still suffer from repetitive unwanted intrusive thoughts, mental ritualizing, and excessive rumination on all the missed opportunities and missed transitions in my life. I still struggle a great deal with pathological guilt and shame around my OCD diagnosis and initially being shunned by other individuals with OCD on account of my age and culture.

However, recovery from OCD’s decades-long reign of terror is a long, slow, nonlinear process. In the short run, I have learned a lot about OCD, myself, and that I can cope with more than I ever thought possible. But I still have a lot of work to do in treatment to grow to the point where my values triumphing over compulsions is normal.

For me, THIS is still progress.

Furthermore, I recently have accepted more outside help. I accepted and successfully completed all the steps for me to return for more intensive residential treatment this year. This process of having to return to residential OCD treatment has brought up a great deal of guilt and shame, which only increase as the day nears. Yet, in being willing to re-engage in an intensive OCD treatment program, I have broken a major OCD rule, in pursuit of eventually being able to lead a meaningful life of purpose.

For me, this is HUGE progress, regardless of what anyone else or even OCD tells me.


In closing, everyone is different. For individuals like myself, who have suffered for years with undiagnosed and untreated severe OCD, treatment is going to take significantly longer. Progress in treatment can also be slower when compulsions are more mental than physical, as also is my case. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that or with feeling like one is making less progress than other individuals with OCD. It is normal. Moreover, each one of us is no less deserving of access to evidence-driven, quality, affordable OCD treatment simply because you are older, come from a different cultural or linguistic background, and/or may not have had the opportunity to be diagnosed as a young adult or receive proper treatment earlier in life.

You matter equally.

Please do not give up.

Please have hope and remind yourself that recovery from OCD takes more time and effort than any one of us would like, but it is possible for you.

It is never too late.

Please have faith you, too, deserve and can start to beat OCD. For help finding a therapist with specialized training in OCD, I recommend checking out the International OCD Foundation’s Resource Directory in United States and OCD Action’s Helpline in United Kingdom.

Finally, you are not alone. I might not have the same trigger or cultural background as you, but I feel and know what you are experiencing and going through emotionally.




  • Living with OCD is like having a constant companion, a shadow that follows your every step, a relentless whisper that keeps nudging you to repeat actions or perform rituals. It’s not just about being extra tidy or organized; it’s a complex mental health condition that can significantly impact a person’s life.


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