Externalizing OCD to Help Recovery
Externalizing my OCD and viewing it as NOT ME but a separate 'thing' - a separate character - has been helpful in my recovery journey so far. It has provoked outrage and even anger inside me about what is happening to me when I'm in the middle of acute suffering, which then helps me to fight back against OCD. It is also how my book One Of Us Has To Go was born, and the novel is built on this concept of OCD being a character who commands the other main character, Finja, around.
'Sonja' is the name of my OCD - I named 'her' back in 2014 when I began writing my book. But I have written other little pieces on Sonja, independent from the book. Here are two short pieces:
ERP (Exposure and Response Prevention) with Maple Syrup
Sonja is sitting in the third chair by the table. Her arms folded as she leans forward towards me.
“Don’t do it!” she tells me.
I keep my eyes on my pancakes in front of me. Mmmm – homemade Canadian-style pancakes. Still steaming.
“I’m proud of you,” Fiancé says.
He knows Sonja but I’m not sure he is aware she’s currently sitting with us, right at the table. She usually doesn’t any more, these days. Today is an exception since she didn’t succeed in holding me back, earlier, when I went out to buy the maple syrup. She’d come after me, thrown a tantrum, pulling me back by the hood of my jacket. But I still went. And she fumed. Now she’s trying a different approach.
She places her underarms onto the table, bending even further towards me. “Do not do it! You know you’ll get drunk from maple syrup. Pour it away. NOW,” she says.
I grab the syrup as Fiancé is holding it across the table. My heart begins to race.
“No, I won’t.” Resisting Sonja is hard.
“Yes, you will! Drunk and out of control. Especially if you finish the whole syrup in your sleep. Maple syrup is alcoholic. It clearly looks like it!”
I remain silent, thinking about a response.
“Look, you don’t want to wander about in your sleep, drunk, and be doing things that don’t keep you safe! Imagine that?!” she says.
She is so intrusive.
“Give me the bottle!” Sonja demands.
I can see the veins in my wrist throb, as I’m clutching the syrup with my right hand.
“GIVE ME THAT DAMN BOTTLE!” Sonja’s hand flies onto my left underarm.
“You can do it,” Fiancé suddenly says.
I feel the pain as Sonja’s nails dig into my flesh. My eyes flick over to her, meeting hers. I must stand up to her!
I twist my arm and pull it away from Sonja’s grip. “NO!”
Then I unscrew the lid of the maple syrup.
ERP - Painting Nails
The nail varnish has settled at the bottom of the bottle. Tiny red crusts sit on the inside of the glass. I haven’t used it since last summer – painting nails usually means fuss!
I turn the bottle upside-down, shake and open it. My feet are already bare; socks flicked onto the carpet where I’m sitting. I set the varnish brush to my toes.
“What are you doing there?”
Huh, I twitch. “Dammit, Sonja, you’ve scared me!”
Some of the red paint sticks to the skin of my toe now.
“So what are you DOING? Why are you painting your nails just like that?”
I turn my head and eyes towards the sofa. Sonja sits there, a piece of pancake in one hand, the maple syrup in the other, munching.
“Oh close your mouth, Sonja, will you? You know I hate eating noises!”
“Only if you stop painting your nails!”
I turn back to attend to my feet, pull a tissue from the box beside me and use varnish remover on the misplaced paint on my toe.
“Are you not hearing me? Stop painting your nails! You’ve done none of the usual preparation for this! You haven’t showered! Your nails aren’t 100% clean of Germany dirt!”
I can see Sonja from the corner of my eye. She’s pouring even more maple syrup over her pancake. It makes me smile.
“Go and wash yourself before doing your nails! How dare you! You’re even fully dressed?!”
The skin of my toe is varnish-free again.
“Are you NOT LISTENING FOR CRYING OUT LOUD. STOP IT!” Sonja yells.
I pull another tissue from the box, tear two smaller pieces off and stuff one into each of my ears. Silence, aah!
“No, I’m not listening, Sonja. Not today,” I mumble.
I actually knew she would love maple syrup on her pancakes, and she will get used to this, TOO!
I grab the varnish bottle, shake it one more time before using the little brush to apply the red paint.
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