It’s Not a Race but I Won Anyway: OCD
The first time I went to a quilt camp we were given the option to work on a camp quilt. Those who wanted to participate brought flannel rectangles, exchanged them with others, and made the same quilt. Over the next three days I diligently worked on the quilt and was able to piece it, quilt it and bind the edges. I finished the entire quilt! The other quilters were surprised because most of them worked on other projects throughout the weekend and had no intention of finishing the camp project that weekend. I didn’t know any better. So the next quilt meeting the guild president gave me a blue ribbon entitled “It’s not a race but I won anyway.”
Fast forward years later to a teenager I met one day who came in for therapy for OCD.
This 15 year old had a multitude of compulsive behaviors due to obsessive fears and worries. The list was extensive: unable to leave home without checking the locks 10-20 times, unable to do laundry for fear he had drank the bleach, unable to swallow any pills his entire life for fear he would choke, and many others. This would be a big project because the behaviors weren’t limited to just one area of OCD.
Many people with OCD have symptoms clustered in one area, such as checking, ordering, washing, hoarding, etc. His were severe in several areas. We began working on his list through cognitive behavioral therapy, specifically exposure and ritual prevention techniques (ERP.) He was determined to get better and worked weekly on his goals. One week his goal was to learn to swallow pills. The exposure technique employed was for him to swallow a mini M&M candy each day. He came back the next week and said he’d done it several days without anxiety but then stopped. When I asked why he stopped, he sheepishly admitted he’d eaten the rest of them. His Mom agreed to buy more for that week and then move up the exposure to learning to swallow tic tacs.
He got sick before the next appointment and was prescribed antibiotics and he decided to take pills instead of liquids. By the time I saw him he’d’ accomplished most of the goals on his entire list. He was only checking locks once, he was doing laundry and had learned how and when to use bleach on stains, he even volunteered to do the cosmetology class towels at school! Once he got stared there was no stopping him.
It wasn’t a race but he won anyway!