Today’s exposure

My posts have been getting a bit long so I’ll try and keep this short! My exposure therapy for this week is to walk to places without listening to/obeying what OCD says about how I should walk.

I’ve written previously about how OCD makes it hard to walk. Typically, I have to think about almost every step, and place my foot in a manner that is “safe”. This involves making a decision about each step based on the marks and objects (e.g. grids) on the pavement. Marks become particularly important if they are white, red, or comparable to white or red, e.g. a brown grid counts as red, an old chewing gum stain counts as white. This makes it tiring to walk because I’m doing so much in my head, and can end up with me walking back to walk past a spot again if I haven’t done it “safely” the first time.

Today and yesterday I deliberately tried not to adjust my walking according to OCD, as this is what my therapist and I decided I would do. This is a form of exposure therapy. It did raise my anxiety quite a lot, and I didn’t really experience the pattern of high anxiety followed by decreasing anxiety, which is what you would expect and aim for during exposure. This might have been because of the different levels of distraction I had at different times. The anxiety started high and fluctuated across the course of the walk – when I saw a dog and texted my partner about it, my anxiety went down a bit. I like to listen to music when walking but it does interact with my OCD. Generally, my OCD makes me concerned about where I step/what my foot is pointing at/what colour I’m looking at on certain beats in the music. I also have to be very careful how I’m standing/what I’m looking at when the artist says swear words or insults.

At one point I thought “I’m just walking, like people do!” which was a nice moment. I haven’t been able to just walk like other people do for a few years now. I’m cautiously optimistic that this is the start of getting back to being able to walk without OCD wittering on in the background. My therapist emphasised that I should reward myself for effort, not achievement, so I’m going to have some baklava and a sit down later on.

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