When OCD Leads to Depression

Another hard few days. Sometimes it feels like I’m not making progress. I watch my daughter who, upon doing an exposure seems to miraculously recover, and I find myself envious. My OCD doesn’t always go away so easy.

And as I’m discovering, sometimes it can take me down some dark paths. This is the second time I’ve found myself in a rather depressive pit after a week of feeling pretty good and on top of things. Things seemed fine, then OCD started sneaking in and at some point, everything went downhill. I kept doing ERP but it didn’t help. In fact, I didn’t even feel anxious, I just felt upset. Sad. Angry. Down. And i sunk lower and lower.

My therapist suggested last that maybe these situations weren’t times to use ERP but she didn’t seem certain and it did still seem to work, in my opinion. I was convinced that OCD was still buzzing in the back of my head and that reality was making me depressed. Or maybe my fear of getting more depressed was making me depressed.

I suppose all of those things could be true but now I think my therapist was right. ERP isn’t always the answer. Whatever the reason, these “down in the dumps” periods don’t seem to benefit from ERP – or meditation, for that matter. I’m so mind-fucked that nothing can pull me out of the pit. I need a different approach.

This happened last night and I was so upset that I started wishing I was dead. Not literally – I wasn’t suicidal – but in a angry sort of way. I was just so pissed that things were supposed to get better with time and work and yet here I was feeling like a piece of shit floating in a pool of bigger pieces of shit.

I kept spiraling until I finally texted my husband (he was out of town) and told him I was struggling. That was the first light at the end of the tunnel. Just telling him made a big difference. A lot of people with OCD tend to isolate themselves, fearing to reveal to others what happens in their head. I’m no different.

As we talked, the fog started to lift. I was able to sleep and this morning felt better.

I wish I could say there was a trigger for the episode. I didn’t sleep at all the night before and I was beating myself up about that so that could’ve been it. I’ve also been reading back through my exposures and noticed I’ve been writing, for example, “I will never feel better” rather than “I might not ever feel better”. The former DOES seem to work when my OCD is really flairing but I suspect that it could make me depressed if I’m writing it over and over in an exposure. It doesn’t really help me accept uncertainty because it’s a certain statement. But it could certainly make me depressed. I’ve also been writing exposures on how my daughter’s OCD is my fault. Which I suspect could also get depressing if I’m not careful about how I’m using ERP.

This is tough for me because I don’t have a lot of experience with depression. My anxiety typically doesn’t let up enough to allow such a thing. Depression is foreign territory.

Regardless, I decided today to write up some guidance for myself for these future falls into self-loathing. I expect it will happen again and I want to be able to help myself through it. Because while my OCD techniques don’t work, I think these moments are times to flip the switch from “manage the OCD monster” to “step back and focus on self care.”

Here’s what I wrote – I hope this is helpful for anyone else who might experience these episodes.

Sometimes OCD drags me down. Maybe because I’m not using “maybe” or “probably” in my exposures, and instead of combatting OCD, I’m telling myself I’m a failure…I’m not sure.

But when I just feel depressed and the anxiety is gone, but I can’t pull out of the darkness…ERP doesn’t work and I can’t even bring myself to meditate…

It’s time to switch to self-care mode.

Things to do:

  • Forgive myself – I won’t always “get it right” or handle OCD the “right way.” I will fail to be present. Forgive myself. I can’t always get it right and that’s okay. A bad day isn’t failure.
  • Talk to someone. I’ll be afraid to talk to chris, but do it anyways. He will understand. It lifts a heavy burden.
  • Stop ERP. Instead, say kind things to myself. Be my own mother. Nurture. Speak softly and lovingly. Allow it.
  • If I feel the urge, work out. If I don’t, don’t push it.
  • Go outside
  • Give in to my vices. Allow them for a day or two. Allow tv binging, allow social media, allow a night out, spend time with friends, allow or even seek distractions, drink wine, overeat…don’t deliver judgement. Indulge a little.
  • Allow myself to take a Xanax. It will help. It will clear my head.
  • Allow a day or two or more off from meditation, from investigating my mind, from analyzing or trying to solve stressful issues. Give my brain a break. Let it rest.
  • Take a day off from trying to fix my OCD.
  • Read the OCD group on Facebook. See how others are suffering in similar ways. Many have been here before and many will come. I’m not alone. The pain is real but it’s not new and it’s it in good company.
  • Remind myself that I don’t have to solve OCD today. It will take time. Months. Years. Release myself from my expectations of how I “should” be doing or what I “should” have figured out by now. I haven’t figured it out and that’s okay.
  • Forgive myself for not having figured out how to sleep. This will take time and practice too. I don’t have to get it right every night or even most nights.
  • Rest.
  • Allow myself to be cranky or less than delightful. We’re all allowed to have bad days.
  • Step down from conquering OCD and ego. Allow myself to just exist and let that be enough. That’s all I have to do today. I just have to be. All other expectations are off the table.
  • Let achievements wait. This is not a time to achieve. It’s a time to rest.

Cross your fingers that I’m able to cope just a little bit better next time.

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