Peer Support In Recovery (Alternate Title: Recovery Buddies! Yay!)

2015 was different for me in many big ways. I moved 1,000 away from my hometown, my YouTube channel flourished, I’ve found a hobby I’ve actually stuck with (YouTube), I got my first new therapist in two and a half years, and I beat OCD like I never could before. However, the most beneficial difference for me is the mental health community I have found online.

In the beginning of 2015 I went to a reunion for my OCD program. Seeing kids I hadn’t seen in years doing things they couldn’t do two years ago inspired me. Hearing them talk about their recovery gave me hope. Hope I’m not the only one out there in this stage of recovery from my OCD. I had longed for friendship for so long, but hadn’t found it.

The day I left the OCD IOP program (the first time), I cried. Not because I was worried about my OCD getting worse or acclimating to life without daily support, but because I was worried I wouldn’t make friends.

I had never met people who understood me before that program. People who understood the intense anxiety I felt. People who understood how terrifying and intrusive OCD is. I met a lot of teens there and we all bonded over our struggles. We talked about recovery in it’s earliest stages, which is what made it so beneficial to see them talk about it two years later with obvious improvements.

An aspect of recovery that psychologists often seem to neglect is the peer support. In the program, we’d be with kids like us every day. To be honest, watching them grow is more motivating than any amount of CBT worksheets. Some kids could work with a therapist for ages on one subject, but it wasn’t until another kid explained it that they understood. There is a trust between two people with the same illness, a trust that could never be replicated between a patient and a therapist.

After the program, that trust was ripped away from us. They didn’t have a support group for patients, which is a vital error on their part. Perhaps having peer support would stop many teens from going back.

It was also hospital policy that patients weren’t allowed to have each others’ contact information. However, at the reunion we were no longer patients, so I didn’t mind giving away my number. 😉 Texting my friends from the program helped me have some of the support I desperately wanted, but conversations were few and far between and it felt odd to bring up recovery.

That’s when I started getting messages on my channel from people who also wanted support. Some of them had been in a program like mine and felt lonely without their peers. E-mailing these people helped me as much as it helped them. We quickly became each other’s support systems.

Then came OCD Week. Around that week I was introduced to the Twitter OCD community, which is actually quite huge. You’d think 140 characters would inhibit how much support you can give, but that’s proven wrong when you meet the kind OCD bloggers, speakers, and activists who use Twitter as a means of spreading awareness and hope.

Having them is what changed my 2015 from the previous years after my OCD diagnosis. If you need a pick-me-up, motivation to do exposures, or just have a lighthearted OCD musing you’d like to share, they’re always there for you. They’re the most understanding and recovery oriented people I have met in regards to OCD. Especially on the internet where false information runs rampant, we need resources that support recovery from mental illness. These blogs, twitters and my friends in the YouTube mental health community do so.

Last year I made my first recovery vlog where I talked about wanting to make friends, but having trouble because of my social anxiety. Once again, mental health advocacy has opened up opportunities I never could have had before. The opportunity to know somebody who understands.

Thank you to all that has been a friend to me this past year, I hope I’m a good friend to you too. 🙂

Kat

Ps. I intend to make a master post of all the OCD resources I mentioned for my YouTube subscribers because there are very few recovery oriented OCD YouTube channels out there.
Pps. This is a collaborative art project the other patients and I made at the reunion. I'm so proud of how far we've come, including the program itself.

Pps. This is a collaborative art project the other patients and I made at the reunion. I’m so proud of how far we’ve come, including the OCD program itself.

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Why It’s Hard Having Sexual Obsessions (Rant)

1) My slutty friends (TOTALLY JOKING, my friends are great!)

Anyone who’s been on Facebook during engagement season knows the frustration of watching your friends one by one get married off. I was thrilled for the first one, but by now I’m totally over it. It seems that every 19 year old on my friends list got married this year. This isn’t a bad thing and I’m super happy for them, but it gives the opportunity for a lot of obsessions.

You don’t have to be married to bother my OCD, though. Pictures of unmarried couples trigger the anxiety as well.

What’s worse than that are the people constantly posting jokes about “Netflix and chill” and some poor girl “wanting the d.” I’ve seen posts of incredibly sexual drawings that have left me ruminating for hours.

2) Sappy love songs

My OCD can be triggered by even the smallest mention of love. There was a point where I couldn’t even listen to the most innocent of love songs without getting anxious. Whatever happened in the song would always end up in my mind. And, in proper OCD tradition, it would happen with the wrong person. My mind would play out every scene in the song with me and that person. It makes it hard to listen to the radio because I never know what song is going to trigger me next. Don’t even get me started on the blatantly sexual songs.

3) Cute Couple Pictures

Much like the love songs, pictures of couples give me intrusive thoughts. Once again, these pictures could be anywhere. It is all but impossible to avoid them. Not that I should. The more I expose myself to these things, the less anxiety I will have in the long run because I’ll get used to them.

But right now I’m ranting so I’m not thinking of those truths. Let me rant in peace!

4) Stumbling Upon Sexual Education/Blogging Sites.

It seems every few days a friend posts a link entitled something along the lines of “Top 50 Kinky Sex Moves!!!11!!1!!1!” and “What He Wants In Bed!!!1!!1!11!” When I see these things, my anxiety spikes. For some stupid reason, I then get a terrible urge to look at the article for reassurance that it’s not as bad as it sounds. Which, of course, makes everything worse. So now I’m reading about the latest sex moves and my OCD is overjoyed to take in the new material.

This also happens when I walk by an issue of Cosmo in the grocery store. That magazine is basically my nemesis.

5) How Can I Enjoy Law and Order: SVU?

I have a confession to make that everyone probably knows already. I love Law and Order: SVU. I love Olivia Benson’s hardcore attitude and seeing everyone’s story lines unfold. It’s a guilty pleasure. However, it is so hard to sit through episodes that talk about rape. Which is nearly every one.

When my sexual obsessions first became more prominent, they were mostly about rape. It was also mysteriously around the time that I started watching SVU. Which came first? I’m not sure. But having these intrusive thoughts has hindered my enjoyment of the show and any show like it. Especially the more graphic episodes. Once again, it gives my OCD new material.

6) Accidentally Stumbling Upon Porn

That pretty much says it all.
This was especially hard in my Tumblr days. Oh, Tumblr.

You may have noticed a lot of these have to do with the internet. Ever since I was twelve, I’ve pretty much lived on the internet. It has always been my safe haven. A place to go to where I had friends and people who supported me, when I didn’t have that in real life. Websites like Tumblr were my go-to places when I was depressed. Unfortunately, websites like Tumblr also made my depression worse. Being on the internet all the time led to me never leaving my house, which made me feel even more lonely.

Now the internet hurts me in a new way. What was once a safe haven is now a minefield filled with triggers. Youtube is my main source of entertainment, but even on there it’s hard to avoid sexual content. Just watch one PewDiePie video and you’ll see what I mean.

7) Researching OCD

This problem may only exist for mental health bloggers/vloggers, but researching OCD really triggers my sexual obsessions. To no ones surprise, the types of OCD that trigger me are usually sexual related, such as HOCD. I sometimes find descriptions of intrusive thoughts and compulsions too graphic for me. Or sometimes a story of recovery will involve things OCD doesn’t want to hear about. Sometimes these things create more intrusive thoughts and worries. I continue despite this, because I know people need to be educated on these topics.

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Yes, the people need me, OCDGIRL! Educating people and fighting OCD since 2k13.

8) Avoiding Important People

When I was having intrusive thoughts about a therapist while in the OCD Intensive Outpatient Program, it was hard to even sit in a room with him. If he got too close to me or touched me, I would immediately freak out inside. But I couldn’t tell anyone. I couldn’t risk someone knowing I have these embarrassing thoughts.

What made it even worse was that he was my favorite. I loved working with him. We would do exposures for my social anxiety every day and I couldn’t just give him up to OCD. (My determination to continue working with him despite OCD is a good thing, of course.)

It got worse when the thoughts moved on to my psychiatrist. If I had not been doing my exposures, I would dread seeing him because of the terrible anxiety I had leading up to the appointment. One night before an appointment with him, I just started bawling my eyes out because the anxiety was too much to bare. The next day my psychologist and I started doing exposures around seeing him.

It’s the association anxiety that hurts the most. Intrusive thoughts are one thing, but it’s the people and objects associated with the thoughts that give me the anxiety that makes it hard to live my life. There could be a trigger around any corner to cause intrusive thoughts and anxiety. Albeit, the more I work on my intrusive thoughts with exposure and response prevention, the less daily triggers I have.

I have to say, I’ve come a long way from those exposures. It took me two years, but I finally was able to tell my psychiatrist one of my thoughts. And at our last appointment I hugged him and had no anxiety. I would love to still be working with him about these thoughts, but I’m now 1,000 miles away.


 

Other people with sexual obsessions might avoid people of the same sex, opposite sex or children. Since my OCD tends to focus on a specific person, I just have one person I severely want to avoid. However, I am so glad that I didn’t avoid him. By not avoiding him, I was able to have great conversations and make huge progress with my OCD. Through medications and exposures.

Everything on this list triggers my intrusive thoughts. At one point, I would have avoided all of them, but now I do it anyway because I’m not about to let OCD dictate what I do.

The biggest thing that has helped my sexual obsessions was talking about them. If you’re struggling with sexual obsessions, please tell someone. The more details you can give, the better help you can receive. Trust me, if your therapist is any good, your therapist is not going to judge you.

If talking to someone is too hard, try writing them down. Writing down scary thoughts takes some power away from them and helps you separate them from yourself. Because you are not your thoughts. You are not your OCD.

You are not your OCD.

Thank you for putting up with my rant! I hope it enlightened you on some of the struggles those of us with sexual obsessions have. It certainly helped me to get my feelings out.

See you later and hopefully with something more coherent,

Kat

Ps. I was recently interviewed by theOCDstories.com about my OCD story. If you want to check it out, click here.