Keeping Track

Those of us with OCD (or similar disorders) have great difficulty doing things which come easily to everyone else. “I went all day and only checked that the stove wasn’t on 4 times” would sound like a pretty shoddy excuse for an accomplishment for most people, but for someone with OCD, it could be almost like climbing a mountain. The sad part of this is that it’s really hard for us to convey that to others. It’s hard for us to get our friends and loved ones to understand why we struggle with something that is not even an issue for them. That’s why I started keeping my own progress chart, and I think it’s been working really well. I made two categories: “Resisted” and “Gave In.” I plan on making a separate one for each compulsion that I feel like doing — but for now I only have one list. Every time I get the urge to do the compulsion, but am able to resist, I make a tally beside “Resisted” and every time I cave and give in to that anxiety by doing the compulsion, I make a tally beside “Gave In.” This chart has helped because it gives positive reinforcement.

Other people would look at me and say, “I can’t believe she checked this or that so many times. She must be crazy.” However, now I am able to look at this list and say: “You know what? It seems like I’ve been really bad by giving in and doing these compulsions, but when I actually sit down and look at my records, what I see is that most of the time I am successful in resisting. That means I’m doing a good job.” That feeling of positivity further encourages me to resist future compulsions. It’s easy for me to look at mistakes or bad choices I’ve made and say: “Well, I’ve already screwed things up, so I may as well give up now. Why even try?” The list helps keep me from having this attitude. It reminds me that I really do struggle with things that are easy for everyone else, so instead of judging my progress comparing to people who don’t have those difficulties, I should only judge my progress by myself.

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4 thoughts on “Keeping Track

  1. josiahzero says:

    Writing down accomplishment is a very easy and very easily dismissed but incredibly powerful technique. The idea is the basis of a lot of CBT I’ve been advised to use for combating OCD.
    I demand of myself, in the worst stretches, (based actually on my lazy simplification of a few ideas taken from CBT) that I write a list of ten accomplishments, however seemingly small, that I’ve managed in the day. It shows me that even when I’ve been obsessing badly and believe that they stop me from ever accomplishing anything of value and there’s no use in me trying to stop them, oh… actually, I’m not a complete failure. This can be a remarkable encouragement.

    • willitbeok says:

      Yeah! Like, when I first got the idea, I was all: “This seems so simple. How could it possibly help?” Writing a list of ten accomplishments — that sounds like a good idea, too. Strangely though for me, keeping track of my failures at something, contrasted with successes seems to work well. You’d think that maybe writing down my failures could be depressing — and maybe at times, it will be — but most of the time what I see is that I actually succeed more than I fail, but tend to dismiss it unless I record it down on paper.

      • josiahzero says:

        I believe that’s definitely a well-acknowledged effect: to easily forget evidence if it doesn’t fit with our fundamental idea. (Unfortunately, I forget the precise name for this.) Writing down the success that we believe are impossible helps to mitigate this tendency to disregard information; and seemingly — at least, I certainly have found, on occasion — that also noting the we still maintain our old habits helps to make the fact that we have on many times stopped them more palatable as the evidence isn’t suddenly trying to show us that we need to completely abandon the old, comfortable ways but merely, sometimes (hopefully most of the time) it is quite reasonable for us to not succumb to the obsessions.

  2. willitbeok says:

    I think the term for that might be confirmation bias? Not positive, though. Anyway, you’re right. It’s funny b/c some people exaggerate their successes but I seem to exaggerate my failures. 😛 Not saying that makes me a great or even humble person, as I can certainly be very mean and grouchy at times. And yes — it’s hard to resolve to stop the old, comfortable ways entirely, but as with any habit needs to be broken gradually. When people say “Just stop it” it implies that it’s really that easy, all you have to do is stop — and that’s the first step, but it’s not JUST that easy!

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