Some of the greatest challenges we face during recovery are the unrealistic expectations of what we will accomplish and how quickly. We can be too hard on ourselves when we misstep or fail. In my own battle against OCD and anxiety, I have found one of the best ways I can prevent myself from falling into either of these traps is to take pleasure in small victories.
What may seem like a lesser goal can be a tangible measurement of our true progress. As we continue to meet and exceed these goals, long-term recovery doesn’t seem as futile.
My entire life is measured–measured by the silent numbers I count in my mind and by the surfaces I tap with my fingertips.
It’s measured by the number of times I have to do the same motion or action over again, by the locks I check, and the items I adjust.
When I was younger, I thought to be free of OCD would mean never having to give into my compulsions or cycling thoughts again. Years have passed since this illness first made itself known to me, and I no longer believe in the possibility these tics of mine will ever be completely absent.
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Like OCD, they are a part of me and how my brain works. While I can lessen their prevalence in my day-to-day life, to be completely void of them would be to become a different person.
I used to believe my goal should have been to rid myself of these symptoms entirely. Now, I measure my success differently.
For instance, a typical trip to my bathroom before bed includes the following routine:
1. Adjusting the shower curtain so both sides are completely even on the rod.
2. Adjusting the bath mat so it lines up touching against the tub.
3. Making sure our towels are hanging in the middle of each rack, with the front of the towels hanging an inch lower than the back.
4. Tapping the three drawers of my storage caddy, up and down, making sure they’re closed tight.
5. Tightening the sink faucet knobs, four times and then again once, before turning the lights off.
Typing it all out is hard for me, as I don’t often like to discuss the specifics of how “bad” my OCD can be. It’s uncomfortable for me to do so, but I do it here to make a point. Forcing myself to not do this routine would, without a doubt, lead to a full-blown panic attack and sleepless night.
But, skipping one or two of the steps, or doing it all together only three times through instead of five, would be a small, but very important victory for me. It’s a way I can prove to myself, I am in control instead of my illness.
In my own recovery from a mental illness revolving around taking away my own sense of choice, small victories equate to measures of control.
These small accomplishments–checking a locked door only two times instead of three–remind me I am learning to speak for myself, rather than letting my disorder do all of the talking.
Though I may not succeed in this every day, or through every compulsion, I am getting better and getting stronger. These small victories prove I am managing my OCD, and not the other way around.
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