OCD and Surgery
I dread having surgery when it comes to my OCD. Downtime is something I really struggle with. I try to keep myself busy. I feel purpose when I have a task in front of me. Relaxing is something that doesn’t come easy to me. It’s something I work at every day. Surgery is the combination of a lot of things I fear. It’s a lack of motivation, energy, and filled with downtime. Going into surgery, I often come up with a cope ahead plan. I plan activities that stimulate my mind. I plan for mindfulness. I schedule appointments with my OCD therapist for exposures and accountability for compulsions. Surgery can be tricky for anyone but even trickier with OCD or anxiety.
I don’t always talk about my OCD. It’s something that’s not widely understood. People see it as cleaning too much or washing your hands. Sometimes it is. For me, it’s much broader. I have obsessive thoughts. I engage in compulsions to neutralize those thoughts or try to get rid of them. This only makes them worse. Through exposure therapy, I’ve learned that thoughts won’t hurt me and they’re not a real threat. Although I know this rationally, anxiety can get the best of us sometimes. I’m not immune to that.
Some of the techniques I use for surgery are good for life in general with OCD. When I have surgical restrictions, I focus on activities that get me into a flow state of mind. I need to focus my brain on topics other than my intrusive thoughts. When I can’t exercise, this looks like sewing, singing, or painting. It’s often something creative. I also do extra exposures. Right now, I’m trying to journal. I struggle with feeling anything less than happy. Writing about every aspect of life can be challenging for me. Life isn’t happy 100% of the time and that’s normal. That doesn’t make it any less scary to my brain.
There has to be a balance. I can’t do 24/7 exposures when I’m recovering. My body would be overloaded. I also can’t avoid exposures because that’s a recipe for OCD overload. There has to be a middle ground. It’s challenging to find but I do my best. I wanted to write about this because I know I’m not alone. Others I’ve talked to with OCD dread having surgery. Like me, having downtime gives them a lot of time to think and ruminate. Which leads to more OCD symptoms. You can see how the cycle works.
There are ways to quell OCD without doing exposures. Those with OCD know that engaging in compulsions will only make symptoms worse. I’d highly recommend checking out the OCD stories podcast. You can also look at the International OCD Foundation website. There are so many resources to learn more about how to reach out for help. If you’re here in MN check out OCDMN.com.