Living in Toronto since late August has made working with a therapist based in Calgary…well, “difficult” just about sums it up. We’ve been doing phone appointments, although we did manage to squeeze in a couple face-to-face meetings when I was home earlier this month. It’s been difficult, but I’m sticking with her because she’s awesome – like, “a gift from God” kind of awesome.
It took me a while to find her.
OCD reintroduced itself to me in late 2006. I knew something was seriously wrong; I just didn’t know what, and so I went to see a doctor. I think he was some kind of holistic doctor. He gave me Ativan, an anti-anxiety drug that works wonders on obsessive compulsive brains – but his ultimate assessment of my condition was, and I quote, “You need to get out and run.” That didn’t sound right, but at that point I didn’t know what else it could be. So I went along with his suggestion – got out and ran about, started taking Ativan, made sure I got enough sleep. It wasn’t working, of course, so in the spring (and for reasons too complicated to explain without a separate entry) I ended up seeing a psychosocial oncologist. She gave me an antidepressant called Celexa, a so-called selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor (or SSRI) that’s used to treat mental disorders like depression, anxiety and OCD. But we only met twice; after that I was off to Calgary, where I found a family physician and…well, that was it for a while. OCD began cooling its heels. This new doctor was there (and continues to be there) to write prescriptions, but that seemed to be the extent of my needs.
I was wrong, of course, and in 2008 I started seeing a proper psychologist. He and I got along swimmingly, but we never quite got to the core of the matter (which, in fairness, might be because it hadn’t fully revealed itself yet). And when OCD reared its ugly head again earlier this year, he wasn’t able to keep seeing me because he’d just become a father again. That sucked, since I needed to see someone stat and we’d established a good rapport. It was then that my family doctor referred me to a friend of his who, he promised, could treat OCD. “He’s seventy-four years old,” he said, “He has experience.” Now: ever since this latest bout of OCD I’d read more about the disorder than most mental health professionals will read in their entire career. I knew what sort of treatment worked – cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) and exposure with response (or ritual) prevention (ERP) – and what sorts don’t (i.e., everything else, in particular old-fashioned Freudian psychoanalysis). And it didn’t take me long to figure out that this new doctor was not doing CBT with ERP. He paid lip service to ERP, said it’s something we “might” do later on, but pushed forward with his own treatment methods (including, argh, psychoanalysis). Something wasn’t sitting right; soon I’d be leaving our sessions gripped by the certainty that this was wrong. I decided to trust him; after all, OCD’s perfectly capable of convincing a person that their therapy isn’t working (or, worse still, that they shouldn’t actually be in therapy to begin with because their obsessions reflect true inner desires). But the longer we kept banging away at my problem the more convinced I became that he was simply the wrong man for the job. And when, during one appointment, I found myself lying face-down on his office couch while he ran a giant magnet down my back, I knew it was time to get out.
(Seriously, he was running a magnet down my back. If, in the course of seeking treatment for OCD, you ever find yourself face-down on a couch while a psychologist runs a magnet down your back in an attempt to synchronize your neurons you’re with the wrong person.)
A couple months later, and enter this new doctor. Again, she’s a gift from God; she’s not performing miracles, and nor am I asking her to, but she’s also set me on the right path. We started ERP a few weeks ago; I’m proud to say I haven’t skipped a single day and that I’m starting to very slowly reap the benefits. Meanwhile, in mid-September my psychiatric referral finally went through, meaning the pharmacological component of my treatment’s in the hands of experts (I had my first meeting with them in early October). And in Toronto, where I came in late-August to get my OCD under control, my dad introduced me to a great doctor who supplements the psychology and psychiatry components back in Calgary. It’s been a long, arduous process, made all the more difficult by the fact I simply didn’t know what I was looking for until fairly recently. There were trials and errors; there were wrong turns, right turns that wound up at dead ends, magnets run up spines, suggestions to just “get out and run.” But I’m getting there now, and as OCD and I approach six years since our dramatic re-introduction things are finally pointing in the proper direction.