My Recovery

A few weeks ago I took the Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale and scored myself as generously as my symptoms might allow. I got a 7 out of 40. A 7 is subclinical, but this wasn’t a true 7: it could’ve easily been a 2 or a 3. In other words, if I walked into a psychologist’s office tomorrow they wouldn’t be able to diagnose me with OCD. Yet I do have OCD – and, what’s more, I’ll have it forever. I’m okay with that. And with Doc Awesome ordering me to “let go right now” I figured I should explain what recovery from OCD actually means – and, more importantly, how I’m going to stay recovered despite having this chronic mental disorder.

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Be Aggressive

Every so often I’ll get an email from Doc Awesome that goes something like this:

Would you be able to write a blurb on aggressively agreeing? I think it would really benefit others with OCD.

Doc Awesome helped drag me from the depths of despair and into the light, so a blog entry seems like the least I can do in exchange. Firstly, though, what does “aggressively agreeing” mean in the context of OCD, or obsessive-compulsive disorder? By now you’ll know that OCD is a mental disorder in which a sufferer’s mind gets filled with all sorts of awful thoughts – obsessions – which he or she attempts to mitigate by performing compulsions, like hand-washing or (as in my case) trying to think them into submission. It’s natural, indeed logical, for an OCD sufferer to try and outrun their obsessions – but that doesn’t work, and in fact it only serves to breathe more life into them. And because ignoring the thoughts is incredibly difficult when you start your recovery, the only way through intrusive thoughts is…well, through them. And that’s where aggressively agreeing comes in.

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25th Annual International OCD Foundation Conference

I’ll get to non-OCD blogging shortly, but I don’t think I’ve mentioned this and it’s important and I want to brag: in a couple weeks I’m speaking at the 25th annual International OCD Foundation Conference in Washington DC. I made submitting a proposal to talk at the IOCDF conference a 37 for 37 item, but didn’t give much thought to the proposal being accepted…until it was. I’m co-presenting with Doc Awesome and a fellow sufferer (and therapist-in-training) from New York. Our topic is as follows:

It takes approximately 14 to 17 years for people to obtain appropriate treatment for OCD. Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is an effective, yet demanding treatment for OCD. This panel consists of an OCD specialist therapist and two OCD sufferers who struggled and are now successfully living with OCD. First, the clinician will present the clinical applications of ERP and how to use it effectively, and then attendees will hear the personal reflections of ERP treatment from the two clients, including the unique perspective of an OCD sufferer who is studying to be a therapist. Their personal stories of ERP treatment as they journeyed from severe OCD to life beyond will be shared followed by Q and A.

This feels like a big deal. It is a big deal, isn’t it? I can’t think of a better way of getting one over OCD (short of living my best life right in its fat, ugly face) than speaking at a conference attended by some of the world’s leading OCD experts. Sam and I are tacking the conference onto the end of our trip to New Mexico and Arizona, for which we depart this Saturday. I can’t wait, either for the road trip component (we’re driving Route 66 from Santa Fe to the Grand Canyon) or for the talk.

A Bit More Math

Let’s do a bit more basic math, along with some even more basic doctoring.

Today is Tuesday, June 26th. I stopped taking Trintellix, my antidepressant, on Tuesday, June 12. Trintellix has a half-life of anywhere between 57 and 66 hours depending on (among other things) a person’s age, metabolism and overall health. It takes five times as long for the drug to fully exit a person’s system. 5 x 57 = 285, 5 x 66 = 330; 285/24 = 11.875, 330/24 = 13.75. In other words, 11-4/5 and 13-3/4 days.

Which means at some point between the early hours of Sunday and Tuesday mornings my body secreted the last lingering vestiges of Trintellix.

I am officially antidepressant-free.

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Today, Sunday, is my fifth day antidepressant-free, and so far withdrawal’s been relatively smooth. Sure, I’ve been tired and lightheaded and irritable and had a mild surge of intrusive thoughts, but these are all perfectly normal withdrawal symptoms. Besides, the last time I did this I had a much different experience:

Day one was fine. Day two was okay. Day three was bad; day four was hellish. Day four was when the withdrawal symptoms really kicked in. Strangely enough I hadn’t really anticipated the possibility of negative side effects, yet they were myriad and surprisingly aggressive. I figured insomnia would be one of them, since one of my antidepressants was a sleeping aid, and it was. But what I didn’t reckon for was the nausea, dizziness, obsessive thoughts, or general sense of dread (not to mention some of the weirder side effects, like the inability to eat dairy or an itchy scalp).

Almost none of that’s happened this time, the dizziness and the obsessive thoughts aside – and even then the obsessions, while sometimes persistent and usually unpleasant, are mostly white noise (I could never have said that the last time, when obsessions still had the capacity to paralyze me). I suppose I should qualify that by mentioning I was going off both an antidepressant and an off-label antipsychotic the last time – but still, so far the difference between the two experiences has been night and day.

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