“I’d rather have a cavity than OCD,” I tell myself as I pop a cherry-flavored jelly bean into my mouth.
This is part of an exposure for my fear of eating sugar. Even though I have a huge sweet tooth, in fact probably because I have a huge sweet tooth, OCD latched onto sugar. This fear has improved greatly thanks to exposures, but I used to brush my teeth compulsively. If I ate sugar, I felt as if I could sense my teeth rotting away, and I had psychosomatic pain in my teeth.
The key though is that I exposed anyway, and the fear improved. Anyone who has participated in exposures can tell you though that they are not easy. That’s the whole point. They are supposed to make you feel stress. That’s how we fight off the bully that is OCD.
So where do we get the motivation to do exposures? That answer can be as unique to the individual as their obsessions, but I have found a good motivator lately. I think about all the things I’d rather have than OCD, and that is a lot of things.
When I had more severe OCD and was spending hours a day on compulsions, it was torture. Getting a cavity filled is far more pleasant than having OCD, and that’s saying something considering neither is at all pleasant. So, I’d rather have a cavity than OCD be out of control again. That gives me motivation to keep eating the occasional jelly bean.
Granted, this tactic might not work for obsessions with far worse feared outcomes like someone getting hurt or killed. For example, I have a fear of driving because of the risk that I’ll kill someone. I would not rather kill someone than have OCD, obviously. Still, we can modify this statement and find motivation in other ways. I’d rather have the freedom to drive independently than have OCD.
What would you rather have?