Obsessive compulsive disorder: it's something I rarely talk about. I'm not exactly proud of the years I spent bound to my OCD behaviors. I was a prisoner. It was strange — I felt like a freak. I know it's not politically correct to call myself that, but it's how I felt.
I needed to keep my room set up in a very specific way.
"Why do you need to keep those Teen magazines from 1987?" begged my mom.
I didn't know. It was 1992, but the thought of tossing the stack in the trash left me shaking with fear. Something would happen. I didn't know what, but it would be bad. Very bad. So, I kept the magazines. I also kept my room in a very specific order and had a bountiful buffet of rituals that stopped me from living life.
When I went to college, having roommates was almost unbearable. It was pretty much impossible to hide my OCD from the people who I actually lived with. At some point they all probably wondered why it took me around two hours to take a shower.
The roommate situation made my OCD somewhat public, at least to my friends. They were as supportive as they could be. Sometimes they looked the other way, not wanting to make me feel like the odd girl out. Sometimes my behaviors were met with humor. What else can you do when your roommate freaks out after you rearrange a pyramid of plastic toy pigs that she has set up on her desk?
At some point during my early twenties, I broke. I couldn't take it anymore. It was too much. Not only could I not stop, but my behaviors were getting worse. I had more rituals, more obsessions, more fear. I was sad, scared, and helplessly hopeless.
That's when the tapping started.
By some amazing cosmic coincidence, my uncle — he's a social worker/therapist — went to a lecture on Thought Field Therapy. Viewed as fringe psychology, TFT uses tapping techniques to put an end to anxiety and other emotional distress. I'm far from a psychological professional, but as it was explained to me, TFT balances the body's energy by tapping on specific "meridians."
"The theory behind thought field therapy is that each of us is surrounded, or has, various energy fields that occasionally get blocked up, or perturbed, as it's often called," Emory University psychologist Scott O. Lilienfeld told NPR. "And that those perturbances or blockages are responsible for various psychological disturbances, and that the best way to remove those perturbations or disturbances is by various manipulations, such as tapping on various bodily areas. You can think of thought field therapy almost as a kind of psychological acupuncture."
My uncle knew about my OCD and suggested that I see a local psychologist who used TFT. So I did. Why not? Worst case scenario: I wasted some time and fatigued my fingers from the tap, tap, tapping. Best case: I could manage or even cure my OCD — leave it behind, and move on with a real life.
I went into this therapy with 100% belief in it. I really didn't see a worst case, and I had more than just hope that it was THE answer. As I look back on this time, and this therapy, from almost 20 years later I can't say with certainty that my results weren't at least partially a placebo effect. I was so astonishingly desperate to change my life that I would have believed a magic bean could release me from OCD's hold.
That said, it worked.
Not only did it work at the time, but it stuck. You know those movies where a magician holds an unknowing sap under his mind control? The sap blindly goes along, bending to the magician's hypnotic will. At the end of the act, the magician dramatically bellows, "You're released!" and the sap slumps, opens his eyes, shakes his head and walks away. The release is palpable. It's like a flood gate of mental energy streams out of every pore, leaving behind normalcy.
That's exactly how I felt. It was gone. And it didn't come back.
Does TPT work for everyone? Like I said, I'm not a psychologist. I don't have the stats. I'm just saying that it worked for me. OCD can be a life-stoppers. It can drag you down, hold you prisoner and trap you. But that doesn't mean it always will.
Maybe regular therapy works for you. Maybe your solution takes more time, comes from a doctor's prescription pad or requires some other type of mental "work." I can't say what works for anyone else, but I can say that there is something. There's always something. No one should have to live like I did. But everyone should have the chance to live like I have since then.