I am currently working my way through what could be called an OCD relapse.
For the last few years I’ve felt a steadily increasing sense of wellness and confidence. My ability to interrupt my obsessions and compulsions has grown, and I’ve felt more and more at home in my body, my life, and even my mind. I’ve been practicing Exposure Response Prevention techniques, mindfulness meditation, and lots of movement forms. I felt like I was beginning to move beyond my OCD as a defining feature of my life.
And then, seemingly out of the blue, a wave of turbulent OCD thoughts, behaviors, fears, and intense anxiety overwhelmed me. I unraveled. I felt right back at square one, and like I had to basically start over. It was a huge struggle just to get through each day. I was devastated. It had felt so good to be expanding beyond my fear and mental vigilance. And now that state of expansion felt a million miles away.
And this has happened before. Many times. Periods of expansion and strengthening have given way to sudden OCD relapses over and over. And each time it’s happened, I feel like I’ve done something wrong.
Part of that feeling of wrong seems to be the OCD talking, as my particular obsessions are all about how I’ve done the worst thing imaginable and will be punished for it—usually after death. That part of the feeling of “wrong” I’m going to label as my OCD thought and not engage with it. But there’s another side to the feelings that the relapses are my fault. This side has to do with how I understand growth over the long-term in living with this disorder.
I’m finding it very helpful to write my OCD story in different forms, to try and understand my experiences from as many angles as possible.
The following is the version I’m working on for my dance/theatre company’s upcoming performances, in which I would read this while my collaborators dance, sing, play music and more.
I wrote it in the third person, using a nickname, with language that felt less diagnostic and closer to poetry. It’s been both challenging and rewarding to read it over and over again in company rehearsals. I hope it can be of benefit to others.
Once there was a boy named Elale.
Elale was very quiet, and shy, and liked to draw.
As he grew, he worried.
He worried about who to talk to at recess, and what to say.
He worried that he would do something to make the adults disappointed.
My name is Eric Ray Kupers. I’m 44 years old and live in Oakland, California with my husband and our 3 dogs, Doodle, Bubbles, and Abe. I’ve had OCD since I was a child. And even though I have been in therapy with a steady stream of therapists for over 30 years, both my parents are therapists, and I’ve done extensive experimenting in countless personal growth modalities I wasn’t diagnosed with OCD until I was 19, and didn’t find out about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) until my early 30’s.
The pain of OCD has at times felt unbearable, and I’ve tried just about every kind of therapy and spiritual practice I could find. And yet, through it all, I’ve managed to build a life that I love. I’m in a deeply fulfilling long-term relationship, and am a dance/theater/music artist, a tenured professor of dance at Cal State University East Bay, the director of a professional, experimental performance company, and part of a community of soulful artists and loving friends & family.
OCD has been so deeply interwoven into my life and my sense of myself, that it seems I can’t really write my OCD story without writing my whole life story. I started working on my entry for The OCD Stories website, and am already on page 10, and not even out of my teens! So, I decided to share a summary of my OCD journey. I seem to have a lot to say, as now my summary has also gotten quite long. My sense of this is that I’ve kept my OCD a shameful secret for so long, that as I start to share my story more publicly, it’s like a dam is breaking down and layers upon layers of experiences are flooding forth. So, please feel free to read or not read as much as you’d like. I’m going to continue writing the full story, and will make it available for anyone that’s interested, as soon as it gets a little farther along. Maybe it will become a whole book one day!