Anyone who has experienced exposure therapy knows just how much fun it is! Totally kidding.
Maybe it can eventually be fun once you realize that you don’t have to be afraid anymore, but in the initial stages, it’s intensely frightening. During this therapy, the goal is to basically expose yourself to the objects or experiences that you are afraid of. After repeated exposure to these things, you begin to realize they aren’t so bad after all. Sounds easy enough, but putting it into action can be so hard that it may feel impossible.
I have recently embarked on this journey of exposure therapy and let me tell you, it ain’t always pretty. If you’ve been following my journey, you know that I am terrified of germs, viruses, animals, and basically the outside world. You can read about that here. I often feel like SpongeBob on that episode where he has an accident. You know, the one where he vows to never leave his house again because the outside world is dangerous? Why is SpongeBob so relatable?
So my first ‘exposure’ was to touch something that made me feel contaminated. Weapon of choice: dried leaf from the ground. On a rational level, I know that a leaf isn’t something to be feared. But as you may know, reational thinking often goes out the window when OCD and anxiety are involved. We get sucked into that black hole of thinking what could happen. So after about five minutes of getting myself all worked up, I opened my hand and held the leaf.
In those next few moments, I was convinced I was having a heart attack. It was certainly not a pleasant experience, but in the long run, I know it will be worth it. After going through a relaxation activity, I was finally allowed to go wash my hands and rid them of the ‘contaminants’ that I am beginning to realize aren’t even there. I can definitely see how this will help my recovery, but it doesn’t mean it makes it any easier in the moment.
What about you? Have you ever tried exposure therapy?