Amen, Amen, Amen

An exploration of how obsessive-compulsive disorder can be a gift

Thought, Fear, Action

My foray into exposure therapy

Day one of exposure therapy.

I wake up with the mews of my 21-month old son. Whatever exposure therapy means, I’m doing this for you, love.

Who am I kidding? I’m doing it for me. Ever since I weaned him, my fragile balance of antidepressants and OCD therapy have been topsy freakin no-fun turvy.

Greatest obsessive fear haunting me: vomit.

7:05am - head to basement for thirty minutes of breathing, meditation and prayer.

7:37am - beloved husband takes me aside and says. “I don’t want to alarm you, but my stomach feels really funny.”

Enough said. I grab our three-year old and rush her to day camp. Come back to our apartment and scoop up our son, yelping, “See ya!” at my green husband. I bike my son through the park, trying to pant my way past the gruesome hallucinations of sick filling up our apartment from floor to ceiling like a fierce tide. When we stop for air I spray my boy with sanitizer until he shrieks at me to stop.

10:30am – husband calls to say the coast is clear. He is feeling better. Nausea abated, no throw up. We have survived.

Day one of exposure therapy.

I return home with my son and shower while he naps. Husband goes to work. Waiting for my mother-in-law to arrive so I can head out to meet new exposure specialist. Mother-in-law calls to say she had annual stress test that morning and nurse practitioner mentioned she could be radioactive for hours.

See All Stories In

My Kid Has Me Worried

When should parents be concerned about a child or teen's behavior?

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

Did I mention greatest obsessive fear #2: losing everyone I love to cancer?

Lost both my parents to it. My uncle too. Currently walking through a dear friend’s diagnosis of stage 4 melanoma. Loss. Lost. Lump. Laugh.

Laugh. I do. I laugh at radioactive grandma and after she gets the go ahead shrug from another nurse I say sure, come on over. We’re all getting exposed to something. Risky? I’m risky. I saw Risky Business as a teen. I also played the strategic yet mind-numbing boardgame Risk. I like to wear halter tops that are risqué!

Not really. Obsessive fear #3: my body.

Former anorexic. Still scared of full-length mirrors. But heck, I’ve evolved enough to eat grilled cheese with my kids so they don’t learn food fears from me (ha! Can I prevent them from anything, really?)

Which brings me to

12:50pm – well-meaning intake examiner tells me my weight – which I haven’t kept track of in a decade. The number crumples me in self-loathing but I manage to fill in the rest of my forms before weeping in the bathroom. Get in to see new therapist who says, “Tell me about yourself.”

To which I reply, “Can I just tell you about today instead?”

She nods with a smile.

Day one of exposure therapy.

I am given a picture of three overlapping circles. 

One says THOUGHT.

The other, FEAR.

The third, ACTION.

“All I want us to do,” says my exposure-specialist-new-best-friend, “is separate those three.”

Abby Sher is a writer and performer in Brooklyn, New York, and the author of Amen, Amen, Amen: Memoir of a Girl Who Couldn't Stop Praying.

more...

Subscribe to Amen, Amen, Amen

Current Issue

Let It Go!

It can take a radical reboot to get past old hurts and injustices.