For many people, the journey through obsessive-compulsive disorder and back to good health is a long one. Getting the correct diagnosis, or even just recognizing you have OCD, often takes years. Then comes the search for appropriate treatment, followed by a long-term commitment to therapy and hard work. We know recovery is possible, but it is rarely a “quick fix.”

I try to imagine what it must feel like, after being controlled by OCD for so long, to finally have your life back? Relief. Gratitude. Excitement!

Yes, but for many, also add trepidation and confusion, with a helping of uncertainty.

What do I do NOW?

For many people, living with a good-sized case of obsessive-compulsive disorder is a full-time job. Obsessions, compulsions, more compulsions, getting stuck, avoidance, more compulsions, planning your next move, more compulsions — it can literally take up all your time. When my son Dan’s OCD was severe, OCD was all he “did” day in and day out. It truly stole his life.

And yet, it’s not hard to understand that when you’ve performed compulsions for such a long time, they can become comfortable and familiar — not unlike a security blanket.

So when you finally get your life back, it can be disorienting and scary. You might even feel anxious about feeling well because you’re not used to feeling that way and don’t know how to handle not being a slave to OCD. What do you do with all this free time? How can you be sure to live that happy, productive life you’ve worked so hard to reclaim?

I have heard from quite a few people who have faced this issue, and it’s not unusual for OCD to try to worm its way back into their lives. All the uncertainty about what’s to come can be a ripe breeding ground for OCD. In addition, those with the disorder might start to obsess about how they think they are supposed to feel, or maybe even wonder if they ever really had OCD in the first place?

Hopefully, those who have made it this far in their battle will recognize OCD if it rears its ugly head and see it for what it is – a big bully trying to regain control. They will respond appropriately by just acknowledging the anxiety, not giving it any additional attention, and then continuing on with their lives. Of course, one of the best ways to keep OCD at bay is by continuing to use exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy.

Back to the question of “What do I do NOW?” the answer is clear. You live your life the way YOU want to, not the way OCD wants you to. You identify your goals and work toward them within the framework of your values. What do you want out of life? While to some people the answers are obvious, others might need guidance to help figure out their fresh path. A good therapist can be invaluable.

Let’s get back to those feelings of Relief. Gratitude. Excitement! Because for all those whose lives are now unencumbered by OCD, anything is possible. Your hopes and dreams really can come true!