I call this a drawn out exposure because I consider any exposure lasting more than 5 to 15 minutes to be long and drawn out. In case you wondered how long I generally engage in an exposure, now you know.
Today, I went shopping. After working on a budget last night, which technically I haven't necessarily blown yet, although I'm close to the edge in a category or few. At first, I made it through the dollar store only purchasing one thing. Then through Walmart only purchasing two things, my internet pass for the next two months, and a pair of leggings.
Then I went on a hunt for boots. Perhaps I should let you in on the fact that my aunt gave me a shirt, but it didn't quite fit, so I returned it to the store here locally, and found a Tshirt and a little dress for less than the original sale shirt (that is why I like 70 - 90% off things... and chance, that I found those two items). Well, that was sort of risky buying those (I have OCDish anxiety about shopping that I'll purchase the wrong thing, and thereby sin). But I was quite excited. Only the dress is short, too short for the winter. So that is why I added leggings to the outfit today. But then I needed shoes to wear with it. I could were my multi-season Sunday shoes, but I'm not sure if that would be a fashion crime. And the lady at the store where I got the dress suggested leggings and boots if I had them.
So I started a hunt for boots. It wasn't exactly an impulse search. I've wanted a stylish pair of boots since I started noticing them in the fall (and especially since one of my toddlers came in wearing a pair of the tall ones). So I figured if I could find one for $15 or $25, it wouldn't be too bad.
Well, at the third store, I found a pair I thought were perfect, except that they were too small. They were about $30 on sale from $80. So I wrote down what specifications on the box label that I thought would help me out. Then I tried the local mall (read very, very small). No success. So I called the department store the next sort of big city over to see if they had my chosen shoes in my size. No, they didn't, but if I went one store further, they did have one pair my size.
I decided to go for it. It would take perhaps 45 minutes to drive over. It would be a good exposure, but actually, it would be an even better exposure because I wasn't sure if I could justify the trip as an exposure (if you have OCD, I trust that will make sense. If you don't, please just humor me...).
Moreover, I would try to be nice to myself on this trip. Since I've been feeling guilty for not being nicer to myself. Oooh, that sounds bad. How would you work an exposure for that guilt/anxiety thought? I mean, be mean to myself so I can keep feeling guilty?
Which brings me to this one, very important bit of information for anyone with or without OCD: OCD specializes in loose-loose situations.
Back to my story. I was actually nice to myself. It was a challenge, felt awkward, and reminded me of when I worked on appreciating myself when I was in the hospital for my mental illness. And I enjoyed the scenery. I mean, a sunset with an expansive view of city lights surrounded by hills that are called mountains or mountains that are really hills or whatever those short tall things are. And the highway with all those cars' lights. I thought it was pretty.
Once I got to the store, I'm sure you will be shocked to learn that I wasn't sure if I really wanted to buy the boots once I got there. I wasn't sure they fit quite right. I wasn't sure they looked quite right. I even went so far as to ask a stranger for fashion advice. (I didn't see it as assurance-seeking then, but I'm pretty sure it could have been, looking back). She said they were cute, but recommended higher cut boots if I was going to wear leggings. So I looked. The other boots were all too this or that. Too high heels, too high of a price (the figure I had in my head, that wasn't strictly based on the aforementioned budget, was 32.99 or less) combined with being too tight on the top, too loose... So then, after I was very hot in my warm winter coat (there are downsides to warm winter coats if you don't take them off), I was left to decide whether or not to buy.
I decided to buy the original pair that brought me the thirty-four miles or so. After all, it was an exposure trip/treat yourself nice trip.
After eating, I drove back towards home. And considered the dilemma of an exposure/treat yourself nice trip, which sounds even more contradictory to me now. Stay in your anxiety plus relax and be nice to yourself. That's what we get told by our good therapists, right? The ones that teach ERP. Well, at least mine. Because, at least for me with my mix of depression and OCD, she uses a combination of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Exposure Response Prevention and Mindfulness and Dialectic Behavioral Therapy... a nice good mix, with ERP still the crown (well, alongside medication if needed) in defeating OCD. (She seems to promote cutting the OCD mountain into a hill with CBT etc., and then exposing one's self to the hill, and also mindfulness etc.) So how do I do that? Tell myself, "Relax! Stay with the anxiety." (Heart, go slower and race, please?) I've been telling myself, "It'll be okay." Only at our last visit, my therapist thought even my lovely phrase was a compulsion. Which sort of makes sense. But it is also me trying to relax myself. But then, have you ever tried washing your hands to relax yourself? I have. And I'm pretty extremely sure it counted as a compulsion - or a justfiable precaution. :)
Anyway, I made it back to my home town and went grocery shopping in my new boots. Of course, all the ladies I noticed wearing boots had higher cut boots than the new ones I was breaking in. I had a growing assurance that I had bought the wrong pair of boots. And spending another $30 dollars for another pair of boots would take a whole lot more justification than the first pair. Pretty much, it was a lost cause. So I got to sit with my knowing it was the wrong pair of boots.
By the end of shopping, my feet hurt and I remembered why I didn't buy what I had started thinking was the "right" pair of boots; their heels were too high. So I guess I got the right pair, after all. A pair that will give me a few more exposures before I can finally forget the decision (if I ever do). Actually, probably any pair would have provided plenty of exposures. Only maybe if I had bought a cuter pair, my joy would outweigh my anxiety...
So that is what I consider a drawn out exposure. One that takes hours. Sure, I thought of other stuff in between, but it was a pretty good one anyway.