The Poisonous Parrot

I had CBT this week for the first time in a month. I think that’s why I’ve felt a bit dried up on the old blog front, when I’m going to therapy regularly I feel like I’m left with food for thought. I have things to reflect upon and fresh insights into my OCD. However, when I’m not regularly in therapy and it’s up to me to put into practice what I’ve learnt, I find this more difficult. There’s something that scares me about reflecting on my mental illness in such depth and making the effort to challenge the horrid thoughts it churns out when I’m away from the counselling room.

I do worry that I’m not getting better even though I am taking all the steps to make it happen. I still struggle with intrusive thoughts and compulsions to calm the anxiety they cause. Sometimes I feel like I’ve hit a brick wall and admit defeat that this is going to be something that’s never going, especially because I’m haunted by The Poisonous Parrot.

Let’s call him TPP for short.

This was something my CBT therapist said to me this week as I was describing the constant “what if?” that chirps away all day every day. The OCD threatens me and makes up its own theories. I can challenge these by looking at the probability of it happening or trying to prove it wrong with evidence but this doesn’t stop the annoying “what if?” making an appearance. As I was explaining this in my CBT session, my therapist named this as TPP.

Say we were given our own pet parrot. We all know that although parrots can talk (I don’t know about anyone else but every time I see one I HAVE to get into conversation with it), it’s not using any sort of knowledge or understanding. It will merely squawk things in a very basic, repetitive way; in ‘parrot-fashion’.  However, this particular pet parrot we’ve been given has been poisoned to say unhelpful and distressing things to us throughout our day. So, if for example I use this to focus upon my OCD: I am threatened by TPP to carry out a ritual or something bad will happen. I can challenge his threat with evidence to try and prove him wrong so I don’t have to give in and perform the ritual. However, the parrot then continuously squawks: “WHAT IF?”

Even though I have evidence to prove TPP wrong, this relentless question he poses to me can become impossible to ignore. I can’t argue with TPP, he’s right…

What if that worry happens?

It might not happen but what if it did?

What if I could stop it by carrying out a ritual?

What if I don’t carry out the ritual?

But it’s at this point that we have to remind ourselves: this voice is just TPP and TPP only has the ability to retort things without any true knowledge behind it. TPP hasn’t tested this theory, he doesn’t know better than you. He can’t see into the future any more than you can. He’s just a parrot after all, no magical powers involved.

We don’t have to believe TPP.

If he was a wizard parrot on the other hand then yeah, we’d probably be more inclined to believe him. Or if he was a time traveller and had true evidence of this bad thing happening in the future. But he hasn’t and he doesn’t. He sits in his cage in your house shouting “WHAT IF?” at you from across the room, bullying you into doing as he says. Sometimes I can stand up to TPP but other times I can’t ignore him and I do as he says. TPP falls quiet for a bit but it’s not long before he pipes up again. And this goes on and on and on and on and on… Until one day you might look at the situation and think, hang on a minute. TPP knows nothing and he’s bullying me in my own home.

I wouldn’t put up with that. Would you?

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