Recently, I feel like my blog posts have taken a different path; instead of trying to fight my OCD, I have been working on accepting that part of myself. However, although I work really hard to do this, there is always, inevitably, a part of me that wants OCD to be gone, to change into this new, OCD free person. I am always hoping that I will have that light bulb moment of: “Oh! It all makes sense now! Of COURSE carrying out rituals isn’t going to prevent bad things from happening!” and then all my OCD behaviour stops. But you know what, I’m not so sure that I’ll ever experience this. And that’s ok.
The thing that has got me thinking about this happened last week. I experienced an intrusive thought as I was sorting through some of my belongings. As always, this makes me feel as though I have transferred this bad thought onto the object I am looking at/handling at the time and contaminated it. I tell myself that this bad thought will come true if I don’t do something to fix it. So, I spent a couple of minutes rearranging, trying to put right what bad thing I could’ve caused to happen. My anxiety did reduce but I didn’t feel completely satisfied. However, I decided to stop anyway.
Fast forward to the next day: I was faced with a situation that was very similar to my threatening intrusive thought. Basically, the thought I had had was almost playing out before my eyes. However, as this was happening in reality, I dealt with it and didn’t once think back to the intrusive thought I’d had the previous day. I didn’t think for one moment that my intrusive thought was to blame in any way in causing the ‘bad’ thing to happen.
In fact, I had completely forgotten that I’d even had this thought until the same evening when I looked at the belongings that had triggered the intrusive thought the previous day and suddenly remembered: I’d had the thought and, although I had carried out a ritual to try and stop it from coming true, it had pretty much happened anyway.
After this realisation, I talked to my good old mum about it. I was actually surprised with how well I was coping with it all, I thought I would be in pieces. The thing is, I didn’t see it as the thought ‘coming true’. I didn’t see how the two linked and knew that it was impossible that my thoughts could have influenced the external world but I also knew that this wouldn’t stop me in the future, or even that same night, doing rituals to calm my anxiety or to prevent ‘bad’ things from happening. I said all this to my mum and explained that I felt I was waiting for that light bulb moment in my life where I suddenly realise I have no control over events or my thoughts and stop ‘doing OCD behaviour’. Mum replied:
“I don’t think you will ever have that. This is part of who you are.”
I think she’s right. I can prove my OCD wrong, I can answer it back if I want, I can challenge it, rationalise thoughts and know deep down that my behaviour is irrational. But I don’t think I will ever stop being this way. I don’t think I will ever experience a light bulb moment because this is me. I AM this way; I always have been for as long as I can remember and I most likely always will be.
What’s important is that I can see this, manage it and accept it. I think of it as a Venn diagram between my rational and irrational brain. At the moment, I think mine looks like this:
For me, I would call this a normal overlap; it’s when the two feel completely indistinguishable I would know there was a problem. For them to be entirely separate is what can be described as the ‘ideal’ or ‘normal’ we all strive for but I actually think that the overlap I have drawn above IS normal. Life is hard, the world is a scary place and this can set off our irrational thinking. OCD is the way I cope with that in the same way that everybody has their own coping mechanisms.
Maybe I do these things, not because I truly believe I have any control over what happens in life, instead, maybe I do these things because I know I don’t have this control. And maybe, just maybe, that is the light bulb moment after all, just not the one I was expecting.