I was browsing facebook today and as usual, all I was seeing were pictures of how great everyone’s lives seem, inspirational quotes, and rants against the government, and then I came across one specific quote that made me stop my down cursor.
It was something reposted via reposted via reposted from some site I had never heard of, but the quote read something along the lines of ‘Negative thoughts can be easily defeated by recognizing when they first pop into your mind…the first thoughts are always the weakest.’ I wanted to like it for what it was originally intending—to combat negative thoughts—but for those of us who suffer with OCD, we understand the ‘bad thoughts’ as something entirely different than the average individual and their daily struggle to ‘be more positive’.
I thought about the depth of that comment as it relates to spikes and trigger’s associated with my form of OCD. Matty Myles, the OCD Specialist that I work as an ERP coach for always talks about OCD as being a ‘bully’. The bully taunts you all day long and as long as you are aware that you are being hit with irrational and ridiculous taunts, it is easy to not get hooked. Unfortunately, OCD is so intelligently warped (which I like to attibute to how intelligent I am, since it IS my brain!!) that its taunts get dirtier and nastier until you are appalled by your own twisted thoughts and the initial taunt (which is usually in the form of a ‘what if’ question) finally stops you dead in your tracks.
What if the vision of me putting on the gas at a slowed intersection REALLY means that I want to hurt all of those pedestrians and the stopped cars?
OF COURSE the answer is NO, but all of a sudden I can feel a tingling sensation in my lower leg and into my foot…does that mean I could accidently lose control of one of my limbs?
Oops…I think I may have just gotten hooked into the cycle!
WHY is it that I was able to laugh at and stave off the thoughts of worrying that I wanted to scream out obscenities in the coffee meeting I had with a colleague earlier—some of the foulest names and slurs I could think of—but all of a sudden NOW I cannot let go of this worry that I take pleasure in wanting to slaugter innocent bystanders???
Because I gave it a second thought.
I get bombarded with thoughts every single day that can potentially get hooked. Usually they are violent or sexual or both. I don’t bother to worry WHY I have these thoughts…I already know the answer to that. I HAVE OCD! What I do bother to do is to recognize that they are meant to trigger me. They are the bully in my mind waiting silently and patiently all day, everyday looking for the moment when I am tired…when I am stressed…when I am vulnerable…to pounce on me and continue the dance that makes him rejoice. So, I take very seriously the one-up I have on the bully. I already know they are going to happen and I usually KNOW they are going to happen at inopportune times. I know walking into an important meeting that I am going to have thoughts about screaming out obscenities, interrupting people with rambling thoughts unrelated to the topic, or sexually grabbing someone beside me. I wait for them to happen and the bully sulks and pouts when I giggle as they come through my mind at their absurdity and at my ability to control them.
Lee Baer who wrote ‘The Imp of the Mind’ gave a talk at the International OCD Foundation Annual Conference in LA last weekend and I was lucky enough to attend. He said in his talk that the more times that we perform compulsions…the more times that we go back to ‘make sure’ or ‘prove or disprove’ something, the less sure we will be….the weaker we become in the face of that fear. In logical world, this does NOT make sense….but our minds exist in OCD world. The faster we can recognize that our type of ‘logic’ is driven by a bully in our mind when it comes to irrational thinking, the faster we will be able to recognize when the bully is tempting us and never give it’s taunts a second glance.
The difference between individuals who have OCD and individuals who just have quirky obsessions or habits is that people with OCD RECOGNIZE that their obsessions are irrational and they do NOT take pleasure in the ritualistic behavior that accompanies the obsession.
We have OCD. There is no cure for OCD. But what we do have is therapy that works (ERP), medications that aid in our depression and anxiety, and we have the ability to educate ourselves. Never forget that the bully will taunt you all day and everyday until he gets you to give his fears a second glance. The first question—the first doubt is the weakest—once you give in, the power starts to slip out of your hand and the fear becomes stronger with each compulsion.
Learn the voice of the bully. Learn the reaction you have to the bully. Learn the absurdities of the taunts. Learn the irrationality of the thoughts. And learn how to NEVER give them a second thought.
Thank you for taking the time to read and good luck in your fight against OCD
Mental Health Advocate/Public Speaker, CBT/ERP Coach, Radio Host ‘The Stigma of Mental Illness’ Radio, Mental Health Peer Consulting, OCD: Outreach Community in Denver