One of the hardest things to do when living with OCD is to separate yourself from your symptoms. The complexity of OCD symptoms is that they are entrenched in our everyday thought patterns and behaviors, so they seem like they are part of who we are. But they are not, and it is an important distinction to understand when moving toward recovery.
I live with Pure O/Intrusive thoughts. The thoughts that I have are heinous. I hate the thoughts. They are perverted, blasphemous, violent, and disgusting. Sometimes I will have a thought and I will visualize it and then I will feel my body have a visceral reaction in disgust. My snap OCD reaction is, ‘well, if you weren’t such a horrible person, you wouldn’t have these thoughts’, followed by a zing of anxiety. WHOA, NOW! I see what is going on here…this is an OCD thought. But, sometimes if I am tired or distracted, I may second guess….Or IS IT an OCD thought or do I really feel that way? GAH! Stop it! As a almost 30 year veteran with my OCD, it is still amazing to me that it can make me do a double take.
The way that I view the thoughts now and my body reacts to them (which can be equally as unpleasant as the thoughts) is that they are all symptoms. It is hard to think of anything and everything related to OCD as just a ‘symptom’ because it all feels so real. That is how OCD cleverly designs it. It is not called the ‘doubting disease’ for nothing! OCD not only makes you doubt reality, but it makes you doubt yourself. This is a key component that is not always addressed and talked openly about enough. I have had someone describe it best as ‘being OCD about my OCD’. My OCD makes me question my character and my integrity as a human. Well truly now, what sort of person WOULD think these thoughts and have a reaction to them and not be a bad person? The answer to that is: Someone who has Pure O/Intrusive thoughts with violent, sexual, and blasphemous obsessions, that is who.
Oftentimes we forget that just because we have OCD, does not mean we are OCD. When someone has cancer, they may go through chemotherapy. There are symptoms to the treatment of chemotherapy that are universally known and quite horrible. (especially for someone like me with a throw up obsession). When a person is experiencing these symptoms, they are not worrying that they are sick and tired because they are a horrible person. When they are experiencing symptoms as a result of cancer and chemo, they don’t feel guilty and shame about having cancer. They accept the symptoms as side effects of a disease and the treatment.
Because the symptoms of our OCD are so closely tied to our psychological state of mind, we have a tendency to believe it is a reflection of who we are innately. The ‘well if it isn’t true, then why would I worry about it’ state of mind is exactly where OCD wants to keep us. When we are OCD about our OCD, we stay pigeonholed in a state of mind that holds us back from living in full acceptance and recovery. We have to keep the mindset to hate the disorder and not ourselves. WHO WE ARE HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH OUR SYMPTOMS OF OCD.
I deal with the intrusive thoughts almost every day. I like to look at them like clouds floating through my mind. Some are big clouds that block the sunshine and make me doubt for a minute, some are dark and scary thunderstorms that may keep me trapped for a few hours, and others just pass by and I can get a chuckle out of what an imagination my OCD has to try to tempt me. I understand the difference between my real thoughts and my OCD thoughts because it is like clockwork how my OCD works. My body has the same reaction, my mind has the same reaction, my racing and ruminating thoughts surrounding the obsessive thought are always the same. I have learned to recognize that all of those are ‘symptoms’ of a disorder. Once you pinpoint the ‘symptoms’, you are able to separate yourself from them.
OCD does not want you to succeed. OCD does not want to you live happily without it having control over you. It will manipulate every situation to get you caught back in the obsessive and compulsive cycle. But, you are smarter than OCD. You know that who you are as a person has nothing to do with the symptoms of your OCD.
RECOGNIZE ALL OF THE SYMPTOMS
RECOGNIZE YOUR PATTERN OF REACTION
BE AWARE OF WHEN YOU ARE REACTING
SEPARATE YOURSELF FROM YOUR DISORDER
MOST IMPORTANTLY, DON’T EVER HATE YOURSELF BECAUSE YOU HAVE OCD, HATE OCD BECAUSE YOU HAVE IT.
Thank you for taking the time to read,
Mental Health Advocate/Public Speaker; ‘The Stigma of Mental Illness Radio; CBT/ERP Coach/Mental Health Peer Consulting