Overcoming OCD is not a fight, is an act of love.
My name is Marco. I come from Italy.
I struggled with OCD (pure O) since I was 10 years old. But I don’t want to start my story from there. I am sure most people reading have heard a million of times this story about dealing with intrusive thoughts, repetitive behaviors, counting and all the suffering and relative problematics this pathology leads to. I want to start this story from my favorite part: Recovery.
Two years ago I had the impression that overcoming OCD, for me, was impossible. Although OCD didn’t impair completely my social and professional life, I was at the mercy of a mind that when hit, hit very hard. I tried almost everything: since I was little I keep bouncing between psychologists and psychiatries but never did a real treatment that lasted more than a year. At the time of University I did more than 3 years of psychotherapy and then, completely unsatisfied by that, went to a psychiatrist whom treated me with meds for the following 6 years. At the same time I was doing behavior therapy. My experience with meds was pretty unsatisfying too as my feeling was that doctors were throwing darts into the night. I have to say also that I was particularly sensitive to meds and that I couldn’t reach high dosages without having strong side effects. Anyway, for sure the slight improvement for me wasn’t worth all the side effects.
I was interested in contemplative practices and Buddhist teachings since I was very young, but I never thought of them as a solution. I think that the idea at the base of Buddhism of controlling in some way our mind is very attractive for anyone that suffer from OCD. Of course the main practice to achieve that is meditation. I tried to meditate for some years before that time but never in a disciplined and continuous way and I never thought at that as a solution for OCD.
And here my story really begins. Two years ago. I was 30 years old. I was in my bedroom listening at a talk by Ajahn Brahm (a famous Buddhist monk that lives in Western Australia) and he said a sentence that changed my life and made me take the most difficult decision I have ever taken. As use of monks or very wise people his citation was incredibly simple but so deep. He was talking about compassion and he said “the tree makes shadow also for the ones who are cutting it”. I don’t really know why but this apparently very simple sentence lighted something inside me. Since then for me the idea of “compassion” was toward something very distant and abstract. Something like if you see a man dying in the street you have to help or something like that. Surely not something I could apply to myself and above all not to my inner enemies. Also Jesus said “if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also”. Isn’t that exactly the same thing? The more I know about religions the more I think Tolstoy was right saying that every religion at their core say exactly the same thing. Religions are a rebellion against evolutionist behaviors. Of course from an evolutionist point of view compassion toward our loved ones or our tribe makes a lot of sense in the pursue of the main goal of evolution: put our genes into the next generation. But what about compassion toward our enemies and the things that are hurting us? How can that help us put our genes into the next generation? These were the kind of ideas in my head.
Anyway, It was a period of my life where I felt I needed a drastic change. So I decided: stop all the doctors, stop all the therapies, and above all stop all the medications. *(This is absolutely not a suggestion. It was a stupid and dangerous idea. Consult with doctors before making any change in your therapy.)
The first week was very hard especially because I was addicted to meds for sleep. Of course obsessions got worse but not as much as I thought they would.
I started to meditate every day. In meditation kindness is more important than mindfulness, although you need both of them. This capacity of irradiating unconditional kindness on whatever passes trough your mind, good or bad, is the main method for deep meditations. After few days of practice an incredible thing happened: the anxiety I was suffering for years more or less on a daily basis completely vanished. Obsession of course was another story. They were always there but I was noticing that, the more I kept going with my practice, the more obsessions came less frequent and when they hit, it was easier to control my compulsions.
For the first year my healing curve was not fast as I hoped to but was slowly improving. In the second year I felt that curve finally improving a lot arriving at some day totally free from compulsive behaviors and with much less intrusive thoughts. A result that went behind my imagination.
I think meditation brings to two basic positive effects: the first is that it reduces by itself the amount of obsessions. The second is that gives you the skill, when your mind hit, to do that fundamental step back that allows to recognize the boundaries between you and your mind and, more important, to irradiate kindness toward whatever is cutting you.
In the years I took medications I experienced a lot of negative side effects. Meditation has just positive side effects that go far beyond OCD. It makes you more calm, more creative, more forgiving toward the past, less worried about the future, and most important of all more loving and caring toward people around you.
I am totally aware that OCD is a chronic disease. For this reason I don’t take any day for granted, conscious that I can get worse any day but full of hope that I will get always better in the long run. Nowadays my main goal is to apply always more what I learn in meditation in my daily life: how to make peace, how to be kind, how to be present, how to welcome unconditionally good and bad, peace and restlessness, saints and monsters.
In the last period I have felt the urge and desire to communicate my understanding of meditation. For this reason I started a YouTube Channel devoted only to meditation where I try to explain every detail in a very step by step way. Personally it took me years of study and practice to learn and so I thought that organizing this knowledge in a very contemporary way of communication could be helpful to someone approaching these practices. Obviously is not directed only to those with OCD as I absolutely believe that almost any person can benefit somehow.
If you are interested I put the link to my channel below. I would love to hear if you find it useful.
When I was 10 years old I took a trip around United States with my parents and I brought home as a souvenir for my beloved grandfather a little statue representing a Native American on his horse with his weapons down. On the bottom of that statue were engraved the words “since the sun came down I will fight no more”. I don’t know the exactly historical meaning of that sentence but for me, now, means only one thing: if you keep fighting what you can’t defeat you will end just hurting more yourself. Overcoming OCD is not a fight, is an act of love.