Accept anything and you can transcend everything.
I can describe and give an in-depth, detailed account of the intricate ways OCD affects my mind all too well. My mind and the mechanics have always fundamentally been the same. Never once do I remember my mind being any different than the way it already is, was, and always has been. However, I’ve discovered focusing on this path too much ultimately only causes more confusion…and more problems. I’ve experienced how it leads you “down the rabbit hole” into an endless cycle of a game you can’t win. And I know, because I’ve played. Endlessly. Sure, you might win some battles, but it’s never long lived. Eventually, after each loss, you’re left more damaged and confused than the last time.
Not long ago, I was so focused and obsessed on figuring out my mind that I refused to quit, to a fault. No matter how much distress or added suffering it caused me I pushed on. Even though I’ve lived with these conditions my entire life, I had never actually stumbled upon anything tangible until a handful of years ago. I had become obsessed with the intrusive and unwanted thoughts plaguing my mind everyday. Once I discovered these “impostors,” I couldn’t leave them alone. I needed so badly to comprehend the entirety of these conditions. It was like I needed to know almost more than I needed to breathe, quite literally.
Ultimately, I have found that to truly grasp the totality of these conditions on a constant basis is impossible. Even if I could, to always have an answer for every unanswered question is literally hopeless. It’s draining and defeating. However, once I learned that OCD is largely hereditary and biological, it provided me with a figurative sigh of relief. I think it really helped to know that no matter what, these conditions are here to stay regardless of my attempts to fully understand them or not. In other words, it is irrelevant if I am able to understand the ins and outs of OCD if I’m going to let it completely consume me.
What is important is that they will very likely find a well of strength inside themselves that they never knew existed.
I remember exactly when my “Pure” OCD became a problem for me. If I think hard enough, I can remember having mild symptoms of anxiety and some intrusive thoughts before then, but they never affected my life. My first big episode did, and that was what tipped the scales from “I’m a little high strung” to “Something is wrong with me.” I was incorrect about just what was wrong with me, and still am a lot of the time, but I was correct in thinking it wasn’t normal to be as distressed as I was by the thoughts that raced through my head.
I was lucky in that I was able to make it to about age 25 without huge mental illness problems. I was a little depressed as a teenager. I had dealt with the stress of an increasingly mentally and physically abusive marriage with a man suffering from PTSD for about five years by then, and I definitely had rocky moments. What I also had was a general sense of control. I could pull on my big girl undies and get to work. When OCD barged into my life like the Kool-Aid Man bursting through walls, I felt like I lost that control.
I was going on vacation to see a friend on the other side of the country by myself. I’d made the trip several times before, as I had lived in her area for a few years prior to this trip. I was happy and excited, but I got sick literally on the way to the airport. I got a nasty stomach virus that had me kneeling in the bathroom at Logan Airport for several hours. I called my then husband and told him what was happening. His reaction was “I’m not turning around now. There’s too much traffic. Just get on the plane.”
I try to share my story at every possible opportunity through my writing or through talks, such as my TED talk
What do I write?
This should be an easy question, because as a writer, I should be bursting with so many ideas that I would never be able to complete all of them. But when someone asks me about my OCD, or I have to write a piece on it, I wonder…what part am I supposed to talk about? How am I supposed to convey the enormousness of my experience into whatever little space or time I’m provided? How do I talk about something that has been with me for as long as I can remember, that is as natural as breathing yet as unnatural as that choking, stifling loss of breath that occurred every time the obsessions became too much.
I was a very emotional kid, and being emotional and constantly absorbed in forms of escape that didn’t involve hitting any kind of ball was looked down upon when you were a boy. The OCD started out then, and grew with me. I was terrified of everything, constantly on the watch; filled with thoughts I had no control over, having to suppress urges and desires that were repulsive and destructive.