I am coming to terms with the fact that thoughts are just thoughts
I have had OCD for 40 years.
In 1973, when I had my first intrusive thought (to stab my mother with a kitchen knife) up until 2005 (checking and rechecking moles to see if they were cancerous), I assumed I was just a weird worrier. After all my mother did it too so I figured it couldn’t be that abnormal.
But by 2005 the fear became so loud and the checking became so time consuming that I knew something wasn’t right. And the obsessions became more and more bizarre.
As most people do, I did research on the Internet. It appeared as if I might have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. There wasn’t a description of my specific obsession (and that worried me) but my behavior seemed to fit the OCD pattern.
I started seeing a therapist. I started seeing a psychologist. With their help I began to get better. Prozac helped too.
In 2014 I had a relapse. The old scary thoughts tumbled back in my mind. But it was through this relapse that I gained a more comprehensive understanding of OCD. I have gained insight into my belief system that caused me to overreact to the intrusive thoughts in the first place.
Now—having had OCD for 40 years, I have experienced every obsession imaginable. Here is just a partial list: harm; self-harm; scrupulosity; “I don’t have OCD;” solipsism; health; and hyperawareness.
I have learned that, no matter the obsession, the pattern remains the same. It never changes:
- I have a thought that disturbs me and I begin to obsess over it.
- I seek reassurance that the thought is not true.
- The anxiety decreases after the reassurance—but just temporarily.
- The obsession returns, this time louder and scarier.
But, more importantly, I have learned that the remedy is the same for every obsession too:
- I have a thought that disturbs me.
- I respond by accepting that the thought may be true.
- If I obsess, I allow it to happen and I proceed with my life.
- I accept the possibility that the obsession may never go away but I decide I can live with it.
Now—I still struggle with OCD. But it is getting better. I am coming to terms with the fact that thoughts are just thoughts. I am coming to terms that my reaction to the thought, not the thought itself, is the source of the fear.
To quote my musical hero, Paul McCartney, “It’s getting better all the time.” And it can get better for you!