What is bravery? I think the most common definition of bravery is to see something you’re afraid of and to take action despite it. But how often do we actually follow through on that principle? How often do we as individuals submit ourselves to the tormenting fires of fear?
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is fear…
In my life, I’ve felt I have always had an overabundance of fear, and I know that can be a hard thing to conceptualize because everyone feels fear and I can’t feel other people’s fear. But it felt to me though during my childhood that other people seemed calmer than I did, and little things that upset me didn’t upset them as much or at all. It was only once I had reached my teenage years that I realized that I suffered from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (and a bunch of other fun things) but it wasn’t until my mid twenties that I fully appreciated and understood the whole scope of what that meant.
What I have learned in all these years is that this condition is fear. It is the fear of the unknown, it is a dogged determination to avoid the uncertain. All surfaces are contaminated, all things and people are unsafe and the very world itself is far more dangerous than most people realise. But of course through therapy, you learn that all of these thoughts are straight-up lies, and then through time and experience, you learn to tell the difference between these lies and your actual thoughts. But getting good at this is like becoming skilled in any task, it takes time, practice, and patience.
If you give water time… It will split mountains.
Despite the fact that I am now in my late twenties (gosh that crept up quick, better organize a retirement home), I have only just come to fully realize what must be done. After many teenage years spent suffering and stumbling through this, I’ve finally realized that I must approach the problem of my OCD in a drastically different way. Rather than stop my habits cold-turkey, which made my anxiety worse, I had to take a gradual approach to my health. It became clear that the key to successfully treating my condition was to work at it every day. Stick to my methods and grind away until my illness lessened over time, just as the waves of the ocean crash against the rocks on the shore and carve away at them over years, decades, millenia. The waves come in, again and again, day after day, low or high tide you can be sure the waves will come in again and again. Just as much as you can be sure you will try again day after day to not give in to your compulsions and I won’t lie, it hurts to willingly smash your self upon the rocks. But it is also one of the bravest things you’ll ever commit yourself to do, seeing the task before you and knowing that it WILL hurt you… But you do it anyway because you want to be better and not even life itself can stop you.
It has taken time for me to get where I am today, it took years to realize I had what I had and then many more to accept it. It is a journey that cannot be rushed or expedited either. You may read and learn from others but it takes time to embody these lessons. You may learn something today that will change your life five years down the road simply because you were not ready to understand it yet. It is a journey that I am still on and I wake up every day and try my best to smash my self upon the rocks and there are some days where I must take a break from it. But I see the rocks upon my shoreline and through my determination and persistence many of them are cracked and broken, some have even been obliterated simply because I tried, every single day.
Making a plan to walk towards fear.
It’s one thing to talk about walking towards fear and another to actually do it. But just like almost anything in life, it can help to have a plan of action. You know that you want to get better, but when it comes to having a plan saying “I want to get better” is simply too vague, you have to look at what you want to achieve and then break it down into workable bits.
Let’s try an example that you can hopefully reframe for your specific OCD. Let’s say you wash your hands constantly because you have contamination OCD and then one day you decide you have had enough! (Understandable) Should you just go from washing your hands constantly to trying to force yourself to not wash them at all? Well, I suppose you could, but you would have more luck drawing blood from a stone. You know you want to stop, but stopping it all at once can be hard and exhausting. But what if you try monitoring how much you actually give in to this compulsion? Then from there, you will have a picture of what that looks like and you will be able to more easily assess what you need to do.
So let’s make an orderly list of what you could potentially do to start working at breaking those rocks on the shore:
1. Noticing that you have this Obsession/Compulsion.
2. Taking stock of the nuances of this Obsession/Compulsion. ie assessing what you do and how you do it. eg Do you wash your hands five times or eight times? Do you tap the faucet three times? Do you say anything? etc
3. Break down what you think you could do to break it down into workable bits. So for example make a plan to only apply soap once instead of several times, then you move onto your next step.
4. Set goals of what you want to achieve. (eg you know you wash your hands five times in a compulsion cycle, so you will endeavour to only wash them four times instead and so on.)
5. Be kind and patient with yourself, this takes time. You can’t stop a compulsion you’ve been doing for years instantly.
I hope this list can give you a framework that you can apply to your own OCD Obsessions/Compulsions.
I’m afraid I have to go now…
So will you walk towards fear? Will you be like the ocean waves crashing upon the rocks, eroding them over time? All that matters is that you try, and so long as you are moving closer and closer every single day towards this, you will get there. Do you have any questions? Please feel free to comment as I love hearing from all of you. Also please leave the blog a like and a follow as that helps me out quite a bit and also If you want to keep in touch go follow my Pinterest account down below.
Until next time: JH
About the author:
Jake is a writer, blogger and long-time sufferer of mental illness in the form of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, anxiety and ADD. On a side note, he is also on the autism spectrum. When he’s not reading, writing or blogging, he’s playing video games or Dungeons and Dragons.
Even though Jake has lived with mental illness all of his life, he is not a professional and all of the advice he gives is from personal experience and may not be applicable to you and your situation. If you are in need of help please contact a qualified mental health practitioner.