Welcome to your longest love-hate relationship–one with more twists and turns that that throwaway romance novel.
When OCD first besieged me, I cursed its very name. I felt helpless as these horrific thoughts invaded my brain. I silently pleaded with my tormenting mind, “Please stop–just please go away; I will do whatever you want.”
During high-pressure exams in college, I would beseech the OCD God for temporary relief. “Just let me get through the exam and you can return with your typical vengeance,” I would plead. On some occasions, my OCD mind would relent to my demands–freeing me to concentrate on the exam. On other occasions, OCD would smirk, insouciantly hurling the latest and greatest OCD thought at me.
I hated OCD–its smirking cruelty; its mean-spiritedness–like nothing else. It took perverse pleasure in my anguish. The struggle was very real.
But as I have aged–and slowly gained perspective, I have come to appreciate OCD. No, not its mocking taunts and sneering ridicule; those body blows still pierce. Instead, I appreciate OCD for humanizing me–for forcing me to be open about my own personal struggles. Because of OCD’s wrath, I am more sympathetic and compassionate toward others’ mental health struggles. Because of OCD’s wrath, I have deeper, more authentic friendships; my closest friends and loved ones know (if not understand) the emotional turmoil bubbling inside me. Because of OCD’s wrath, I savor the good days–those days (and sometimes weeks–even months!) when the OCD feels like an afterthought.
You see, OCD and I have a volatile relationship–one rife with contemptuous name calling (“My fuc*king OCD is back,” I lament) and TLC (“Wow, OCD has gone MIA–life feels easy. Almost too easy”). For as much as I loathe OCD–and, yes, my stomach is churning as I recall its paralyzing fear, it has given me an identity–even purpose.
For those of you in the throes of an OCD spiral (and, yes, I have been there), this article may seem like cold–even cruel–comfort. “How can I feel compassion for this thing that is beating me into submission?” you rightfully ask. And to that, I feel for you–this disorder is crueler than a third grade bully.
But once you persevere through the latest round of OCD thoughts–and you will (even if the mental anguish seems insufferable right now), you will see that standing up to your OCD bully has benefits. These benefits might not be apparent right now (when OCD first flooded my synapses, perspective was the furthest thing from my mind) but, in time, you will sense–even appreciate–OCD’s hidden benefits: a dollop of compassion, a quart of self-awareness, a gallon of resilience.
Is this tradeoff–and, specifically, dealing with OCD’s relentless doubt and paralyzing uncertainty–worth it? I don’t know–even today, I still find myself cursing OCD’s latest cruelty. But even as I profanely curse OCD’s latest manifestation, I also recognize that OCD can mean something else: opportunity over obsessiveness; compassion over compulsiveness; and (self)-discovery over doubt.