The OCD brain loves to devour self-confidence; so much so, that it can leave one drooling with self-doubt.
In my opinion, I believe self-doubt to be the ultimate objective of an Obsessive-Compulsive bully brain. Self-doubt can cloud judgement, distort reality, and make us feel weak, insecure, and sometimes questioning our sanity. The OCD bully brain feels pretty good about kicking our self-esteem in the gonads, leaving us to feel like, well, totally not in control and less like our wonderful selves. Once you begin to doubt yourself, game over, the OCD bully brain has won!
Cannot Beat OCD With Crutches
Unfortuantely, you cannot defeat an OCD bully brain with crutches. You might be able to wave them around like a dork, swinging at your OCD like crazy, but eventually, you’ll lose your balance and fall hard on your butt. Crutches are not good at fighting back against OCD.
An OCD crutch is something we can lean on to help us bounce back quickly from a bad OCD thought, feeling, and/or compulsive behavior.
It can be a person who can reassure us verbally that all is okay in the world, instead of working through our OCD episodes ourselves, convincing ourselves all is okay in the world.
It can be a dash-camera used to rewind and check back on an anxious drive, instead of compulsively wasting time and gas to drive back to redo the drive over again.
It can be checking a security camera to make sure the stove is in fact turned off, instead of having the compulsive need to drive all the way back home to check the stove.
It can be wearing gloves 24-7 to ease the mind from having to worry about germs.
It could also be using medication that was meant to be short-term while learning how to cope with OCD, yet it eventually became a long-term solution instead, because it was easier.
OCD crutches are things that typically accommodate our OCD needs, making it easier and faster to move on with life without having to really work through our OCD problems. They come in all different varieties, it just largely depends on how you use them and for how long.
Although OCD crutches help us better cope with our OCD, they are not very effective against overcoming the emotional suffering of OCD. OCD crutches, by themselves, just makes us feel a little less “OCD.”
Having an OCD crutch isn’t terrible though. In fact, it is a step forward towards overcoming the emotional suffering of OCD. They are great to use as a short-term solution, easing your mind long enough to develop and practice a better, more effective, long-term game plan in conquering OCD; such as allowing yourself to focus on practicing CBT techniques, anxiety and stress management, recognizing and understanding OCD triggers, and working on a bit of mindfulness- all things required to overcome emotional suffering of OCD.
Taking A Leap Of Faith Away From OCD
To truly free yourself from the emotional suffering caused by Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, you must first drop the crutches and take a leap of faith into uncertainty.
Think of the movie, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusades, where Indiana Jones ends up at the temple of the “The Treasury” in Petra, Jordan, seeking out the Holy Grail.
Remember the scene where Indiana Jones must take a leap of faith across a bottomless pit to save his father. (Clip of this scene is below) He really has to just dive right in and take a step into thin air (uncertainty), in which to his surprise, after minor heart failure over the fear of the unknown, realizes there is in fact a solid “invisible” bridge across the bottomless pit.
This entire scene, from the moment of extreme uncertainty to the heavy sigh of relief, is exactly what it is like dropping the OCD crutches and overcoming the emotional suffering caused by the OCD bully brain. In fact, Harrison Ford expresses the exact emotions (just look at his facial expressions), that I feel when I finally muster up enough confidence to take a leap of faith to overcome self-doubt from my OCD. I am the Indiana Jones of my own OCD!
Stopping Compulsive Behavior
It’s an odd sensation; resisting a compulsive behavior.
At first, when the mind is overwhelmed with emotions and OCD thoughts, it is difficult to even imagine resisting against the OCD bully brain and so, it is just easier to give in, following through with the compulsive behaviors.
Interestingly, through trial and error, we find things (OCD crutches) that allow us to sort of “compromise” with the OCD bully brain, by giving in to compulsive behavior or making ridiculous accommodations to avoid compulsive behavior, as best as we can, to better ease our experience with OCD. However, OCD still wins. The only way to successfully overcome the emotional suffering caused by OCD is by not giving in to OCD; however, I will be honest, the mere thought of taking back control can be really scary.
For me, resisting compulsive behavior is like fighting back against an invisible force field. BUT, like in every sci-fi movie, there is always a giant red shut-off button every villain doesn’t want you to find, but also seems to be in a dumb place for the hero to find anyway.
Yeah, the OCD bully brain is manipulative, not smart, just like a sci-fi movie villain. 🙂 It is amazing what a little self-confidence can do!
TAKING BACK CONTROL: Give it a Try
It never hurts to try to overcome our OCD. Below is how I take back control from my OCD brain.
I let OCD triggers happen. Avoiding them is often futile.
It is important that I recognize the moment I start to have an OCD episode. It’s much easier to work through an episode when I understand my brain is just being, well, OCD.
I then allow the OCD thoughts and feelings to linger like a stinky breeze on trash day.
I learned to never dwell on “why” these thoughts have come to mind. I am going to think about all the “why” questions anyway, but I know I must not start a debate with the OCD bully brain, because the OCD bully brain LOVES to debate with the logical brain. I cannot let this happen, because the OCD bully brain often wins by using ruthless manipulative tactics to create self-doubt.
I hold my confidence. I know I am smarter than my OCD bully brain.
I always take in a deep breath (or two or three); however many deep breathes it takes to keep me calm and bring myself closer to clarity. I am not looking to reach clarity, just enough clarity to keep my understanding that this is just my brain being OCD.
Then, the heavy need to perform a compulsive behavior comes… At this point, it is important to remember that I cannot control my thoughts or feelings, but I CAN control my physical actions. I can control how I chose to respond to my OCD bully brain.
As the thoughts swirl and the emotions build, pushing me to perform a compulsive behavior….I slam down on that imaginary red shut-off button instead! I take a leap of faith by confidently telling myself:
“This is ridiculous!Nothing will change if I waste time and energy by performing a compulsive behavior. I have good faith in myself that all is well. Everything was fine before this OCD thought came along and everything will be fine long after this thought leaves. I am in control.”
AND I REFUSE TO GIVE IN! Instead of performing a compulsive behavior, I look for a distraction to flush that lingering stench of a bad thought out of my brain!
Then, at the end, I wait until the bad OCD thought(s) are gone and my emotions have subsided before picking at my brain cells about “why” I had an OCD episode. I reflect on how I felt when I refused to perform a compulsive behavior. I also take note on how long I had to work through my OCD episode. Did I learn anything? How can I do better next time?
Everyone’s OCD is different, so what works for me, may not work for everyone else. But, it never hurts to try something new. In the beginning, refusing to perform a compulsive behavior was difficult, but with practice, it got a lot easier. Trial and Error is a huge part of overcoming the OCD bully brain.
Distractions Are Good For The Brain
I use to think distracting my OCD bully brain was just another OCD crutch, but it’s not. Distracting the brain is a healthy way to push lingering thoughts away. Our brains (so-called normal brains too) do it all the time.
It’s part of normal brain function. Our brains are constantly collecting input and we only take notice when something of interest sparks our brain and causes us to focus and think more deeply about it. If the thought doesn’t have a deep emotional attachment to it, we can easily let the thought go. However, when our OCD brains our anxious, our “Fight or Flight” Response System goes a bit haywire (frayed wiring I’ve talked about before) and our OCD bully brain tends to be extremely sensitive to thoughts and latches on emotionally, especially, to intrusive bad thoughts creating an OCD episode.
The Dash-Cam Is Back, But It’s Not For OCD
In the beginning, before I started to find ways to overcome my OCD, I used a dash-cam to record all my drives. I often wasted time and gas to drive all the way back to work or school, just to make sure I didn’t cause any accidents. The dash-cam, saved me time and gas, but it was still an OCD crutch. I relied on it for reassurance when self-doubt from my OCD consumed me.
It’s been 6+ years since I last used a dash-cam in my car. As of two months ago, the dash-cam is back in my life, but this time, it is not for my OCD. I bought a new dash-cam for my husband to use during his long trips to the big city. I was hesitant at first to buy a dash-cam, for that I was afraid I would become dependent on a dash-cam again for my OCD.
I have not used the dash-cam for my OCD, yet. In fact, the dash-cam has been sitting on my desk since last week. I’ve been driving without having the need to have it in the car. I don’t want it in the car! To be honest, I want to conquer my OCD all by myself and thus far, I’ve been doing pretty good at overcoming my driving anxiety. It just takes confidence and practice. 🙂
Take Away From This Post
In case there was too much blah-blah-blah talk, I just want to say, no matter what point you are at on your OCD journey….
It has been 2,190 DAYS (six years) since the last time I suffered from a major emotional OCD episode. Unfortunately, that ended about a week ago. As of today, it has only been 4 DAYS since my last major emotional OCD episode.
My OCD Brain Fighting Against My Logical Brain
Over a week ago, I had a major OCD episode; one in which I couldn’t shake from my brain for at least an entire week. My OCD brain was preventing me from blogging about OCD in fear something catastrophic would happen if I did; but I realized the catastrophic fear is just a thinking error triggered by the real emotion of embarrassment. So, after overcoming the embarrassing fact that I had a major OCD episode, my first one in years, I can semi-comfortably blog again. I am no longer embarrassed over it, just relieved it is over. This experience was slightly different from any other experience I have ever had with major OCD episodes. In fact, it felt like a mental war going on in my head between my OCD brain and my logical brain.
Usually, it is just a war between my emotions and my OCD brain, but this time, my “logical” brain was not going to have it. Six years ago, my logical brain was confused, insecure, and well, just not very helpful against an OCD bully. However, this time, I was completely confident with my logic. Instead of a constant period of emotional suffering, it was an on and off period of emotional suffering. It was a bizarre mental tug-a-war experience that lasted an entire week, all because I knew exactly what was going on in my OCD brain.
My Kids Are OCD’s Kryptonite
I can tell you exactly why my OCD struck me so hard when it did; it is because I didn’t have my kids distracting my brain and I was in an anxious mood.
Ever since I became a mom, I have been, essentially, OCD-free. I still have an OCD brain, but I rarely have any OCD episodes, and when I do, they are extremely minor little episodes that don’t bother me at all. Last week was the first time in years, that an OCD episode not only lasted forever but also had caused me severe emotional suffering. In short, it was an OCD episode that totally messed with my happy.
Although my kids help keep my OCD at bay, I don’t usually have any OCD episodes when they are away visiting family. I am not entirely dependent on them as I do a pretty good job controlling my OCD on my own, but I guess when they are gone, it is like having an extra defense shield down against OCD. Thus, without being entirely mindful of my anxiety, OCD episodes are more likely to occur.
Overcoming My OCD
Thinking about last week, I strongly believe the mental tug-a-war I experienced with my major OCD episode was me fighting back against my OCD. The bizarre part of it all, was that I wasn’t even trying to stop my OCD brain; my logical brain just automatically took over. My OCD brain tried to get me to doubt myself, but it didn’t work. To me, I feel as if that was a sign that I might actually be overcoming OCD after all. Unfortunately, catastrophic thinking still got the best of me; but in the end, I know I had successfully won that OCD battle!
Encouraging Others To Overcome OCD
The emotional suffering I felt last week deeply reminded me of the suffering I constantly endured my first couple of years with OCD and how it greatly motivated me to find a way to conquer my OCD. I may not be able to cure my OCD, but I can certainly overcome the suffering it causes me. I strongly believe if I can do it, others can do it too!
I hope my blog encourages others to overcome their OCD or at the very least, bring comfort to those suffering from OCD. I have seen the ugly side of OCD and have stood in many OCD shoes. Perhaps not an exact fit in shoe, for that everyone experiences OCD differently, but an enough fit to understand how badly OCD can affect a person’s life and overall happiness.
May the path to OCD-freedom lie just around the corner. ❤