This is our little secret: I robbed a bank.
At least that’s what my mind spits out. And according to my mind, I am likely to rob again and again.
When I walk into a bank to deposit a check, my heartbeat skips. Sweat trickles down my forehead. A boulder forms in my throat.
Why? Not because of my dwindling bank account or the imperious teller. My sneering mind is ready to pounce. An obsessive-compulsive disorder advocate and consumer, our vivid imagination has a darker side. We have committed unspeakable atrocities according to our deceitful thoughts.
Referred to as the doubting disorder, OCD preys on the sliver of doubt. Rationally, we know the thoughts are irrational. We know they are cruel distortions. But emotionally, they feel powerful. And so believable. Emotion and logic clash in our angst-ridden minds.
This is our challenge. Our minds are frenemies. They are razor-sharp, capable of unleashing powerful arguments and deconstructing complex math equations. But they are also tormentors, skilled at twisting facts into believable half-truths. The OCD, at its shrillest, plunges deep into our psyche.
I think, therefore I am. For OCD patients, I think, therefore I revisit. The past diverts and distracts. We spend hours analyzing our previous thoughts and actions. In the cruelest of mind tricks, we try to logic out illogical thoughts.
But as we painfully discover, OCD contorts our logical, intellectual mind. Our mind’s OCD riddle is unsolvable. But the temptation to “logic it out” — what do these thoughts mean? Did I really commit a horrible offense? — is irresistible. Yearning for certitude, self-doubt floods our core. We are immobilized, fearful of an impetuous action. But our hesitation has ill-advised consequences. Time is finite; our endless vacillating perplexes family, friends, and colleagues. We appear inconsistent and directionless. In reality, we are distracted; smothering the insatiable doubt siphons mental energy. The OCD cripples if we let it.
When meeting with my counselor, we talk about pushing forward, labeling a thought as a meaningless mind trick and tackling daily goals. While the flood of thoughts may be uncontrollable, we control our reaction. We can either succumb to the uncomfortable thoughts and feelings or acknowledge them in a nonjudgmental manner. As Dr. McCann reminds me, the thoughts only imprison you when you let them.
She’s right. For too long, OCD patients live in solitary confinement. We are shackled to the latest anxiety-inducing thought. Sure, you may have robbed that bank. But there is a bigger crime occurring — OCD stealing your healthy, vibrant life. Here is your get out of jail free card.