May you find her journey enlightening.
“What you don’t feed will die”…those were the words I heard that caught my attention. I was, like I sometimes do, listening to an online message from Pastor and speaker Joyce Meyer. Whether you are a Christian or not, the point of her message was clear…your thoughts are only as strong as you let them be, starve them, and they will die.
That’s easier said than done when you struggle with obsessive thoughts (OCD). I am not sure how long I have struggled with obsessive thinking. However, I only became aware of this struggle about seven months ago when the thinking patterns became evident. As soon as one obsessive thought was “dealt with” the other one would emerge almost instantaneously. The anxiety and fear became overwhelming, the incessant need to check my thoughts (over, and over, and over again) in search for an answer or reassurance was paralyzing. My world would ‘stop’ as I went around in my mind playing all the possible ‘what if’ scenarios.
I felt lonely. I couldn’t tell anyone about the thoughts I was having for fear of being seen as ‘crazy’. Even if I did share some, at the end it was still me and my tireless fearful thoughts. It was useless to fight these thoughts. The more I argued with them the more they argued with me. Confusion set it. Each thought became worse than the last, each as real as a memory. Nothing made sense…it can’t be real, but then, what if? What if I was crazy, what if it was all real and I just don’t remember, what if, I just blacked out a memory? I never had these thoughts before! And why? Why does it feel so real, why am I having these thoughts, surely there must be a reason!
My counselor, Debbie, kept using the word ‘obsession’. I resisted the label. This didn’t seem to me like OCD, the one people always talk about and almost in a jokingly manner say “I am a little OCD”. I don’t wash continuously; I don’t arrange and re-arrange, check and re-check….or do I? It took me a while, but after doing some research and reading the accounts of many people with this disorder, I came to the humble realization that I struggled with OCD. My compulsion…ruminating. Ruminating in my thoughts is my ‘washing’. My fear…letting go of the illusion of control that ruminating brings.
Debbie found a million and one ways to continue to encourage me to ‘let go’. She would say ‘you cannot give it one second of thought’. I wasn’t getting it. How could I not think of these things when the what if’s where so great? Rationalizing my thoughts was the only thing that would bring peace, and she was asking me to let go of that one thing that would calm me down. I couldn’t see that the one thing that was bringing me ‘peace’ was slowly destroying me. There was no peace…just a temporary relief. You see, to give in to your compulsions is to reinforce the pattern of obsessions. My fiancé equated that to the behavior of an addict. The need to take that one more ‘hit’ to alleviate the pain of the addiction. The one thing that brings the addict ‘peace’ is the one thing that destroys him/her. Same as OCD. When you give in to the compulsion, you feed the monster, and reinforce it.
After a time of intense struggle, I started to realize that I was not going anywhere. I had a choice, I could listen to my counselor and my fiancé (two people that care about me) that I was struggling with a disorder and trust that my fears and doubts where irrational. Or, I could continue thinking, worrying, fearing and doubting in the hopes that I would get the answer I was looking for that would never come.
It was not until I had a moment with my thoughts that became so ridiculous to me that I had to take a stance and decide I would trust, and I would fight. I decided to confront my fear and let go. With the help of some medication, I was able to put the anxiety at bay. This helped me take the emotion out of the thoughts and see the pattern of my behavior more clearly. I not only started to listen to Debbie more attentively, I stopped arguing with her as much and with myself, and I decided to trust and practice what she was asking me to do. I was obedient but fearful.
It has been a long journey. I don’t consider myself ‘out of the woods’ yet, but I make a daily choice to trust in those that love me and want what is best for me. Every day I make a conscious commitment to myself that I am going to get well. Each day, I struggle not to think in the ways I have been thinking for so long. I am learning new behaviors, new thinking patterns, and to control what I ALLOW to enter my mind and take over me. Each day I confront my fear…some days better than others. And like Joyce Meyer says, “I may not be where I want to be, but thank God I am not where I used to me, I am ok, and I am on my way!”
You have a choice. This is where you have control. Nothing will change if you don’t change. Make a choice to stand up to your fear. If you believe in God, or a Higher Power…surrender your fears to Him. If you don’t, I encourage you to seek the Power within you that is bigger than your fears. For me, it happens to be the Power of my Father in Heaven that cares for me and calls me each day to cast my cares upon Him and trust that He has a plan for my life and is capable of doing immeasurable more than I can think or imagine. How does this look for you? Where does your power come from? Find it and put on a good fight!
There is hope, and we will overcome! I hope this note has brought you some encouragement for your journey.