Make OCD a Shield, Not a Spear
Let OCD be your shield, not your spear.
So often, the anxiety that comes tethered to OCD can feel like a spear, penetrating even the purest of thoughts. The sharp metal, forged by our own insecurities, thrust into our most vulnerable areas in an effort to cause maximum mental harm. Hyper-fixating on the wounds these thoughts can leave is like pouring salt; it only makes it more painful and harder to ignore.
And then, after all this, comes the beautifully orchestrated flood of thoughts reminding you that you always do this, you always cause paralysis by analysis. Repetitive thoughts of doubt force inaction, and then guilt and shame wash over you at the lack of movement. It is no one’s fault, but rather your brain treating the compulsions as a form of harassment from your own mind. What more painful experience than being betrayed by your own self? And how do you stop yourself from yourself?
This is where the idea of mental malleability is so crucial. The cold, hard metal of the spear can also be the rigid structure used for a shield. It may be the same material, but its abilities and purposes are so different. An obsessive train of thought can be a sharp, piercing weapon that causes significant, even fatal, damage. The same obsessive train of thought can be the result of an idea that, as painful as it may be, causes you to reassess your life in some way. The harsh words produced by you, and directed towards you, may call out your action or inaction in a way no therapist or close friend ever could. The same train of thought that was once a destructive force can be your shield, protecting you from future harm by torturing you into evaluating aspects of your life that you would never dare touch otherwise.
Human beings have this incredible ability to lock away thoughts they don’t want to address, hidden somewhere deep in the psyche. And with OCD, as much as we rightfully complain about intrusive thoughts, so many of the thoughts are repetitive and have no real substance; our brains somehow keep us away from the life-altering thoughts, instead focusing on the greatest hits (i.e., those thoughts that come up over and over again, with no real action ever coming from it).
So how can you help melt and mold this mental spear into a shield used for your protection?
Remind yourself, no matter how much it may feel otherwise, that thought is beautiful. Thought is truly amazing and no thought you have, have ever had, or will ever have, is wrong.
There is no such thing as a “bad” thought. You are merely experiencing the dramatic flow of chemical imbalance, with wildly untrue and intrusive thoughts coming and going all the time. The action tied to these thoughts, how they shape the way in which you interact with the world – these are the things that matter. These are the things that leave a trace, no matter what your brain convinces you (OCD often whispers to us that our thoughts and ideas are all real and formulated by our innermost desires. This is what we like to call a lie).
Exploring your own mind and consciousness can truly be terrifying at first. To discover just how mean and hard on yourself you can be. There are things you say to yourself and names you call yourself that you would never dare direct at a close friend or a vulnerable person.
Our greatest fear lies in the anticipation of the day-ruining thought; how hilariously, painfully ironic it is that we often spend our energy on protecting our psyches from this thing that never comes. If it does come, however, it is usually us who makes it into a spear, rather than a shield.
Now, I don’t say this as if it is easy to remedy; I would be a millionaire if I could solve OCD and anxiety with a quick fix. No, this mental awareness is merely the first step in circumventing your tired rituals and mantras that only cause more upset. So try it out. Remind yourself that thought is beautiful. The material of thought is wonderful, but also malleable; let it be your shield. Let it protect you. Thank your brain for the obsessive thoughts and the anxiety that may, one day, whether you realize it or not, protect you from the darkest parts of this world.