James, 31, New Jersey, USA

If I can’t remember the Jurassic Park theme music then our plane will crash.

james-no-textThis is the exact irrational thought that I once had 14 years ago which ultimately made me realize that something inside me wasn’t right and led me to get help for my OCD.

Back to Jurassic Park for a minute. I was 17 years old in Alaska with my Mom and Dad (yes, they always deserve capital letters in my book), and we were just waiting around for something at that point – I don’t remember what – and I tried to remember the Jurassic Park theme and I couldn’t. Now, the day before we went on a glacier tour, and while in the helicopter I thought, “This looks like a frozen scene out of Jurassic Park” and began humming the music in my head, you know, “na na na na naaah na na na na”.

Anyway, fast forward to the next day. I couldn’t think of that same theme music, and that’s when the irrational thought (“If I can’t remember the Jurassic Park theme then our plane will crash tomorrow.”) sunk in.

I couldn’t shake the thought and began to obsess about it – a cold sweat, freaking out kind of obsess. I never did remember it. I boarded the flight scared out of my mind and every dip of turbulence sent me into a tizzy.

The plane landed and we were fine, which you would think would be enough. But that’s not how OCD works. The million times something bad doesn’t happen, well, they don’t count. But the one time they do, that’s all that matters.

I have family and friends who suffer from this illness and I have learned that not everyone’s OCD is the same. In fact, I believe that every case of OCD is unique. Like a snowflake, they may look similar and simple from afar, but the closer you get the more complex and – in the right light – beautiful they can be. (Side note: I googled “snowflakes” for this part. I google a lot.)

Not everyone’s OCD is based on counting, or touching, etc., but it’s the irrational thinking that underlies the illness, and it’s this that really impacts me.

Here’s an example I think most people can relate to.

Take this typical text message exchange:

Friend: What time do you want to meet?
You: Is 7pm good?
Friend: Ok.

“Normal” person: Looks like we are meeting at 7. Why did they put a period after “Ok”? Weirdo.

Me: Why did they put a period after “Ok”? Are they mad at me? Did I do something wrong? OMG, what did I do? They hate me.

Another example – “work email”:

Supervisor/boss email sent on a Friday: Can you meet in my office for a minute at 9am on Monday?
You: Sure see you Monday.

Me: Why do they want to meet? Why didn’t they tell me what it was about. OMG, I am getting fired. What did I do? It doesn’t matter; I am getting fired. I have an idea – I will email them back.

Me: Is there anything I should do to prepare for our meeting Monday?

…an hour goes by…

I CAN’T BELIEVE THEY HAVEN’T RESPONDED. WEEKEND RUINED. I AM GETTING FIRED ON MONDAY. 

And that thought recycles itself all weekend. Right when you are about to feel “peaceful” – boom, that irrational thought comes back.

Monday 9am rolls around. You are anxiously awaiting your execution, when your supervisor says, “Oh nevermind – I got it.” Relief blankets your body, until the next unwanted irrational thought seeps into your brain, which won’t take long.

For someone like me, “to-do lists” are more like “get-out-of-my-head lists”. No really – the name of my to-do list is “Stuff in my head”.

I meditate but I struggle. You are supposed to recognize the thought and let it pass, but that’s when I obsess, because sometimes THEY ARE REALLY GOOD THOUGHTS!

People don’t want other people to be able to read their minds. I PRAY for this. I wish someone could read my mind and just write down everything that goes on in there so that I wouldn’t have to worry about it.

I have read different examples comparing people with OCD to people without. One of my favorites is a whiteboard analogy. A person without OCD has a thought, it’s written on a whiteboard, and then it’s erased. A person with OCD has a thought, it’s written on a whiteboard, then they have another thought and it’s written on a whiteboard, and nothing ever gets erased.

I’ve been on and am on medications. I’ve gone to psychiatrists, therapists, talked to others, done cognitive therapy, etc. I believe that some of the issue is chemical, and that’s how the medicines can help in certain situations. Think of the chemicals in your brain going from one island to another. Well, some of those little guys aren’t as good at swimming and need a raft – that’s what the medicine can sometimes do.

Do I wish I never had to put medication into my body for this “mental disease”? Yes, of course, because a lot of the medications I have taken treat other illnesses as well, and they all have side effects.

I have taken, to name a few: Lexapro, Zoloft, Xanax, Klonopin, Prozac, Adderall, etc.

I have been “diagnosed” with depression, OCD, social anxiety disorder, anxiety, etc.

And I have tried to get completely off my medication, but I ultimately fail.

Cases of OCD are in my genetics; I would imagine that if you look hard enough they are in yours.

But here is what it boils down to for me.

Like the snowflake, we are all unique and different. Everything about us – the good, the bad and the ugly – makes us who we are, and this needs to be embraced. We are not meant to be perfect.

Yes, my OCD sucks. It sucks a lot sometimes. But I also believe it has helped me. I believe it has helped me pay more attention to detail when doing projects; it has helped me be more of a perfectionist at work; it has made me a better humanitarian. Whether the “OCD” really has assisted in this is not the point. I think, therefore I am. I believe this to be true, so it is.

My advice for people who suffer with this secret illness is to find something you can immerse yourself in, so deeply that it leaves no room for these thoughts. For me, it is a few things:

A good movie, book, or video game (yes, it’s OK to play video games after your twenties). I can “Netflix” for hours, but the first five minutes are the worst, because within a few minutes you usually have a thought and reach for your phone; at least I do. But I fight it, and eventually I get so into the story that there is no room for anything else.

Playing basketball and coaching basketball are two other things I can completely immerse myself in, where there is no room for other thoughts.

Meditation has helped me, but – like the movie example – I need to fight for the first few minutes.

Running is when I am most creative. I find I do not have obsessive thoughts during this time, but thoughts that are productive. I do my most creative thinking when the music is blasting and I’m just outside, almost alone in the world.

I hope this can help someone.

I know the biggest relief I ever had while living with OCD came again, about 14 years ago, after the Jurassic Park incident, when I went to the doctor, told him about what had happened, and he gave me a name for what I experienced and told me I was not alone.

Because no matter what it is, battling something alone is the hardest thing.

Categories: The Wall

3 replies »

  1. I have the same diagnoses as you and your struggles sound just like mine. I’ve been faithfully taking the medications, I try my hardest in therapy, struggle througb the social anxiety to attend group and I have read the books. Still I tackle my thoughts rather than, as therapy and research has told me, to work with (instead of against) the intrusive irational thoughts or ‘humor’ what I describe as streams of thought coming together to form a lake.

    What gets to me is that I am a mental health professional. I think to myself (among other thoughts), I know all of this, I even use some of the ACT and DBT cognitive therapy when helping out people. How come it helps them but not me?

    It is because it is easy to say but hard to do. I work in mental health but I have a lot of obstacles. I’m anxious by nature, genetics is involved and traumatic life experiences make it difficult to put into practice what I know in my head.

    My brain keeps telling me, what if so-and-so happens, you better do… and I respond to it. Everyone wants to protect themselves, their loved ones and the world.

    Maybe one day when it hears what if, my mind will respond with, why not, and be okay with the anxiety and uncertainty. Maybe I’ll hear the chatter of too many thoughts and learn to let the waves of thought flow around me. Maybe then I won’t feel like I’m drowning in thoughts. Right now if feels like I’m swinging against the current.

    Like

    • I hear you, especially the last part. The relentless amount of thoughts seems overwhelming for me sometimes. I think it’s very hard for people to understand that thoughts can be so obtrusive especially when they seem to never stop. Calming my mind is probably harder than any physical activity I have ever done. Then again, when I am running, playing basketball, etc., those are the times that I usually can get my mind to be quiet, even for only a little while.

      Like

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