“Well that’s just crazy! Why would you think that?”

This statement is something that is often said to those of us with OCD by a close friend or family member if we happen to open up about one of our obsessional themes.  And, to be honest, most of the time we already know that the thing we are worried or obsessed with isn’t really a true/valid concern.  But knowing and feeling are two separate things.  Knowing has to do with using information, reason and logic and feeling has to do with our emotional responses.
In OCD our logic and reasoning aren’t broken.  Those things aren’t the things that need to be fixed or corrected.   And, that is why you can speak the truth of a matter to us, reassure us, or even show us some evidence that the thing we are obsessed about isn’t really a big deal and yet, not make one inch of progress toward helping us let go of the obsession.  All you are doing, most of the time is telling us things we already know; things we’ve already checked out, as driven by our need for absolute certainty.
The experience of living with OCD means continually living with an intense and foreboding anxious feeling that has attached itself to an intrusive thought, doubt or question.  Living with OCD means living with a brain that is already overly prepared to misfire and go directly into fight or flight mode over those type of things which others can just easily brush off and turn away from in a matter of a few seconds once they label them as invalid or nonsensical.

Basically, in OCD our faulty emotional response trumps our logic.  That faulty emotional response is actually a misfiring in that part of the brain which is responsible for fight or flight.  We aren’t choosing for this to happen or causing it to happen because the fight or flight response is an automatic, instinctual action of the brain which is supposed to be there to help us in real/valid emergencies.  The fight or flight response is an extremely compelling feeling.  It must be like that because if it weren’t then, we wouldn’t take any safety seeking action in the event of a real emergency.
So, any effort to “set us straight” so to speak about our obsessional theme does absolutely nothing to alleviate our suffering.  In fact, it has the exact opposite effect in that it keeps our brain fixated on the topic of our obsession.  It helps to reinforce the compulsive side of our disorder which involves things like continual checking and reassurance seeking as we attempt to quell the anxiety response.
When a person with OCD keeps revisiting information that they think will settle the matter and calm the anxiety response this only serves to keep the obsessional theme front and center in the consciousness.  Then, due to that, the person will feel even more of a need to attend to it as it begins to haunt their every waking minute.  This completes the cycle of the disorder which goes something like this:  Intrusive thought/doubt/question, anxiety response, compulsive attending, momentary relief, more intrusive thoughts/doubts/questions, more anxiety, more compulsive attending…and on and on it goes. And,  as this cycle continues it creates a worn and well-traveled path in the brain as the obsessional theme begins to grow larger and more threatening because of the attention that is being given to it.
So, if you know someone who has OCD and you’ve thought that they need you to fix their thinking processes, they don’t.  What they really need from you is compassion and understanding for how horrid the disorder makes them feel.  What they need is for you to say something like:
“I’m so sorry you are feeling this intense emotional pain from your OCD, and I will pray that you can get the help you need to minimize the pain of your disorder.”
We really aren’t crazy or ill-informed.  We just have a disorder which causes misfiring in the anxiety center of our brain.  There are helps available for us which come in the form of medication and therapies which are designed to retrain or habituate our brain to each of our obsessional themes, so that it will eventually stop overreacting to them.  But, unless you’ve taken a course on how to manage OCD you aren’t going to know how to help us employ those things. And, let’s just be honest about this, if you really believed that our disorder was a real affliction you probably wouldn’t try to take on the role of a physician. Yes, OCD sufferers need the help and counsel of trained professionals!
But now, having said all of this, one very helpful thing you can do is to acknowledge our disorder as being a valid affliction.  You can show empathy and compassion and pray for our recovery just as you would for any other person suffering from any other affliction.  And we would be so grateful for you to do those things, more than you could ever imagine!!

My OCD: I Think I Might have Sticky Tape in my Brain

 Last spring after my kids bought me my  first orchids I fell madly in love with these beautiful flowering plants and have since acquired twenty of them. Yes – twenty!

They seem to elicit a feeling somewhat akin to caring for a pet.

There’s lots to learn about taking care of orchids and, as seems to be the case with every new “fun” thing I start, there’s also some glitch along the way.

But this latest glitch in my orchid hobby really bugs me.  I mean that quite literally.  My orchids have bugs!  Fungus Gnats to be exact.  I know…YUCK!  Thankfully they are tiny and harmless (or so they say) and, look a lot like fruit flies but they don’t like fruit. They like moist decaying potting media. Apparently, I’ve been over-watering my flowering pets.

I haven’t been able to totally eradicate them. So, for now, I’m settling for population control.  To accomplish that I must eliminate as many of the adult gnats as possible and therefore, I’ve been employing yellow sticky tape stakes to catch the little pests.  Basically, I just place a small green stake in every orchid pot. Each stake has a piece of bright yellow sticky tape attached to the top.  The gnats are attracted to the yellow color and once they touch down on the tape they become instantly glued to it.

The sticky tape is so sticky that I keep getting it stuck on my sleeves when I water the plants, or in my hair if I bend down to inspect a new growth, or on a leaf from another plant if I get them too close together.  It’s rather annoying but boy is it effective for catching those pesky gnats.

The other day as I was watching one unsuspecting gnat fly around one of the sticky stakes and then alight on it I decided to take a closer look to see if it was struggling to get away.  Sure, enough it was doing all it could to break free from the glue but to no avail. The more it struggled the more embedded it became in the glue until it ended up being just another small black dot amongst many other hapless victims.

As I sat looking at all the gnats on that one piece of sticky tape I suddenly thought about how much my brain seemed to operate in the same way.  I saw those gnats as representing a vast array of obsessional thoughts which   my brain had latched on to over the years and decided that I must have been born with a “sticky tape brain.”
To people who don’t have a sticky tape brain I’m sure that some of my obsessional themes might seem quite absurd and they might wonder why I’m so distressed by them and even debilitated by them from time to time.    They might be surprised to know that my own logic and reasoning informs me that the thoughts aren’t legit.  They might think that I just need to be educated about things; things like why I probably won’t contract a certain dreaded illness, or why I’m probably not psychotic, or what it means to be “saved by grace through faith.”  They might think if they just give me the facts or reassure me or say something like, “you just need to calm down and give your worries to God” that I’ll come to my senses.

This is because they really don’t know what it feels like to have an intrusive thought float into your brain and have your brain react to it as if the world is coming to an end.  All the alarms have been set off and you don’t get to choose how you feel when that happens.  You don’t get to stop your heart from nearly beating out of your chest, or stop the rush of adrenaline which causes you to shake uncontrollably.  There’s no opportunity to stop your saliva from drying up in mere seconds, or to control the ringing in your ears or halt the sudden choking feeling which is robbing you of breath.

Oh, and there’s more to come, because once the alarm system is triggered you can’t help but feel compelled to respond to the thought.  And, once you do that you’ve activated the sticky tape response and your brain latches on to the thought in such a way that you can’t find a way to get it out of your head.

What has just happened is you’ve experienced the very first symptoms of an OCD episode.  And contrary to what you instinctively feel you should do in response to the thought or what other well-meaning people might think you should do about it, the reality is that in order to effectively manage OCD,  you must to do the exact opposite of all that.

This is because the thoughts get more firmly glued in your brain each time you respond to them or treat them as if they are worthy of your attention.  And that’s what makes managing OCD so tricky.  It’s tricky because it’s sticky.

When everything in your brain and body is warning you to flee from a thought or to fight it, you must choose to do the exact opposite.  You must expose yourself to the threat that the thought creates and then be willing to grit it out through the most unimaginable anxiety because your brain is insisting on sending you some extremely intense false alarm signals.

It’s a lot harder than most could ever imagine to live with a disorder which is continually latching on to some meaningless intrusive thought, doubt or idea. It’s hard to live with OCD because the anxiety it creates is incredibly compelling.  And when we respond to that anxiety we have unwittingly activated our sticky tape brain.

To read my OCD story visit – Link: http://a.co/ikDfBey