Updated: Apr 29, 2020
Imagine you have someone in your life that can read all your thoughts. Let’s call this person Tormis, the offspring of torment and misery. Imagine Tormis has a tendency to be cruel. Any bad thought that goes across your brain, even if just for a moment, Tormis points it out. In fact, he starts yelling it, so it becomes impossible to ignore. He says,
Why did you have that thought? You must be a violent person.
No, no, I’ve never wanted to hurt anyone.
But you must be. People who aren’t violent don’t have thoughts like that.
It was just a random thought. It was nothing that I actually desire. Everyone has weird thoughts sometimes … right?”
Tormis won’t listen though. He keeps insisting.
What if you actually do want that? Maybe that’s not normal. Maybe you are actually a murderer.
You keep going back and forth with him, anxiety rising all the while.
After a few minutes, Tormis quiets down. He goes away for a little bit. Phew. What a relief. But not even an hour later, he's back. This time, he comes back stronger and with even more ammunition than before. This pattern happens over and over. He accuses. You argue. He goes away for a little bit. Then he comes back with more vigor and more persistence.
Finally, he breaks you down. You fall to your knees crying and yell in despair, “Ok, you’re right! I am a horrible person! I am evil! I am a murderer!”
Deep in your heart, you know this isn’t true, but Tormis’ voice is so loud that you can’t think clearly anymore. You’re tired of arguing. You succumb to his lies. For now, anyway. Tomorrow, you and Tormis will go at it again. He’ll take another stab at your heart. This time, it might be about something different. He may tell you you're a liar, a cheater, a blasphemer, or a child molester. He may convince you to keep checking your doors to see if they are locked, because if you don’t someone will get in and kill you and your family.
And it will be ALL. YOUR. FAULT.
Or maybe he’ll just tell you something silly like, “Oh, I don’t think you understood what you just read.”
Then, you’ll go back and read … and re-read … and re-read … and re-read until you are ready to throw your book across the room. You just want to enjoy reading. You used to love it. Tormis has taken even the smallest joys away. You have become a slave to Tormis. Little by little, he is ruining your relationships, your hobbies, your goals and your life. All you want to do is get rid of Tormis. Get him out of your life. But you can’t get rid of him. You’ve tried so hard to make him go away, but he always finds his way back to you like an incessant stalker.
If you know much about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, then you know the Tormis I just described above represents OCD.
Krissy McDermott describes OCD so well: “OCD is like having a bully stuck inside your head and nobody else can see it.”
It’s a horrible disorder and so many people suffer in silence because they are afraid that if they tell anyone what's going on inside their heads, people will think they're insane. Or worse, sadistic.
If you have OCD and can relate to what I have written so far, I want to reassure you, you aren’t insane. You know that your thoughts and rituals aren’t rational. If you were insane you wouldn’t have that awareness. And you aren’t sadistic. If you were, then you really wouldn’t care if you had bad thoughts.
In fact, your OCD targets you in the areas that are most meaningful to you. So if you struggle with harm/violence OCD, then you are actually probably a very kind and gentle person. Or if your OCD tries to make you feel like a blasphemer, then you are probably someone who takes their faith very seriously. But I know this reassurance is not going to be enough for you. Reassurance can help for a little bit, but the "what ifs" always find a way to creep back in.
That’s why I want to urge you to reach out and get help. Everyone needs help with something and this just happens to be your something. There is no need to be ashamed. Find a therapist who really understands OCD and who knows how to do Exposure and Response Therapy.
One of the worst parts of OCD is the tremendous amount of shame it makes you feel. Talking to someone who understands the disorder and knows how to treat it will help free you from some of that shame and loosen OCD’s powerful grip.
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