OCD – An Unwanted Guest

I am not a hostile person. In fact, I have rarely, if ever, used the word hate in reference to a person. But from the beginning, I have hated OCD. I have seen how this disorder can affect those who suffer from it, as well as their loved ones. Obsessive-compulsive disorder has the potential to destroy lives. It is the enemy, and needs to be battled fiercely.

But being hateful doesn’t come naturally to me. And to tell the truth, even though I say I hate OCD, I’m not sure hate is the right word. Fear, maybe? I’m not sure; I haven’t found the words that feel completely right to me. I mean, my son has OCD and it is part of who he is. Surely, I don’t hate my son or any aspect of his being. Maybe I should rethink how I truly feel about obsessive-compulsive disorder?

What about the millions of people out there who are living with OCD? While I constantly refer to the disorder as “the enemy,” is that how everyone with OCD feels? Is it healthy to feel that a part of you is the enemy that needs to be taken down? Or is it better to be able to accept the disorder for what it is, while still seeking out the best ways to manage it? I guess my question is, “Is hate really the way to go?”

My friend Tina “talks” to her OCD in a recent post on Bringing Along OCD:

I don’t want to think of myself as at war with you. But we’re going to make peace, and it’s going to be on my terms. I am going to stop giving you my time, my effort, my tears, my feelings, my life. I will give you nothing…

To me, this statement is very powerful and makes a lot of sense. Hate takes time and energy. Time and energy that can be much better spent living the life you choose for yourself. Maybe OCD doesn’t have to be the enemy, but might be looked at more as an unwanted guest. You know, someone who has the power to ruin your good time, if you let them.

During this week of Thanksgiving, I am incredibly thankful that I am now in the position to step back and reconsider my, and Dan’s, relationship with OCD. I am letting go of the hate and fear, or whatever that very strong emotion is I’ve had for so long, and am seeing OCD for what it is: an unwanted guest who my son, when he needs to, can throw out of the party.

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15 Responses to OCD – An Unwanted Guest

  1. To me, OCD is definitely the enemy. It is a parasite that fed off of me for years … not a PART of me. Just because a tick is attached doesn’t make it a part of you. OCD is a thief.

    Interestingly, this attitude of mine is new and came about during and after CBT. Before CBT, I thought of it as a part of me. Now I know the truth.

  2. ocdtalk says:

    Thanks for sharing, Jackie, and I understand what you are saying. Obviously, I am sharing my feelings as someone looking in, not someone with OCD, so I am interested in hearing how those with OCD feel. I appreciate your comment!

  3. Emily says:

    Hi Janet, great post as usual. The acceptance of OCD (or whatever it is that we have a problem with – anxiety, panic attacks) is such a core principle of the ACT therapy. I know I always bring it up but it’s true, I remember when my son and I were working our way through ACT, we came across a great analogy – OCD is a nasty, obnoxious, rowdy passenger on the bus and you are the driver of that bus. Are you going to stop the bus and try to handle that passenger every time he opens his mouth or waves his hand and risk not getting anywhere any time soon or are you just going to try to ignore him and just continue on your way to your destination?
    Really internalizing this concept was huge for both of us and it’s not to say that everything’s been perfect and easy since we’ve incorporated this way of thinking into our lives but it’s sure made a huge difference. Another metaphor from our workbook was imagining the game of chess and trying not to think of yourself as a chess player or a chess piece even but as a chess board. You are the canvass for the things to happen and thoughts and feelings flow in and out of you and if you get caught up and entangled in them, then they will grow so much stronger. I know this probably sounds a bit hippie like but this really works.


    • ocdtalk says:

      Thanks so much for your comment, Emily. I love those analogies (and I’m old enough to appreciate “hippie”:) ). I think it’s great that you and your son have connected so strongly and benefited so much from ACT. I know it has helped a lot of people…acceptance is key.

  4. Janet, thank you for the mention!

    I hesitate to call my OCD my enemy. I don’t want to be at war with anyone or anything, so I try to see OCD as something I’ve got to live with, but on my healthy terms, not unhealthy. (if that makes sense)

    I respect those who do see OCD as the enemy. I just think differently. I think we all have to find ways to manage and live with (and without) this disorder.

    I like your idea of seeing the OCD as an unwanted guest.

  5. ocdtalk says:

    Yes, Tina, that definitely makes sense. I agree that everyone has to find their own best way of dealing with and accepting OCD. As long as it’s the OCD sufferer who is “in charge” and not the OCD!

  6. 71º & Sunny says:

    I agree with you, Janet. I actually no longer hate my OCD – you are right. It takes too much energy to hate anything. I love your anology of an unwanted guest. That is how I view my OCD now too (though I had not thought of it that way until you described it as such). Basically, it’s part of my life, but I’m more indifferent to it now because it takes up less head space. Well, it’s ore that I allow it less head space. I deal with it and I move on (for the most part – still have some bad days, of course!).

  7. 71º & Sunny says:

    *analogy* NOT anology!

  8. ocdtalk says:

    “You are more indifferent” to your OCD than you used to be. How great is that, Sunny! I love your choice of words. Thanks for sharing.

  9. krystallynn says:

    I have always felt strongly about not giving my OCD so much power that it would define me. It is why I chose to use ” I am more than OCD” for part of the title of my blog. I know that many times I have blogged about how I hate OCD and most certainly if I am saying that I am probably in the midst of a OCD crisis of some sort and it is becoming a powerful eater of my time and life. It inflicts so much pain and suffering on us and our loved ones so it is easy for me to hate sometimes, even though I am not a “hater” at heart. I also know there is much suffering in the world, I am not the only one who suffers and some have, in my opinion, a heavier burden to bear than I ever have had. I find concentrating less on OCD and more on the things I am thankful for to be therapeutic for me. However, with OCD trying to sneak in all the time you have deal with it and that means actively spending time on OCD with ERP’s, which is not easy, but if you are going to spend time dealing with OCD you may as well spend it trying to get better,
    In a very weird way, OCD may have made me a better person, I know that is truly strange and don’t get me wrong, I wish I didn’t have it, but I think having this might have given me some compassion and understanding that I may not have without having to suffer with OCD.

    • ocdtalk says:

      Thanks for sharing, Krystal Lynn. I don’t think it’s strange that you feel OCD has made you a better person. I agree – I believe those who have suffered deeply often do empathize more with others, as they can truly relate. You also make a good point that the hate part of OCD really only comes out when the OCD is powerful. Certainly makes sense to me!

  10. Merle says:

    My adult son has severe OCD. I watch him suffer everyday and it is destroying him and destroying me. He has been through so many
    workshops, so many doctors since he is 10 years old. For years I felt like OCD was a part of who he was and I needed to respect that. I made a huge mistake because he has only gotten worse. OCD is like Cancer, it weakens you and destroys you. And in my personal experience, through my son, it does not seem to ever get better. It may fool you and leave for a while, but it always comes back, which leaves me so confused. Is OCD really who you are and that is why it never leaves?

  11. ocdtalk says:

    Hi Merle,
    I am so sorry that your son, and you, have been suffering for so long. I don’t believe OCD is who anyone “really is” anymore than cancer, or any disease, is who someone “really is.”
    I also understand that you are worn down and frustrated, but please do not lose hope for your son’s recovery. People can and do recover from severe OCD. My son is not the only example. I have spoken to many people and follow a number of blogs written by those who have suffered terribly from severe OCD and are now living happy, productive lives. OCD, no matter how severe, is treatable. Of course I can’t comment on your son’s particular situation, but with the right therapist and therapy, I truly believe there is hope for all OCD sufferers. If you haven’t already, please consider contacting some of the resources listed on my sidebar. Good luck and thank you for writing. I hope to hear from you again.

  12. postpartumandpigtails says:

    I can really relate to this. For the first few years, I did “hate” this, I hated everything about it- how it felt as if my life was falling apart, what it made me feel like, what it did to me. But over this last year, I have come to accept it & I can actually see all of the positive things that have come out of this. For the most part, I have stopped fighting it & that alone seems to lessen the power it has over me. Going through this has changed me for the better & has led me on a path of self-discovery that I may never have even known.

    Great post!

    • ocdtalk says:

      Thanks, Andrea! I love your comment about how you stopped fighting and that alone lessened the power the OCD had. I’m so glad you are able to see so many positive things resulting from your struggles.

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