I was an anxious child and an anxious teenager. After I graduated high school, I distinctly remember saying to myself, “Enough worrying. You’re going to college. Relax and have a good time.” And I did. I didn’t worry about my grades (a big worry in high school even though my grades were great) or my social life, or anything for that matter. I didn’t slack off; I just didn’t worry. It’s amazing, now that I think of it. How is it that I could stop worrying so easily?
My worrying and anxiety came back with a vengeance after going through a difficult time, and learning a tough lesson. Bad things, horrible things, really do happen randomly, for no obvious reasons. The world is a dangerous place where things can go wrong, and so much is out of our control. And of course at that point I didn’t just worry about myself, but also my children, my husband, my entire family and my friends. So much stuff and so many people to worry about! When there was a lull in the action, when there was nothing pressing for me to worry about, I worried that there was nothing to worry about. Seriously. I’d get an unsettled feeling and would actually search for things to agonize over. It’s what my brain had become used to; what it craved.
Blogging about OCD and learning more about anxiety and neuroplasticity have helped me through my own journey with anxiety. Over the past couple of years I have again chosen not to worry. It hasn’t been as easy to follow through with this decision as it was when I was in college, but I’m trying, and it works, most of the time.
Now I’m not for a minute suggesting that those with OCD can just decide not to worry. I don’t have OCD, and I know the severity of the worst anxiety I’ve felt is nowhere near what OCD sufferers experience routinely. What I am saying is it is possible to change the way we think. If I can do it, others can too. Some people can do it on their own, and others might need help. For those with OCD, working with an OCD specialist and engaging in Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy will help retrain their brains. It’s not easy; in fact it can be extremely difficult. But the hard work is so worth it and the payoff is huge: less worry, and freedom from OCD.