A version of this post first appeared in August 2013, and might be triggering for some people…..
As we know, it is the need for certainty that fuels the fires of OCD. Compulsions are performed to reduce anxiety by making sure everything is okay. For people with OCD to recover, they must refrain from doing these compulsions and learn to live with doubt. Indeed, every one of us has to live with uncertainty if we want to be mentally healthy. But it’s not easy. Over and over we hear from those with OCD and others who admit it’s just too difficult to do.
But is it really? If you think about it, we live with uncertainty all the time. When we wake up in the morning, how do we know we will even make it out of bed? Or to the bathroom? Unless all our loved ones are standing right in front of us, how do we truly know they are okay? Even if we can see them, how do we know how healthy they actually are? You get the idea. Aside from what you absolutely know to be true in this moment, everything else is uncertain.
So we all live with uncertainty every single day, and in most cases, don’t even think about it. Even those with OCD only deal with particular issues in regards to uncertainty. Often OCD latches on to what’s most important to an individual: staying healthy, not hurting others, maintaining relationships, and the list goes on. So while people with OCD struggle with obsessions, compulsions, and certainty in these targeted areas, they often easily live with uncertainty in many other ways. Many of us complain it’s just too hard to live with uncertainty, yet we actually do it all of the time.
OCD is such a strange illness. While I accepted a long time ago that the disorder makes no sense, I’m continually amazed at how absurd it really is. Some people with OCD who have germ and/or contamination issues might spend hours in the shower but have no trouble sifting through garbage. I’m sure everyone who lives with obsessive-compulsive disorder has their own examples. And while those with the disorder acknowledge and realize none of this makes any sense, it doesn’t matter. That’s just how OCD works.
To me, another odd aspect of the disorder is that a seemingly random obsession such as the fear of hitting someone while driving, or a compulsion such as needing to pick up twigs and branches and rocks so that nobody will get hurt by them, are actually quite common. I’ve heard from many people with OCD who always assumed they were the only ones who suffered from a particular obsession or performed a specific compulsion, only to find out that others do the exact same thing. Why? Why, for example, isn’t the fear of a car exploding because it hasn’t been properly maintained a common obsession, but fear of not turning off the stove is? Where’s the rhyme or reason?
As far as I know, there isn’t any. I hate that this illogical illness has so much power and destroys so many lives. I wish everyone with OCD would realize how much smarter they are than this nonsensical disorder so they can find the courage to fight it head on. Now that’s one thing that would make sense.