I’ve heard and read a lot of folks with OCD talk about how they feel that, at it the core of this disorder for many sufferers, we have a maladaptive and atypical inability to deal with uncertainty (here are links to 3 posts about it for further reading: by Jeff Bell, Dr. Steven Seay, and Annabella Hagen – LCSW RPT-S). The problem with OCD, I’ve noticed, is that in avoiding all possible threats to certainty, you pretty much avoid living life at all.
It’s very sneaky, the way obeying my need for certainty can slowly overtake my life. I realized at first, that I would avoid driving near the bike lane and the lane next to the sidewalk. Then I resolved to avoid driving during times when kids walk to school. OK, how about I avoid driving in the dark unless I absolutely must? And let’s try to avoid evening commuter traffic too. I’ll avoid parking garages, driveways, and compact parking while I’m at it. Actually, let’s also park as far away from people as possible. And let’s only do right turns on green. And don’t go down that street where you had an OCD episode. I realized today that if I always obeyed all my “rules” in order to optimize certainty that I won’t accidentally hurt someone with my car, I would leave very few hours in the day when I would be able to drive.
Tonight, my friend asked me to go the movies. I knew that if I said yes, I’d end up driving home in the dark. Hmmmm. That would increase the possibility of not seeing a pedestrian when I drive! That’s a huge OCD trigger for me, one that could turn my 30 minute drive home into a 60 minute one as my brain spins in it’s own web of imaginary tragedy. A little voice inside me told me life would just be easier if I said no to the movie and comfortably drove home with the sun in the sky. Just be comfy! Just do what is easy! Why risk being triggered?
The good news is, I am getting better and better at dealing with being triggered! I decided to go the movies tonight. I drove home in the dark. I had obsessions and compulsions. I checked (a few times too many). BUT I didn’t let my need for certainty prune away at my social life. I want friends. I want to go to the grocery store at night. I have to go to class in the morning and drive home from class in the dark. I’m not back to my old driving yet, but I can start with this. What can I say? Uncertainty is uncomfortable, but I have faith that I can deal with the uncertainty that abounds on this earth, no matter what my OCD makes me feel in the moment.
Speaking of uncertainty and hope, there is a BEAUTIFUL song by Hillsong UNITED called Oceans (Where Feet May Fail), which I have fallen in love with because singing it is an informal mindfulness moment for me which gives me courage. When I sing it, I forget what makes me anxious and I feel nothing but overhwhelming hope.
In particular, I feel courage in these lyrics:
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders, let me walk upon the waters, wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander, and my faith would be made stronger, by the presence of my Savior
– Oceans by Hillsong UNITED
Wow. To ask God to take me where my trust is without borders? Where feet may fail? Nothing makes my OCD more upset than the thought of that :). I think I should strive to go there.
Here’s the song and lyric video for Oceans. Very soothing. I hope you enjoy it!