Today, Thursday, November 1st, 2018, is a day I will never forget; today is the end of my time as a patient in an intense partial-hospitalization-program, and today is the start of my exposure lifestyle! This devil, OCD, has been whispering in my ear my entire perceivable life, and the deeper I dive into the trenches of my memory I find the mercurial masks of OCD lurking in the shadows. The truth is that OCD has always been there (though I might not have known it), and OCD will always be there; however, I refuse to allow this beast of burden to bully my life anymore. To say “OCD does not define me” would be a lie, and I could not claim radical acceptance if I were to make such a statement. OCD has defined me, OCD does define me, and OCD will define me… but now I control the direction and I control the dialogue. OCD is part of me, there is no denying that, but it is not the entirety of who I am!
Staying well means living with slips and embracing uncertainty. I will have a day or days where my symptoms will be brutal, and that’s okay; fortunately, I now have the tools to tackle my anxiety head on. Fear and doubt are natural, and they are part of being human. The pith of grit is to befriend that which terrifies you, and by doing so will fortify your ability to be resilient. Challenging anxiety ferociously by comparing the likelihood of any fears’ and doubts’ probability or possibility is a great step towards gaining the advantage. Furthermore, the courage circuit in the brain will be strengthened by having a “bring it on” attitude, and even though it might be difficult, it will be well worth it. The key thing to remember is that any old learning is NOT replaced by treatment, but treatment directly competes with that which has been learned; this is why continuing exposure practices, self compassion, and acceptance is absolutely essential.
Suffering does not go away after you’ve experienced suffering. Viktor Frankl, in his brilliant book Man’s Search For Meaning, talked about his shock after enduring the horrors of the holocaust, and surviving well after liberation, that suffering does not vanish. It is admittedly easy to imagine that after making it through some unbearable suffering that you would then be immune to future suffering, but that is not how suffering works. To be human is to suffer, and I don’t mean that in a bleak way, but rather in an inspirational way… to find a purpose in your struggles is empowering, and when you harness the ability to “suffer well” then you will find that your blessings will be that much more beautiful and profound. The truth is that one CANNOT truly appreciate hope without experiencing despair, and to fully embrace that concept is to be a phoenix of acuity.
What’s next? A value driven life full of suffering and joy, successes and failures, sorrow and happiness, abundance and scarcity, and everything else in between; whatever life has to throw at me, give me it all, I am ready!
“There is only one thing that I dread: not to be worthy of my suffering.”
– Fyodor Dostoevsky