Clearly I’m on an “uncertainty” kick! Sibilance aside, uncertainty is part of everyone’s life, but it is so very important to embrace uncertainty with regards to OCD. Why? Well, because those who have OCD looooove certainty pathologically, and when big life events happen (certain or uncertain) symptoms can be triggered. What does that mean? If you have already gone through treatment, then you could fall victim to new/old symptomatic lapses… for instance, if your parent dies you could be hit with THE SCROOP! What the hell is THE SCROOP? THE SCROOP is slang for Scrupulosity-OCD, which can be described as a plague of obsessions regarding specific or non–specific religious type obsessions that can range from blasphemous to demonic to existential. You might not even be religious, but the impact of a big life event could imbue you with new doubt. What I’m trying to say is that one must expect uncertainty, and be on the lookout for new/old symptoms to help prevent relapse. But what about explosions? Wait, what?! Explosions!?!? Yes, explosions! Please, allow me to explain…
Personally, a specific life event for me that was very expected, and very certain, caused an explosion of symptoms. Ummm, what!? Something you were certain about caused uncertainty and an explosion of symptoms? Yup! What was it? The birth of my first daughter, aaaaand it was terrifying. I vividly remember leaving the house prepared and excited, and then, upon returning home with my newborn, there was death everywhere. Yeah, but isn’t that normal? Yes, many new parents become overprotective and over-preventative of potential dangers, but mine persisted and was unsolvable. Yes yes yes, I bolted stuff down, I installed wall anchors, I over sanitized and over cleaned… all pretty normal stuff… that wasn’t what exploded, the thought that infested my brain was “what if I lose control and harm my child”… that thought crippled me, and I did so many mental rituals and sought so much reassurance to make sure I hadn’t done something or wouldn’t do something. It. Was. Awful. Thankfully, ERP really helped me! I now better understand what OCD is and how it can morph, but at the time I thought I was going crazy (which is very common).
Furthermore, a few weeks ago I met this brand new mother who confided her fears of dying and leaving her daughter helplessly alone in the world. Now, to my understanding, this is a fairly common thought, but this thought consumed her… it consumed her so much that she couldn’t be present, or enjoy activities that she would have otherwise enjoyed. So how can you tell if it’s normal and it will eventually go away or not? You can’t! Hahaha, I know that’s not the answer you were looking for, but just bask in the glorious uncertainty. Honestly, the biggest indicator is to try and account for how much time is taken away from you… if it’s a significant amount of time lost and possibly increasing then consider seeking help, but if it’s not that time consuming and possibly diminishing then it might not be a problem.
Great, so what you’re telling me is to be afraid of certainty and uncertainty? Yup, well, not afraid, but aware. Having heightened awareness is key… both with tackling life’s triumphs and trials, but also with noticing bad thought patterns and/or behaviors. If you have OCD, this is essential, and if you don’t, then good for you but it still is an important cognitive skill to develop. Why? It’s important because healthy people can and do make unhealthy choices, and developing your cognitive awareness will help you better react to the certainties and uncertainties that WILL happen over and over and over again to anyone and everyone.
“If you want to be happy, be.”
– Leo Tolstoy