To those who struggle with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, I am sorry.  I am sorry for what you have been through, and I am sorry that no one can understand the unique nature of your suffering.  

If I could give you advice:  Learn to lay your burden down, if you can.  Do what you have to so that you can heal.  It may help you to talk about what you have endured; it helped me.  The pain of rejecting OCD cannot be as bad as the pain of living with it. Think of the hours you’ve suffered, the opportunities lost.  The disorder has already done its worst, but you’re still here.  When the OCD goes, it will leave a fresh wound, one that will hurt in unfamiliar ways.  But the moment you choose to fight it is the last time it can ever hurt you as badly as it has.  Does it sound embarrassing, trite, if I claim that I feel a kinship between us?  I don’t care.  I don’t care at all.  You are my brother, my sister. 

Now, for everyone else.  Please consider:  Obsession is not limited to those afflicted with OCD.  I believe that everyone has this tendency to think in circles, trying to neutralize what we cannot control.  We lock ourselves up, hoping to protect against the inevitable.  We write rules and laws, we draw arbitrary comparisons.  We make judgments.  We skirt past the unfamiliar alleyways and hold our breath past the graveyards.  We do all of these things to protect ourselves from the absolute terror of pure being, and yet these actions accomplish nothing. 

So, if I have advice for you it is this.  Imagine the worst thing in the world.  Think the unthinkable.  Find the hidden places where you refuse to trespass, those principles that you have sworn never to break; and then start to consider what, perhaps, might happen to you if you proceeded to break them.  Recognize when you are afraid and learn that you cannot protect yourself.  Learn to accept horrible and inevitable things.  Learn to be heartbroken, to be hopeless, and then to get better. 

Understand that, although it may be painful, you can never not profit when you learn something about yourself.  Do terrifying things.  Live…you will be a healthier person for it.

Copyright, Fletcher Wortmann, 2014.

Excerpted and adapted from Triggered:  A Memoir of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder  (St. Martin’s Press), named one of Booklist’s “Top 10 Science & Health Books of 2012”

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