you are magic; lies I let my OCD tell me
Trigger Warning: This post discusses things that may be triggering for some people, so please read with caution if you experience anxiety/OCD
“you get trapped in this loop where you’re desperate for certainty and you can never get it – you’re always checking”
Hi friends! We all grew up watching movies or TV shows where people had magical powers, whether we fantasized about meeting Genie from Aladdin and having our wishes granted or you imagined being married to Samantha from Bewitched and have unexplainable things happen every time she wrinkles her nose. I still, to this day, have no idea if magic is real or not, but some shows I have seen make it seem pretty convincing. If anyone has seen a magic show or watched one on TV, you know what I mean. Although, these other people may or may not have magic powers (or are just really good at illusions), my OCD at times has made me think I have a kind of magic within me. Or my OCD is just really good at illusions, as well.
If you have read my blog in the past, you know that I have severe health anxiety. And over time, this health anxiety has tangoed with my OCD and caused a lot of issues. With my OCD, I worry about doing certain things because I am afraid something bad will happen to me related to my health. For example, recently I have had this one obsession that if I am picking out a shirt or sock or any article of clothing and I think of a family member who has passed away at the same time, I worry that if I decide to wear that article of clothing, I will have the same health impairment they had. Does it seem logical? Absolutely not. But does it feel very real while I am having this obsession? Completely.
I started writing about this part of my OCD to make more sense of it and when I started researching it, I realized it actually was a form of OCD. As crazy as these obsessions sound, it is a subtype of OCD called Magical Thinking OCD. It is characterized, “by ongoing intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviors around superstition or magical thinking to prevent negative experiences or harm to oneself or others. People with magical thinking OCD experience frequent intrusive thoughts that they will be responsible for something awful happening if they do not perform specific actions.” (treatmyocd.com). It’s basically like having superstitions overtake our OCD. Reading about this type of OCD made me feel way less crazy realizing that this is actually a subtype of OCD and not something I only experience.
As with this type of OCD, the obsessions happen when I am making a decision on something, even if it is as simple as picking out a movie to watch or a song to listen to or even a word I decide to type. It can get very frustrating and overwhelming because logically I know I don’t have the powers to cause anything bad to happen to me based on a shirt I picked out or a movie I want to watch. And honestly, typing it out makes me realize even more that it doesn’t make sense. But I also can’t explain how real the uneasy feeling is when I am in the midst of it. I have it daily and sometimes multiple times a day and the most frustrating part of all of it is it is literally all in my head. It’s almost like at some level I believe I have some type of power within me where I can control my health by picking out a certain shirt. Seems silly right? Agreed.
I had this realization one time when I was with my mom. I was having a bad morning with my OCD where it was bothering me more than normal and I decided to talk about it out loud to help me make sense of it. I had told my mom that I felt uneasy lately because I developed this obsession that if I touched my stomach, I would develop some type of stomach issue. And her first response was, “do you have magic in your fingertips?” And that made me stop and think because she was right. Her saying the simplest thing to me made me realize that my fear was logically unrealistic, even though on the inside I still felt uneasy. It was definitely something I needed to hear to help me work through this obsession, because it zapped me back to reality.
the magic all in my mind
the superstitions not far behind
these thoughts making me feel in control
but that’s just a lie I was told
same thing, day in and day out
battling with each worry and doubt
thinking I have the power, but I’m not that special
although it’s a story my OCD likes to tell
I know reading this may seem silly to some, and trust me, it seems silly to me as I have been typing this, but OCD can affect people in so many different ways. Looking back on things I have done or not done because of my OCD feels so unnecessary. It feels so easy looking back to just think, “what you think is illogical, so just ignore it”. But it’s not always that easy. According to treatmyocd.com when discussing this type of OCD, “even if the person logically understands their fear and rituals are not connected or rational, the fear of causing oneself or another person harm is so great that they’ll engage in their compulsions just to be sure”. This is where that uncomfortable feeling comes into play.
I talked to my therapist once about how crazy it is that we can get such uneasy feelings just from having a certain OCD thought. Like if someone gets uncomfortable seeing a picture frame that is crooked or someone touches something dirty and feeling like they need to wash their hands. She explained to me that if we don’t give into the thought and we get the uneasy feeling, it means we’re actually healing. It’s our mind’s way of rewiring to show us that we don’t have to feel uneasy with certain things that normally would. We eventually would be able to look at a crooked picture frame and not think twice about it or touch something dirty and continue on with what we’re doing without washing our hands. Or in my case, pick a shirt out without fear I will cause harm to myself or someone else. It’s something that seems so easy to work through, but it can be challenging at times.
Everyone’s OCD is different, which means it comes with its own challenges. If you struggle with any type of OCD and you relate to that uncomfortable feeling, you are definitely not alone. It’s a situation that is hard to explain to others and a lot of times hard to understand ourselves. For me to work with this type of OCD, I need to remember that the uneasy feeling is me healing and it is not something to worry about. And that I don’t actually have magical powers ;) All of this is easier said than done, but it is something I am working on daily. If anyone has any tips or tricks they use with their OCD and how to overcome it, I am always wanting to listen. Thank you, friends, for continuing on this journey. Stay tuned.