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What It Means to ‘Ride the Waves’ of an OCD Episode

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The following may apply to many mental disorders and conditions, but I will be focusing on obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and OCD episodes.

I woke up this morning and after working through the standard routine of getting the day going (the rote processes I do without thinking), I came to realize nothing was right. Nothing. My clothes did not fit right, my coffee was done wrong, I went to do the laundry and I was certain I would not be able to get almost unnoticeable stains out of a pair of shorts. And the list goes on. The wrong just piled up. None of these things were rational. But I felt them despite knowing they were irrational.

Everything was wrong. And because of this, my day was going to suffer. I knew this much because I also knew this was a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you’re trying to follow at home, I’m talking about an OCD episode where the snake begins its cliché eating of the tail.

I am talking about knowing things are wrong. And knowing I know things are wrong. And things being wrong because of this, all starting with things being wrong. And my brain cannot stop this infinite loop.

You can insert any negative effect you encounter from how your brain works into this. We are all on the treadmill. We are all within the spiral.

Here’s the thing to remember, which will be very difficult at the moment, but will help you spend as much energy on fully knowing this: All these things go in waves.

For me, I may lose today. You may lose today. Every definition of that word is apt. But everything goes up and down in a linear fashion.

You are not in a spiral downwards. You are on a wave, going up and down but forward all the time. When you feel things going downward, they are also going forward. It is just the not so fun part of the forward.

Now, “fun” is not the endgame here. Feeling OK is. And it is paramount that you realize OCD episodes only last a finite amount of time. This duration is different for everyone, just like the intensity and theme of the OCD episode is different for everyone. But one thing is true: You are on a wave and you very well may be at the low end.

Am I trying to cheer myself up with an empty “things will get better” rally cry? No, this isn’t about trite and meaningless ideas. This is an observation on the way almost all things work in the universe of our emotions and inner feelings: Waves. From up to down and back to up again.

So the key to remember during OCD episodes, where nothing is right, is that your only goal is to push through it and let time do the work.

Because things do go in waves and you are moving linearly through such. Time is your weapon here. Just let things be wrong.

That isn’t to say you need to stop your compulsions — that is impossible. I mean, in terms of how the topmost level of your observational brain takes in what is happening, let time pass. Observe time passing and know this is all bad only for now.

Remember you are moving forward, no matter what. If things get worse, it is all part of the wave (which will return to “OK” and then better than that in time).

OCD works in waves. Your brain works in waves. And time is the one constant that allows for this really bad time to move into a good and calm state of mind.

Getty Images: Mike Powell

Originally published: October 30, 2019
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