A Prison of My Mind

This is likely going to be the most personal post I’ve ever written. This is not easy to write about, but why not? Writing helps me clear my mind. Putting this out there will probably be of benefit to me.

Depression, anxiety, and a whole range of other depressing terms. I’ve called this many things over the years, until I realized that I have OCD. But you will understand why I’m so confused. I’ve always associated OCD with compulsions. Repeating actions over and over again, until things feel right. But what I’ve always suffered from was the “O.” Obsessions. I’ve got a form of OCD known as “Pure O.” This is when you have wave after wave of unwanted thoughts. Things you fear, thoughts that you don’t understand, and can’t really explain.

If I don’t want these thoughts, how come they are always visiting me, over and over again?

The things is, Pure O is a form of OCD that pries on your biggest fears, forcing you to think them over and over again. You don’t get much sleep. It can often drive you mad, trying to chase away these thoughts, and I’ve spent days in isolation and depression, trying to understand and trying to win this fight.

When I first found out what “Pure O” was, I was beyond happy. I understood what was happening, and I finally had something to call this. Not only that, I realized I wasn’t mad, or crazy. This was not so uncommon. But understanding the problem alone didn’t make it go away.

Because the truth is, there is no cure. This isn’t some mental illness that causes me to lose my abilities to function. This isn’t something that gets in my way of work, or relationships. It does however, remove joy from everything you do. Because whenever you go a minute free of it, it’ll strike again. And it doesn’t matter what you’re doing, the joy is usually gone.

Before understanding what this was, I’d tried many things to get rid of it. I’d try to isolate myself, and spend lots of time around people. I’d try listening to music really loud, and talking to myself over the thoughts.

And the thing is this, in the past, I was always scared to talk to people about this. And if you follow my posts, you already know what kind of American I am. I was scared of what people would think. I didn’t want them to think I was crazy, which is bad enough on its own, but being the Muslim American I am, I was scared that somehow that would be worse. He’s a crazy Muslim? And funny thing is, that was probably my OCD as well, continuing to isolate me. Learning that all this was just Pure O, again, I’ll always remember that night. I think that was the best night of sleep I’ve had in years and years.

I’m currently doing something that, while it hasn’t gotten rid of the OCD, it has worked better than anything I’ve tried before.

Whenever these thoughts come into my head, I acknowledge them, and I try not to fight them. I recognize that they are there, and I remind myself of one thing: It’s my choices that make me who I am. I let these thoughts in, and I continue doing what I’m doing. And although they return in different forms, that usually buys me some peace. And when you are never at peace with yourself, those moments mean the world.

It’s actually interesting, because there is a quote from Sirius Black of all fictional characters that actually helps me here. If you’ve read my previous posts, you might have picked up on the fact that I’m obsessed with Harry Potter. And this is one of my favorite scenes from all seven books, because I feel it speaks to me.

In the fifth Harry Potter book, Harry is depressed and is trying to isolate himself from his closest friends, the Weasley family, after their father Arthur was attacked. He pulls his godfather, Sirius, aside and confides in him. The scene goes like this: Harry is telling Sirius about the dream/vision he had, where he felt that he wanted to kill Arthur Weasley. And Sirius responds by telling him that we all have good and evil inside of us, and it’s what we choose to act on that defines who we are.

The fact that OCD is a reflection of my worst fears, the fact that these thoughts cause such anxiety and depression, should be a relief. But anyone with Pure O can answer that there is no relief.

I’ve gotten better at handling this.

Last year, I left my home country in pursuit of an adventure. No doubt OCD followed, and as all my friends and family were back home in the US, I ended up spending a lot of time alone. For a while, the Pure O intensified quite a bit. But in hindsight, I’m glad it did. Over this year I’ve been able to deal with OCD head on. In the past it was something I continuously forced myself to not address. Suffer but pretend its not there.

But it’s here. And it is not going to go anywhere. And that’s something I’ve made peace with. And that’s OK. We all have our battles and our struggles. I’m going to be fighting this for the rest of my life, and I’m at peace with that. I don’t want this to make me weaker.

I don’t know where I’m going to be in the future, what I’m going to do. But I hope that in the years to come, I can look back at this year and see progress. These issues aren’t easy to talk about, but I’m glad I wrote it down.

To progress.

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