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Archive for June 18th, 2009

Yesterday, I kicked off a series on obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). I have struggled with OCD symptoms for most of my life. Each day, I am focusing on another symptom of OCD.

The OCD symptom that I found most troubling was repetitive thoughts. I am happy to report that I was able to (eventually) end the need to engage in repetitive thoughts. Repetitive thoughts are exhausting, and they interfere with your ability to stay focused on what is going on around you.

I started experiencing repetitive thoughts after my father died suddenly while I was a senior in high school. My mother started sexually abusing me again, so I (obviously) was experiencing an enormous amount of anxiety.

One day, it hit me that I could drop dead just like my father did, and I would burn in h@#$ if I had committed a sin that I had not yet asked for forgiveness for. (See my posts on spiritual abuse to understand my warped thinking about religion at the time.) So, I came up with a “mantra” (for lack of a better word) that I would repeat in my head throughout the day: “Please forgive me for all of my sins. In J****’s name I pray. Amen.”

I would say this phrase hundreds of times a day. If I was not engaging my brain in something else (like a conversation), I was reciting this phrase in my head. I would sometimes even interject it during a conversation!

I found a cadence in the phrase that had eight beats to it. I needed to “feel” those eight beats repeatedly throughout the day. The cadence would relieve my anxiety but not for long, so I would do it again … and again … and again.

When I started this, I had never heard of OCD. I knew that I had quirks, some of which were amusing, but this form of OCD was exhausting. I even wound up adding a finger gesture that matched the cadence. I will still sometimes catch myself doing the finger gesture when I am feeling anxious.

For me, the best way to stop this symptom was to engage in meditation. My mind was always racing, thanks to the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Meditation taught me how to allow my mind to be still. Once I learned how to silence my mind, I no longer had a reason to “fill” it with the cadence.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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