A few things have changed in recent weeks. First of all, I started going to regular, weekly group therapy for my OCD. Second, I began an online course in CBT (cognitive behavior therapy) with the Beck Institute. Third, I started reading Dr. Laura Markham’s book, “Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids.”
Combined, these three changes have really affected me. Sometimes I feel totally overwhelmed with newness and the increase of information. I feel almost paralyzed by it. But the three are working together to make me think about my life, thoughts, and actions. I can’t possibly incorporate all the new information and make all the changes and analyze everything at once, but I’m trying little by little.
Fear or Love
One thought that hit me fairly hard from Dr. Markham’s book was the idea that we make decisions and act out of either fear or love. I analyzed that from the perspective of my OCD, and it held true. The OCD tries to get me to act because I fear something happening (or not happening).
But one morning I was struggling with my thoughts and obsessions and had the idea that I was just trying to be prepared for every eventuality. I felt like sometimes, having OCD, I think too much, plan too far ahead, and consider every possible eventuality to the point that I feel like I have to do certain things in order to prevent a bad outcome or be prepared for the worst.
Doctrine and Covenants 38:30
This idea then made me think of Doctrine and Covenants 38:30 where it states at the end, “if ye are prepared, ye shall not fear.”
For me, however, it seemed that being prepared was exactly what was making me fear. I feared that I needed to prepared for every single eventuality and that being prepared meant guarding against any negative outcome. I was acting out of fear of what would happened if I wasn’t prepared.
Somehow, the scriptural promise was backfiring. For me, the entire process of becoming prepared was motivated by fear. Was I doing something wrong? Was this just a side effect of the obsessive compulsive disorder?
Still, a lot of times, I think that emergency preparedness or preparing for hard times is motivated by fear—what will happen if we don’t do all we can do to be ready? What negative outcomes will occur if we are not prepared?
So maybe we need to go back to Dr. Markham’s book and idea of our actions being motivated by either love or fear. Can we shift our thoughts and attitude to preparing because of love? How does this change us? Can we prepare for emergencies because we love our families and ourselves and want to be taken care of and provided for?
Is it possible to do this when our minds are saddled with a mental illness? Can I still have the obsessive thoughts (because they will come and be there) and instead of being afraid and doing compulsions out of fear of a certain outcome, can I say something like “That may happen, and I’ll deal with it if it does happen because I want to keep myself and my family safe. But, it may also just be thought, and I don’t need to prepare for things that probably will not happen.”
Of course, there is a slight difference between these situations (emergency preparedness or being financially prepared for job loss, etc. and OCD-inspired eventualities). While both might not happen or happen to the extent we imagine, it is wise (and we are counseled by church leaders) to be prepared for emergencies and to take care of our families, but OCD-inspired eventualities are typically fear mongering, worst case scenarios that most likely will not happen in our lives. Either that, or they blow normal situations completely out of proportion in an attempt to convince us that something ridiculous and unlikely will happen because of something that most people probably do or let happen every day without even thinking about it.
Fear is an interesting motivator. It is powerful, but like we discussed with the recent President Uchtdorf talk, it is a shallow and unfulfilling motivator. OCD is similarly shallow and unfulfilling. It lies, and following its line of thinking won’t bring peace or preparedness. It only brings more fear and less love.