One of my readers completely stumped me today with something I felt I should know the answer to easily. While I am not a therapist or a doctor, I am here to communicate with others about my struggles with OCD, some of which I’ve overcome. I certainly don’t have all the answers, and I am often going through a very specific OCD episode of some sort myself.
I was asked about a reaction this person was having to a dented garbage can. They could not get this out of their minds. This is classic OCD, it is these little things that take over the brain, and beg to be The Only Thing That Matters and The One Thing That Must Be Solved. All of the simple thoughts about this garbage can don’t apply to someone with OCD. This is not only the most important thing, but it also is a known spiral downward.
You see, this person—and I can relate myself—knows that if they simply go back to the store and exchange the can (or just throw it out and get a new one) it is akin to feeding an abusive relationship: it will keep happening again. The immediate solution may move one beyond the immediate OCD episode, but we all know this just kicks the can down the road (and I am aware of the cliché and pun here, but I’m going with it anyway.) There will be something else. There could indeed be another issue with the same garbage can! As well, replacing things can get expensive, and our logical brain knows this is not a good use of our budget.
I’ve been here before, I know that much. But I was stumped as to how I’ve moved beyond issues like this. Because I have, but I just couldn’t put it in words how I’ve done so.
I abhor laziness. I’ve come to realize that a lot of my OCD is an offshoot of my brain’s disgust with laziness. This is completely internal, my thoughts on others’ laziness (perceived or real) do not matter here. I abhor laziness in myself, that is the key.
My OCD is a way for my brain to attempt dominance over laziness. It is my brain using extreme thoughts to attack what it perceives as laziness. And this grows and grows well past the point where my rational brain has any say in the matter. So it enters situations like a dent in a can ruining everything: the day, all thoughts, everything. Because this dent in the can is a subconscious judgment of laziness by—and solely by—the jury of the OCD brain.
What I’ve done is learn to embrace “laziness” in a compartmentalized fashion. I put “laziness” in quotes because I am referring to the laziness that has been constructed by the part of the brain where OCD lies, not a rational idea of laziness. That is to say, I compartmentalize just to the point of separating these two.
I don’t allow myself to be lazy at work. I am pretty damn adamant about that. That will never change, and should never change. However, I do find that areas of my life where OCD episodes crop up involve a “laziness” I can force myself to accept: mostly because I now have a definition. This is “ok” laziness.
For example, I do not live alone. As you can imagine, even though it is stereotypical, I’m rather organized and clean. Go figure! I live with someone that is not—by my standards. And I lived for years in resentment of this, and as I spent months thinking about how I could get beyond this (because I can’t and shouldn’t look to control others)… I realized that I felt this disorganized mess around me made me feel like I was lazy. This is not rational, but my OCD went with it. I felt like I was not living up to a standard.
So what did I do? I let myself be lazy in this compartment. I fully embraced that this laziness was ok. This can apply to something simpler (but with equal importance, because with OCD everything is the most important thing) like the dented garbage can. This, to the brain battling OCD, feels like laziness. A dent in the can is messy, it is not right, it should be fixed, and having it not be fixed is lazy.
Thing is, part of our brain—decidedly not the part that handles OCD—likes laziness. We all have laziness in us, it is part of, well, getting a rest. We all have the mechanism to be lazy. And while I would not want to let a garbage can remaining dented to be labeled as holistically lazy: we can just go with that label internally to move beyond it.
Be lazy! Let garbage cans remain dented! Let half of the house remain a mess! Let this be labeled as laziness and just go with it. Be lazy!