One of the base tenets of my OCD is the belief that seemingly benign actions will somehow be the cause of future bad things happening. Indeed “bad things” is about a general as you can get with language, but these omens—as I call them—don’t generally have a specific end target. Often with other’s OCD, they do have an end target.
You’ll hear that someone needs to perform some ritualistic action, lest their mother gets injured. This is a real thing with OCD, but mine is much vaguer. This may have a lot to do with my Pure-O OCD, where my compulsions are far less defined. Nevertheless, it all exists in a similar manner.
I notice this play out as I was brushing my teeth this morning. I poured the water down the drain, and as I was doing so I noticed a tiny moth in the sink. And the water killed it before I had time to react.
React? What was there to react to? When I say “react” here, I truly mean I wish I had time to weigh the options of killing the pest or not. Because most often I am one that—as the cliché goes—would ever hurt a fly.
The reasons for this have nothing to do with animal welfare, I have the same skewed vision of what a fly (or tiny moth) means relative to say a cat or dog—the latter I can’t stand to see in any pain (and don’t even like writing about it so I’ll move on.) I really don’t care much about hurting flies and other pest insects.
My condition has it wired in my brain to think of every possible eventuality to taking any action. This, of course, leaves me not taking any actions far too often. But before that, the efforts in weighing consequence are tremendous.
There is very little logic to thinking that hurting a fly could bring about negative consequences to me. The issue here is my brain takes “very little logic” and extrapolates a chance of some sort of something bad happening. It doesn’t matter if that chance is a good chance or an infinitesimal chance. There is a chance.
Thus I am in a constant state of “why risk it?”
Everything in life comes with a risk of bad things happening if I take actions. I’m not modifying the word “actions” here because it literally builds up with every possible action. This is what makes OCD a disorder, and an illness. Oh, and it is important to note that my brain focuses almost exclusively on the negative when my OCD is involved.
Now, as a corollary, I must also note that the work I’ve put into mitigating my OCD involves focusing on the positive possible outcomes of actions. I have to utilize delusions of grandeur to get past the hump of obsessing over every negative outcome to every action that I could take. I quite literally have to fight this exceedingly massive absence of logic with an equally non-logical way of thinking.
That mechanism I use to work beyond the constant consideration of negative eventualities solves nothing, it just sits as a counterbalance (and only sometimes) to allow me to move on through life without having everything halted at “why risk it?”
It is important to realize that having everything halt at the worry about risking negative things happening is a real possibility with me and my OCD.
Sometimes this feels like a belief in a God, and as someone who has at times believed in God, I can attest that the line certainly crosses into something similar to “faith.” Because who is going to punish me with bad things happening for hurting a fly other than a God?
Now my actual belief in God is an extremely complex one, and for another time. But it is worth noting that whatever “believing in God’s judgment” is… that is essentially what I’m applying to actions I weigh taking or not taking.
And this happens all day, every day.
Hurting a fly? Not giving a dollar to a homeless person? Telling a white lie?
Why risk it?
WHY RISK WHAT?!
Therein lies a core part of Pure-O OCD. I don’t quite know, and I don’t know if I can know. I just know that something bad could happen because (without getting into the laws of thermodynamics) the world tends to even things out.
“Even” as in getting even with me. Somehow.
And thus I obsess. Over every single action. I don’t weigh the risks. I assume them. Because my mind has to.
I am stuck with this.
The little moth is dead now, and my brain awaits its fate.