|Trees: symbols of strength to me.|
I like how Grayson specifically addresses people with OCD. Anytime he addresses “you,” he’s talking to OCD sufferers.
And his writing starts off with a bang by raising our awareness that those of us with OCD have a lot to be proud of.
I’ve written before about my first psychiatrist called me “high functioning” and how disconcerting that was to me. I didn’t feel like I was functioning very well on any level because obsessions and compulsions filled all of my time.
What I had been able to do, though, was to stay in school, complete a master’s degree and make good headway into a doctoral program. I was able to teach writing and literature classes. I had my own apartment and paid my bills.
What I may be have been displaying is something Grayson referred to in his book: “You [people with OCD] function in the world, and you don’t appear to be in obvious distress. Unlike the extreme cases publicized in the press and on talk shows, your OCD doesn’t seem to be much of a difficulty to live with” (p. 4).
In 1990, I managed to live an outwardly “normal” life while struggling with OCD.
To OCD sufferers, Grayson said, “This ability of yours to successfully function under stress has a special name: competence” (p. 5).
Grayson said all people who are successful have this ability to perform well under stress, but they have to rely on the ability less than people with OCD.
Think about it
If you have OCD, have you ever been able to go to school, go to work, work at home, volunteer, take care of children, or do anything at all even while feeling extreme anxiety from your obsessions and compulsions? Then you were displaying competence.
Of course, there are times when none of us can be competent in this sense of the word. Hard times come and it’s all we can do to get through the day and have time to do anything other than rituals.
But look back over your life and consider how much you have accomplished, despite having OCD.
Competence: helpful and not helpful
Grayson said competence could be a positive thing and a negative thing.
“On the one hand, it allows you to function in the world. . . . It is important for you to recognize this strength in yourself” (p. 5).
Reading that made me feel proud of not only myself but of all of you dealing with OCD. I agree with this statement of Grayson’s: “Bravery is not a feeling; bravery is how you behave when you are scared. You are among the bravest people I know. The strength and competence you are accustomed to using in order to get through your daily life can help you succeed in treatment” (p. 5).
Competence has a negative side, too, according to Grayson: “It has led many of you to delay seeking treatment. After all, if you are trying to hide your problem, seeking treatment might be a flag to others that something is wrong” (p. 5).
And just because we are able to function doesn’t mean we’re not suffering: “Though you may succeed in appearing ‘normal’ to the outside world, you know something that non-sufferers don’t: You know how anxious you feel” (p. 6).
People with OCD are not better or stronger than the general population. But we display strength that is worthy of mention.
So take a minute to delight in your strength, and make plans to use it for the good.
If you have OCD, have you ever considered yourself brave and strong? If you know someone with OCD, have you ever witnessed those qualities in him or her? For all of you, how do you define strength?