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OCD - Step On A Crack - Connecting Magical Thinking To Everyday Actions

Sep 13, 2008
This article is a shortened excerpt from the book "Tiger by the Tail" available at http://Lulu.com

Tiger by the Tail is the story of my personal recovery from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. This is not a scholarly work; it is a memoir. I have no credentials as a health care professional, nor am I a layperson who has done exhaustive research.

So much for what I am not. What I am, is a survivor of OCD--who has recovered. I wrote this book for others who would also be survivors and who would find the tools that they need to do so. It is also for those who love, wish to help, or live with someone who is afflicted with this disorder.

When I was still living under the spell of OCD I felt various lines of power in the world. To be honest, I still feel them. Yet now I do not react to them or even fully believe in them. I have ignored them for years and the only result is that I do not bang into things as much as before. If I walked on this side of that object, I would be in harmony with that power, if I walked on the other side I would not. Something would happen. I had no idea what, just something. Other times I knew what would happen.

I heard that old nursery rhyme about "step on a crack, break your mother's back." I did not step on a crack for decades without panic and I avoided it at almost all costs. In my fear, my mother's back was also somehow tied to the way I handled a bar of soap. I would have to run it around and around in my hand in the correct direction, rinsing it off repeatedly. I could not put it back unless it was placed exactly "right" on the dish. I would have to redo this ritual many times. I believed that her back would break or be damaged if I failed this somehow.

My mother actually has had a near broken back in the last few years. One of her vertebrae fractured and required extensive emergency surgery. She also has Spinal Stenosis. Notice that I am not saying that there is no relationship between my abandoning my ritual and her eventual problem. You may have already decided that this story pretty much proves my fears. How could I write it in a book supposed to disprove the magic? I will tell you, but I have to answer this in two different ways.

First View: A rational approach. I can remember my mother having to stop while walking in order to squat in the street to relieve her back pain when I was 10 years old. My mother was diagnosed with sciatica, (a pinching of the nerves of the lower back) around that time, and I knew this. Her mother wore a special back brace through most of her later years and I do not believe that I ever saw her bend. So, it is obvious to me that my mind knew my mother's back was fragile and had developed this fear long before it developed the ritual. The ritual was a response to the fear. Her eventual serious event was the result of a life long disease. I saw it coming and tried my impotent best to stop it. It did not work.

Second View: A magical approach, the perspective of the ritual. Whether her back trouble was the result of her life long problem or a result of my stopping the protective ritual is completely irrelevant. I say now, and with my mother's full agreement, that it is better that her back be broken than that I, her child, live as a slave. We have discussed this and she has told me this herself. I would give my life for the freedom of my loved ones, and she feels this way no less than I. Therefore, even if my ritual was protecting her, it was destroying her baby, and that was a price she was not willing to pay for any protection, imagined or real.

In my mind, I was trying to prevent the worst from happening but I failed to see that the worst had already happened. I had become a slave. No slave ever won freedom without risk. For too many years, I lived with unclear fears, and all too clear fears. The magic that I had hoped to control with walking on the correct side of things and jumping over cracks, may be real or may be imagined. But, you see, it just doesn't matter a bit. Nothing is worse than the slavery of being controlled by unnamed thoughts and fears to the point that you cannot even stop yourself from hurting yourself, as performing the ritual so clearly is doing. Slavery is slavery. There can be only one response, rebellion and freedom.

My hope was to protect her from what I feared for her. It did not work. It does not work. It cannot work. Even if the magic is real, I am here to tell you it is ineffectual. It prevents nothing and it steals you from yourself. Nothing can be won or protected at the cost of your very self.

Obsessive Compulsiveness shows strength and willingness to endure in silence in order to control the forces around us. It also shows fear and a hopeless attempt to beg for safety by sacrificing freedom, happiness and sanity. It is like having a tiger by the tail, afraid to hold on because the tiger might kill you and afraid to let go for the same reason. Fear is the root reason. Fear of the loss of something or someone important to you. Fear of gaining something bad.

We take this tiger by the tail one day and discover we cannot let go. Maybe we thought to gain control of the tiger. Maybe we were just attracted to it. I do not remember in my case, do you? It does not matter in the end. We all have this deadly life-eating force by the tail and we feel lost if we let go. We think it will surely turn on us. However, the tiger has no teeth, no claws and no power. We provide the only power and that power is very real. It is the power to steal our own lives from ourselves. The power to throw away that which we think we are protecting. The power to hurt the very people we believe we are protecting. Did you ever notice how your behavior hurts everyone that you are trying to protect, including yourself?

Let go of the tail and watch the tiger run!
About the Author
B.Rockrunner is a pen name used by the author of "Tiger by the Tail" A personal story of recovery from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. These articles are edited excerpts from that work.
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