I have been struggling with some big life decisions in the last week or so which inevitably I have found very anxiety provoking. I am lucky to have lovely friends and family who wish to help but I have noticed a number of well intentioned cliches that get trotted out in these times and I also noticed how untrue they are when it comes to anxiety and OCD. Here are a few of the ones I’ve noticed. Can you add any more?
- What’s your gut telling you? – Honestly. My gut is telling me that I want to throw up and that I can’t sit still. Why what’s your gut telling you? This one just baffles me. I get the sentiment behind it- that we should go with our instinct and not get confused by the myriad of thoughts that are telling us what we “should” do. When you suffer with anxiety however your gut is just a swirling mass of wriggly worms. If I lived by my gut I wouldn’t get very much done because all it tells me is “You’re doomed. The world is doomed. Now vomit”. The sensation is so strong that it overrides any sensical message that may be trying to get through.
- You’ll know when it’s right – Now this one is just SO untrue especially when it comes to OCD. You do know OCD is known as the doubting disease right? We never know when anything is right. That’s the whole problem. If I did I wouldn’t have spent the last 14 years obsessing about a vast array of worries including whether I could be a paeodphile. Nothing is “right” with OCD. This statement can also be especially untrue when it comes to relationships if Relationship OCD (ROCD) is present. I’ve heard so many people say to others when talking about their loved ones “I just knew” or “you just know” but in ROCD that just doesn’t happen. Sometimes even when it’s right, OCD will be telling you that it’s wrong. OCD likes to mess like that.
- Everything works out OK in the end –I’m not saying this is completely untrue, in fact I think when you have a sense of perspective it is possible to see that most things (unless it kills us) aren’t the end of the world. Rational human beings can see that if they make a wrong decision, life won’t end but for someone with anxiety it just doesn’t feel like that. Instead, it feels like life will be miserable forever, you’ll never be happy and you’ll spend the rest of your days in a permanent state of regret. Try making a decision when your brain is telling you that.
- Write a list of pros and cons – Again, so well intentioned but try reading a pros and cons list written by someone with anxiety. For every pro there will be a con because that’s kind of how our brains are wired. Every time your brain comes up with a nice positive, the sneaking voice of anxiety whispers a negative in your ear. I have never written a pros and cons list that has provided an illuminating answer (except that I’m a neurotic worrier that is paralysed with indecision – and I already knew that anyway!).
I’d be interested if anyone has experienced any others. If you post in the comments box I’ll publish them.