By Ethan Kagin
This story is part of our blog series called “Stories from the OCD Community.” Stories from the community are submitted and edited by Toni Palombi. If you are interested in sharing your story you can view submission details at www.iocdf.org/ocd-stories.
To have OCD is to have a struggle. Everyone who has it knows this to be true. Whether it be the struggle over germs, religion, or the perfection of a space around us, OCD can be crippling in nature and so overbearing at times that it makes us as individuals feel powerless against it. Often times when battling OCD, we feel hopeless, as though there is nothing we can do to avoid the pain and anguish that we experience daily from the illness.
For those of us who live with OCD, we know that it’s not a game. However, when measuring what it’s like to fight against it, I have found it useful to use the analogy of one particular game — baseball. I am not really a sports person, but I have come to enjoy baseball, and I think that of all the games that exist it is the one that relates most to our struggle with OCD. Although Jumanji would be a game eliciting stress levels closer to that which OCD brings, the game of baseball has similarities that can help us understand how to conquer our struggles, while also being a game that many of us associate with fun.
The analogy starts like this: Baseball is life, the pitcher is OCD, and the ball is an obsession. Every time we come up to the plate, the ball is thrown at us, whether we want it to come or not. When the pitcher throws the ball it’s like an obsession coming toward us, something we have to shake off and hit away from us. Batting is done by performing exercises that help us to fight the disease, and just like batting, this takes practice. If we grow lazy, or we decide that we are no longer going to try to hit the ball to the best of our ability, the pitcher gains the upper hand.
Now, understand that batting is not a compulsion. In fact, I would compare the urge to perform a compulsion to the urge to hit a ball that is not in the strike zone. We want to hit the ball away, just like we want to get rid of obsessive thoughts, but by performing compulsions, or by swinging at a bad pitch, we are taking the easy way out and misguiding our efforts. Swinging at bad pitches just leads to strikes and gives the pitcher more power. As with resisting the urge to swing, there are times when we have to resist the urge to do a compulsion, in order to successfully hit the ball away.
Unfortunately, once we get good at hitting the ball, once we get stronger in our mindfulness and our OCD exercises, the pitcher may notice and start throwing us curve balls. These curve balls can be obsessions or worries that are new and scary to us, or they can be old worries presented to us in a new way. It is at these times that we must learn new strategies — new ways to hit new pitches — in order to stay one step ahead of the pitcher, or one step ahead of OCD. It’s when we become afraid of these new pitches that we are unable to hit the ball effectively. This is why we must keep practicing in order to help ourselves and our teammates.
The fact of the matter is that baseball games end, but OCD does not. To many, this may seem an unfortunate truth. However, both in learning to play baseball, and learning to manage OCD, we develop skills that we can utilize in other areas of our lives. We can learn to practice, to become more resilient, and to challenge our fears. I believe that if we learn to conquer OCD and to overcome our struggles, it equips us to do anything in life. Although it may not always seem so, our struggles can be our blessings. OCD has made me stronger than I ever thought I could be and, in time, I believe that everyone can learn to fight it — to play this game until it is nothing more than a small nuisance in our head, a tool to help us grow stronger, and a means to an end in the greater scheme of things. So, keep playing the game, keep your eye on the ball, and try to have fun while you’re at it. Because just like baseball, OCD isn’t our whole life or our whole identity, it’s just a small part of it.
Ethan is an 18 year old from Kansas.