I want to talk a bit about mental health and dealing with obsessive thoughts. Mental health actually goes hand in hand with self-development, and ties in nicely with the articles I have put up on my blog before this one. I plan for mental health to be an important part of this blog and my online business. Mastering your mindset and having goals in life traces back to your inner psychology and overall mental health.
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MY BATTLE WITH MENTAL ILLNESS
I was diagnosed with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) when I was 6 years old, and it has had a large impact on how I have viewed my life. It has affected my self-perception in negative ways, but the challenges I have faced have taught me a lot about how the brain works and how to live peacefully despite an overreactive mind. This puts me in a position where I can help those that suffer from mental illness themselves.
Of course, my vision for this blog and my online business, in general, is to be able to help those that are facing doubts that are holding them back in life. This includes doubts caused by mental illness, negative past experiences (ex. bullying, etc.), and a lack of belief in one’s abilities to achieve what they want out of life. I want to put forth the message that ANYONE can achieve their true potential, no matter what level of adversity they have experienced in their past.
LET ME TELL YOU A STORY
I want to tell you a story about a time where my OCD spiraled out of control in a tough situation, so you can get a sense of what kind of thoughts I have encountered and how I overcame them. In 2014, I went on a trip with my two friends to the United States. As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I and my friends have a bucket list item of being able to visit all 30 Major League Baseball ballparks. Therefore, we travel every year to visit new ones. On this trip, I experienced a series of obsessive thoughts that really impacted my enjoyment of the first half of the trip.
To provide some background for those unfamiliar with OCD terminology, there are obsessions and there are compulsions. Obsessions are thoughts that emerge inside your mind that are difficult to let go of. Logically speaking, they are irrational thoughts, but subconsciously, your mind cannot stop focusing on them. The result is a stream of negative counterproductive thoughts. On the other hand, compulsions are habits that you perform even though you logically recognize that they aren’t necessary. Your mind subconsciously says that you have to keep performing this action.
WHEN OBSESSIONS TRUMP LOGIC
During the trip, I had a large obsession that I HAD TO tell my friends that I have OCD. Of course, there was no logical reason why they had to know that I have OCD, but my mind would not let me feel happy and at ease unless I told them. These obsessive thoughts were obviously a large internal struggle for me, as I spent a lot of money to travel and enjoy myself, and now I felt the pressure of not being able to.
Throughout my past, I have had many obsessive thoughts at times when I was free of responsibilities. For example, I remember experiencing an obsession every year on my first day of summer vacation. All I wanted was to enjoy my summer in peace but my mind would not let me. It makes it more difficult to live in a state of relaxation and bliss.
THE IMPORTANCE OF DISTRACTIONS
On my trip, I struggled so much with my obsessive thoughts that I was practically in tears. Fortunately enough, I had mobile service to my parents so I was able to text them back and forth to get some support. My mom ended up saying that if it was really THAT bad, I could hop on a flight home. I couldn’t let this trip end, though. I came here to enjoy myself with my good friends and I intended to. My dad said something that hit home with me.
He said I should put my focus on what I am actually DOING during my trip. All the sights and the attractions.
By focusing on distracting myself, I would be able to escape my obsessive thoughts more effectively. If I could constantly be focusing on doing something else, then my thoughts would gradually decrease in strength. This is exactly what I learned by reading a really great OCD self-help book called Brain Lock which goes through 4 key steps to help you conquer your obsessive thoughts. It teaches you to re-evaluate your thought, reaffirm it, and get you to focus on something else. So what I really learned from this book, is knowing how to switch your focus and distract yourself with a different activity.
Using this technique, I was able to overcome the majority of obsessive thoughts I have experienced in the past and limit the strength of the new ones. For the past couple of years, I haven’t had many recurring obsessive thoughts, and the ones I’ve had haven’t had a large effect on my daily living.
CHANGE YOUR HABITS, CHANGE YOUR BRAIN
It is also interesting to note that when you practice these techniques, you dwindle your obsessive thoughts down to the point where your brain chemistry is actually changing. This is where mental illness can be tied back to self-development. Self-development says that you can alter your mindset, your beliefs about yourself, and your overall inner game. These concepts are linked to the ability to change your brain chemistry by exercising your brain with consistent positive habits.
Reading Brain Lock showed me for the first time that the state of your brain is not permanent. You don’t HAVE to be a victim to OCD for your whole life. You can work on practicing different habits and techniques to the point where your brain psychology actually changes, and you are no longer suffering like you were before.
This is a large part of what I am trying to demonstrate through my online business. Mental illness holds back SO MANY people. Those who are suffering from depression, OCD, and other mental disorders. Suicide rates are going up because people are victimized by these awful conditions. However, I want to show you that YOU CAN reach your true potential, just by practicing these habitual actions. You can mold your brain so that it is less affected by the negative thoughts that you experience. This includes people who are facing other adversities in life. Your true potential can be reached if your mind is in a healthy state.
DO I STILL STRUGGLE WITH OCD?
You guys may be wondering if I still struggle with OCD and obsessive thoughts. The answer to that is: yes, absolutely. I haven’t fully GOT RID of OCD, but the difference now is that I am armed with more defenses. When the negative thoughts hit me, I can respond more effectively so that they weigh me down less. I actually still have a lot of compulsions. If you watch the YouTube video for this post, you will see that my hands are very dry, as I do wash my hands more than most (I am a bit of a germophobe myself). I also check if the door is locked multiple times. These things don’t interfere with my life much, so I work on them less.
One obsession that HAS been very difficult for me to overcome is the fear that my mind will go blank during conversations. If I am having a conversation with different people (even good friends), and even in the video for this blog post above, I have a subconscious fear that my mind will freeze up. I fear that I will have nothing to say and that I won’t be able to recover that thought. It is a lot like stage fright or a fear of public speaking but in everyday interactions. This has been a very challenging obsession to overcome. It has also been the source of other social anxiety issues in my life.
TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR OBSESSIVE THOUGHTS
Aside from that, though, my OCD has gotten A LOT better since I was a young kid. I feel that you can improve yours too, just by applying the techniques above and improving your brain chemistry. Of course, I am motivated not to let my mental health hold me back from living my dream life. I would like to overcome it fully.
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