These 5 Words Helped Me Reframe My Struggle With OCD

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. It’s an expression I’ve heard ever since I was little, but I don’t think I fully embraced it until I was diagnosed and began treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) a few years ago. OCD can be an absolutely miserable disorder — as any fellow person struggling with it can attest. The intrusive thoughts that come with it are terrifying, the compulsions debilitating. “Recovery” is a long and ongoing process that is never really complete. But despite all of the pain that my OCD has caused me, I think it is important to step back and acknowledge the lessons I have learned because of it.

Yesterday, as I was doing my afternoon workout in my apartment, the trainer in the video said one thing that really stuck with me. “Turn your obstacles into opportunities.” In context, of course, she was talking primarily about pushing yourself and challenging your limits physically. But those five words really made me think about the gratitude I have for the obstacles I have faced and overcome, no matter how big or how small. At the center of many of those obstacles? My OCD, of course.

Each of those obstacles was (or still is) an opportunity. An opportunity for what, though? What good could possibly come from a disorder as tortuous as OCD?

One of my favorite writers and OCD advocates is Shala Nicely. (Side note: If you have never read any of her blogs or her memoir, “Is Fred in the Refrigerator? Taming OCD and Reclaiming My Life,” you should definitely check them out!) In many of her writings, Shala stresses the importance of appreciating each opportunity to practice handling discomfort. When you practice living with and accepting uncertainty and uncomfortable situations, you become even stronger and more resilient. You take an obstacle and turn it into an opportunity. You take some lemons and turn them into lemonade.

Mindset and perspective are pretty powerful tools. When I remember to shift my attitude and view each obstacle as an opportunity, those obstacles don’t feel as insurmountable as they once were. An intrusive thought pops up while I’m driving down the highway? That’s a chance to practice pushing through and reducing the power my OCD holds over me. It’s not easy, and it’s definitely something I still need to work at doing more consistently. For that reason, I am grateful for the occasional, unexpected reminders like the one from my workout yesterday.

A banner promoting The Mighty's new OCD 30+ group on The Mighty mobile app. The banner reads, Are you an adult who's living with obsessive-compulsive disorder? The OCD 30+ group is for you. Get support and share information with Mighties who get it. Click to join.

My struggle with OCD, while being incredibly difficult, has been and continues to be an opportunity. It has been an opportunity to develop skills I can add to my mental health “toolkit.” It has been an opportunity to practice grace and self-compassion. It has been an opportunity to increase my tolerance for discomfort and uncertainty. But most importantly, it has been an opportunity to learn about myself and what I am truly capable of.

As it turns out, I’m capable of quite a lot. I’m proud of how far I’ve come, even though things can still be tough sometimes. Because at the end of the day, I am able to take those sour lemons that my OCD throws at me and turn them into lemonade.

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