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Ethan Smith is a former patient of McLean’s OCD Institute.
We all have our stories of pain and triumph, and while they may completely differ in symptom and severity, we all share a common bond: obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). While it can be a motivating factor to know there are individuals out there that have risen from the depths of hell and hear that journey in great detail, it’s always been the method behind their recovery that’s interested me. Therefore, I’ll give you the how in six hundred and ninety eight words but the why in just five:
I had awful, debilitating OCD.
I entered the OCDI in November of 2010 at the age of 32. I was diagnosed with OCD at the age of fourteen and not properly treated until the April before coming to the OCDI. Despite being more than a handful for the staff at the OCDI upon my arrival, I have no qualms about saying that the staff at the OCDI, without a doubt, saved my life. While I’m being completely honest, let me tell you that the journey is extremely difficult and it gets worse before it gets better. If you have OCD, treating it will be one of the hardest thing you will ever face. If you are a close friend or family member, being part of the process will be one of the hardest things you will ever face. However, in doing so, you will gain the ability to live or assist in helping someone live the rest of their life with joy and serenity.
As miserable as I was before I started treatment, and despite the fact that I was not even able to function, I had a lot of trouble convincing myself to attempt to conquer my OCD. It appeared to be more comfortable and less dangerous to just live with it. There was just one factor that I simply could no longer ignore: my OCD was killing me, literally.
No matter how hard you try, you cannot rationalize OCD. The reason is that OCD is completely irrational and can never be figured out. The path of least resistance seems so very difficult to execute but couldn’t be simpler: do everything your treatment team asks you to do, without fail, don’t question, don’t modify, try not to even rationalize it. As Nike says, just do it!
What you really need to do this: RADICAL FAITH. Your treatment team is asking you to jump off of a cliff because on the other side is this amazing and beautiful life. You can’t see the other side or what’s below you and your OCD is telling you not to jump because you’ll die. You have to remember that your treatment team wants you to succeed. They are committed to seeing you leave the OCDI with the ability to be YOU and do the things that YOU want to do, not what your OCD wants you to do.
The fantastic paradox of letting go is that you’ll feel more in control of your life than ever before. Once you completely surrender and relinquish the illusion of control that you have over your COD, you begin to gain that elusive happiness and peace for which you have been searching. You have to stop trying to negotiate. Stop trying to figure it out. Stop thinking that you can figure out another way. In fact, in regards to OCD, stop thinking completely. Turn over control to your therapist and blindly follow. Only then will you begin to feel the relief and live the life you absolutely deserve.
By the way, I currently live in Los Angeles, California three thousand miles away from my parents whose side I never left until I was 32 years old and went to the OCDI. I’m now a successful working actor, writer and director. I live in the moment and at the end of the day, whether it’s been amazing one or not, I can honestly say…it’s all good!