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The Devil That Got the Upper Hand: Fighting the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Monster

Once Krishna, Balarama and Satyaki went on a journey. They reach a dense forest in no time. The sun is setting, and the sky is getting darker. They decided it wasn’t safe to go any further and they agreed to spend the rest of the night there. They had to spend three quarters at night in the forest. They decided that each would take turn guarding, each quarter of the night, while the other two slept.

Satyaki is the first to stand guard. Just then, a scary and terrifying monster appeared. The monster roared at Satyaki and said “I won’t hurt you if you allow me to eat these two”. Satyaki growled louder than the monster and told him to leave the place if he wanted to survive. Hearing Satyaki’s angry words, the monster gets even more angry and jumps towards Satyaki. Unmoved Satyaki also showed more anger. Interestingly when Satyaki’s anger was rising, so was the monster’s form and size. It pushes Satyaki to the ground and rolls him over. Satyaki was badly beaten and was seriously wounded. A quarter of the night was spent fighting, and just as the quarter ended, the monster disappeared. Satyaki woke Balarama, to guard his turn and went to sleep.

Satyaki just fell asleep and the monster again reappeared and started arguing with Balarama and provoked him as usual.  Balarama was also very angry and started arguing with the monster. As before, the monster’s form and strength increased as Balarama grows angrier. The two got into a fight. And Balarama was badly beaten again by the monster.

The monster in the above story symbolised the anger within us. Its form and strength increase with the intensity of anger we display. Similarly, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, OCD, works the same way. OCD is like having two personalities in the same brain. One is the rational self and the other is the devil who brings us down. It’s like being tied down by the devil and directing us to obey his commands. The more we react to the devil’s bidding, the greater the size of the devil, its strength and form. Interesting part is, the sufferer is well aware that these phenomena are happening in the head. In other words, the victim knows who the devil is and who is the rational principle that operates behind the mind. But the victim feels helpless in the face of the monster. Similar to the anger situation, the OCD sufferer will endeavour to fight the devil but the latter augments its size and hits back in greater intensity and the more severely the victims suffer and the more his or her  happiness is deprived. Obviously one might say why react rather than keep silent? If someone attacks us, there is a natural tendency to retaliate. Apparently non-violence believers might say to keep calm rather than retaliate, but it takes a tremendous amount of courage to do so? OCD works the same way. It tormented us the most in the area we found excruciating pain.

OCD thoughts can be compared to maddened monkeys. There was a monkey who is restless by his own nature. As if that’s wasn’t enough, someone made him drink a wine making him even more restless. Then a scorpion came and stung him, so this poor monkey finds his condition worse than ever. To complete his pain, a demon entered his body. And  no words can describe the uncontrollable agitation of the monkey? And the OCD mind is like that of the poor monkey. (Vivekananda)

If we go to a temple to worship a god and the image of the god suddenly comes to our minds naked, it will naturally be frustrating and we will end up giving up the god out of guilt. If something on your head says if you don’t circle the office block roundabout five times, your mother or daughter will die in an accident. Or if you go to the office today, your mother will face misfortune. And the voice is so strong that it won’t leave until the order is fulfilled, and if you don’t obey the order, you will feel anxious and fearful and depressed for days and months fearing that something may happen. What will you do? The less we obey the devil’s command, the more we fear that something may happen to our love and dear one. This leads to intense helplessness in the face of the demon and ultimately the sufferer ends up following the devil’s order or it will keep us in a cycle of fear for months.

If a person is chased by a dog, the dog will chase until the person stops and takes their fear away. Likewise the OCD thoughts chases the person until he flees the thought out of fear. Hence , voluntary exposure to things that make us uncomfortable makes us strong and resilient. The more indifferent one is to the thoughts when provoked by the OCD monster, the more the OCD devil finds helplessness and calms down. We feed the unwanted thoughts by reacting more and fearing it. Sometimes one may be angry and frustrated with the thoughts and react to it with an angry state of mind. But paradoxically, the way out is possible with a peaceful state of mind. Thus, reacting to thoughts, fearing the thoughts and obeying the dictates of the mind are food that feed the OCD monsters.

It should be noted that while the mind is a part of ourselves, it can stimulate or occur known or unknown thoughts in a way against our conscious will. Until we become aware of this fact, we end up questioning our own mind and being, resulting in extreme exhaustion, which in some cases leads to suicide.

To finish the story, I started earlier in this article, Krishna is left with the same experience as Balarama and Satyaki . The demon told Krishna to run away leaving the two fellows behind. But Krishna calmly replied that it is good that you came. If I wrestle with you, the night will pass easily and I won’t feel sleepy and exhausted.  This time the monsters could not provoke Krishna and make him angry. Krishna remains calm and composed. The monster proved harmless and gradually its shape and size began to decrease, ultimately reducing to the size of a worm. Likewise, the way to get out of OCD works in a similar manner aside from medication. While it sounds easy, it’s not as easy as we think but we should strive to endure the pain instead of suffering cowardly.

Obsessive compulsive disorder by definition is a disorder in which an individual has uncontrollable, unwanted, disturbing thoughts or mental images (obsessions)and engages in repetitive behaviour (compulsion) to neutralise such thoughts. According to one research article “Quality of life and disability in patients with obsessive compulsive disorder”, the World Bank and World Health Organisation, WHO rated OCD as ten leading causes of disability and in the case of women aged 15-44 years, OCD occupies the fifth position. It states that OCD is a chronic and disabling disorder that negatively impacts the academic, social, and family function of patients.

OCD does not come on its own, it comes along with other disorders like anxiety and depression and sometimes with Tourette syndrome. It paralyses the day to day basic human function and activities. OCD thoughts are so distressing and disturbing and sometimes the victims are astonished to think that it is possible for me to think such thoughts. The thought that actually happens has nothing to do with a person’s own character, but is forced to think. It’s like trying to catch multiple fruits at once, but the mind is so limited to hold all those thoughts and solve all the intricacies at the same time. In fact, severe OCD destroys everything ranging from routine family work to academic life to jobs or career.

Another important fact is that there seems to be a correlation between the mind and what we consume.  I’m not a tobacco consumer but consuming once occasionally makes my mind weak and obsessive thoughts bombarded to me to a greater intensity. Hence, any stuff that makes our mind weak must be abandoned and avoided altogether. And a peaceful home environment is needed for people with mental disorders. People are already in great pain, but if the external environment is full of negative vibes, it is like pouring oil on fire.

Most importantly, empathetic  and compassionate relationship must be the foundation for dealing with people with mental disorder. It is important to reassures the victim that the person being consulted takes his or her problem seriously and knows the seriousness of his/her illness. This is the only way we can continue to communicate with the patients. And if the person knows nothing about the disorder, he or she should assume that the victim has a disorder as serious as a deadly cancer in order to continue further communication. If that’s not the case, it’s best to leave him or her alone.

Tesla reportedly has an urge to circle a block three times before entering a building. While leaving, he needs to turn right and walk around the entire block before being free and able to leave. That’s one subtype of OCD amongst other variants. There is a movie called “Aviator” in which Leonardo DiCaprio played the main lead. The movie is based on the biography of one-time American aviation hero Howard Hughes, who suffers from a severe OCD mark by  paralysing phobias and depression ultimately ruining his career and life. This movie is really one of the best, enough to give a hint of OCD.

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