I recently wrote a blog post about living with obsessive-compulsive disorder. The form I deal with is called "pure O", the obsessive thoughts without the compulsive actions.
An OCD discussion group I sometimes post in suggested, "Give your OCD a really wimpy name," as a way to lessen the power of the OCD.
So I named my OCD Hubert. (My apologies to anyone who reads this and who really is named Hubert.)
A few days ago, I wondered if the same strategy would work with my depression.
So I named my depression Elmer.
Hubert and Elmer's mission (and they have definitely accepted it) is to make my life as miserable as possible. They've been around since I was about 14. The first time I remember feeling sad enough to be depressed was when I was about 14, and I think it may have been either that same year or the next when I started dealing with the OCD.
Hubert's strategy is to attack me with vulgar, disgusting thoughts. For years, I fought him, and I felt embarrassed to admit that yes, I thought that way. Now I'm trying to accept the fact that yes, I have those thoughts. And sometimes, I take those thoughts to extremes. "Oh, you want me to think swear words in church? Okay. Not only will I think swear words in church, I'll say them. I'll stand up and interrupt my minister's sermon with the most vulgar speech I can think of. Our ushers will politely ask me to leave, and when I keep swearing, they'll have me forcibly removed, they'll call the police, and have me arrested for disorderly conduct. Take that, Hubert!"
The idea is to take the thoughts to an extreme conclusion and thus, reduce their power. Paradoxically, the more you fight the thoughts, the more they reoccur, and the more anxiety that surrounds them . . . which leads to compulsions to get rid of the thoughts, which makes you feel better for a while . . . until the thoughts return, along with the anxiety, which leads to the compulsions . . .
No, I do not plan to start swearing in the middle of church. Nor do I plan on following through with other thoughts. Thoughts are just that--they are thoughts, and the fact that they drop into a person's head isn't a sin. Pursuing those thoughts and planning to act on them . . . that's when it gets dangerous. (And if those thoughts are suicidal thoughts, that may be a signal to get help, pronto.)
Elmer likes to convince me that I am worthless, bad, unlovable and ugly. I think he's behind my favorite self-insult: "Idiot!" He's unfortunately had plenty of ammunition from childhood bullies and spiritual abusers, and he's also helped by the chemical makeup of my brain.
He and Hubert work together to paralyze, demoralize, and deingrate me. They are uninvited, unwelcome tenants who don't even bother to pay rent. Instead, they demand payment from me in the form of sleepless nights, worthless feelings, negative self-talk, and other forms of self-debasement.
My weapons against them include medication, which works to change my brain chemistry; surrounding myself with supportive people, attempting--as much as possible--to avoid negative stimuli, and using humor.
Some days, Hubert and Elmer win the fight and go snickering off into the darkness and slap high-fives with each other. Then, I have to go and reload my ammunition in preparation for the next battle.
But, there are the days when I get to win and they get to run off like a cowardly dog!
As long as I live, I suspect that Hubert, Elmer and I will do this dysfunctional dance of depression and OCD. Then at death, they get booted down to hell, where they belong, forever to be tortured in the lake of fire.
In the meantime, I think my stockpile of humor and positive stimuli is running low. Let me see about replenishing my supply.
Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.