Life with OCD: Rejecting Black and White Thinking

Several years ago, my husband and I were in dire financial straits. I needed a job, stat, and I felt pretty sure I’d get one I’d interviewed for. But we were so in debt that my husband felt hopeless. He said, “Even if you do get this job, you won’t be paid for at least another two weeks, maybe three. It won’t help.”

Well, that’s just silly. I’m not beating up on my husband here; we were in a pretty desperate situation. But it doesn’t make sense, does it? The idea that we were already so far under water that there was no point in trying to reach the surface. Of course it mattered that I got a steady job. At that moment, though, receiving the money yesterday wouldn’t have been soon enough.

That’s how the road to OCD recovery can feel. You may be so depressed, so caught up in your obsessions and compulsions, that you may sometimes think, “Why bother? There’s so much work to do, I’ll never get back to a normal life.”

Compare that response to my husband’s response to my potential new job. Did it make logical sense for us to continue as we were, to fall deeper and deeper into debt? Or did it make more sense for me to get the job and for us to slowly but surely start working our way up, even if it meant we’d still have some bad days?

I did get that job, and at first I couldn’t afford to eat much of a lunch away from home. My brother had given me a carton of granola bars for Christmas because he knew how much I loved them, and I kid you not, I ate one for breakfast, lunch, and afternoon snack for several days. On those days I didn’t feel like my new steady position was paying off—but it was.

You’re going to have bad days as you work your way through your obsessions and compulsions. You’ll have days when you think the effort isn’t worth it, because you’re not to a point where you’re able to react to an intrusive thought calmly, or you still perform rituals. And that’s okay! There is no magic formula for becoming the boss of OCD, and there’s no one-size-fits-all time frame for getting there. If you look at it as an all-or-nothing process, you’re bound to be disappointed. Go into it with an open mind, and with the realization that life isn’t always fair and everyone—everyone—has bad days, low moments, and feelings of doubt and despair, as well as high points and hopeful moments.

You deserve so much more than what OCD tries to allow you. You deserve a fuller life, but you have to put the work in first. Work on ditching black-and-white thinking. One realization I had relatively soon after my diagnosis with OCD was that I had to set manageable goals. I would never conquer my obsessions if I told myself I could never, ever have an ugly intrusive thought again. Instead, I had to arm myself with coping skills and tools to respond to those intrusive thoughts calmly.

What can you tackle today?

Alison Dotson


*Sponsored by nOCD – an OCD treatment app that helps OCD patients get treatment when they need it most in a clinically effective way (!

Learn more about nOCD and our mission to revolutionize OCD treatment at  



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