Sunday, August 21, 2011

What If.....

Those two words "What If" are two words that bring so much fright and fear to my mind and body yet to many others they are just two words.  Think about it for a second, think about those words "What if" and now put another few words behind it like "What if I don't wake up tomorrow morning?"  "What if the things we think are the truth are actually the worst things we could be doing?"  "What if I say the wrong thing?"  "What if I commit to something and it isn't what I want or what I imagined?" What if? What if? What if? The What If's could go on and on and on.  Their story lines and plots could also just keep flowing like a dam with a hole in it, but in reality many of these what ifs never come to fruition because it is the mind playing games.  What if the mind isn't playing games and these thoughts actually are the real thing?

Why do I bring this up you may ask?  

Well, this morning when I woke up I saw a book on my kitchen counter with the title reading "What If," it happened to be my dad's book about something to do with what if history didn't turn out the way it has, yet it immediately got my mind moving to what if questions.  Then Coldplay's song "What If" kicked in next, with the initial lyrics where Chris Martin asks What If questions and the second versus ends with "What if you decide you don't want me there by your side?"  I didn't let it stop me, though, because I made my chocolate chip pancakes and continued on with my morning with Coldplay's song still stuck in my head.

"What if they did stop me?"  "What if all these thoughts became so intense I became paralyzed by them?"  You may be reading and thinking, stop this isn't possible how could someone become so paralyzed by two words that are part of a thought?  In fact in the world that we live in, it is possible people are paralyzed by their thoughts.  For those people who do succumb to these "What if" thoughts ruling their lives, they suffer from one possible mental illness called Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).   I say one possible illness because I am no psychiatrist or psychologist and have no idea what other mental illnesses can be associated with "What if" thoughts, but only know of OCD because I happen to suffer from it.  No I don't suffer from the typical kind of OCD people think of, the one of constant hand-washing or physical rituals, nor do I let my OCD get in the way of everyday life, but I do suffer from a unique kind of OCD.

My OCD is the one where my mind says "If I think thought X then it must be true" and then that causes me to worry that thought x is going to be the be all end all.  You probably are wondering "How is that OCD?"  

Let me explain: For me, when my mind thinks thought X and thought X is something that I'm not familiar with then my mind starts to panic saying "Oh my goodness this thought is true and it is going to happen to me, AHHHHHHHHHHH"  Then my mind obsesses about it constantly and fears that is going to happen.  Now if I had the type of OCD that had physical rituals then my mind would say "What if I didn't lock the door?" then I would go home and check the door to make sure it was locked and it would be all better;  however I don't have that.  For me my ritual comes in the form of a mental movie and picturing thought x through from beginning to end and then my anxiety from the OCD goes down.  This pattern is by no means true for every single thought I have, but it happens frequent enough that it throws many curve balls my way yet with the constant help of friends, and therapy I am working on conquering this.  

So how then does this relate to seeing things through a different light, like I have described this blog to demonstrate?  The reason why it does relate to the subtitle of my blog is because with every action I do, I always think "What if I was in the other person's shoes how would I feel if the action I am about to do is done to me?"  I may have mentioned this before in my post on RESPECT, but this question of being in the other person's shoes is the way I live my life.  It, in all honesty, is probably the one "What if" that does not cause me anxiety or OCD much of the time because it has an answer and a piece of clarity to it.  Reason being is because I am able to think to myself about how I would feel and that enables me to give a concrete answer to the action, word, or thought I am about to do.  Does this way of thinking become paralyzing?  I admit it definitely does, but in my mind I would rather be consumed by thoughts like this and reach out to friends about it, rather than thoughts getting stuck and constantly playing them over and over and over in my mind because I am so caught off guard and frustrated with them.  

To conclude, I want to end with two points: 

1.) The brain is a very understudied organ.  Each and every one of us carries this machine on top of our bodies in this cavity called the skull, yet we really don't know how it all works.  Yes we have made great progress in terms of the brain and understanding it, but as great as modern medicine is the brain is one of two places that we really are lacking study on.  Why do I say this?  Well, it gets to my second point which is:

2.)  Mental health and well being is probably the biggest area where improvements need to be made in terms of modern medicine.  As someone who has struggled with OCD now for 6 1/2 yrs I know all too well how hard its been for me.  I am not saying this to have people feel sorry for me, or think of me in any different light, because that should not happen.  If people do come to think of me differently then they aren't true friends.  I am saying this because for all of my friends out there studying to be doctors I am hoping one of you takes on this challenge of understanding mental health and its relation to the brain.  What I am trying to say is I am hoping someone is able to pinpoint exactly what inside the brain is wrong with a person who has OCD or someone who suffers from any other mental illness.  Is it something hormonal?  Is it something that a little repair through surgery could fix?  Is it something related to a person's DNA?  Is it genetic?  If it is genetic how then do you help these people?

Next time you hear a "What if" just think that may be just one day someone may be able to understand how a person is stirred up by this "What if" and bring them back to reality!

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