When Mo Farrah got knocked down in the Olympic 10,000m final all I could hear in my head was the lyrics from that great Chumbawamba song, Tubthumping ….
I get knocked down,
But I get up again
You are never gonna keep me down
As I sat there marvelling at the marvelousness of Mo Farrah crossing the finish line to win his third gold medal (he’s now got himself four) all I could think about was the analogies between athletics and tackling OCD….
This was reinforced a few days later with one of the most amazing pieces of sportsmanship I have ever witnessed occurred when two female athletes (New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin and American Abbey D’Agostino) fell during their 5,000m semi-final run. (Now bear with me, I will get to the OCD stuff in a moment.)
The American was quickly up, but then stopped and helped Hamblin to her feet who was still strewn on the track. The two tried to continue running together but the American quickly realised she had in fact injured her own knee, and she collapsed back on to the track. This time the Kiwi was the one lifting D’Agostino back up. Realising her injury the American urged the Kiwi to run on alone. After painfully completing the final 4 laps of the track the American fell into the arms of the waiting Hamblin. It’s reported they kept encouraging each other not to give up and reach the finish line (you can watch it here).
Now this is where OCD comes in…
OCD and athletic analogy wise, the OCD recovery journey is like a 110m hurdle race. The hurdles being OCD obsessive fears and worries that we need to resolve with the target being OCD recovery which is the finish line.
Now I know that those two stories were about long distance running, but if you throw in a few hurdles and you have the perfect analogy for OCD. In our attempt to reach the finish line of our OCD journey the hurdles will bring us crashing down occasionally. Equally we should not settle for tackling one or two OCD hurdles, we have to keep going. Just like the amazingly inspiring Nikki Hamblin and Abbey D’Agostino (who were later awarded the Pierre de Coubertin medal for Olympic sportsmanship).
This is a scenario that occurred a few weeks previously at a support group that I attended. At that group we heard from someone who had already crossed their OCD finish line and had been living OCD free for some considerable time now. In my mind they deserve a gold medal for that achievement!
However, following that fantastically hope inspiring story the discussion changed direction to ask if we should simply settle for managing our OCD and not push ourselves too hard.
If we apply an OCD/athletic analogy that is akin to telling someone they should stop after getting over the first one or two hurdles and settle and be happy at achieving that.
Now don’t get me wrong, my life was dominated by OCD at one time and I imagine for many of you reading this yours could well be too, so getting to the stage where OCD is under control and just getting over one hurdle is a great achievement too, especially if you consider how bad life was at one time with OCD. That’s worth celebrating, but we need to keep up the good work and we must not just stop there.
Here’s the thing, if we settle for climbing over the first two hurdles we will never get over the others and we will never cross that finish line.
Sure, tackling OCD is hard and occasionally you will crash into a few hurdles and may even fall, but thinking back to Tubthumping, you have to get up again. Get into the habit of doing that, keep moving forward and there is every chance you will cross the finish line and earn your very own OCD recovery gold medal.
Like Hamblin and D’Agostino sometimes you may need to lean on someone else for support (be that a friend in a support group or a therapist) and if you need to sit down for a moment to catch your breath do it, that’s ok too, but once you catch your breath you simply must get off your hands and knees, get back up again and keep moving forward.
I can’t promise that everyone reading this will cross their OCD finish line. But I can assure you that if you keep up your training and keep doing the hard work then you are at least giving yourself the chance to succeed.
So as the Olympics closed overnight, for the last three weeks I have been athletically inspired by our amazing Olympic heroes (I might even go back out on my bike).
I am also inspired by the stories of those who are showing us that recovery is possible, because it is and we need more OCD heroes.
Where am I with my OCD? I have used this analogy before, I am 85m down the straight, one hurdle left to jump and the finish line is well within sight. I, and all of us fighting OCD, need to get tunnel vision and focus not on the OCD hurdles, but on the finish line.
So when someone speaks about their OCD recovery, be inspired!