Mental Contamination is always threatening to ruin my experiences. And the more exciting the occasion, the more it wants to bring me down.
One of my favorite memories will always be attending the opening ceremony of Rio 2016. I went with with my English flatmate and a lovely couple from Sao Paulo, during a months travel around Brazil.
I focused hard on not letting obsessions and compulsions take over. Very hard.
Intrusive thoughts can ruin events I attend
Bad thoughts, at the wrong time, can contaminate the moment.
And because I have a strong urge to reverse these thoughts with better ones, once-in-a-lifetime moments can be ruined permanently. I don’t always get a second chance to make things ‘right’ in my mind.
The problem is, travelling consists of so many of these moments. If you would like to read about the countless ways OCD almost screwed up a New York City trip in 2008 you can read about it here.
This post is slightly different however. I am not speaking necessarily about travel, but how a certain event can be ‘contaminated’ by intrusive thoughts. This can be a live concert, a wedding, or in this case, the opening ceremony of the Olympics.
Security meant I had one chance to make things perfect
We visited five regions around the country, SP was our first stop followed by Rio. We would spend a week visiting the sights and taking in the amazing atmosphere.
Up until the Rio trip I was pretty okay. Any intrusive thoughts I had I reversed mentally. I kept myself busy and tried to stay out of my head.
But an overpass leading to the Maracanã Stadium on the day we attended the Opening Ceremony… that was my Achilles heel.
To get to the stadium, we had to get off at São Cristóvão train station and walk along the Viaduto Oduvaldo Cozzi overpass. This overpass had armed soldiers every 50 meters or so.
All roads were closed. Army vehicles were the only ones using the roads and the suburbs were deserted. I am pretty sure I could see soldiers (maybe snipers?!) on some of the rooftops too.
For security reasons it was a good way to have everyone in plain sight, walking to the stadium in unison. And the route meant we could see the stadium pretty much the whole way.
I can’t have an intrusive thought as my first thought
So I have this thing about firsts. If my first thought when doing something special is a bad thought, that thing is now ruined.
When I say ‘first’ I mean the very first thought I have when boarding a plane, checking into a hotel or visiting a stadium. When my feet have literally stepped into somewhere I consider ‘special’, I will force myself to have a good thought.
If my first thought is a good thought but sometime later I have a bad one, that’s cool. I can happily reverse the bad one with a good one.
But if the first thought is bad, I can reverse it but for some reason I do not feel the same relief. My first thought has to be a good thought. If not I contaminate the whole thing.
I started to mentally prepare my good thought
Every soldier I walked past on that walk reminded me that I can’t start over.
‘Excuse me, do you mind if I turn around in this one way traffic and enter the stadium again? I didn’t do it right on this attempt.‘
Could you imagine? It wasn’t going to happen.
On top of this, the sheer volume of police officers and armed soldiers meant that I didn’t even want to give the slightest clue that I was plagued by OCD.
OCD isn’t understood at the best of times. It certainly wasn’t going to be given any more respect on an evening when they cannot afford to take any chances with any strange behavior.
When would my ‘first’ thought be?
The problem I faced was wondering what would class as a ‘first’ good thought.
Was it when I woke up this morning? After all Time-Contamination forces me to have a good thought as the very first thought on a special day. The first thought after midnight, or the first thought after waking up.
This was successful.
However on the overpass I started flooding my mind with good thoughts. The travel to the stadium is pretty much part of the experience, should I be counting this thought as my first? Or will I need to do it again the moment I enter the stadium?
Technically, the Opening Ceremony doesn’t start until the show starts, so I decided that I would have good thoughts:
- When I first step foot in the stadium
- When the show begins to start
It is something I have struggled with most of my life, knowing that a negative thought can ruin my joy and happiness at a time when I should be nothing but happy.
Also looking back at the pictures from that day, it seems there was a countdown in the stadium. I cannot remember this, but I’m sure it was secretly driving me insane.
Entering the stadium…
I had waves of intrusive thoughts hit me on the long walk down that overpass, each one swatted away like a fly and replaced with a good thought.
I have to time these right, when I am approaching the stadium I cannot have a good thought too early. If I am a few meters away that gives waaaaay too much time for a negative thought to arise.
If anything it is better to have a negative thought in the last steps outside, so I know I am going to replace it with a good thought as I walk in.
This is pretty much the technique I use anywhere.
And this time, everything went well. I cannot begin to describe the relief I feel when good thoughts win. It’s knowing that I haven’t contaminated the event and with that, memories of the event for years to come.
I can talk about this event today without the disgust or guilt I would still feel if I had an intrusive thought.
But the relief I felt isn’t healthy either
I understand there is no link between my thoughts and the event, and that having a bad thought doesn’t actually contaminate what I am doing at the time. I am choosing to think that and thus making it a thing.
But it is easier said than done.
Therapy may be the only way to rid me of this compulsion, and is a reason why I have agreed to go to sessions again.
I cannot keep this battle between good and evil going on in my head, it is a battle that OCD is winning.
I am good, my OCD tries to convince me I am evil. It’s that simple.
But in the meantime this is a memory I didn’t dissociate from. It is nice to celebrate a time when OCD didn’t get the better of me.