Graduate Story #9
The Pink Panther Spirit
What is the Pink Panther Spirit and what does that have to do with OCD and why is it being discussed on Dr Phillipson's website? It actually has everything to do with helping MY brand of Pure O OCD and it has helped me make tremendous progress over the past 2 months.
I have suffered from Pure O OCD since I was about 19 years old. Pure O is really a misnomer at least for me – its OCD without visible action oriented Compulsions. The compulsions are all in my head. When I experience a disturbing thought my Amygdala misfires and produces a Spike. To prevent further Spikes I try to change, get rid of or suppress the thought or try to reassure myself the thought isnt true or one on which I wouldnt act. In other words there is a constant war going in my head.
My Pure O thoughts differ all the time depending on the day, situation or where I am. They can be songs, violent or repulsive thoughts...virtually anything my brain can manufacture. Think of me as Stephen King with a sensitive Amygdala. But they have one consistent theme: I will ruin my life by having bizarre thoughts because if I acted on them or if they came true or just by the fact that I HAVE them..... I would be letting down my family and not living my life to its full potential and that would be an “awful shame”. Also, the pain of my reaction to them causes my life to be in further jeopardy of being ruined.
I was brought up in a very exacting environment where it was important to say and do the RIGHT thing, in front of the RIGHT people, in the RIGHT place looking the RIGHT way. At the same time I was given many advantages which I appreciated but also felt guilty if I didn’t take full advantage of them.
Intellectually, I understand my past conditioning and am self aware enough and mindful enough to understand how good life can be without having to live to such high standards. Unfortunately, I was also born with a sensitive Amygdala which misfires around this theme constantly. It confounds my rational side which knows that my belief system has made huge strides around modifying my perfectionistic tendencies. But my Amygdala produces an automatic response that, when resisted in any way, produces more misfires and more spikes.
My Pure O went away mysteriously in my mid twenties and came back during the stress of my divorce in my mid thirties. By that time, wonderful drugs like Prozac and Paxil were available and I gladly took Paxil for eleven wonderful symptom free years. In 2008, it pooped out and the Pure O came back. To make a long story about a long line of other meds and a very bad OCD therapist short, I found Dr Phillipson on the internet and my understanding of my condition began to evolve.
My common OCD theme was identified, my reaction to the thoughts I have was clarified and the workings of my brain was understood. By taking meds and by trying to make OCD go away I was in essence letting this disease control me and put me on my heels. Using a sports analogy, I was playing defense. (I had to explain that one to Dr Phillipson....!) The Pink Panther Spirit is about playing offense, its about confusing the disease and putting it on its heels by letting it know that there is nothing it can do to stop me from living my life the way I want to and letting it know that whatever it puts in my path it is of no consequence. In other words....let me have all you can give me BRAIN!!
The Pink Panther Spirit was developed over the last 2 months as I began to understand my condition but its origin was during a golf tournament I participated in at a beautiful golf course on the east coast in 2004. When I am experiencing something I feel I should experience perfectly like playing on a beautiful golf course, my Pure O becomes more painful. In this case, the Pink Panther theme song came into my mind after watching the movie the night before the tournament started. DA Dump, Da Dump Da dump .....you know the song. So I started fearing that I would ruin this wonderful event I was so lucky to participate in if this song never left my head....well it never left my head and the 3 days were pretty miserable as I tried in vain to rid myself of Da Dump Da Dump....!
Fast forward to 2010, and I had the opportunity to play in the same tournament at the same golf course. I had just started treatment with Dr Phillipson and I was terrified that I would repeat the same behavior with the same song in my head during the tournament. I was going to go to the tournament regardless but I wanted to experience it PERFECTLY....! I was walking through a golf shop after my session with Dr Phillipson buying some last minute things before I went to the tournament when I had my breakthrough moment. In the club head cover section was a Pink Panther club head cover. We had just talked about going on offense instead of defense and this crystallized the concept in my head. I bought the cover, brought it with me to the tournament and by doing so I was symbolically going on offense by having a sense of humor about putting a reminder of the Pink Panther in front of me the entire time. I couldn’t escape the Pink Panther because it was there looking at me. So I just let the song rage through my head and paradoxically it went away. When it came back, it was of no (or less) consequence.
As such, I was asymptomatic around the Pink Panther most of the time (and when I was symptomatic I just let it fly!) and used the Pink Panther Spirit to deal with other symptoms that popped up while I was there. Am I “cured”....no. Thinking I am “cured” would indicate I really didn’t get the Pink Panther Spirit and would set me up for more battles with thoughts and songs I wanted gone. Not caring WHAT goes through my brain is the Pink Panther Spirit. The extent that I challenge and laugh at what my brain produces will determine the extent of my pain.
I use this approach now everyday and often I find myself having spent an afternoon asymptomatic so I purposely invoke the Pink Panther to purposely think about things that had bothered me earlier. Its fun chasing my brain around....it really just wants to leave me alone when I do that....Da Dump Da Dump Da Dump.