1/2/20242 min read

blue and white smoke illustration
blue and white smoke illustration

A lively imagination is something most people celebrate.

It’s synonymous with creativity. Play. Innovation. But my imagination is something I’ve always feared.

Because I have OCD, I experience intrusive thoughts and images. These feel so vivid, I used to believe they were premonitions. For a moment that notion felt empowering– to think I could see into the future.

But these distressing images quickly swept through me like wildfire, incinerating my sense of safety along with every ounce of self trust I possessed.

While packing for a road trip, I would involuntarily visualize the car being hit from behind by a semi-truck, my passenger’s body tossed through the windshield as I reached for their limp hand, though it was just beyond my grasp.

No matter how many times I’d shake my head, the image remained. It would play over and over again, as if on a loop.
And the more I tried to push it from my mind, the more persistent it became.

“Hey, I’m feeling a little queasy, why don’t you drive the first leg?” I’d suggest, trying to appear nonchalant yet knowing to my core I didn’t have the mental strength to get behind the wheel, for fear the imagined scenario would come true. But often a deeper fear surfaced – the fear that I wanted it to happen.

Sometimes I could use avoidance to seek solace. But more often than not, I had to sit with the discomfort and hide the fact that my brain felt as though it was being engulfed by flames.

After suffering for decades and eventually receiving an OCD diagnosis, I now understand what these images are – unwanted intrusive thoughts, which are not aligned with my values.

With this awareness, I’ve slowly become more open to my imagination. Even so much as embracing it.

Instead of attempting to put out the blaze, I stoke it.

I can visualize the main character of my novel grazing her fingertips over a silky envelope, feel her throat tighten as she wonders if it’s from them, and describe the urgency with which she tears open the beckoning cardstock.

I can use this ability to see vivid images to my advantage.

To deepen my storytelling.

Instead of something to fear, maybe my imagination is my greatest strength.