The Gift of Desperation

If I had to select a single thing in my life that I’m the most grateful for, I would definitely chose my battle with mental illness and addiction. I think for the most part people have a proclivity to overlook the positive attributes of their struggles and instead, indulge superfluously in self-pity. It’s easy to feel bad for ourselves, and as humans we tend to gravitate towards the easiest thing to do, rather than the right thing to do.

The more I postulate the gift of desperation, the more I realize how lucky I truly am. One of the greatest feelings I’ve ever experienced was the alleviation of my obsessive and outright destructive thoughts. Finally having a sense of freedom from this malevolent force that controlled my thoughts, behaviours, and actions, for such a long duration, was so liberating and freeing, I actually cried.

The genesis of my spiritual and mental development can easily be linked back to how desperate I became at the climax of the entire experience. When I was a hopeless slave to my battle with OCD and addiction, I felt as though the only solution was to die. Instead I chose to fight against it. It was a long and arduous battle, thirteen years long, but finally, when I got to a point of complete and utter desperation, I was finally able to cease the self-destruction and find a new way to live.

In a weird way I feel blessed to be afflicted with such debilitating vices and idiosyncrasies, because if my problem was overeating  or being a workaholic, who knows if my life would have disintegrated to the point where I was desperate enough to change.  Change is very difficult, and extremely painful, and if I was never faced with a life or death conundrum, I’m not sure I would have ever found the impetus to change.

It’s why I actually have more empathy for alcoholics than I do for drug addicts, because alcoholics tend to be able to keep up their habit for a much longer time, which in a sense means it takes them until later in life to reach the point of desperation. My mother had to untie a belt from around my neck following a bad relapse, in which I tried to kill myself. These types of situations probably wouldn’t have occurred if my bad habit was biting my nails, or my mental affliction was worrying too much. But because I was dealt such a severely destructive hand, I found myself in a situation where I knew that I either continue down the path I’m on, and die, or completely reform my entire life.

Desperation seems to not only the impetus for change, but also the catalyst for change. The more desperate I became the closer to finally making a change I was getting. Once I was faced with the most serious of desperate moments, a literal life and death quandary, I was finally able to change. I suppose the takeaway from this is, if things are seemingly getting worse for you, be grateful, because there’s a good chance you’ll turn your life around if things are bad enough. A mild annoyance might not be enough of wakeup call. If you’re anything like me, severe mental anguish and emotional bankruptcy were the only things that grabbed my attention. Complete and utter desperation saved my life, and I can honestly say that without all the pain, there’s no way I would have developed into anything close to the person I am.

  • Jack A. Bingham

Author of Obsessive-Compulsive Dramatic: My Fight Against OCD, Borderline Personality Disorder, and Addiction