How to Rewire Your Brain: My Journey From OCD to Mental Freedom

By Victor Macias,

Published on Feb 16, 2024   —   6 min read

Photo by Milad Fakurian / Unsplash

When I was six years old, I began experiencing Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Disturbing, intrusive thoughts of my family dying or the world ending occupied my mind for several hours a day. To alleviate these thoughts, I’d make deals with God to keep my family safe. For example, I would say, “If I touch this door knob five times perfectly, then everything will OK.” This would provide temporary relief, but just a few minutes later, the thoughts would return, and the cycle would repeat.

“Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a long-lasting disorder in which a person experiences uncontrollable and recurring thoughts (obsessions), engages in repetitive behaviors (compulsions), or both. People with OCD have time-consuming symptoms that can cause significant distress or interfere with daily life.” — National Institute of Mental Health

My OCD took on many forms, including:

  • Repeating the last syllable of words
  • Rereading sentences repeatedly
  • Spending hours arranging our welcome mat until it was just right
  • Repeating prayers hundreds of times each day
  • Checking and double-checking my bedroom door to ensure it was locked

OCD is often called the doubting disease because individuals affected are constantly plagued by a feeling that something is "just not right." These obsessions compel them to repeatedly engage in rituals (compulsions) until they feel a sense of calm. However, this calmness is short-lived as doubt begins to creep in once again.

While you may logically understand that these rituals are irrational, the worry and anxiety persist until you perform the checking behavior. Living with OCD is exhausting. However, looking back, I now see it as a gift that set me on the path of personal development.

Over the past 20 years, I have devoted my time to finding tools to “fix myself” and rewire my brain. I have read books, taken courses, tried prescription medication, explored Plant Medicine, and even practiced Trauma Releasing Exercises (TRE). Through this journey, I have gained a deeper understanding of what worked for me and hopefully, what can work for you.

I firmly believe that when harnessed properly, OCD can be a superpower. It allows you to obsessively focus on a goal until it is achieved. With the right tools, I am confident that you can rewire your brain, overcome suffering, and thrive.

Most importantly, you can be free.

How I’ve Rewired My Brain — The Tools

a stack of books sitting on top of a wooden shelf
Photo by Vanessa Serpas / Unsplash

Mindset Training

During high school, my dad gave me the book "Your Erroneous Zones" by Wayne Dyer, which introduced me to interrupting negative thought patterns and the possibility of rewiring my brain. After weeks of practice, I noticed a shift in how I perceived myself, replacing previous fears with conviction and confidence. This newfound freedom kickstarted my personal growth journey, and I've never looked back.

Since then, I've immersed myself in books on mindset. Here are the ones that have had the greatest impact on my life:

Advanced version: Take self-improvement intensives such as Unleash The Power Within (UPW). Consider these as sprints where you can make significant shifts in a condensed period of time.

smiling woman in white and black checkered dress shirt
Photo by Sigmund / Unsplash

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

My only regret with therapy is that I didn't do it sooner. In college, I visited a therapist who specialized in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). According to the Mayo Clinic, "CBT helps you become aware of inaccurate or negative thinking so you can view challenging situations more clearly and respond to them in a more effective way." My therapist acted like a coach, helping me identify self-defeating thought patterns and providing tools to replace them with constructive ones.

During our sessions, we practiced running anxiety scenarios. For example, I would pick up the phone and cancel a meeting that I didn't want to attend while in her office. I would sit with the wave of anxiety as she watched me make the phone call, ensuring that I didn't give in and hang up. Over time, I developed a greater ability to tolerate uncomfortable emotions and became more confident as a result.

If you're interested in finding a therapist, here are some great resources:

Note: Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy (ERP) is supposed to be very helpful for people experiencing OCD. I haven't done it in an official capacity, but have heard great things about it.

multicolored painting
Photo by Jr Korpa / Unsplash

Plant Medicine

"Psychedelics, used responsibly and with proper caution, would be for psychiatry what the microscope is for biology and medicine or the telescope is for astronomy." — Stanislav Grof.

Nothing has transformed my life quite like plant medicine. Studies conducted by Johns Hopkins and MAPS.org show the profound effects that psychedelic compounds like Ayahuasca and Psilocybin (Magic Mushrooms) have on people suffering from treatment-resistant depression, anxiety disorders, and PTSD.

A few years ago, I participated in my first Ayahuasca ceremony. With a journal and a healing intention, I took the plunge. Over the next two days, I was guided through a profound experience where I worked through traumas and faced my deepest fears. During this journey, I encountered my seven-year-old self and expressed my love for him. I embraced him, reassuring him that he was safe. In the end, I gained a deeper understanding and acceptance of myself and others.

The results have stayed with me. Tics that I used to have are gone. I used to stutter, that’s gone too. I feel less anxiety and a deeper calm. Needless to say, my OCD has never been the same.

Starter version: If psychedelic experiences aren't your thing, you can try visiting a Sensory Deprivation Tank. It offers similar effects without the whole spiritual trip.

Please note that I am not a medical professional, and the information shared here is based on my personal experiences, not medical advice. Plant medicine can be immensely beneficial, but it's crucial to approach it with caution and informed awareness to mitigate any adverse effects. It's important to thoroughly research and understand plant medicine before considering its use. Below, you'll find some valuable resources to guide you.


black square box on brown wooden table
Photo by Finde Zukunft / Unsplash

Stream of Conscious Journaling

When I'm feeling anxious, nothing helps me more than doing a "word vomit" on paper. This is called stream of consciousness journaling. Essentially, you take a piece of paper and for the next 10 minutes, write down every thought that comes to your mind. You jot down all your fears, anxieties, and angry thoughts that arise. It's essential to remember that just because you think something, doesn't mean it's true. The key is not to filter your thoughts. Once the time is up, you're free to continue with the rest of your day.

Often, those thoughts bouncing around in your head just need to be released. Starting your day with this activity gives you a clean slate and can do wonders for intrusive thoughts, frustration, and many other things.


What’s Next?

The principles and tools I mentioned don't just work for OCD. They work for anyone trying to shift their way of thinking. They work for anyone looking to change their thought patterns.

I spent years trying different tools, and my goal was to provide you with a curated list of the best ones, the ones that were real game changers. Try them out and see which ones have the most impact on your life.

Remember, it is possible to rewire your brain.

Thank you and much love,

Victor Macias

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