I’m sure I’ve mentioned on here that I have OCD…but when I try and go back to find those posts, I’ll be damned if I can. So in case this is news to you: I have OCD.
Not the kind of OCD that people claim to have when they like their kitchen a certain way, or their books lined up in specific order, or their beds made just so. That kind of OCD is actually just a quirk, or a fad, and is really a disservice to the actual illness which is significantly more severe than any of those things.
The kind of OCD I have is the kind that has me so debilitated in repetitive movements that I repeat them for hours on end just to alleviate the immense anxiety I feel if I don’t. The kind that has my hands raw and bleeding from washing, and still they are not clean enough. The kind that has me awake for hours at night praying in circles because I am worried I did not pray the right way the first time and God will misunderstand and something horrible will happen to the people I love. The kind that has me doing something for EXACTLY the right amount of time or times, or else something horrible will happen. The kind that comes with anxiety so debilitating, you absolutely must engage in the compulsion or your feel like you will legitimately explode or something terrible will happen to your loved ones. It’s the kind that changes your life, incapacitates you, and turns you into a raving lunatic. That is OCD…and those other OCD claims are simply quirks, and something we all have a little bit of.
I was diagnosed with OCD almost 3 years ago, when I went to my Doctor because I thought I was honestly having a break down. My mental state had deteriorated immensely and I was trapped in a vicious cycle of illogical things to alleviate an intense anxiety that never seemed to wane. When she diagnosed me with OCD, I was horrified. The only people I knew of with OCD were extreme, and lived on the streets. I was terrified that my mostly normal life was in jeopardy because of this thing that seemed to pop up out of nowhere.
I began to do research, and the more research I did, the more I learned that while the extremities of the illness do exist – it is actually more common among the high functioning than the low functioning. And that began my journey through OCD.
My doctor informed me that few people with OCD manage without lifelong medication. I was determined to be one of those few, and she (bless her heart) supported me wholeheartedly under two conditions: 1) That I took medication whenever I was unstable, until we determined I was stable again and 2) I went to therapy. I happily agreed, even though it damaged my pride immensely. There is still so much shame in mental illness and therapy (especially in my family, I have actually only told my one sister and my hubby about my OCD). I didn’t ask for this, but here I was being dealt these cards and I knew I had to find a way to manage it so I could go back to having a normalish life.
So I took the medications and I went to therapy. I changed my diet. I learned how to recognize my OCD from quirks, my triggers, and how to accept that this is an illness I will have for the rest of my life. I learned skills to get me off of the “carousel” (that’s what I call it when I’m stuck in an OCD cycle of compulsions and anxiety) before it became debilitating. I learned how to dodge the comments on how often I wash my hands, and how I already checked that door twice more easily, etc. etc. without shame and without feeling the need to admit to my illness. (Something I struggled with immensely before). This summer I was stable enough to wean off the medications. I was thrilled to be medication free, and everything seemed to be going great. I was managing my OCD like a rockstar – completely medication free!
And then my marriage hit the rocks, and everything went downhill from there.
That’s the thing about chronic mental illness. It’s always there. When you’re in a good place, it’s just lingering on the peripherals but as soon as you hit a bad place it swoops in and takes over. So when I found out about what was going on with Mr. Big, it swept it like a night rider and grabbed onto me tightly. It promised me that if I only gave in to my compulsions, I would feel better – it would help me get through this (spoiler alert: mental illness is a big fat liar).
It actually only made everything worse. I was so overcome with the OCD, I had no space to process anything else. As the days went by, things kept getting worse and worse. I developed severe anxiety and panic attacks. Finally, I returned to my Doctor waving my white flag – I was in a bad place, and I needed help. As per our initial agreement, I took the prescription and I started the meds…and as much as I hate being medicated, I know she is right.
That’s the cycle of mental illness – you’re OK until you’re not OK, and then you’re REALLY NOT OK until you’re OK again. Hopefully you’re able to do something to get you OK before you do something drastic.
It stinks, but that’s how it goes when you have a chronic mental illness… you learn to take the meds because life without them when you’re unstable is no life at all. And as my GP always points out: this is only temporary. I was stable off meds before, and I will be stable off meds again. Just not today.
Can I also note how lucky I am? My GP is 100% supportive and always hears me out with an open mind – even some of my crazier ideas – and she is happy to support me in any way she can as long as I remain proactive and honest about my mental health. She is my biggest advocate and I am truly lucky to have her as my GP in a country where GP’s (even the bad ones) are hard to come by.
Thankfully I am finally on the upswing now, although I still have bad days. When my OCD is at it’s worst, there is no dealing with anything else because it takes all my energy just to manage the OCD. Since I’m on the upswing, I am now able to dedicate a little more time to the other things in my life – which is making me feel more and more like myself every day.
So – to summarize:
- OCD is not a joke. Please don’t joke about it (I’ve seen an influx of jokes about it lately), it discredits the severity of the illness…and I hope something in my post has resonated with you that this is a very serious, life altering illness and not at all the same thing as the way you like to sort your books/arrange your desk/closet.
- If you, or someone you know, is suffering…please, PLEASE, get help or help them get help. I won’t lie: it is scary, it is overwhelming, it makes you feel ashamed and broken. The idea of being medicated is scary and toxic and I didn’t want it either… but eventually, with the right help, you WILL feel better and it will be worth it.
I really think the more people like me talk about this, the more normal it becomes and the more people step out of their own personal hell and reach out for help – which is truly the intent of these kinds of posts. If you’re struggling: know you are not alone and it doesn’t have to be this way. Reach out to anyone you can for help, you’ll be amazed how many people can relate if we would just learn to talk about it.
Thanks for reading!!