“We’ve got obsessions, I want to erase every nasty thought that bugs me everyday of every week”- Marina and the Diamonds- Obsessions
“I never stepped on the cracks cos I thought i’d hurt my mother, and I couldn’t awake from the nightmare that sucked me in and pulled me under“- Jeff Buckley- So Real
4th Feb 2016- Time to Talk Day 🙂
I’ve wanted to write a piece about my OCD for a while now, but its been scary and hard to write about. However today (in the UK) is Time to Talk Day, the goal of this day is to ‘get the nation talking about mental health and to help end the misconceptions around it.’ SO, today seems like the perfect day to write this piece, seen as its a day to talk about mental health: our own experiences can help us by getting things off our chest, and help others by informing them about a condition that they might misunderstand or not know much about, or help others suffering to know they are not alone. This breeds further knowledge and awareness, which ultimately helps those with mental health problems as well as their family, friends and colleges. Overall understanding creates a fairer more compassionate society and this begins with a conversation.
I was recently diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I have been in treatment for Anxiety and Depression for a while, but there was something else there, something I never really acknowledged as it was so scary, but also such an ingrained part of me, its been etched into my soul since I was born (well, as long as I can remember). I dont know why, but talking about my OCD symptoms was too hard for me too handle. Its not that Anxiety and Depression are by any means better, all mental illness is equally as dreadful, I think for some reason my OCD symptoms left me even more confused and scared. (That was just my experience.)
However, with the improvement of my Depression and been sent to see a new therapist, I decided now was the time. I would tell her about these things I felt in my head and could not control. I did not know these where symptoms of OCD at the time, I just know they where the things I was always too scared to say out loud.
For me it was repetition and numbers, even number to be presise. These thoughts where almost instinictve, when I was little I remember them haunting me. I would repeat in my head wishes or prayers every morning before school, like please dont let this happen, it would often be thoughts that had come into my head about someone I know been hurt, or harm to myself. I felt like I had control over these events happening, or nor happening, I really believed so.
This has carried on my whole life. It felt if I did not do these rituals that the feared events would come true, the thought would materialize into reality The repetition in my head quickly became physical too, it would be walking in and out of rooms a certain amount of times, re reading a page of a book until it felt ‘right’, winding back a video and re watching sections after an intrusive thought, touching a near object an even number of times
The impact this has had on me is finding it difficult to relax alone. It also makes me feel responsible. When I get these intrusive thoughts it feels like its my fault and that i’m evil for having this in my head, so the rituals get rid of that feeling. I have this warped view of my own responsibility. This is such an inward conflict, as rationally, I know that of course I don’t control events around me, and in the world with my own thoughts and actions, however the illness makes me feel like this is the truth, like those mirrors at the fun fair that distort our reflections: we are aware they are distorted but the image of our body altered looks so real. It feels like they would tear my life appart, any moments of happiness or contentment my uncontrollable obsessions and compulsions would barge into my mind.
I finally felt brave enough to talk about the experiences I had had for so long. My therapist asked me lots of questions and we had an honest discussion about what I got go through with regards to these symptoms and after analysis and filling in a few forms, she diagnosed me with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) which was scary at first. I had very little knowledge of what this was and what it meant. I hadn’t heard much about it, I had never (knowingly) met anyone with this condition. After some research I read tha apparently only less than 2% of people here in the UK which I found scary!
However, my therapist showed me a diagram of the OCD cycle, starting with the intrusive though, leading to anxiety which leading to the ritual ending in temporary relief. Listening to her explain this to me was like a weight been lifted from my shoulders. As she explained more about the symptoms of the conditions and the causes, it seemed less scary. I felt like all my life I had thought it was just my thoughts, just the way I was but here it was, written before me on paper. It was just explaining exactly the things I felt and had suffered with on a daily basis. And it was an illness, and it could be treated. It can b treated. Talking about my symptoms made me realize it wasn’t just me, i’m not alone.
Now I am proceeding with my treatment. At the moment we are identifying what these thoughts are. We are gong to try exposure therapy, for example having the thought without ‘neutralizing’ (carrying out the ritual). This is terrifying but I am persevering, I’m determined to beat this illness. I thought I would never be able to recover from Depression, and although wouldn’t say iv’e fully recovered at all, I’ve made such a vast improvement. Maybe one day i will get to that stage with my OCD. Admitting is the first step, I’m just trying to stay positive, even when I feel out of control.
I’m so glad I talked to someone about my symptoms, and its helped me understand whats going on inside my head better, and help me work towards battling this condition. I urge anyone who experiences any distressing feelings to talk to someone. No matter what they are, we need to talk.
OCD is one of the most misunderstood conditions. Its not peoples fault but due to lack of knowledge many will say things like ‘i’m so OCD, I just love things to be done my way’ or ‘OMG your so OCD your house is so clean’. OCD is not just liking something clean, it’s intrusive thoughts that take over your mind forcing you in rituals. Yes, with some people these are about cleaning but others they are not. For example many people will say they are ‘so OCD’ but they like their house clean, someone with OCD might think harm will come to their loves ones if they dont clean the oven 4 times, and this distresses them (just an example) or some people, like me, don’t have OCD symptoms that present themselves with cleaning at all. It can be anything. My rituals are repetitive thoughts and everyday actions. I’m the messiest person ever and I have OCD! In summary, jokes or assumptions about OCD are not funny and flippant statements can be offensive. More conversations about mental illness will help people understand this.
I haven’t blogged in a while but I think these discussions are so important. I have not focused on blogging so much as I have been so busy, but from now on I vow to make time for it.
In the spirit of time to talk day, has anyone else had any similar or different experiences with OCD? Or any other mental health problems? What do you guys do to look after yourselves if your having a bad day? Starting a conversation is key!