For all of us dealing with OCD no matter how severe and in whatever shape or form, know that your inner fortitude must be incredibly strong to deal with this monster every day.
It was Winston Churchill who gave his manic depression the name ‘black dog’ and I think a lot of you reading this may know what he was referring to when he penned that 75 years ago, I certainly can.
My OCD story started almost 5 years ago. I was 35.
I had a newborn son at home, life was great despite being exhausted ( he was a terrible sleeper) but I still had some of that new Dad ‘shine’ to me…it kept me going through those long days trying my best to manage a work/ life balance.
I remember the day so vividly when my OCD raised its ugly head for the first time. I was walking home after work , I used to cherish that time. Clear the mind…. Fresh air. I couldn’t wait to get home and see my baby boy. it was unseasonably warm for a February day in Toronto and it felt good to be walking with the sun on my face . Out of nowhere I had this thought ‘what if I hate my son ?’ It felt like An MMA fighter had sunk his fist into my solar plexus and was circling the ring looking for his next opening. I just stood there on the pavement, horrified, confused, scared… That thought sent a 50,000 volt shock through my system. I couldn’t get it out of my head.
That thought tormented me for days, weeks. I woke up crying, couldn’t get out of bed, failed miserably at my job ( I’d go on mute during conference calls when I was working from home to cry) .. I was totally disorientated by all of this and I had a 5 month old baby at home who needed his father to get his shit together. I didn’t know where to go, what to do…I thought I had postpartum depression (it affects fathers too) so naturally turned to my GP for help after my self diagnosis. I started on meds, that helped the mood somewhat but I think you all know where I’m going here… The horrible thoughts continued…. They got worse but it was always a flavor of that same thought… ‘what if I hate my son’
How could I have such a thought, I loved my son more than anything in this world. I was disgusted and ashamed of myself. Weeks turned into months. I went to see therapists explaining my horrible thoughts and they all smiled and nodded along sympathetically. I was just depressed they told me, ‘you have a lot going on’. How naive I was.
I really wanted to get off the meds, despite helping with the depression symptoms I saw them as a sign of inner weakness and mental vulnerability. Not something a man is ready to admit to. I fought the intrusive thoughts, resisted them, abhorred them and yes punished myself… I was as far from loving myself as humanly possible… I may have been on another planet from the planet of loving kindness.
I have always been an inquisitive person. I turned to the Internet to try and make sense of it all.What could I do to get rid of these harmful thoughts… They were like an anchor slowly dragging me to the bottom of a very dark place. I stuck it out through a course of mindfullness. How can you be mindful though of something that bombards you hundreds of times a day… Sooner than later it just wears you out, right?
I remember describing to a therapist that I had a tic but it was all in my head…. and throughout 3 years of on -off therapy never did any of my therapists mention obsessive compulsive disorder.
I moved to the U.S in 2013… My mental problems moved with me. I was going to be a father again, my family was going to be complete but I was terrified of my intrusive thoughts doubling up on me….would I have these thoughts towards both of my children… Would my mental disorder mercilessly strangle the joy a parent should have raising his children.
But that didn’t help take the sting out of this recurring ‘I hate my son’ thought that kept on chipping away at me. It ebbed and flowed.. Some weeks were OK followed by what felt like mini mental breakdowns… Back to my family doctor..change the dosage..improve a little, another mini breakdown. Repeat.
My symptoms were ever so gradually getting worse… Like a slow tide retreating from the shoreline. I felt like it was make or break for me. I had visions of being sent away to a psych ward and being committed. You know, like you see in the movies.
In January of this year I found a psychiatrist. A good psychiatrist. Within 1 session he told me he was 99% sure I had OCD. I thought OCD meant you needed to wash your hands all the time or need to hoard stuff like you see on TV I remember asking him. Turns out there are as many variations of OCD as there are shades of blue in the sky. But you knew that already.
I was referred to a CBT psychologist. My psychiatrist told me he was the ‘Rolls Royce ‘of psychologists here in the city where I live. I sure hoped he was. I could do with a Rolls Royce, especially the Psychologist kind. I’ve been doing ERP for a few months. Never found it particularly challenging but it has made a difference. For me, understanding the biology behind OCD has been very helpful, to know that a deficiency in your brain mechanisms was causing this was like a gentle push in the right direction, finally. Books yes…I devoured them, Brain Lock, Mindfulness for OCD, meditation…. My wish list on Amazon was 40 books deep!
Some of you might call it Pure O… I’m not sure where my OCD sits. Is there such a thing as hate OCD? Sure, I’ve had some of the others too but they haven’t been sticky like my ‘I hate you’ thought. It’s always been cognitive for me but to be honest I have a fear that it will turn into physical symptoms… But thats just the OCD talking right?
It’s great to have finally found The OCD stories. For the longest time I was convinced I was the only person on earth who had this type of mental problem. Maybe I would be taken away by some agency where they would stick me in one of those MRI tubes and run hundreds of tests on me and diagnose me with some rare mental disease.. The first reported case ever. How crazy is that. Maybe the disease would bear my name for eternity.
I’m starting to look into ACT. One thing I can’t seem to get over is … Why the ‘I hate you thought’ and why my son? It could have been anything else in this world… Anything. I guess OCD sniffs out your soft spot, sticks a thorn into that spot and like a torturer, manipulates that thorn … Pushes it in harder, withdraws… Pushes again.
Realizing also that OCD has always been the protein on the plate (the Sirloin steak) and that depression was just the side serving has helped me start my long road to ‘recovery’ . My depression waxes and wanes but the intrusive thought is always there. I wake up in the morning and my brain goes searching for it. I’m sure it’s the same for a lot of you.
For a long time I thought I was weak because of my OCD… but it’s actually the other way round. For all of us dealing with OCD no matter how severe and in whatever shape or form, know that your inner fortitude must be incredibly strong to deal with this monster every day. I am not a religious person but whether you believe in a God or not… I like to think that God only gives you what you can handle in life… No more.
It hasn’t been all uphill. My OCD has taught me so much about myself. I was lost spiritually… For a long time. I am connecting back with my Self through meditation and other spiritual practices. My mental struggles have been the doorway to finding my spirituality again. I feel like I have just started down my path and it’s a long path. But I’m interested to experience everything along the way…. Good and bad.
For those of you reading this, who may have been dealing with this disease for years or it’s just raising its ugly black head in your life now, I hope something I’ve written resonates with you.
There is light at the end of the tunnel. Don’t give up striving for finding that peace within yourself …that means making peace with your OCD. Lean into it, stare it down. Find the treatment that works for you, don’t be afraid to try different treatments if one doesn’t seem to help you. Work at it. Every day. That will be your guard dog.
It’s not me, it’s my OCD