My story makes me a little frustrated to think about, being that I didn’t get diagnosed until I was 19 years old. I have struggled with cleanliness OCD, HOCD, harm OCD and currently ROCD.
I grew up doing all kinds of physical compulsions, but didn’t know it was OCD. For example, I would check under my bed and in my closet every single night until I was 14. I knew nothing/no one was in there, but for some reason I felt inclined to keep checking. There was something about the unknown of a door and a sheet that kept me checking. I went through a season where I would wash my hands so many times that they would bleed, and my parents had to make me wear gloves with Vaseline in them to stop the bleeding. But these weren’t the things that made me think something might be wrong. They just seemed like normal kid things to me.
When I was in high school I always thought I was just too focused on what people thought of me, but in reality I was obsessing about it. I would get fearful of opinions, and go to great lengths to make sure people liked me or that they approved of what I was doing. I would spend hours every night scrolling through comments on Facebook, or tweets on Twitter to make sure no one was talking about me, even though there was no reason to. I knew something was off. It was like I couldn’t stop. I knew other people worried about this kind of stuff, but for me it would get stuck. I knew it went way past the normal self-esteem issues, but I did nothing about it until I went to college. That’s where it escalated.
I valued (and still value) relationships with people and with God over pretty much anything else in my life. So when I got to college, I was surrounded by the idea of finding my “perfect” person, because I was surrounded by so many awesome people, and I was triggered in a way I never had been before. I started analyzing them through the eyes of perfection. I was looking at men as though I was shopping. Looking for the perfect look, the perfect sense of humor, the perfect back round, etc. It got to a point where I genuinely couldn’t date anyone because no one met my standards that my brain had set before me. Eventually, I started dating my current boyfriend, and he’s the best. He is good, and kind, and smart. He knows me in a way no one else does and I have wanted that my entire life. However, again, he wasn’t perfect. So I ended up essentially pushing him away. We took some time apart, and when we did I started going to counseling to just talk through some things from my past that I haven’t ever processed out loud. While in counseling I finally got diagnosed with OCD. Specifically, pure O.
Honestly, I was relieved to put a name to the crap in my head. It gave me the freedom to grow and learn once I finally accepted my diagnosis. I started reading a lot, and listening to this podcast and learned that I seriously struggle with ROCD. Through that I got to patch things up with my boyfriend and explain to him what I was dealing with and how that was greatly hurting me. Thankfully, he is the most understanding and patient person in the world, and goes to great lengths to understand my brain better every day.
Recovery is an ongoing process for me. I am learning that recovery is an active word. It isn’t just something I can say I’m working toward, but really I’m just living my life the same as before. I am going to therapy and starting ERP for the first time, (excited and nervous) and am currently on medication, which has been a huge help. Some things I have tried to make a part of my daily routine, which help my brain tremendously, are exercise and meditation (for me it’s prayer.) Some days I do it, and some I don’t. On those off days, I have to seriously practice having grace for myself. I am the first person to dig myself into a mental hole over not working hard enough for recovery. But I have found so much freedom in actually educating myself on my own brain, and I think that might be the biggest thing that has helped me grow so far. I have to constantly check and make sure I’m not googling for reassurance, but that I am seeking knowledge to help myself better understand the monster that is OCD.
My biggest advice to someone with ROCD, is to keep on going. Personally, the best thing I could do for myself when I get in those low valleys of thoughts, is to not change anything. Do not make any huge life altering decisions based on an obsession. Do not go break up with your partner, or write off your friends, or anything in that realm. Try your best to sit in the un-comfort. Be anxious. Breathe, and then live your life the way YOU want. You have the power to make choices. Don’t let your OCD choose for you.
My biggest “a-ha” moment, was when I realized that all growth is growth. Some days I feel like I am running up a hill and can’t breathe, and that I’m probably going to fall down and have to start over. But other days, I feel like I’m on a nice jog in 65- degree weather. It can be so hard. But it can also be easy. Regardless of the day, I am growing. I had to start being more gentle with myself, and when I did, I felt the ability to breathe so much easier.
You are growing, and you are more capable than you think right now. Be gentle with yourself. Practice grace.
Keep on going, you’re all heroes to me.