I don’t wash my hands a hundred times a day. I don’t clean obsessively, or need things to be “just right”. I don’t count numbers, or switch light switches on and off. But I have OCD. Dear old OCD has been with me for a quite some time, and is always finding new ways to terrify me. Thanks again for that OCD.
For me, my OCD is mostly around intrusive thoughts and reassurance seeking. I remember my first intrusive thought, when I was just 9 years old, I couldn’t fall asleep, because I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was suffocating my dog with the blanket. I keep looking and checking on her, until I was certain it was off her and she could breathe. I felt if I didn’t keep checking, she would die, and it would all be my fault.
As I grew older, my GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) and OCD symptoms grew larger and larger until they overflowed, and my parents knew it was time to take me to a therapist. My intrusive thoughts, or “bad thoughts” as I called them, revolved mostly around hurting myself, or killing myself. I was terrified that I would somehow manage to kill myself, and that because I thought that, it was going to happen. I avoided the kitchen, and couldn’t do anything dangerous in fear it would be me trying to commit suicide.
Let me make it clear that I was not going to do these things, but this is the nature of OCD, to make you doubt, doubt, doubt, fear the worst things, think the worst most “blasphemous” thoughts. Everytime I heard the word suicide, alarm bells, no freaking air raids go off in my head. I went into full panic. I write “were” because it used to be much worse. Although, this is still something I experience on a daily basis, it is much better than before.
I felt (and still ) feel alone, because it is so hard to explain these thoughts to others besides my mom and therapist. I would apologize obsessively, ask for reassurance, and admit all my “sins” (these were usually “possibly maybe I might of done that therefore I am an horrible homicidal villain” sort of things, where in my mind I globalized everything completely)
I had health class this year, and after each class, I would come out on the verge of panic, convinced I had every disease we learned about. One day, we learned about skin cancer, and I was too afraid to go outside for recess. People laughed. They didn’t understand. Understand how much anxiety I went through on a daily basis.
Eventually, I went to my guidance counselor at my school, and she helped me get a 504 plan for my school. During the particularly hard classes, I was allowed to stay in her office and read instead. It really helped. Talking to people. Coming “out”.
Author’s drawing. Comic meaning: It’s about taking the anxiety/OCD thoughts in your mind, and using them to help escape the castle of your mind.
My OCD thoughts change with my age, but the harm one is the most consistent, as I entered my teenage years, they also change to terrifying sexual ones too, and I struggle with thoughts of “am I gay” or “am I straight?”. I would and still do fall into obsessive circles where I google symptoms of disease I think I have, or research OCD and my thoughts, looking for that one sentence that would fix everything. It didn’t exist. What I did discover though, were others’ stories, showing me that I was not crazy, not alone.
In therapy, I started doing ERP, where I would have to sing the word suicide over and over again. Face my fears. It was/is really hard. But as I did it more and more often, it became a little easier.
One day, I was feeling particularly anxious about the “bad thought” after a therapy session, and my therapist suggested I sing the word suicide all the way back home.
Once I got in the car, my mom said, “we certainly live a very interesting life” and we started laughing.
The treatment for OCD and anxiety is so weird and crazy, but it does work, even when it’s really really hard. I know.
Anyone with OCD can relate to the anger experienced when mental health is talked about in the media. The comments of “I’m so OCD” edge at us throughout the day. I find myself in an impossible situation, where I want to yell at them and explain that they are not so OCD, that it’s a serious mental condition, but I can’t without revealing my secret. Still, I’ve started wearing a pin for mental health awareness.
I am still experimenting, recovering, figuring out what medicine works best, what lifestyle, which people, but I am better than I was. When I read your stories I feel better. Less alone.
As for what helped me:
ART- ART SAVED MY LIFE. I am very different, highly sensitive, and don’t really fit with everyone else at my school; I read instead of playing, I fight demons in my head, I am not “in” on pop culture. I use all my struggles and turn it into art. I draw and write comics about my anxiety and OCD. I write, when I get stuck in a loop, I just write and write and write, until I have captured it onto a page. Until, it is a tangible thing that I can destroy, and if not destroy, befriend.
READING- Books help me get lost, and escape the hectic world that we live in. Certain books that really helped me, are books with characters who are like me. Turtles all the way down by John Green is a must read for anyone who struggles with anxiety or OCD, and also poetry. Mary Oliver. Walt Whitman. Thoreau. Read all you can!
SEEK HELP- Talking to a therapist really helps.
MAKE FRIENDS WITH PEOPLE WHO UNDERSTAND- I am very introverted, and antisocial, but I have still managed to make a small group of friends, who love me, support me, and understand. I have friends that don’t judge me when I need to hide in the bathroom during parties, and that listen to my struggles when I know I sound quite crazy. They make me real.
MEDICINE- I am still trying to find the medicine that works best for me, but it really helps, and I highly recommend you look into it.
NATURE- Trees are the best friends I’ve ever had. (Nature in general really calms us down. It creates a safe space. I dare you to find a tree, or a pond, or even a patch of grass, to call your own).
My thoughts still consume me, and I know OCD & anxiety are both things I will always live with, but I know now that it’s manageable. And it’s getting better each day. I may still be stuck in a dark box, but there’s a crack, and I’ve seen the light. I know there is always hope. Always, always, always.