I’ve started to realize I shouldn’t take these feelings and thoughts as gospel.
With OCD, certain questions and doubts can become addicted to answers, creating even more questions and doubts. Answering is like tossing water on a grease fire. It’s a paradoxical and insidious disorder.
When I was younger, I’d spin in specific circles as if a string were wrapped around me. Working in tandem with my tics, my mind would repeatedly flip and spin imaginary metal contraptions until they fit together correctly. I’d lick my hand whenever it brushed up against someone, and even worse, I would actually consider this my own form of hoarding other people’s germs (Yeah, I know how weird that one is). I’d spend hours and then years wondering and checking to see if my lips were resting strangely or my arms were too thin or my jaw were too weak.
I’d also repeatedly rest my fingertips in the edges of my eye sockets and pull at my jaw and press my temples because I feared and questioned how vulnerable the human face was and whether I actually wanted to pull mine apart. I’d routinely check my thoughts to see if I were capable of incest or pedophilia or murder. I’d picture my own death quite literally a thousand times a day.
My experience with OCD has been long and bizarre and even debilitating, and the list of obsessions and compulsions I’ve had is endless. I’ve gone through almost every subset apart from pop culture’s stock representation of OCD as a “cleaning disorder” (I’m filthy). Some have been temporary and some have stayed with me to this day, but they all come from the same place. I avoided getting help because it all felt too strange to put into words.
Then a few months ago, I started chipping away rock bottom with a jackhammer.
I held a kangaroo court for myself and concluded – without any evidence or any accusations from other people – that I was rapist. But since I felt such extreme doubt, I had to gain certainty. So I began to sift through every false or foggy memory of every sexual initiation and every touch and every thrust, and ask and ask and ask. I’d initiate deeply uncomfortable and intimate conversations. I’d research. And while I still had no logical evidence, I did have a terrible feeling.
My brain was overwhelmed with doubt and guilt and hopelessness. I lost weight and I’d sleep so erratically that I’d lost the boundaries between days – like removing the periods between sentences – and when I was awake, I did nothing but sit and think in circles. Sometimes I’d feel a bit better and recognize how my brain worked.
But then I’d answer that question just one more time, just to really make sure.
Sometimes I’d ask a slightly different question. But then I’d ask another and another. What if I’m just making myself seem better than I really am? I’m flawed in a few different ways, so who’s to say I’m not even worse than I think? If it’s taken up this much of my time, there must be some merit to my fears, right? Do I actually have OCD? And then I’d try and answer those questions. Those were the worst few months of my life.
This is when I finally got help. But in my desperation, I stumbled at first. I sought immediate professional help from anyone that would reassure me on each and every question. I needed an outsider’s point of view. Though this helped in the short term, it was not the right way to go about things. I spent a few sessions with a solid counselor – an affable guy and avid concertgoer with dozens of ticket stubs pinned up in his office – but I felt his area of expertise wasn’t tailored to my situation, so I decided to move on. I did some more research on cognitive behavioral therapy, and the next week found my current therapist. It’s the best fit I could have asked for, and with her help, I am getting significantly better. I’ve also had amazing support from my girlfriend, family, and friends. I’ve (repeatedly) asked some bizarre questions, and everyone close to me has been extremely patient.
Part of my recovery process has involved daily meditation, which has worked wonders for the way my mind functions and the way I breathe. I’d say it’s been life-changing. Also, if you have a smartphone, I highly recommend the free Insight Timer app. Moreover, I get my exercise (and some peace of mind) by shooting a basketball around for at least a half hour every day.
I also read up on OCD. Books such as The Man Who Couldn’t Stop by David Adam and The Mindfulness Workbook for OCD: A Guide to Overcoming Obsessions and Compulsions Using Mindfulness and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy by Jon Hershfield and Tom Corboy have helped me tremendously. Online communities (such as this one!) have made this strange disorder feel less lonely. Mark Freeman’s videos are also helpful and entertaining. But be careful with researching and reading about OCD too much because at times it turned into a compulsion for me.
I’m also on Prozac now. I’m not a professional, and I know some people have an aversion to pills and/or sometimes medicine just doesn’t work. Regardless, everyone’s path is different, and some people unfortunately might not have the resources to take certain paths.
I finally feel great. I still have a long way to go and I still have my bad days, but I’ve started to realize I shouldn’t take these feelings and thoughts as gospel. As we all know, it comes down to living with the uncertainty and starving those questions and doubts while living in the present.
Good luck, everyone! I believe in all of you.
“Tarifa” – Sharon Van Etten
“Just Let Go” – Sturgill Simpson