The Realities of Having OCD No One Tells You About
And it’s not about being neat.
OCD AKA Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a disorder with two concepts: obsessions and compulsions. Both of these things together go hand in hand and control your life. I was diagnosed when I was 18 but I’ve been living with OCD since I was just five years old. Living with OCD isn’t easy; my life revolves around my thoughts and how I have to act on them. I live my life trying to protect my loved ones by performing rituals that my OCD tells me I have to do. Over the years, OCD has been labelled the “neat illness” or the “cute illness”. This is far from the truth. OCD isn’t about being neat and it’s far from being cute. It’s depressing, a bully and it leads to other conditions such as depression, panic attacks and self harm. It’s not something that can be shut off, nor can it be pushed aside.
A day for me with OCD is long, tiring and hard. It kicks off with my OCD reminding me of everything that’s been worrying me. This instantly puts me in a low mood and makes me anxious. I battle with thoughts like, “what if you’re a bad person” and try to push through with my morning. Whilst choosing my clothes my OCD shows up again, “if you wear that something bad will happen” or “wear that top then everything will be okay”. In the end, I’m left wearing something to stop bad things happening and most likely, something I wouldn’t have picked for the day - like a T-shirt in winter...
Throughout the day I have to touch things in a way that feels right. I’ll change the way I hold my mug or have to put it down and pick it up again. The thoughts are fast and doing what they ask lowers my anxiety, but it’s only a small period of time before they return again. There’s no let up with OCD! I do all of these things in 4’s because that number is lucky and I believe that it will protect me and my loved ones.
I have to wear a Harry Potter sock on my right foot everyday. It feels right to me and my OCD has made me believe that it will stop any bad things from happening. I’ll spend ages looking for one and in a few cases I have worn a wet one fresh out of the wash because if I don’t I know I won’t be able to have a nice day out of fear. It doesn’t matter how I get this sock, even if it takes hours to find one… Because either way, I have to wear it. I‘ve bought numerous packs so I always have one on hand now!
I can’t watch many TV shows because I‘ll start obsessing about what happens. If I watch something about a murder for instance, my OCD will attach itself and start saying things like, “what If I kill someone”. I can’t push these thoughts aside so I end up having arguments with myself… But the OCD always wins. I suffer from images with my OCD so I can actually visualise these things happening. Because these images appear so real, I end up attaching a meaning to them, which makes me believe these things have happened or that they will do in the future. I constantly seek reassurance over my thoughts in order to prove I’m not an evil person. Again this helps, but only for a short time — and then I’m back to obsessing about something I won’t ever do!
Leaving the house can take a long time. I have to make sure everything is off again (and again and again). I have to look at everything, push all the buttons and even when I know everything’s off the thoughts start to creep in again, “are you sure…” Once again, I’ll go around checking plugs that are all already off. I hardly use my hair straighteners now because of all the rituals that surround them. It got to the point where my OCD was making me forget I had unplugged them and left me with images that they were on and lying on the bed. I have to perform a ritual prayer as I leave the house and it’s been the same one for years. I have to make sure I say everything I need to be protected and then I can feel safe. When I’m out and my anxiety starts to rise, I have to recite it again to combat thoughts of the house being on fire or a burglary happening.
I also suffer from Emetophobia, a fear of sick — and my OCD has attached itself to this too. When I’m out to eat I’m plagued by thoughts of sick and being sick. I will then have thoughts that my food is contaminated or my hands were. Meals out always end up with me in a panic about being sick along with the OCD making it worse along the way. I have to plan everything when I’m going out and know what I’m eating and drinking to help the anxiety. Simply put, I’m being controlled over what I can and can’t eat because of those words: what if.
Another part of my OCD is known as Pure O. This is where the compulsions are all in my head. I will have to repeat things over and over or sing a song. Images that I don’t want flood my mind and then when I question them I’m met with thoughts of “you want to think these things” I find this part harder than the rest as there really is no let up and sometimes I’m just left with intrusive thoughts with no compulsion.
My OCD changes on a daily basis. I find that it hits me harder on some days and that’s when I take my medication. On others, I just carry on with what it asks and I argue with it. The guilt of living with OCD is hard to deal with. I know I have OCD and I do these things because of it but I still feel bad for having these thoughts. Over the years, my OCD has taken many forms and made me obsess about lots of different things. I spend everyday fighting it the best I can trying not to give in to it’s demands… But sometimes it gets too much and you do what it wants.
OCD is such a misunderstood condition. It takes so many different forms and you can’t stop the thoughts. There’s no easy way out of OCD and there’s no off button. It’s not about liking things clean or in order. People with OCD do these things but not because they like it but rather because they have to because of their thoughts and compulsions.
If you think you are suffering with OCD or someone you know is please talk. There is nothing to be scared of and talking about what’s going on can help you gain some understanding. There are many talking therapies and medications that can help. OCD is nothing to be ashamed of, no matter what it tells you.
You can follow Stacey’s journey on her blog: www.fixmeinfortyfive.com
If you’re looking for someone to talk to, www.timewith.co.uk is a service dedicated to helping people reach the right therapist.