I’ve had this sat in my drafts now for two years. Yep, two whole years. I don’t know why, but after I wrote about my OCD experience, I felt like maybe it wasn’t something I should put out there. You know, on the big world wide web for everyone to read. For everyone to associate with me. Forever. In-person, I’ve always been really open about it, but something worried me about putting it here.
Over the past two years, I’ve become even more open and vocal. Our mental health does make us who we are, and I believe it makes us stronger human beings. We shouldn’t be ashamed to talk about it! Speak up. Especially now, it’s really important we do open up and discuss how we’re feeling during this strange and uncertain time. Mental Health is so important, and I want everyone to feel as though they can be open and share. So, finally, here’s my experience with OCD…
OCD has become a bit of a buzz word. Something people use if they’re a little anal about something. If something has to be just so. I’ve quite often heard others referring to it as “I’m a little OCD about that”.
I’m actually ok with people using it in this way and understand why people do this. It’s a societal thing. Something of the now. Something which has become so normalised in a world where mental health is just starting to be properly spoken about. It’s ok. But it’s not everyone’s experience with OCD.
OCD can be life-changing. It can keep taking and taking. About two and half years ago now, I came to realise that.
OCD, otherwise known as obsessive compulsive disorder, is just that. It’s a worry problem, which stems from a certain belief and is maintained by numerous behaviours. This includes the attention we pay to it, meaning we give it, our emotions, safety behaviours, neutralizing and reassurance seeking. Basically, everything one does to ‘help’ the problem, feeds the problem.
The more you feed it, the more it takes, as the behaviours don’t feel enough, the doubt in your memory or ability deepens and reassurance feels insincere and forced. It’s a bully. A horrible, controlling bully.
I’ve always checked things numerous times. It’s been a part of me since I was little. I remember never letting my sister have the window in our shared bedroom wide open in summer through fear of someone coming in through it and needing to make sure all plugs were off through fear of fire.
But in September of 2017, when I went through a really stressful time, I hit rock bottom.
Not many on the outside would have been able to tell, as I tried to keep it under wraps from the world. But my checking OCD got out of hand;
- It was taking me over half an hour to leave the house or go to bed due to routines. I even had to video call my mum a few times to walk through it with me
- I broke down on numerous occasions when I couldn’t bring myself to move away from certain objects I obsessively checked
- Alcohol was pretty much a no go through worry I wouldn’t be able to do rituals or lock up ok. Several times I just sat by the front door unable to leave it
- I avoided certain social situations due to this
- Relationships were jeopardized
I used to be so ashamed to talk about it, other than to my closest friends, in case I’d be judged, considered broken or a liability to work with. In fact, one friend who I considered one of the closest, and whom studied psychology and CBT did judge. She accused me of making excuses for not being able to go to her hen weekend away. At that point I couldn’t face it (the drinking and being away in the middle of nowhere). Our friendship came to a horrible end, right before the first day at a new job which wasn’t ideal.
When you feel so hopeless and always so anxious, mood can be hit and you’re left unable to think of where to go or how it can get better. But it can.
This time two years ago, I finished 3 months of CBT with iCope, the Islington & Kingston based mental health service on the NHS. For 12 weeks I had an hourly session, where we discussed OCD, what keeps it going, responsibility (I feel over-responsible which is at the stem of my OCD), and moving forward, as well as doing plenty of experiments to push back against the bully in between sessions. My therapist had me doing things I never would have thought possible, from leaving the house with the oven on through to not even entering rooms before I leave in the morning.
It’s a battle, and I’m still working on it – albeit at a much smaller scale.
Support is key if you’re dealing with something like this too.
Talk to those closest to you. Get help if needed or even try to self-help – Break Free from OCD by Dr. Fiona Challacombe and Dr. Victoria Bream Oldfield is a fab book which we cited many times during my sessions. You can do it. It is possible. I’m not going to say it’s easy, because it isn’t. But compared to the life you could live if you don’t hit back, it’s totally worth it.
I definitely saw the benefits after the sessions and I came away with an arsenal of tools to keep pushing and ensure I don’t go backwards. These I have certainly called on over the last two years, as OCD doesn’t just disappear. There are always going to be good days and bad days – but bad days might be nowhere near the level of ‘bad days’ you had before. It’s vital to remember however, my OCD experience will differ to others, and it’s key to get the help and support you need so you can fight it too.
But I couldn’t have done any of this without the support of family. I couldn’t continue to fight this without talking to, and being supported by Chris either.
You’ll never be free of worry, that’s a normal human instinct which comes in handy at times (keeps us safe), but you can get it back to a controllable level and manage how you perceive and react to anxiety.
iCope really helped me to see the alternative way of living, provided plenty of support to get started on my journey (it’s by no means over yet but I hit a number of long-term goals before I thought I would), and made me feel way more confident about talking about it. Along with my colleagues at the time who were super supportive of everything I was going through.
Put yourself first…
Ignore anyone who judges, ignore those who don’t understand (unless they’re trying so hard to), and put yourself first. Be selfish. Build a support system of all those who are there for you no matter what (it doesn’t need to be huge). And go for that bully. Who knows where you could be this time 6 months into the future. We totally got this!
Due to my OCD experience, I actually did my Mental Health First Aider certificate last year, to help as many others as possible too. To be able to provide support and send them in the right direction for additional help. If you want to chat but don’t want to post a publicly visible comment, feel free to drop me an email [lashesoflifestyle(at)gmail(dot)com] and I will reply 🙂