OCMe – By @Holly_Georgious
By Holly Georgious
I have OCD. Not flicking the light switch ten times, get your pens in a line, turn around touch the ground, hop on one foot and then carry on with your day type of OCD. Maybe when I was little it was, but as with everything in life when we grow, we evolve and now my compulsions live inside my head.
It has taken me a while to be open about it and I’m not entirely sure why. I’m open about having anxiety, struggling with bouts of depression and having had eating disorders. In all other aspects I see myself as a poster girl for mental health, an advocate for those in similar positions, but when it comes to OCD I am a closed book.
Maybe it is because OCD paints a picture of someone who is crazy, someone who spends hours painstakingly colour coding their wardrobe, alphabetising their bookshelf and manically washing their hands till they are raw and seeping. Maybe it’s because it’s misunderstood and stigmatised, with people thinking it takes form mainly in pen clicking and room bleaching. Maybe it’s because everyone thinks they have it, a day doesn’t rarely go by without hearing someone remarking: ‘I’m so OCD…’ and maybe, just maybe, it is because it is viewed, publicly (not medically) as a joke. A habit. A funny quirk that just adds to your character.
The truth is I think it was because I was ashamed of it. That I know it is illogical and stupid and it makes no sense, and yet I am a slave to it anyway. I think I thought that if I explained what was truly in my head people would think I was crazy, weird, dangerous, unhinged, disgusting, criminal, scary, horrible, awful and generally just messed up.
Because my OCD, pure OCD, (despite being the most common) is the least talked about.
My OCD is not funny, it’s not quirky and its definitely not a joke. It is one of the most torturous and agonizing things ever to exist in people’s heads. Anxiety is suffocating, depression is debilitating and OCD is tortuous.
It is worth mentioning that we all have OCD tendencies to an extent, whether you line up your shoes in a particular order, spend time thinking of the worst case situation, so you’re ready in case it ever happens, or you whether you just wear your lucky pants on exam day. But this doesn’t mean you have OCD. It is only when it interferers with your day to day life that it really becomes a problem.
My OCD works in two ways:
- The easier part.
Calling part one easy is misleading. Make no mistake, it is not in any way shape or form easy to control BUT it is 1000 times easier than part two, so for the sake of explanation we will call it the easy part.
This is the part that I know sounds stupid, so I will try and explain it in a way that may make sense:
I guess the easiest way to understand it is to start with the obvious and say, the world is a weird and wonderful place. There are things in life you can control, like losing weight, changing your appearance, gaining a new skill and achieving your goals. And there are things you cannot. You cannot control the weather. You cannot control earthquakes, cancer, bombs, aeroplane crashes, sexual abuse or murder. And that. That ability not to control some of the worst things that life could throw at me. That is the part 1 of the problem.
I love my family. I love my family. I love my friends and to an extent I love my self. I have a mum who is my best friend, who loves me more than I ever could myself, who puts up with my ‘fruit loop’ tendencies (as she calls them). Who calms me down and who holds me so tight that even if I wanted to I couldn’t let go. I have a dad, who is caring, who is loving, who is generous and kind. Who makes me laugh, who calms me down, who makes me feel peaceful. I have brothers who are patient, who are funny, who are sometimes annoying, but, mostly they are sweet, loving and understanding. And I love them. I love them all. I love them so much.
Now imagine something bad happening to them, something you cannot really control. And you can see it happening in your head. You can see your mum’s body lying limp in the middle of the road. You can see your brother’s braindead, lying in a hospital bed, dribble rolling from their mouth. You can hear your dad flat lining and the doctors scrabbling around, trying to resuscitate him. You can see it all, so vividly you can feel it. You feel your heart being ripped out and stamped on, you feel the crying that you never think will stop. You feel the numbness. The nothingness.
You feel it and see it and hear it to such an extent that part of you, no matter how illogical and impossible it is, part of you believes that because you thought it, because you saw it, in your head, it might come true. And therefore, no matter how stupid it sounds (and I am aware it does sound stupid) that the only want to control it, to stop it from happening, is to re think it, but with a positive outcome. And to do this without any of the past negative thought creeping in.
You are in a sense controlling the universe via your thoughts, fully in the knowledge that that this will almost certainly make zero to no difference, but that’s not a risk I am willing to take, so I do it anyway.
I have often wondered whether if had a different relationship with my family and I hated them, whether I would still be effected by this aspect of OCD, and honestly I do not know. Maybe it is the price I pay for being happy. Because the happier I get, the more I have to lose. The more I have to lose, the more that could go wrong.
- The hard part
I need to start this part with a caveat, because if I don’t, I am not sure if I can write it. In our lives we will all experience ‘intrusive thoughts.’ These are thoughts or images in your head that are unwanted and that you find distressing and or disturbing. They are random. They are meaningless. They are stupid. And most importantly they are just thoughts. Our brains fire off millions of different thoughts throughout the day and some of them, a very small percentage, will be (a less technical term) dodgy. You might think about hurting someone, you might think about hurting yourself, you may think about something inappropriate, something illegal, some wrong. You may even think about something sexual, something violent, or something abusive. Whatever it is, whatever weird intrusive thought it is, you brush it off, acknowledge it for what it is, weird and random and then you carry on with your day, without giving It another thought. You accept it as ridiculous and forget about it. Some people may pay such little attention to it that they do not even realise they had it. Those people, in my eyes, are the lucky ones.
But where someone else may brush it off and forget about it, I cling on to it. I worry about it. I try and make sense of something that really makes no sense, something that is truly meaningless. I worry about why I thought it, what that means, does that I mean I want to do that thing? Does it mean I will do that thing? Does it mean I am an awful person? A freak? Does it mean I am a criminal? Will anyone love me if they knew? Will I be locked up if I told someone? Do I deserve to be locked up because I thought it? Does thinking it mean it will happen? Do I need to tell someone to protect everyone? Do I need to keep it in to protect myself? Is the fact that I don’t want it to happen enough or will my mind betray me and make it happen anyway?
You have a constant battle with your head. And the battle is made worse by your constant state of anxiety. You see people with OCD will never act on what is in their head. They will never carry out the intrusive thoughts. They are the least likely to do anything of that nature. In fact, they are even less likely than you, the reader (unless you to have OCD), to ever commit those kinds of crimes.
Because if you have OCD your intrusive thoughts are the things that disgust you the most, that distress you the most, that will upset you the most. OCD picks the things that you will never do in the knowledge it will upset you. It grows with your anxiety and fear because without it you wouldn’t do something to get rid of it and therefore it cannot live.
It is a disorder that prays on the kind.
For me OCD is all about neutralising. I have a bad thought about doing a bad thing and neutralise it by thinking of the opposite scenario. So , if my thought is walking down the stairs and going In to someone’s room and hurting them, my neutralising thought would be walking down the stairs with the intention of doing a similar thing, but instead of going in to a room and hurting someone, I would imagine walking past the room, going somewhere where I can be alone and not doing whatever horrible thing I imagined doing in the first one.
When I have a horrible thought, it makes me feel anxious and scared I can’t get it out of my head. To get it out I think of the opposite thing happening and then try and calm down.
But to make things harder OCD thrives on emotions. If I’m stressed, if I’m tired, if I’m anxious, I am more likely to have an intrusive thought. This, in turn, makes me anxious and stressed. Intrusive thoughts make you feel like you’re going crazy, like you’re going to snap and do it (which you won’t, the worst that happens is you’ll have a panic attack). The thoughts disgust you so much that you do everything you can to avoid them, so you start to panic about the idea that you might have a thought that is going to make you panic.
I have had times in my life where I was so anxious so paralysed by these thoughts that I couldn’t function. I couldn’t listen to music or put on the TV. I needed something loud to drown the noise out but everything triggered them. I couldn’t get dressed, I couldn’t sleep, but I was exhausted. I couldn’t walk to the end of my road to go to the doctors. I couldn’t talk but I couldn’t stand silence. I didn’t want to be sociable, but I didn’t want to be alone. I was… I was… I don’t even know what I was. But I know what I wasn’t and that was me.
All of this because of a meaningless thought that everyone else ignores.