The answer to the title of this blog is yes, my perspective has changed. Although my blog is the anxious perspective, I have come to recognize that I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Now, you might be shaking your head in confusion because I’ve made it clear that I have OCD, but what I didn’t realize was that, OCD is my main diagnosis. For years I’ve been sure that I had severe anxiety disorder, but after reading a book called “Brain Lock” By: Jeffrey M. Schwartz, I have come to realize that my severe anxiety is a result of my OCD.
Now, why am I telling you this? Because in the book it talks about how being honest with yourself is the first step to recovery. I’ve been on this journey of recovery for 2 years and at this point I can tell you what not to do for your recovery. People say that you learn from your mistakes and I believe that 100%. I wouldn’t say the last 2 years was a waste but I definitely wish I would have come to this conclusion earlier, before I allowed people to make light of my mental illness. Most people, at least the ones that I know truly care about me, know that I am a good and genuine person. But unfortunately, there are some who don’t understand what mental illness is really like, especially an illness that is a little more high functioning than some.
You see, some forms of OCD, is hard to see. The cliché is that OCD is being picky or having to have things extremely clean. Which is why I never thought of myself having it. But it is SO much more than that. It can be obsessive behavior, obsessive compulsions and obsessive thoughts. When I was diagnosed, my doctor diagnosed me based off of the constant horrible thoughts that I have, that rotate. I’m going to be real with you… I used to have thoughts of harming myself or others with knifes or any sharp object, I use to be afraid of ropes and bathroom cleaners. The tiniest object would make my mind go into the darkest of places, sometimes it still happens and the images that I see in my mind are so clear and so scary and they feel so real.
2 years ago, when I first found out about this and I went off all my meds to clear my system to see what I needed. I’m not even being dramatic when I say that I was in pure Hell. I have never felt so alone and so
mentally, physically, and spiritually defeated in my life. I never truly understood depression until I couldn’t even get out of bed to shower. It was a struggle to even walk to the bathroom. I remember hunching over with my head against the shower wall, taking less than 2-minute showers. I remember having panic attacks if my parents drove to the store and back without me. And to be honest I still struggle with that sometimes. It’s completely embarrassing to realize that I am on the verge of turning 26 and still need my mom to drive me to the doctors and to school. But the truth is I have a legitimate mental illness.
People with OCD tend to come off as ‘fakers’ or ‘trying to get attention’ because it doesn’t effect our brains ability to learn. (At least in my situation; I totally understand each situation is different) I know that my obsessive thoughts aren’t real, I know that I am being irrational. And because of it, people think that I am choosing to be like this. I have been able to get a driver’s license and go through school and even get certified in different things. It looks like I am a capable and functioning adult… on the outside. But inside I am fighting a battle in my head on a daily basis of ‘I need to do this so that this doesn’t happen.’ Which is ‘I need to do this compulsion to prevent this bad thing from happening.’ Sometimes my compulsions are simple like checking to see if the door is locked or making sure my phones on silent. Other times it’s more severe like if I don’t hold on to the cart or onto my mom I’m going to fall and embarrass myself in front of the entire store. Another one of mine is, I can’t be alone because if I’m alone bad things are going to happen.
Because of these compulsions I then bring people into my problems to try and escape mine. A lot of the time it’s my parents, siblings and my closest friends that get dragged in. After I complete these compulsions, I feel okay for a little bit but then the guilt comes. I then realize that I am 26 and still can’t leave my mom’s side; which is completely irrational since I’ve moved out before and have done it. I end up ruining friendships because I become so obsessive that it can be overwhelming for people. After I see that happen, I figure it’s easier to stay in my room because I don’t want to be that person.
When people find out about my earlier adult years between the ages of 18-23, it then becomes the question of, “Well, how come you can’t do what you did 3 years ago?” I have wondered that myself. In fact, I’ve thought about that so much so that I have wondered why I kept trying and still couldn’t grasp being independent. I had no idea it was in issue until I lived on my own. When I came home early from my mission, I thought it was just a severe case of anxiety. I did the therapy thing and went to hair school. I struggled but I was driving myself and being decently independent. After I moved out I did alright for a few months but then things started hitting me. I started struggling at my job and started getting depressed. I’ve learned a few things since then about why I did alright and started to struggle.
First, mental illness doesn’t fully develop until your early twenties, so even though I had some reoccurring thoughts or small obsessions, I thought it was just me; just my quirks. Second, mental illness gets worse with more stress. After moving out on my own I had to always be by myself. If I wanted to socialize, I had to leave the house. If I wanted dinner, I had to make it. If I didn’t get to work, I didn’t have money for rent. Everything became my responsibility and I got overwhelmed. As this happened, I started developing compulsions, as I write this there are two specific compulsions I remembered having. The first is extremely irrational and sounds silly as I type it. My obsessive thought was that I had to eat enough protein before work, so I had enough energy for my shift. I would have a full can of chili with 2-3 slices of bread to ensure that would happen. If I didn’t have chili, I would have to go get a 10-piece chicken nugget meal from Wendy’s. If I couldn’t do that, I would struggle, feeling like I didn’t have energy. The other was that I had to have the toaster out every morning. This was after I got a receptionist job and had to be to work at 9 every morning. I would wake up, get dressed and make two scrambled eggs in my little red frying pan and make two pieces of butter toast and eat in on the drive to work. When my roommate started putting my toaster away at night and I would get so mad. It was so silly but I panicked if I woke up and my toaster was out of place.
Every time I act on a compulsion, I end up getting another one. I kid you not, as I am revising this blog post I have remembered at least 3 more compulsions I had while living on my own. Always needing peanut butter and apples at 10am, having to pack one extra lunchable just in case and having to call my mom every day when I got home so she knew I was safe and if for some reason I left again I’d call her again. The book describes compulsions as a tumble weed, the more it moves the bigger it gets; you can also think of it as a snowball. So, something as simple as ‘I wore these shoes and fell’ can become ‘I have to throw these perfectly good pair of shoes out so that I never fall.’
I posted last week about the car crash that happened. Today before I went to the store I was getting dressed and looked at that shirt and thought, ‘I can’t wear that shirt, we crashed last week and I was wearing that shirt, I can only wear that at home now’. I pushed myself to wear it and surprise, I’m okay. It seems so silly, but because of a chemical imbalance in my brain it is so real to me. It took me over two years to drink hot chocolate after I fell while drinking hot chocolate. It wasn’t the hot chocolate that made me fall, it was the swine flu that I didn’t know I had, but it took me over 2 years to drink hot chocolate again.
Why I am being so vulnerable about all this with you? Because I want you to know that if you struggle with this, you are NOT alone. It’s also strangely therapeutic to type this out. I’m not sure who actually reads these blogs but it has become such an outlet for me. When I first found out about all this I would research about other people in my situation. I found a lot of negative stuff and read about the scary parts, but I want to show what my life’s been like, but also show the small positive things too. I am far from being able to control my compulsions. I’ll never fully recover because OCD is a chemical imbalance, I’m always going to have it, but I am set on using the 4 steps I am learning in this book and getting control of my life again. I have been beating myself up trying to make everyone happy that I just keep running from my problems instead of taking time to get them under control.
It’s not easy and I have a feeling that in the next few months it might get a lot harder because I am going to start not giving into compulsions, but I refuse to quit. I refuse to feel so much pain because of something I cannot control. You don’t go up to someone with tourettes syndrome and say ‘stop twitching’ (which is an example in the book). Because they can’t, it’s a chemical imbalance and OCD is the same. I get so sick and tired of hearing, ‘just don’t think about it’, ‘let it go’, ‘it’s not that big of a deal’. I can’t not think about it, I can’t let it go, and yes to me it is that big of a deal because my mind will not shut up. It’s called obsessive compulsive disorder for a reason. It’s real and I have it.