Battling mental illness can be exhausting, both mentally and physically. OCD symptoms can create a fatigue that seems impenetrable at times. Getting out of bed each day can feel like an insurmountable obstacle. When it does, we often dig deep, looking for a way to fight this invisible yet formidable adversary by ourselves, searching for the strength to get through the day without letting anyone see that we’re struggling.
The burden of OCD is something we might believe we have to carry alone, but the truth is that this belief will only leave us more frustrated and exhausted than before. The good news is that there’s a better way to take on OCD. Looking at your experiences through a new perspective can help you realize that you are strong enough to fight OCD—and you always have been.
The heavy burden of facing OCD alone
If you’ve struggled with OCD, you might be familiar with the sense of reaching for a mask each morning, afraid that the world will see your pain, your exhaustion, and your difficulty coping with the demands of everyday life. This sense of embarrassment—no, shame—can feel all-consuming. Nevertheless, we often tell ourselves that we have to keep going anyway.
Feeling this way is understandable and, sadly, all too common, given the stigma around OCD and other mental health concerns. It can seem like it’s better to just push through than to admit that you’re not okay. Attempting to muster up every ounce of our strength, we tell ourselves that we can fight this, that we can’t appear weak or out of control. We just have to will our way through. And that might work, for a while. But what happens when this approach inevitably fails?
Knowing that you have the tedious job of dealing with symptoms in secret ahead of you, the start of each day can bring on a sense of dread. Over time, the mental fatigue of hiding your struggles can leave you feeling more and more isolated, falsely believing that no one could possibly understand your plight. Questioning your strength and self-worth, you might wonder, “Do I even have what it takes to overcome this darkness I feel?” The answer is yes. You’ve always had what it takes, and changing how you view strength can help you realize that.
What it really means to be strong enough to battle OCD
Strength doesn’t have to mean keeping your pain, your exhaustion, or your loneliness to yourself. It’s time we stop believing that lie. Strength comes in many forms, and what it looks like for you depends on how you define it. There are so many people who don’t open up about their struggles, especially when it comes to mental health concerns like OCD, but the idea that being vulnerable is something to be looked down on holds all of us back.
Every time you choose to be vulnerable, to be honest, to allow yourself to ask for help when you need it, you’re doing something brave. You’re showing an important form of strength and helping to dismantle the shame felt by so many people living with OCD and other mental health conditions. It’s perfectly fine to not be okay and to seek support for what you’re experiencing.
I know that at first, this can feel difficult to accept, so I want to share an idea that’s been a powerful help in my own recovery: Feelings catch up to our behaviors. In other words, what we choose to do matters. Even if you don’t feel “strong,” you can still push back against OCD by making choices that show yourself kindness and support your recovery.
And when we act in a way that makes us feel strong, eventually, our feelings catch up. It’s the same idea as choosing courage over fear—the more we do it, the less afraid we feel. Realizing your strength will be a process. Your progress is unique, and shouldn’t be compared to anyone else’s. As you practice redefining what it means for you to be strong, recognize that each step forward is a step in the right direction, and that every seemingly small victory along the way deserves celebrating.
You are so much stronger than you think
If you’re struggling with OCD, it’s vital to remember that you’re not alone, and you don’t have to fight this battle on your own. There is hope. OCD is treatable and there is a whole community of people with similar experiences to yours. You can learn to manage feelings of isolation and loneliness and live a fulfilling life based on your values, not what OCD wants for you.
Exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy can help with this. ERP is the gold-standard treatment for OCD—an evidence-based, highly effective form of therapy for managing symptoms and decreasing the distress you feel. ERP is most effective with the guidance of a therapist who specializes in OCD, and is trained to treat it with ERP. At NOCD, every one of our therapists is a specialty-trained, qualified, and licensed OCD specialist. They’ll guide, support, and motivate you to achieve your goals, showing you empathy and compassion, and more importantly, teaching you to be kinder and gentler with yourself.
If you have any questions about starting ERP therapy or need more information about the treatment, please don’t hesitate to book a free 15-minute call with our care team. On the call, we’ll assist you in getting started with a licensed therapist at NOCD who has specialty training in OCD and ERP, or connect you to other resources that might be helpful.