If my OCD had one saying that summed up why I feel the need to perform compulsions, it’s “are you sure you want to take the risk?” If my PTSD had one thing to say it’d be “OCD will save you. Trust it.” And my Panic Disorder was right there rooting them both on.
Finding out I had OCD
The moment I really knew and accepted that I had OCD was in my early twenties. I was watching a television show where a young girl was explaining that she felt as if she did certain things her parents would die because of her actions. Her dad broke down crying saying “imagine living with that kind of weight on your shoulders.”
I’ve had contamination-themed OCD since I was little. A family member touched my arm and I felt like I could feel the germs on me so I wiped it off. She was really offended by the action, and rightfully so. It’s the first real OCD moment I remember. Later, as a result of my experiences, magical thinking really came into play. My PTSD left me and my brain clinging to anything that would keep me from sustaining any more trauma. I had already been through so much. If I could do anything to keep the nightmares away, I would try. The flashbacks were persistent. The memories were at the forefront of my mind and then there were the repressed ones. The intrusive thoughts flooded my mind.
More and more time is spent on compulsions
At first, OCD started as a way to provide relief, a means to control things that were out of my control. But then it morphed into something that took over my life and does the opposite of soothing me. I was stuck on my compulsions for 15 minutes, then 30, then an hour. I was at the point where I was actively having an anxiety attack while doing the compulsions. I would become sweaty and my stomach would be churning as my fight or flight fully activated. I was stuck doing the compulsions over and over. The pressure and fear of the consequences of not doing something just the right way was a risk I felt that I couldn’t take.
Then it started morphing into this dangerous thinking pattern of “well it didn’t happen, see, there’s your proof.” With magical thinking OCD, as well as other OCD themes, you’re in such a delicate and vulnerable state.
You get so desperate, that you’re willing to believe the “proof.” There was a feigned sense of cause and effect, that because I did something “just right” I had avoided disaster. But the relief was a temporary feeling. I had to keep repeating the process. Until every action I took was a series of compulsions to negate my rumination. Until it led to destroying my ability to work and affected my ability to keep relationships with others. I sabotaged many relationships and OCD annihilated my confidence and unraveled my life to the point where I thought “this can’t be the rest of my life. I can’t do this for the rest of my life.” I knew I couldn’t do this alone. And though I did have people I could turn to, I’d always done my best to hide how much everything actually affected me.
The thought that closing a condiment lid or putting my feet through the legs of my pants could ruin my day, let alone my mood was difficult to explain to others. I was scared of changing how others viewed me. While I championed for others, I could barely control an invisible threat against me launched by my own mind that unsettled me. I spent half my time trying to lock away my OCD symptoms. I spent so much time lost in rumination and compulsions, trying to conceal it all from others.
No longer hiding
I’m tired of hiding. So here I am. Using NOCD I know that life is really just up to chance. There are decisions and actions that will naturally affect our lives. But at the end of the day, things could happen or they might not. Ultimately not everything is because of us.
The uncertainty is uncomfortable. It’s frightening. In some moments the silence of the uncertainty is deafening. Especially when the voice of OCD filled that silence for so long. But I’m learning that uncertainty isn’t a death sentence. My OCD is what felt like a death sentence.
My journey hasn’t been easy. It continues to be a struggle. I’m having to learn who I am apart from the OCD and learning to live my life without that false sense of control. With my therapist and NOCD, I feel supported. I feel seen. I don’t feel like I have to hide that I have OCD any longer. I don’t feel shame in the sense that I’m “different.” As much as I wish everyone else didn’t have the various forms of OCD, they do, it’s also a relief to know it’s not just me, all alone in this. It’s also very validating. This is real, OCD is real. This affects us. These are the things we deal with on a daily basis. These are the lives we live. We’ve all come into this space needing help and acceptance, a hand to guide us as we learn the tools and resources to help us get to a place where we can better navigate ourselves. It’s no great exaggeration to say we’re here fighting for our livelihood, our relationships, our everyday moments, and our peace of mind.
I would probably still be stuck somewhere turning a faucet on and off in hopes that I could change my reality and soothe my anxiety. I am so grateful that I don’t feel stuck. I know that you can get to a place where you are living in recovery also.
I’m at a point in my journey, though I’m still new to treatment, where I know that I’ll always have OCD. My goal is to be able to live my life despite that I have OCD, PTSD, and Panic Disorder. I can recognize that an intrusive thought won’t be intrusive anymore but just a thought. I know, now, that “a thought” won’t send me spiraling. I’ll be able to have the thought and I won’t ruminate on it. I won’t feel the need to perform compulsions to get it to go away. I know the road ahead will be long. I know that I’ll have days where I’ll still be uncomfortable with the uncertainty. However, the one thing I am certain of is that I can learn to live my life with OCD and not be controlled by it or the fear of things that are out of my hands.