Trigger warning: Obsessive compulsive disorder
I have written about my OCD in great detail on this blog- but it’s such a bizarre part of my life that I feel like stays on this little corner of the internet or buzzes around my head most of the time.
I have very rarely even spoken to most of my close friends about what I go through on a daily basis- and there’s probably around 5 people who really know the extent of it.
It’s a shameful illness and I really hate that I have to deal with it so often, but I think it’s important to share these things. I know that I could use someone blogging about this kind of stuff to make me feel less alone (shout-out to Bryony Gordon for being a total babe in this respect)
But if you know me- or wanted to know more about my OCD invasive thoughts then this might be of interest to you. Here’s how my OCD manifests and how I cope with it:
Most thoughts start with an event. For example, getting blackout drunk and not remembering parts of the evening or sitting on a public toilet seat that I haven’t checked to be clean enough. Both relatively normal everyday things to most people- but to my mind, an opportunity for my obsessive thoughts to latch on to something and create chaos.
At this point we go one of two ways. Sometimes I’m able to shake off the thought. I’m able to label it as an OCD invasion and put it in a neat little box. I can dismiss it in the same way that any other person would and go about my day.
The other is catastrophic thinking- which is what my therapist described it as. It’s the series of leaps that my mind will take from “I had to sit on a public toilet” to “the public toilet seat was dirty, I’m going to get a disease and give it to Luke…then he will dump me”… the list goes on. Total irrational and horrible thoughts that become difficult to manage and seem totally improbable and even impossible in most cases.
My heart will start racing, I’ll normally cry, I’ll panic and break into cold sweats and more often than not I’ll constantly run over the event in my head until I can barely remember the truth of it in the first place.
I’m aware that the thought is irrational. I’m aware that I’ve made it up- but it doesn’t help in the moment.
This is the point of panic where I’ll start to text everyone I’m close to for reassurance. Usually my mum, Luke or little sister. I’ll describe the event in every tiny detail and ask them to calm my mind babble. It works- for a short while.
(I recognise how fortunate I am to have such loving and caring people in my life)
This is the point I’m at now. The crossroads between feeding the OCD by asking for more reassurance or going to the doctor and obsessing over diseases I may have caught, or- I can choose to accept that it’s in fact my mind and my mental illness playing tricks on me. I can choose to try and find better ways to cope than engaging in repetitive or reassurance seeking behaviours.
But how am I coping with it?
Believe me when I say- I know I am a total loon bag when I’m saying the things I’m worrying about. I know how utterly bonkers I must sound to people so often I have to just laugh at myself. I have to say the fear out loud and imagine someone was saying it to me. There’s nothing quite like making a fool out of the dumb thoughts!
Keeping busy is fundamental to fight the brain gremlins. Working, exercise (lying on a yoga mat and pretending to do it), films, making cups of tea, blogging and reading are all amazing distractions. I find the busier I become- the harder my OCD finds itself to hold on.
(Cuddles, sex and chocolate also fundamentally important to brain happiness lads)
I’m trying to live my life without this anymore but there’s no shame in needing the medication to help you rebalance and refocus. I’ve found my antidepressants to be invaluable.
Ugh I hate this because exercise is tough, hard and mentally draining if you’re already struggling. But there’s a reason they always advise it. I love going rock climbing and walks outside- so I use those as my means to get moving and get some natural serotonin pumping!
I can’t speak for any other mental illness but a lot of OCD recovery has taught me that willpower is so important. You have to sit with and fight your compulsions. You have to be active and you have to choose to ignore them. Yes- it’s physically and mentally draining, but I’m hoping that one day I’ll read this blogpost back and know that the fight was all worth it.