Living with OCD


OCD is the black hole that exists somewhere in the background of all that I do. It is there when I think and write, there when I go to work, it is there when I go for a walk with my wife. I can't be sure, but I'd be willing to bet it's still there when I go to sleep, waiting, plotting. 

OCD has one goal: to take all of our time, energy, and credulity. It is a liar that demands to be taken with the utmost seriousness. It will use our morals, beliefs, and convictions - the things we think make us good people - and invert them. It will tell us we are the epitome of all that is evil, depraved, and unforgiveable in humanity. 

It will do all of the above with such easy and utter conviction that we feel we must give it attention. How do you ignore it when your own mind is telling you that you have committed rape, murder, and goodness knows what else?

Once OCD has got your attention - and it's going to get your attention if you don't know that this is OCD because you've never experienced anything like it before - it's fairly inevitable that a compulsion will follow. Obsessions and compulsions go together like a horse and carriage.

What's the first thing you're going to do when your mind tells you you've committed acts that you find immoral? You're going to seek evidence and reassurance that you haven't done these things. You're going to ruminate and check and ask people for verbal confirmation of the kind of person you are, that you wouldn't do something like this. 

When I first began to experience problems with OCD, I would be driving and have thoughts that I had crashed into people and caused terrible accidents as I was going along. Sometimes my mind would create the most excessive Hollywood car crash scene you've ever seen and try to convince me that this is what was playing out in my rear view mirror. Ridiculous, right? Of course it wasn't real, how could it be? 

Well, not so ridiculous that I wouldn't find excuses to go back out in the car and retrace my journey to check, to find evidence that the Hollywood crash scene on repeat hadn't actually happened.

That's another thing about OCD: it doesn't work on logic. 

I would have obsessive thoughts telling me that I had raped/murdered the image of John Milton that I happened to be looking at in a book (as referenced in 'Myself am Hell'). Where do you even start with something like that? The mind of someone who doesn't have OCD might notice that thought, they might think it's a bit odd, and then dismiss it. My mind would repeat this thought over and over to the point where I couldn't concentrate or think of anything else. And what do we know about obsessions? Do they operate in isolation? No, they come hand-in-hand with compulsions. And the compulsions dangled by the condition for an obsession such as this are so inviting: John Milton died in 1674; you can't  rape/murder someone who died long before you were even born; what you were looking at was a painting! You can't rape/murder a painting. 

And then compulsion after compulsion...

That's how the OCD grabs hold of you and takes over your life. It torments you with the obsession, then it offers you the compulsion as an apparent way to be free of this torment. For the tempter Satan appearing to Eve in all the coils of the serpent in the garden of Eden, read the compulsions suggested by the liar OCD.

But life does go on. Thanks to CBT and ERP, thanks to the families and friends who provide such unceasing support when people with OCD are at their lowest ebb, and thanks to the communities of people with OCD to be found in support groups and on social media. Slowly but surely, the message about OCD and its nature is spreading further and growing louder. People don't have to suffer alone and without support. The rules of how to manage OCD are known. OCD need not have the advantage of our ignorance as a society anymore. 

The next time an 18-year-old university student starts having strange thoughts that go round and round in his head, I want him/her to be able to think of OCD immediately because OCD is in the media, it's being written about, there are books and blogs and podcasts all about the reality of OCD. I want that 18-year-old to be able to get the help they need immediately, so that they can get on with managing OCD and get on with living their life before the OCD can begin its malignant cycle.   


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