Every single person has intrusive thoughts which are involuntary, unwanted and meaningless. But for most people, they pop into your head and pop straight back out again. You don’t judge them and you don’t act on them. You just carry on with your life and continue your daily routines.
Here is my OCD story:
I guess I am the sort of person that people look at and think, ‘What does she ever have to worry about?’ And that’s probably because of my apparent lifestyle. But just because everything looks perfect on the outside, that does not mean it is perfect on the inside.
When you have OCD, you can’t just push the intrusive thoughts out of your head, like a mentally healthy person can. Instead, you obsess about them, and then you develop safety behaviours or rituals in order to stop your fear coming true. It is debilitating. Over the last two years, I suffered so badly in silence with my intrusive thoughts that I became ashamed, embarrassed and distressed about what was going on in my head. I was so frightened, yet the more I ignored the thoughts and tried to push them away, the more intense they became. The more intense it became, the more I thought that I could not live like this anymore. At one point I considered ending my own life because I saw it as my only option. Knowing this only makes me worry about others that were, or still are, in my position.
I hid my issues from absolutely everybody around me in fear that no one would understand and I would be looked up in a mental hospital or police cell. It got so bad that in December 2016, I had a complete and utter breakdown and I knew I had to reveal my secret. I was so depressed and low that I could not even bathe myself nor get out of bed. I just constantly sobbed and begged my mum to help me. The intrusive thoughts took up hours and hours of my days and I could not even focus on watching a film or having a conversation with a friend.
When you hit rock bottom, the only place you can go from there is up. That is exactly what happened to me. I was referred to a local physiatrist who quickly diagnosed me with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. My initial understanding of OCD was ‘frequently washing your hands’ or ‘making sure the light was turned off’ but it is so much deeper than this. I was told that OCD is more common than a lot of people think, and an average of 12 in every 1000 people are affected. The treatment is very successful. A course of medication along with intensive CBT was prescribed and it has truly given me my life back.
My intrusive thoughts do not frighten me any more and now I barely react to them. My overall anxiety has reduced by 90%. I used to avoid a lot of places and situations in fear that it would spark my intrusive thoughts, but I no longer do this. When you are suffering with OCD, you genuinely believe that your intrusive thoughts are factual, but when you overcome it you realise that they are just thoughts and are as innocent as dreams. Avoidance feeds the fear and we must face our fears head on. This leads to recovery, and I am living proof of that.