When I finally decided to write this blog post, I felt an immediate sense of dread and fear come over me. What if people judge me for writing this? What if I don’t really suffer from a mental illness and this is actually me? What if I am the only one who feels like this?
You see a theme here? What if, what if, what if. I like to call this the oh so lovely doubt of OCD.
I don’t have the more typical type of OCD; I have something called Purely Obsessional OCD. I suffer from extreme intrusive thoughts and urges which cause me to ruminate, obsess, gain reassurance, and avoid. Anything to stop the severe anxiety they bring. Anything to bring relief from the constant chatter in my head, even if it’s for a few seconds, minutes. I can easily spend a whole day or night going around in the OCD cycle, it really does not end.
I suppose I better explain my story to you then.
13 years ago, at the age of 20, I woke up with the most immense feeling of fear, it crippled me. No warning at all. My inner voice was telling me I was schizophrenic, not just now and again but like a broken record, over and over, no break, a constant loop. I immediately jumped out of bed and panicked, my eyes wide open like a rabbit in headlights, my body trembling with fear trying to take it all in. My first thought? How do I get rid of these thoughts? How do I get rid of this horrible feeling of guilt and fear? Am I losing my mind?
Skip forward a few weeks and I am completely wired, the anxiety still going strong. I don’t sleep, I can hardly eat, I can’t function. My mind is too active, it won’t stop. This time I am having thoughts about harming my family. I was going to murder them in their sleep, I was going to lose control or even sleepwalk and do it, I was a murderer, I must have been if I was thinking it? I would constantly have images of murder scenes and blood in my head, I couldn’t go near people I cared about or even strangers in case I would lose control and hurt them. Under no circumstances was I to use knives or cook. What if lost control and used one of those knives to stab someone? If I wasn’t attaching myself to a family member for safety and reassurance, I was locked in my room for hours ruminating and researching as to why I was getting these thoughts and how I could get rid of them.
As the years have passed I have had many intrusive thoughts, some have stuck and some have gone within a few weeks. I really do believe that intrusive thoughts associated with OCD grow along with you, they age with you and adapt to your life, your circumstances, which is why I wanted to mention my most recent intrusive thought of being a paedophile. This thought has stuck with me the longest now, 8 years to be exact. I remember exactly when it first hit me. I was suffering an ectopic pregnancy at the time and just pop, there it came, the thought that I was a paedophile, I was attracted to children, I was going to lose control and molest a child. How would I ever get over this thought, how could I never not feel anxiety and disgust over it? This is a cruel illness, it has since fed on another recent miscarriage of mine and infertility. What if I molest my own child? What if I am really attracted to children? Maybe I don’t deserve children. Again, the lovely ‘what if’ theme.
So, comes the present day. As I write this I am suffering one of my worst relapses for a long time, my mind overwhelmed with intrusive thoughts and feelings, my body and mind exhausted from the constant anxiety and thoughts. I have been suicidal on many occasions, I have been to the edge of no return but what changes this time? What breaks the cycle of this obsessional nightmare?
Unfortunately, OCD likes to feed off fear. I try to say to people, think of your worst fear, nightmare, something that repulses you and imagine that following you around 24-7, no escape, no breathing space, no break. That is what it feels like to have OCD. The thoughts feel so real, they suffocate you and you often doubt your own sanity and morals.
13 years later, I am still only really opening up about my mental health. I still believe there is such a huge stigma attached to such illnesses which in turn delays people getting not only help but the right help, including myself. There is still such a sense of shame and embarrassment which lingers with mental health conditions and this needs to change.
As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, I still feel the fear and dread of being judged by other people but maybe I am ready to fight now and you should be too. Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of and we need to all stand together to fight this stigma and shame that a lot of people with mental illness feel.
I wish I could say that I have been treated fairly by doctors over the years but unfortunately when it comes to mental illness I just don’t think I ever was. I hope by sharing my story, people who are suffering from this type of OCD will not feel alone and people with family members who see the signs, reach out and tell them there is help out there.
I do remember reading once that OCD was known as the doubting disease and I truly believe that. We doubt everything, we crave perfection and we need certainty and control in our lives, but the harsh reality is that life isn’t perfect, we can’t predict the future, sometimes, well most of the time things are not in our control which goes against the grain, outside of our comfort zone. Feels uneasy just reading it doesn’t it.
By Gina Hadden