Opening up about living with OCD
OCD in social and mainstream media is frequently misrepresented. The media has created a stigma that makes people believe they may have some form of OCD due to wanting to clean something twice or needing to triple-check an appliance is turned off. The media portrayal of any mental health condition is exaggerated, although they often fail to capture the accurate and raw trauma that OCD sufferers experience.
Olivia is a 21-year-old from London. She has a huge passion for marketing, social media and blogging. She has lived with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and anxiety for years. She writes a blog to share her journey and encourage others to open up and seek help if they are suffering.
Here, she writes about her OCD and how it’s a misunderstood complex condition.
Fear of opening up
In the past the stigma of OCD perpetuated by the media has made me feel afraid to open up to people about my condition. I’m scared that I’ll get hit with the “OMG same, I hate having a messy room!” There is such a lack of awareness around the full breadth of OCD symptoms and what they mean for sufferers and, because of the depiction that the media has created, it causes distress and fear for real sufferers to expose and open up about their illness.
What I find the most difficult is that you can’t usually tell someone has OCD from the outside, especially if they are trying to hide it. This is the same for most mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, bipolar, etc. OCD was ranked in the top 10 most disabling illnesses and affects around 2.2 million adults, with their first experience of symptoms happening at age 14.
What I found most shocking was the fact that 90% of adults who suffer from OCD will at some point in their lives also end up developing another mental disorder which links with OCD including ADHD (impulse-control disorder), substance use disorder, mood disorder (bipolar, depression) and anxiety disorders (panic disorder, phobias and PTSD). I suffer from OCD and anxiety and, although I don’t suffer from any of the other disorders, I can entirely acknowledge how OCD can trigger another disorder, due to how the condition can affect your quality of life, relationships, day-to-day activities and so much more.
It felt right
When I was in primary school I would flick through photos on my computer and go back and forth and back and forth and my friend started noticing. “What are you doing?!” she said. Oh no, someone has noticed what I was doing. I felt embarrassed and scared of what she would think and why it wasn’t normal. I didn’t know why I was doing it, but I knew it felt right, so I continued to do it but hid it from everyone, even my family.
My family were the people who saw me at my worst, my daily struggles and rituals, although whenever they noticed me performing a ritual, they would tell me to stop or that it wasn’t normal behaviour. The more they told me to stop, the more I had to repeat the ritual as they interrupted it and the more they told me to stop, the more anxious and frustrated I got. I knew something was going on in my head, but I couldn’t understand why I was different and why my sisters didn’t have to perform rituals.
The constant nagging from my family and friends telling me to ‘stop doing it’ became so frustrating it would bring me to tears, not because I was upset at them but because I couldn’t understand why I was doing these things to tell them the reason for doing them. It got to a point at Secondary School where I used to dread seeing my friends after school or getting in the car with people, in case they noticed my rituals and said something to me. I lived in constant fear that I would be bullied or shamed on for being the girl who touches things constantly.
Not having an answer
It isn’t the rituals that I am doing that are controlling me, it’s the thoughts in my head that are overpowering my physical actions, telling me to carry on until it feels right. I knew what I am doing wasn’t normal and I couldn’t work out why none of my friends or family did the same things as me.
I remember being in certain situations or around certain people where my OCD would be worse, and thoughts would just repeatedly keep occurring in my head and I would have to perform a ritual until it felt right. I can’t explain the disappointment and resentment I felt towards myself for not being able to stop.
These frightful and shocking thoughts and rituals continued partly in secret for around 8 years, until I wasn’t able to continue this way any more. My thoughts and rituals got noticeably worse and my family and friends started noticing things I was doing and began to question me, but I simply didn’t have an answer for them.
I used to tell them I just have to do it otherwise something bad was going to happen, to which they wouldn’t understand, and I didn’t expect them to understand. I had been suffering from really bad anxiety and I was in an awful headspace, where I didn’t even want to leave the house or see my friends.
Visit Olivia’s blog at thelittlepackofmindfulness.wordpress.com