I never thought that having a mental health issue would ever happen to me, but here I am, writing this blog, with a mental health issue! It’s been a whirlwind of a lockdown for me and it is continuing to challenge me in loads of different ways. Less than 2 weeks ago, I was diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, or OCD, brought on by anxiety. It has taken me a huge amount of thought about sharing this, even just with friends, as I didn't want their opinion of me to change as I am still the same person, but I wanted to show others ,who may be suffering in silence, that it good to talk and be open.
I don’t like calling it “OCD”, as in todays society, some people like to use the term to mean “a perfectionist”, or “persistent”. Although, for some cases, this might be the case, the reality is far more complex than that and ranges from case to case. In the book, “Break Free From OCD”, they describe it as “obsessional behaviour…driven by personally unpleasant ideas linked to an uncomfortable or even unbearable feeling of anxiety”.
Every day, I am finding something new and interesting about what OCD is, and how it manifests in my behaviours. For some people, it includes washing hands consistently, and turning lights off and on again, along with other symptoms. For me, this isn’t the case. From what I know so far about how it has manifested in me, I know that it includes checking that my house door is locked, and checking that my taps are off in the bathroom. I know these might sound odd to the “normal” person (who is actually normal these days?!) but for me, they involve huge amounts of anxiety. It often takes me 20 minutes just to leave the house (on a good day), when I am on my own. It isn’t so bad when I am with people for some reason- maybe I feel safer? I will find out soon enough! I also have unwanted intrusive thoughts. 9 out of 10 people get unwanted intrusive thoughts in their lifetimes, but the only difference is, is that mine get “stuck” much more easily. For example, when I am driving and I pass a cyclist, I have a passing unwanted intrusive image that I have run over him or her, and I would have to go back and check or face a whole day of horrible anxiety. I also have thoughts that are totally the opposite of what I think or believe, and out of character. These thoughts are unconscious, and it has been proven that they are also out of my conscious control, and that everyone has them but some people zone in to them more than others, as they can bring emotions of guilt, shame and fear with them. Certainly, this is true for me. However, they are just thoughts and they don’t define who I am, or what I believe. They are not thoughts with an action attached, and they are not impulses and I am slowly learning how to keep them as passing intrusive thoughts and not “stuck” intrusive thoughts.
However horrible my experiences have been with this, they haven’t and will never effect my work. I live for my work and it brings me incredible amounts of joy, and has helped me through some difficult times. In fact, to some extent, my anxiety has helped me push myself, sometimes unhealthily, to reach a new level or to try and be the best that I can be.
I have written the title to this blog at “Acceptance”(Part 1)” as I am continuing to learn about myself and research more about my condition, and with the help of my awesome friends and family, counselling and therapy, I hope to get to know myself a bit more, and how to overcome Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.