Living with OCD
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Mental Health

Intrusive Thoughts: Living With Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Laura Ivy blogs about living with OCD

I remember sitting in a psychology lesson when I was fifteen, flicking through my textbook and writing down the definitions of keywords in the glossary. One of those keywords was ‘Obsessive Compulsive Disorder’. Upon reading the definition I was shocked at how strongly I could relate to it.

Since the age of eleven I had been having intrusive thoughts. Having developed an irrational fear that my intrusive thoughts would come true, I began doing what my mum called ‘rituals’ which I imagined would stop my intrusive thoughts from coming true. I had never once considered that I might have OCD because, as many of us are, I was under the impression that OCD meant you liked things to be clean, or that you liked things to be in a certain order – I was unaware that there was more to it until I realised I had it. A while after that psychology lesson, I watched a television program about people who had OCD, which is where I first began to understand that there were many different types of OCD and started to realise there was more to the disorder than I first thought. After a bit of internet research I built up the courage to confide in my mum, who is a mental health professional, and hear her thoughts and opinions on me possibly having it. After having a discussion with her she agreed that it was possible I was suffering from the disorder.

“Before realising I had OCD, I – like most people – didn’t really take it very seriously”

 

I struggle the most with the intrusive thoughts that come with OCD, which have affected me more than I can even verbalise. Before realising I had OCD, I – like most people – didn’t really take it very seriously and considered it a mild inconvenience rather than the harmful disorder I now know it to be. Having OCD has made me feel constantly anxious and impacted my self-esteem, making me feel somewhat incapable of making decisions and being a functioning human being as I feel like I can’t do anything without having an intrusive thought. I have too many intrusive thoughts to count, completely irrational ones too.

The main focus of my thoughts is my parents and my constant anxiety that something bad will happen to them, which I believe spawns from A) The fact that I am an only child and am very close to my parents, and B) My mum has a chronic illness that has impacted her health drastically. Typically I will have an intrusive thought when I’m crossing through a doorway or touching something. If I’m crossing through a doorway to a different room and I have an intrusive thought I’ll have to leave the room and re-enter, thinking of a ‘good’ thought to counteract the ‘bad’ one. And similarly, if I’m touching something and I have an intrusive thought I remove my hand from the object and have to touch it again with a good thought, as many times as it takes until I feel like the bad thought’s gone. Rationally, I know that this sounds ridiculous and that simply thinking of something can’t make it come true. But in practice, it’s hard not to pander to intrusive thoughts when every single fibre of your being is telling you that you need to.

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Trying not to react to my intrusive thoughts is the best way I have found to overcome OCD. This is much harder than it sounds, but also so helpful. It’s important to rationalise and remember that it is completely safe to ignore intrusive thoughts. This is something I still struggle with, denying intrusive thoughts is extremely stressful but I have found from experience that not trying your best to not acknowledge them has reduced them by a large amount. There are times when it gets worse and there are times when it gets better – the biggest piece of advice I can give for the bad times is to not be too hard on yourself about it. Recovery does not look like a straight line ascending upwards, it looks like a giant messy squiggle that goes up and down constantly. There is no shame in admitting you’re going through a rough patch and need a bit of help to get through.

“I will often hear people making offhand comments about how they’re “a bit OCD” and not realise how harmful saying things like that can be”

 

Luckily I have not experienced bullying due to having OCD. The only people from my real life who know I have OCD are my mum and my best friend, who found out after I uploaded a video about my experiences with OCD to my YouTube channel, and all the people who watched that video. I have been teased occasionally for the traits I exhibit as a result of OCD, such as my compulsions, however thankfully this hasn’t grown into bullying. When I was in school I mainly kept to myself and didn’t really talk to anyone outside of my small circle of friends, so no one else was really around me long enough to realise I had OCD and mock me for it.

The main piece of advice I would give to others with this condition is don’t be ashamed. OCD is something that’s not often taken seriously, a lot of jokes are made about OCD and many people really don’t understand how hard living with it is. I used to be, and unfortunately sometimes still am, ashamed of admitting I have OCD as it is a disorder that has a lot of misunderstanding and stigma attached to it. I will often hear people making offhand comments about how they’re “a bit OCD” and not realise how harmful saying things like that can be to someone who does actually suffer from the disorder. Secondly, remember that there is always help available. Even if you’re not in the position to receive professional help, there are still endless amounts of resources and incredible communities of people who have OCD online. The mental health community on YouTube has been extremely helpful for me in understanding and feeling less afraid of having the disorder.

Ultimately, recovery is very possible. It may feel isolating and suffocating at times but it won’t always be. Help is available readily and your struggles and the battles you fight are completely valid. To anyone else struggling with OCD, your are not alone in this fight, there are other people all around the world fighting the same battle as you and people who have won- you can too.

Written by Laura Ivy

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