Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Everything carries significance...

Obsessive compulsive disorder is trying to destroy me.

My life has been so chaotic over the last eight or so months that I can hardly remember any semblance of normality. OCD has been in my life from a very young age and at times it has manipulated my actions more than others but it has always lurked there, in the background, ready to pounce again when I least expect it.

This year has been one of the hardest I have ever experienced and to be quite honest I will never look back with fondness for 2011. In fact I have been contemplating knocking this year off record and rewinding my age by a year to start it over again for 2012.

Perhaps I am being harsh but life with OCD is hard. Very hard indeed.

I went to Rome a few months ago with my significant other as a break away together but also to help free my mind from the recurring, intrusive thoughts I had been experiencing. This should be something that I can look back on with fondness while wearing a silly grin and a whimsical look upon my face but my most vivid memory is having an anxiety attack about my breathing, then checking it and panicking then rationalising, checking it and panicking then rationalising, checking it and panicking then rationalising, and so on...

I did enjoy my time there, in fact it was wonderful, and it helped to bring our relationship even closer than it already was. I just wish my OCD hadn't tainted it, not just for me but for my partner too.

My problem is this: Everything I do, from the simplest everyday task to a wonderful holiday, seems to be manipulated by my OCD thoughts and it makes it 1000 times harder to live a relatively normal life. Everything carries significance.

I don't seem to be able to shut a drawer at home without my brain telling me that I must perform a ritual to do it successfully. If I don't then something bad will happen. I feel guilt and fear. The what-if syndrome. Do I leave it to chance? No, I can't, I mustn't.

Leaving the bathroom has become problematic of late. I have to touch the tap eleven times, then the door lock twelve and a dressing gown twelve. Why? Because 35 is one of my safe numbers of course and everything will be alright.

Checking. Counting. Touching. Checking and counting. Counting and touching. Checking and touching. Checking, counting and touching. My whole day is controlled by actions that I know are pointless and yet, I cannot stop them.

I have got past some of my obsessions and they have faded in their significance but then they are always replaced by something else. And when they too are faded, the original obsessions return again, probably with compulsions even more complicated than before.

I keep returning to my breathing. My biggest obsession and how OCD has finally got me to the point of oblivion is a terrifying fear of cancer. Even though I know my breathing is fine, I cannot help but micro-analyse it with each breath, looking for something that doesn't sound normal, even though I know that it is. Check, check and check again. Then I will get past it only for it to return a few days later.

Is this my life's course?

I honestly need to get past this as I believe my other OCD thoughts and rituals will fall back in line (or at least diminish slightly) once this is dealt with once and for all. I need to believe that therapy can help me because I have a lot of baggage, and subsequent burden, that I need to work through to become a fully functional human being again, and to once again enjoy my life.

I want to return to normality so very, very much.


Karin said...

Hang in there! Ocd sucks. Big time. I hate living my life backwards, too: Enjoying a trip AFTER it's over and the ocd dread and compulsions have faded. Then i can say it was a good trip/ day etc. Ocd sucks all the joy and energy out of life. And the more you give in, the more ocd wants from you. But you are finally going to start therapy, which does help. It will help you live in the present moment too. The spiral works the other way too. The less you give in to ocd's demands (by working your therapy/ taking meds?) the less ocd bugs you.

I'm reading a book called Brain Lock by Jeff Schwartz. He has a behavior program for reducing ocd's hold on a person's life. He also shares many of his patients' stories and thots. I got it thru interlibrary loan.

It does get better. It will take determination, courage and focus. And hard work. But doing rituals also takes determination, courage, focus and hard work, so you already have the tools you need to work your way out. Now you will use them to reduce or eliminate ocd's hold on you.

Kat said...

This sounds pretty normal for OCD. the obsessions and compulsions are your mind's way of comforting you and making you feel safe and in control. It is self-medicating. Rachel always tells me it's like an alcoholic who uses alcohol or an addicted who uses drugs to self-medicate and block the things they can't deal with, to numb the pain, etc. Rituals are our addiction. When you remove one, another one easily pops up to take it's place in an attempt to keep that balance of control and safety. It's only when you address the cause as well as the reality of what the rituals are and the fact that they are unreasonable and illogical that you can start to make headway. This is a difficult process with lots of ups and downs. Meds do help slow the brain's tendency to jump to the what-ifs enough to think things through and recognize these things a little more. Therapy will help address the root causes and triggers as well as the unreasonable and illogical thoughts and rituals. It will not be a quick process, but it will happen.

OCD Anonymous said...

Karin - Thank you for your advice and support.

Sometimes it feels that i'm making two steps forward and one step back, and the step back is so incredibly frustrating that I feel like i'm not getting anywhere. Sometimes the need to rant and vent frustration is theraputic in itself - I will not give in to OCD though.

I read the four-step self-help therapy from Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz and have been practicing the techniques which has helped me to make advances to where I am now but I am kind of waiting for my first therapy sessions to begin so help can be tailored slightly more to me. With therapy will come meds I guess but as yet I am fighting OCD without much guidance.

Thank you so much again for your kind words and wisdom!

Kat - Thank you to you too for your kind words and support.

Sometimes I feel alone and think that maybe my OCD rituals only behave that way for me and it offers me no end of support to know that other's experiences are similar.

The rituals do offer me some comfort and feelings of control but I guess I need to be more vigilant in ignoring the need to perform them.

I really understand the example you gave regarding blocking difficult thoughts and numbing the pain as I believe some of my OCD rituals help to passify my anxieties and fears.

Once again, thank you so much for you kindness.

Each day brings with it a new challenge and each day could be better or worse than the one before but, ultimately, things will get easier and more manageable.

Anonymous said...

Your writing is so heartfelt. I am so happy to hear that you will be starting therapy soon. I look forward to following your journey to recovery.

OCD Anonymous said...

ocdtalk - Me too. I really want to get the ball rolling with therapy but it is just a waiting game until they have available space - Still, the bloggers who I have met and read about through this resource, such as yourself, have made things so much easier to cope with :)

Thank you for commenting and 'following' me!

Tina said...

Please remember that it will get better! Therapy helped me so much, and medications continue to help me. You want help and you're seeking help, and that is half the battle!

I read Brain Lock a long time ago. Sounds like I need to get it down and read again!

Thank you for your honest writing.