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The Voice of My OCD: The Insidious Snake in My Mind

I was once speaking to my sister, who also has obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and we were trying to describe how the voice of anxiety sounds in our heads. I said it sounds like my evil self while she said that it sounded more like someone speaking Parseltongue (from Harry Potter). I can’t say I disagree with her. Most of the time, to me, it actually does sound like I’m speaking Parseltongue in my mind.

What people don’t seem to understand about OCD is that it isn’t just a couple of weird, funny quirks that can be seen as a joke. In fact, having lived with OCD as long as I can remember has allowed me to come up with a series of explanations of what my mental illness is like.

You see, for me at least, obsessive-compulsive disorder is like having a little “devil” and a little angel in your head, like in cartoons. While the angel tries to make you feel better and diminish the increasing anxiety you are feeling, the “devil” will take over and overwhelm you with its evil, hissy voice. In this case, the “devil” tends to always win since I have, through time, given the “devil” a lot more power than I have to the angel.

For years, I didn’t understand what was going on and I believed that I was simply a “freak.” Since no one understood me and I couldn’t stop feeling anxious all the time, I developed social anxiety and depression with the occasional panic attack. Still, I had no idea what was going on and I dismissed it as me just being a “loser” who would never fit in. It never crossed my mind that I may have OCD.

Back in the day, the only reference I had to OCD were the references in pop culture, which revolve around someone being obsessively organized. I have always been messy, so there was no way I could have OCD, right? It wasn’t until I was much older that I came to realize that OCD was so much more than that.

When I was 18 and about to graduate high school, my physics and calculus teacher asked me if I had obsessive-compulsive disorder. Believing that I couldn’t have it since I have always been really messy, I brushed it off and said I didn’t think so. A spark was ignited in my mind though, and I decided to do extensive research on the subject, just to prove that I did not have it. In the end, I was surprised to find out that I had most of the obsessions and many of the compulsions associated with this condition at one point or another in my life.

After finding this out, everything suddenly became clear. I wasn’t “weird” or a “freak.” In fact, I actually had a condition that didn’t allow me to brush off recurring thoughts in the same way that neurotypical people are usually able to do. All that I’d been through since I was little had a meaning at last, and I was finally able to explain to others why I acted the way I did.

That didn’t stop the insidious snake in my mind from making me anxious though, and on most days for the following years, that voice would make me feel so bad I could barely function. To this day, the smallest of things makes me feel like I can’t breathe, sort of how I imagine it would feel like to have Darth Vader choking you with the Force.

Every day is a constant battle with OCD, because having it makes you insecure. You don’t want people to know about the awful thoughts you have in your head or the compulsions you have to perform to subdue said voice. It’s embarrassing, especially since people sometimes take it as a joke and start making fun of you. In return, the voice in your head makes you feel worse since it will remind you of the power it has over you, and in my experience, you will end up feeling broken inside.

Most days, I try to keep my chin held high as I venture through life, proud of who I am, but I don’t always succeed. Dealing with any mental illness is exhausting and fighting to take away OCD’s control over my mind is tough. In fact, despite the strong exterior I put up, most of the time I feel like giving up. I have gotten much better at winning against OCD, but I don’t always win every battle, and that makes me feel worse about myself.

There are days when everything around you turns dark, like you’re trapped in a cave with no exit while the thickness of the air doesn’t allow you to breathe. You feel hopeless, alone, broken and scared. Everything is cold and the smell is stale and all you wish for is a way out. You become desperate, willing to do whatever it takes to feel better if only for a couple of hours. Anything will do, as long as the Parselmouth in your head goes away.

On days like that, I try to remind myself that I’m in control of my mind and of my body. I’m the one in charge and I will not give into my mental illness. I tell myself I’m more like Luke Skywalker, who fought against the temptation of the Dark Side. You can’t always win though, and sometimes it feels like giving in is much easier.

Whenever I give up and just allow that little voice to take over, I tell myself that I may have lost the battle, but I will win the war. You see, I refuse to give in. I won’t allow myself to become my mental illness. I have OCD, but I am not my OCD. This illness is a part of me, but it isn’t all of me. I am not defined by the condition I have. I am my own person and I will remain so.

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