The Part of My OCD That Is the Most Misunderstood
After recently going through a nasty OCD episode, I talked to some of my loved ones about my violent obsessive thinking and it made me realize that, while OCD is well-known, it is not actually well understood. It can be much more horrifying than many of the stereotypes. A simple miscommunication could hinder OCD success and it is incredibly important to recognize all aspects of this disorder to help yourself or a loved one in crisis.
Just in case someone isn’t familiar with OCD, it is categorized by its namesake: obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are strong, intrusive, uncomfortable thoughts and compulsions are behaviors caused by a strong urge to do something, such as check the door exactly 14 times to make sure it’s locked.
And then we have obsessive thinking, which I believe is wildly misunderstood. For me, the obsessive thinking was so difficult I didn’t seek help for years, even while I was in counseling. I kept it hidden because it was a part of me I hated and something I was ashamed to experience.
I believe the first thought pertained to homosexuality. This manifested as fear, the terror I felt when I walked down a dark street and thought someone was following me. Thoughts of having sex with women burned their way into my brain and made me want to vomit. I had dreams in which I was forced to masturbate and bring another woman to climax. I was not aroused by this. I felt assaulted. I felt dirty and unclean. There was nothing sensual about this. During this time, I watched friends come out and begin to live their truest lives. We celebrated their journey while I scathingly chastised myself for leading my double life. Finding men attractive only confused me more. If I loved being with men, why did these thoughts persist? That must mean there was truth to them, right?
The sexual images and dreams did not cease until I brought it up in therapy nearly two years after they started. People like me who experience homosexual OCD (HOCD) are not as uncommon as you’d think. There are also stark differences between someone who is closeted and someone who has HOCD. Now don’t get me wrong, I could appreciate a good roll in the hay with the appropriate woman, but I am by no means homosexual. I am demisexual and 99 percent attracted to men. Exploring my sexuality helped immensely when trying to recover. Since 2014, these thoughts have been in recession.
There have been other thoughts, though. The next two examples are the most difficult to discuss because they are particularly scary. They made me want to kill myself because how could I continue to live as such a monster? I figured I should end my life before I acted on it. Thankfully, I did not attempt and I sought help instead.
This one was the most recent. In March 2017, I’d had my first obsessive thoughts in a year. Medication management and counseling did wonders; however, as I was cuddling my long-haired chihuahua one afternoon, I suddenly became fearful that I’d take her little body and bludgeon it on my desk. I kept seeing it over and over, me smashing her tiny head until she stopped struggling. I sent her out of my room and barricaded myself in. I felt awful. I wanted to kill myself because how could I even think of hurting Khloe? No matter how abhorrent I thought my thinking was, no matter how distraught it made me, the obsessions kept playing over and over. I love animals so much. I still cry during the SPCA commercials with Sarah McLachlan.
This was not the first time I experienced something like this. In fact, the first animal harming thought was so traumatizing, I did not remember it until I stumbled on an old journal. A year prior, in March 2016, my mom allowed me to get a puppy and I named her Rory. She was going to be my emotional support dog and the first night I had her I knew I’d never love another creature quite like her. She was my first dog that was all my own. Shortly after I got her, though, the obsessive thinking resumed in full force. I kept seeing myself smother her little body with my pillows or throwing her across the room. I locked myself in my room and cried. This was the first time I’d had obsessive thoughts in several years and I couldn’t remember how to handle them. Thankfully, I had a counseling appointment shortly thereafter and it went away.
The last one I’ll share is perhaps the one that was most difficult for me to deal with. I have always loved children. I want to be a mother more than I want my next breath, so you can imagine how difficult it was when I started having images in my head of me molesting children. I later found out this was pedophile-themed OCD, but I was so disturbed that I hid when the school buses drove by my house or when the kids walked home from school. I stopped babysitting because I was constantly triggered. I felt like the scum of the earth. How could I talk to someone about this when I couldn’t even bring myself to say it? Write it? To do those things would make them real. It would make me a pedophile. For nearly four years I kept this a secret, thinking to myself that the thoughts would never go away, that I’d either kill myself or act on them. I may as well kill myself because I know I’d rather do that than ever touch a child in a way that would hurt them. Even after the HOCD was brought to my attention, I couldn’t talk about it because I was so ashamed. People would ask me to babysit and I’d say no not because I thought I would molest anyone. I was so disgusted by the things my brain was doing. I felt as though I was unclean, that children didn’t deserve to have me around because they deserved someone pure.
After it became too much, I asked one of my previous counselors if I was a pedophile. She asked me one simple question: “If you knew you could get away with it, would you still do it?”
I found immense relief in that because I would never do the atrocious things my brain told me I wanted to do. I had no desire to and, because of that, I was able to take back control. I spent years being terrified of something that was labeled in five minutes of therapy. That’s all it took for her to recognize what the culprit was. Obviously, this is something that takes more than five minutes to solve, but I’d experienced such relief that day. If only I’d have felt more comfortable asking sooner.
Postpartum OCD is also a thing. Can you imagine having intrusive, uncontrollable thoughts about stabbing your newborn or changing their diaper and wanting to suffocate them? Some people don’t have to imagine because they’ve lived it. I’ve talked about it with my current mental health team to ease my thoughts. I’m not having babies any time soon, but it is crucial to have a plan in pace when you have OCD.
I’ve never looked up why my brain does this. I’m bipolar and have OCD and PTSD, but I think it’s because my brain turns the things I loved more than anything in the world — the LGBT community, dogs and children — and twists them into tools with which to hate myself, tools that reinforce my want to die by suicide. I refuse to let this take more years from me than it has and, once introduced in therapy, it can be easier to manage and perhaps even go completely into recession.
Remember: You are beautiful even if your thoughts are not.
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