Why Being Diagnosed With OCD Was One of the Best Days of My Life
Being diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) was one of the best days of my life.
… Yeah, I did actually just write that.
For years and years, I’ve been plagued with anxiety that desperately craves certainty, that cannot be satiated with the idea that nothing is ever 100% safe. The anxiety pervades my whole life — from conversations with friends, where I need to check and double check plans, to spending hours obsessing over the terrible, dangerous, violent and disgusting things I feel like have the potential to do.
It is this latter part that bothers me the most. I am not a safe person to be around; that is the one thing I am certain of. I am a menace to society — a truly, disgusting troll who does not deserve any kindness. I’m certain I never want to act on my thoughts, but how can I guarantee I haven’t acted on them already?
I never really felt that professionals understood what I was going through. The anxiety I experienced was never fully explained by the diagnoses they landed on me. And that’s how things remained for years until I was placed under my local mental health team’s complex needs service. It was there they understood that something deeper was going on — something which I didn’t have the vocabulary to explain.
It was suggested to me, one day after therapy, that I might want to consider undergoing an assessment for OCD.
I laughed. Hilarious. OCD? Really?
I wasn’t a clean freak, I didn’t put my pens in order of color and I didn’t avoid the cracks in the pavement. How could I have OCD? OCD, I thought, was synonymous with perfectionism, but, ever the people-pleaser, I decided to accept the OCD assessment and try to understand the condition.
Oh my god.
The dark, terrifying, obsessional thoughts in my head, the hours spent checking, rechecking and checking again — it all finally made sense. There was an answer for the painful anxiety I was going through, and, as the assessment confirmed, it was severe OCD.
To say I was shocked was an understatement, though understandable given my terribly stereotypical view and ignorance of OCD. But, finally, I had my answer. A reason. An explanation. This wasn’t needless anxiety; this was and is a real, physical, treatable condition.
That’s not to say the treatment isn’t horrendous. Well, I assume it is — I’ve never been stable enough to be allowed to actually do the treatment for it. I’m currently in treatment for my borderline personality disorder (BPD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and, now that I’m finally nearing the end of my 11-month inpatient stay, the professionals looking after me are finally saying it’s time. From what I understand, the treatment will involve cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques, exposure therapy such as exposure and response prevention (ERP) and looking at my obsessional thoughts in new ways. It’s terrifying, and it’s going to be painful and terrifying, but I’m ready. At last.
OCD has ruined my life in so many ways. I will never recover the hours I’ve spent checking locked doors, switching taps on and off, repeating mantras, obsessing over all the possible ways I might have killed any of my loved ones, and repeatedly questioning my friends about whether or not they’re still alive — to name but a few things. OCD has robbed me of the pleasures that lie within uncertainty. The only thing that’s certain in life is death, and my mind is convinced that death lies around every corner, ready to attack the people I care about.
Some academics refer to OCD as “the imp of the mind,” but I prefer to refer to it as the ogre of my persona. Imps are cheeky tricksters, whereas my ogre is evil through-and-through. I know that OCD plays tricks on my brain, but I also feel it is out to get me. OCD is there to make my life unbearable, and it does.
But it doesn’t have to anymore.
I genuinely think part of overcoming OCD is understanding the condition; slowly, I’m getting there. I’ll start the treatment, and I’ll cry, protest and scream, but I will get through it. Eventually, OCD will no longer be allowed to govern my life.
Endnote: It has taken me three days to submit this blog post because I’ve been checking, rechecking, checking, rechecking, checking, rechecking. Today, I’ve been convinced someone will read one of my blogs and choose to end their life because of it. The plug switches in my room are switched off, I’m sure… They won’t set fire to anything, I’m sure… Nobody will die or suffer terrible burns, I’m sure… I’m going upstairs again to check. Thank you for reading.
Photo by Anton Malanin on Unsplash