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When Having OCD and Anxiety Feels Like Being Caught in a Riptide

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Every morning I wake up I begin my ritual: grab my phone, check my emails, check my texts, check my Facebook. All before I am even out of bed. Then it happens. The voices, the endless voices, telling me everything I have to do, and worse yet all the things I forgot to do. I’ve tried everything imaginable to end them, but still every morning, noon and night they are there.

The worst part? I have generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and the voices? They are part of my obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). So the GAD makes the OCD worse. And then in turn, the OCD makes my GAD worse. It’s a vicious cycle that I struggle really, really hard to control.

I can say most of the time, I’m really good at appearing “OK” and “functioning,” but those are good days. Bad days are bad; everything makes me mad, and I feel completely out of control… like I’m drowning… even when my toddler wants a hug. A simple hug shouldn’t hurt; it shouldn’t make you feel like you’re drowning, and yet it does. And seeing her hurt hurts me even more… and a whole new layer is born. Guilt, shame, anxiety, anger — all of them at once, overwhelming me.

Every time I feel like that, I remember being at the beach as a kid and getting caught in the riptide. I know I have to swim parallel to the beach, I can hear the lifeguard, my mom, everyone saying, “Stop fighting, just swim parallel.” But swimming parallel feels like the hardest thing in the world.

Having OCD/GAD together feels like that for me– you know what you have to do. You have a life, a family, and commitments. You have to get up and put a happy face on because people can’t handle sad people. But somehow my OCD/GAD push me deeper under the covers, flooding my mind with nothing but negativity. And doing what you have to do? That feels like the hardest thing in world. Sometimes I feel like pushing a bolder up and mountain, like the mythological Sisyphus. He was tasked by Hades to spend eternity pushing a boulder up the hill, and if it stayed at the top he could rest. It never stayed… it always came back down… just like my GAD and OCD. They always come rolling back down the hill.

Music helps, especially electric/house/dance, the louder the better for me. It blocks the voices, but that’s temporary. Everything feels temporary. Feeling happy, feeling normal, feeling balanced, even just feeling comfortable. Even hiding my illnesses was temporary.

After 33 years, cracks are forming. I’ve let more and more people in on how bad things are and have been. I was so proud of myself the first time I opened up about my anxiety and OCD. It was a short-lived victory. I was told I don’t have anxiety, I’m dramatic and I’ve always been dramatic. And the OCD? Oh, that was just “attention-seeking behavior.” I needed to “grow up and move on…” Wait…what?  Cue fights, tears, and panic attacks. Some people understand, some try, some don’t, and others still won’t. But as a full-time nursing student, part time certified nursing assistant, toddler mommy, wife, sister, friend, I can’t afford to keep hiding this.

I tell you all this in an effort to help others know, you aren’t alone. There is help. I am still fighting to get my doctor to give me some medications to help, but being stuck with insufficient insurance, I can’t go to a mental health professional. I am hopeful that things will get better… and until then I crank the music and revel in the good days, even if they are few and far between.

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Thinkstock photo by Andrew F Kazmierski

Originally published: March 16, 2017
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