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When OCD Attacks What You Love Most in Life

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Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), a three-letter acronym many throw around and perceive as harmless, a mere minor annoyance. OCD is anything but that. It stands for so much more. So much intense pain, tears cried, anxiety-ridden days and nights, battles waged in my mind, lost moments and lost memories. It’s an acronym that hides how utterly insidious this disorder is, lurking beneath the surface, waiting for the least opportune time to strike and rip any amount of available fight I had left within me from the last battle. I’m left beaten and bloody, devoid of strength, but still I rise, clean myself up as best as I can and wait. I wait, riddled with anxiety, a lacerated heart pounding a million beats per minute. On guard, for the next time it grabs hold of me. It might be seconds, hours or days later, but it’s guaranteed to come back and play its sinister game with me again. I’ll think I’m ready, armed with years of tools and knowledge, but it always has the upper hand, no matter how many times I’ve engaged with it.

The thing about OCD few realize is it has this innate characteristic of attacking the things you love most in life. For me, OCD has morphed itself into many forms throughout the years, but the most agonizing is the intense anxiety and fear my dog is going to die. It mutated into this debilitating obsession several years ago while my dog was still healthy and relatively young. I’m not sure where or why these thoughts came about, but I couldn’t stop them and I still can’t. There were periods of time when the thoughts weren’t as penetrating, where I could more easily push them away and other times, I’d randomly break down crying for an hour at a time, overcome with obsessions and anxieties he was on his way out. To lose him has always been my biggest fear. They say a dog is man’s best friend, but for me this is an understatement. He’s my life, the reason I’ve made it through so many periods I swore I’d never pull through.

He’s the source of so much happiness and laughter. A soft, furry, warm place to cuddle and a healing source for my soul. I feel we’ve always been kindred spirits and he “gets” and loves me just the way I am — scars and all. Being his mom has never been a chore — it’s always come quite easily to me.

Herein lies the complexity and depravity of OCD. It exploited all the love and wonderful memories my dog and I have shared and transformed them into such intense, painful obsessions. The fear of him dying has taken me out of the moment, the moment I should be spending with him, too many times to count. It’s robbed and tainted the last few years of his life with such relentless, tormenting obsessions and anxieties. Now, he’s years older, his health has rapidly declined the last eight months and my OCD has intensified to the point of becoming completely debilitating. I analyze and obsess about every move he makes. It’s hard enough watching someone you love deteriorate right before your eyes, but I dread coming home after work or waking up in the morning, for fear I will find him unable to get up on his own, or worse, dead. I find it hard to leave the house, go to work or partake in any fun activities with friends, for fear he will be all alone suffering and not be alive when I return. Almost every day now is spent in tears, because it simply becomes too painful and intense to think about constantly, too much to fight against and too depressing and exhausting to feel like every day I’m losing the war and another day with him. It continues to rob the time I still have left with him and I know when his time does come, I will never forgive myself for all the moments we could have shared and the memories we could have created if I weren’t busy obsessing about losing him. How ironic, counterproductive and absurd. But hey, that’s the nature of this disorder.

How beautiful and freeing it must feel to simply enjoy and be present in a moment, without being attacked, without fighting endlessly with your mind day in, day out.

After a lifetime of therapy, I know I’m supposed to fight against my obsessions and anxiety by changing and reframing my thoughts, but old habits don’t die easily. Mental battles rarely are won on this front and some days it gets so bad I guiltily think I’d rather he died, so I wouldn’t have to obsess about it anymore. Maybe I could have some of my life back. Maybe I wouldn’t live in a constant state of anxiety. Of course this is the last thing I want, because I don’t know how I’ll be able to go on without him, but when you’re in your own private hell, the thought seems comforting at times. It’s like grieving a loss years before it’s even happened. It’s losing someone you love so much every day, without them ever having left and then waking up and doing it all over again.

The good moments and memories are hard to find amidst the heart wrenching pain, anxiety and obsessions. They are hidden, like an old chest tucked away for years in the attic. They rest beneath layers of old ratty clothes, dust and dirt, rendering them disguised and difficult to excavate. But I’ll keep searching and I’ll tirelessly continue trying to uncover what should never be forgotten. I won’t wave the white flag just yet. I’ll keep fighting for my sake and for my dog’s sake. I owe him that, seeing how greatly he’s enriched my life these past 14 years.

If you struggle with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), you can find help by visiting the International OCD Foundation’s website.

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Originally published: February 15, 2017
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