Instead of Hiding My Violent OCD Thoughts, I Compulsively Overshared Them
Talking about my worries has never made me feel better. When teenage angst set in during middle school it seemed like all I was hearing was, “Don’t be afraid to talk about it.” It made everyone else feel better, but not me. I didn’t know if it was because I didn’t get the answer I wanted or I just wasn’t doing it right.
Fast-forward to my sophomore year of high school: I wanted to win at therapy. I wanted to be the best at it. I wanted to be my therapist’s favorite, most hardworking client. I did all of my “homework,” asked questions, etc. I even told my family what I talked about in my confidential therapy sessions. I thought, “Wow. I’m so open and relaxed, I share everything!”
I had a problem with oversharing. Looking back, I’m so embarrassed by the things I’d share with my parents. Why couldn’t I just keep my mouth shut?
The answer was (surprise!) obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). I’d confess to my mom about my sex life. How weird is that? Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t because I genuinely enjoyed telling her about it, but it would eat away at me if I didn’t share everything with her. I felt immediate relief once I had told my mom and stepdad I had sexted a family friend. They assured me I didn’t have to share that with them, but it was like a drug. Most teenagers have boundaries with their parents, which the parents sometimes overstep. My issue was I had no boundaries with them and didn’t want to set any, even though they clearly wanted some.
The morning after (haha) Thanksgiving, my dad was at my mom’s house having breakfast and although I had told myself I wasn’t going to tell him what I’d done the night before, as soon as he sat down and was eating his pancakes I whispered in his ear, “I had sex for the first time last night.” His response: “I really didn’t need to know that.”
If I didn’t share everything, it meant I was keeping secrets and “bad people” kept secrets. I was so afraid of being a bad person, it made sense to me to talk about my very private intimate life moments with my parents. After all, how could they tell me I wouldn’t grow up to be a child molester if they didn’t know my every move?
My parents were my lifeline. When my intrusive thoughts were at their worst, I’d freak out when my mom would leave me home alone for 10 minutes. While a lot of people my age were praying to get some alone time, I couldn’t stand being alone. What my parents and I weren’t aware of was this behavior was making my condition worse.
Being a good partner, parent, friend, or just person requires empathy, understanding, and compassion. When a person is hurting, you want to comfort them, make their pain go away. Unlike other mental illnesses, in my experience, talking does not help my OCD. It makes it worse.
I did nothing but talk during that time. When I was alone with my parents, I couldn’t talk about anything but whether I wanted to murder someone or sexually assault someone else. I thought I was a monster and the only way to quiet the thoughts was to have them tell me I could never become a violent person. The relief would last for an hour at most. Then the cycle would start all over again.
I compare compulsions to drug addiction. After all, it is estimated 30% of people with OCD will battle addiction at some point in their lives. The stereotypical compulsions you see in the media are handwashing, flicking light switches, and counting. Mine are mostly mental. I ruminate over my intrusive thoughts, instead of just letting them slip away like most people. I seek reassurance from just about anyone who will listen. My themes center around violence and sexual deviance. I have vivid images and thoughts running through my mind all day of things a “good person” should not be thinking about.
People close to me have had to learn when I’m trying to seek reassurance, no matter how sneaky or crafty I am with it. They have been taught to say, “I think this may be your OCD. Know that I love you and you can get through this, but ruminating and seeking reassurance will only make you feel worse blah blah blah.” My parents and friends sometimes struggle not to console me in the traditional sense.
My treatment plan with reassurance seeking, my most prominent compulsion, would sound strange to most people. It was like I was trying to find what food I was allergic to. Gradually I’d cross people off a literal list. Once they were crossed off I could no longer seek reassurance from them. My mom was the last to go. It was the hardest. Those weeks were lonely. I had to learn to be alone with the never-ending slasher movie in my head.
Although I seek virtually no reassurance from anyone now, I sometimes slip up. Most of the time I can catch myself doing it, but sometimes it’s like my brain goes on autopilot. I’m trying my hardest to not reassure myself as I write this very vulnerable blog about some very taboo OCD themes. I don’t view this as oversharing, but rather educating a world that is so set on viewing mental illness in whatever way the media portrays it, that people like me are afraid to come forward.
You can follow the author’s personal blog at I Can Never Truly Know.
Getty image by Kentaroo Tryman