OCD is poopy*.
(*world’s biggest understatement right there)
While I don’t know exactly how long I’ve *had* OCD, I do know that it was around this time last year, when things started getting bad. It became this big, unbearable, messy, anxiety-inducing disaster, just in time for my final year at uni. Yay!
I think one of the worst things about dealing with any mental illness is the alienation you experience- both physically, because you start isolating yourself and bow out of social obligations, and emotionally, feeling like you’re ‘the only one’ who is going through the things you’re experiencing.
For anyone going through OCD, I thought I’d share some of the things which really helped me come to terms with the condition, and gave me confidence that I’d get better. Note please that you should definitely, definitely see a Doctor if you think you have OCD- the sooner you take charge and get help, the better! These are just a few ways in which I was able to work through my disorder after seeing the doctor.
- This video.
I ADORE John and Hank Green; I’ve watched the Vlogbrothers for a while now, and have read most of John’s books. In fact, Looking for Alaska might actually be my favourite book ever! So to hear that someone I really admired and looked up to admitting that they, too, struggled with the EXACT same problems I was dealing with, well, that was something reassuring. That overwhelming sense of ‘Huh, I’m not alone then!’ when the intrusive thoughts make you feel like you are. John’s upcoming book may also be dealing with this topic, and so I am even MORE excited for Turtles All The Way Down!
2. Speaking of books, THIS book.
Shortly after my OCD started getting bad, my boyfriend Chris (who has been an absolute STAR through this whole thing, FYI) bought me this book. I was hesitant to read it; scared of facing reality as I’d only begun to realise that what I was experiencing was OCD, but boy, am I glad I read this. While certain aspects of Lily Bailey’s life are very different fro my experience of the illness, I have to say, this book was enlightening, inspiring and uplifting. I cried the whole way through, because it was such a relief to know that the thoughts which tortured me daily? They weren’t exclusive to my brain. And more importantly- she got better. She came through it. She was able to lead a normal life. And that is EXACTLY what I needed to read back then. If you have OCD, or love someone who does and want to understand it a little bit better, then READ this.
3. THIS blog.
So, I had this particular OCD intrusive thought that bothered me for a long time, and as any anxiety-ridden woman does, I turned to professor Google for help. FYI, it was not helpful in the slightest, and probably made me more terrified before it got better. But some of the posts on THIS fabulous lady’s blog really helped me to deal with a lot of my thoughts. I am so grateful I found them, and I regularly turned back to particular posts for particular things! ❤
4. CBT and medication
Unfortunately, there is no “cure” as such for OCD, but thankfully, it can be managed well with two important things- counselling of some sort, and medication. I went for Cognative Behavioural Therapy for about three months, and it was the biggest breath of fresh air- you couldn’t even IMAGINE how much it helped. Retraining your brain is hard work, but guys, it’s so worth it.
I also take medication every day, which helps to keep my OCD at bay. I know a lot of people are averse to the idea of putting chemicals in their bodies etc, but my alternative is not great. We have to be grateful that medicine can, and does, help!
5. Being Honest with Family and Friends
When I dealt with OCD all by myself, it was a torture. It was like I was two people- I was happy, normal Amber in front of anyone else, and then alone, this despairing, depressed, terrified shell of myself. OCD took the “me” out of me. When I initially opened up to my boyfriend, I was so scared about what he’d think. But you know what? Instead of being like “Wow, you’re messed up!” he was patient, kind, and understanding. He has honestly been such a rock this whole time, and I’m so thankful for his love.
Then, telling the parents- that was a little bit harder. But once the cat was out of the bag, things got a lot easier. Now, I didn’t carry this burden alone, and it wasn’t just split between me and my boyfriend; there was an easier load when it was shared between four of us!
As time has passed, and I’ve become more comfortable with the notion that OCD is and always will be a part of my life, I talk about it with friends and family, and the honesty is refreshing. It makes me feel less ashamed, and that is one of the most important hurdles we face when thrashing and tearing down stereotypes about mental illness- overcoming that shame.
So that’s it! Again, I will say that it is SO IMPORTANT that you get the right meds and the right help for YOU and YOUR situation, but this combination of things has got me thus far- along with a good medical team, exercise (which I’ve written about here), and my faith. ❤
Please let me know if you have any questions about OCD, or feel free to let me know some of the ways you’ve combatted or overcome your own mental health woes.