In my early teens, I had a low tolerance of uncertainty and was generally an anxious child. Nothing major it seemed, maybe I was just shy. However, when the patterns of my anxiety started spiralling upwards at 17 years of age, my mother decided to take me to a psychiatrist. She found these patterns to not be “normal”, at times even making me dysfunctional. It was then that I was diagnosed with OCD. My tryst with clinical anxiety was now official.
I belong to a fairly well to do family and was brought up in a decently protected environment. I have done okay in academics, sports and other stuff that everyone does. I seem like a regular confident young person. Which I am, on most days. The fact that I have OCD is not obvious to people, especially to those who aren’t very close to me. Having said that, I am usually quite vocal about my “illness” and do not feel the need to hide it.
For most of my life I have been an anxious and often emotionally volatile. I am a light sleeper. I often have lucid dreams, where I am half awake, half asleep. Tossing and turning as the morning approaches, I usually get up with a struggle. I have constant and recurrent anxious thoughts.
From what I have read, most people with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) have cleanliness or checking obsessions, they try to neutralize their thoughts through “rituals” or compulsions. There is a feeling of chronic doubt and an absolute intolerance to uncertainty. Hence it is characterized by feelings of “What if”? By performing rituals and playing over thoughts in their head they attempt to reduce anxiety.
It’s human nature to assume that if you think a problem through enough, you will find a solution. But with OCD, it’s never enough. You get caught in a vicious cycle and life becomes Rewind. Replay. Repeat. Compulsions fuel obsessions and vice versa.
My illness is dominated mostly by rumination, more of a pure ‘O’ OCD in shrink jargon. Hypochondria, irrational and excessive fears about my mother’s health along with social anxiety are my prime obsessions. My compulsions include an excessive need for reassurance, a want to confide and explain things perfectly and sometimes check symptoms of various diseases online. Life at times is quite a struggle and there are a lot of days where it literally feels like a fight. The more that I try not to think about the distressing thoughts, the more obsessed I become with them. At times the anxiety is so much that I am unable to concentrate, to work or even do everyday tasks. My palms sweat and I even puke when the anxiety is intense.
I have been told by some that the OCD is in my head which is helpful considering that I thought it was in my left ventricle (I’m not very good with sarcasm). There are several scientific theories regarding mental illness- that it is due to childhood trauma, that it is genetic, that it is a combination of nature and nurture blah blah. You get the picture.
What I can tell you is that it is a very real and often a debilitating illness. OCD is chronic and there is no cure for it but one can learn to manage and deal with it as I have.
I will not speak much about the treatment except telling you that it is very effective. Google ‘Cognitive Behavioral Therapy’. It works not just for OCD but in managing a lot of mental illnesses. Recovery from an OCD episode is difficult and lengthy but the treatment I mentioned does work. It has helped me reclaim much of the life I had lost.
Slowly and gradually, I have learned to take control of my mind.
I will always have OCD but I do have the knowledge that I will never be incapacitated by it.
I am still more anxious than an average person, but I can keep my anxiety in control enough to live a productive life.
It’s true, people with mental health issues do live very productive lives. I am a lawyer and in my short career I have co-authored a book, worked with Several Social Security Campaigns, a leading Public Interest Organization, a top University and a Judge. And OCD hasn’t stopped me…