Let's Talk; Living with OCD, Getting Diagnosed and Help
This is certainly not a post that I thought I'd ever be writing. I have this rule when it comes to sharing personal things online that is if I'm not completely at ease with it myself then I don't share it at all. And for so long my OCD [obsessive compulsive disorder] hasn't something that I've been at peace with, so the thought of sharing it with thousands of people wasn't something I even contemplated. But 2017 saw a really big change for my OCD and I finally felt ready to be a little more open about it. And out of all the mental health struggles that are shared in the blogging world I don't think OCD is shared enough. So today I wanted to open up a discussion about it, share how I got diagnosed, live with it and things that I've found helpful. Whilst I think it's pretty obvious that I'm not a mental health professional, please don't take what I'm saying to be gospel and if you're struggling with anything please reach out to somebody.
I've known that I've had OCD for a long time, all of the females in my family have suffered from OCD in some way. Being around the illness for my entire life has somewhat normalised it, I thought the way my brain worked and my habits and patterns were completely normal. And it wasn't until I was in my 20's where I was placed in pain therapy to deal with the struggles of living with a chronic illness that it was recognised by a mental health professional and I was referred to see somebody. That was in 2015 and it was the first time that I ever heard the words, you have OCD and this is the type of OCD that you have and here are the factors that may contribute to it. It wasn't a shock by any means, I knew it was something that I'd always had but it was still hard to hear somebody else saying it out loud and it still is. I still struggle to say the words as it's something that is so personal and my brain is still trying to understand it.
The type of ocd i have
So I got diagnosed with severe OCD, specifically order and symmetry in 2015. And some of the things that I struggle with are what you probably presume is what all people with OCD are like, needing things in a certain order otherwise their world feels like it's going to implode. But there are so many other strains of the disease, it's very complex and not everyone's symptoms look the same. It's so easy to get lost in the stereotypes and think if your symptoms don't look like the stereotypical ones that yours aren't valid but they are.
My biggest struggles are with the way that things are organised and what they look like visually and yes this does play a huge role in my job. I first noticed things get progressively worse at the end of university when I'd moved home to my dad's. I would spend hours and hours reorganising my dressing table, often spending my entire day making sure everything was right and in order. And if there one tiny little thing that wasn't right I'd tip it all onto the floor and do it all again and I did this repeatedly, almost every single day. It then developed into me doing the same thing with my wardrobe too. At my worst I was tipping everything out of my wardrobe around 6-7 times a day, rehanging, ironing and then hanging them back up in colour order and perfectly spaced. However, the second I had to take anything out of it then I would have to do it all over again. Anything I put something up on my walls or anytime I rearrange an area of my living space I have to myself a pep talk, explaining to my brain that things are going to change and it's ok. Even now, when I'm so far away from my worst days it's something I still have to make room in my everyday life. Because what might seem like a simple thing to so many people can throw my mind into a pit of despair and panic where I simply cannot function.
WHERE MY OCD IS NOW
When I got diagnosed in 2015, it was hard. I was immediately put into an intense form of CBT which really opened my eyes to just how much time I was doing performing my rituals and it was so hard to try and start to break them. One of the hardest things I've found is that I still have to keep my living space neat and clean but I can't let keeping things clean form into a ritual. And it's very difficult, it's something I'm constantly working on and it's something I will more than likely always struggle with but catching myself before it's too late is something I know I can do. Even though I've come a long way with my rituals where I struggle the most now is with phantom thoughts. Something that I've always pinned down to just being a bit of a worrier but it's a lot more severe than that. The official title is Pure-O OCD and it wasn't until I read Bryony Gordon's book Mad Girl that I truly started to understand it. I'll get stuck on a certain thought, usually about something that's very important to me and I'll have to ask a loved one [mostly my boyfriend] to reassure me about a hundred times so I can try and calm my brain down. It's something that can take me days to break away from, it will consume everything I do. I never ever knew this was a form of OCD and because I am such a worrier I did put it down to that. But there is a big difference to when I'm worried compared to when I'm having phantom thoughts even though the two may sound similar.
GETTING HELP & admitting you're struggling
Something I find incredibly hard about dealing with mental health issues is admitting I'm struggling in the first place. Whilst we have come such a long way in how mental health is discussed and the online world has played a huge role in that it's still not something that is easy. I grew up in an era where it wasn't spoken about and when it was it wasn't in a helpful positive way, it was more stay away from that person because they have this. Which is incredibly damaging and sad as so often the things that we are struggling sometimes we try and normalise them in our head, I know that's something that I did for a long time. But actually, coming out in a physical rash and having a panic attack because there is some blue paint on your wall and plug socket isn't ok. Whenever mental health is spoken about online there is always advice about going to a doctor but that is much easier said than done. It's incredibly scary to talk to anybody, even when you know something is wrong saying it out loud whether it to be a complete stranger or a loved one is terrifying but it is so important.
I was placed into a form of CBT [cognotive behavioural therapy] therapy which was quite painful to go through but I do think even though I wasn't in it for very long and was supposed to go into something long term it got me on the right path. In the past, I've not always found therapy the best option for me for my other struggles but with OCD it was that little push I needed. In the UK there are very long waits for any type of therapy and often you're waiting around 6+ months to see somebody, we are of course incredibly fortunate to have the NHS at our disposal but that doesn't make the waiting periods any easier. Medication is something that I cannot comment when it comes to OCD so if that is something you've found helpful and work please do leave something in the comments as that could help someone else. One of my biggest helps with my OCD was sharing it with my loved ones and being painfully honest about it. It was hard and scary but in the long run, it's been incredibly helpful for them to know the things that I struggle with so they can try and help a little. So when I tell them that I'm struggling, especially with my Pure OCD than they can help bring me down a little.