Today’s blog – launched on World Mental Health Day 2017 and during International OCD awareness week – is from a friend describing how their OCD took over their life, how they coped with it, and how useful it was for them to see that they weren’t alone
Everyone procrastinates when they’re meant to be revising, but it’s normally at least to do something more fun. When I was supposed to be revising for my A levels, I was instead spending 10 hours a day researching murder, what makes people evil, or serial killers. I was trying to convince myself that I wasn’t a bad, evil person. This was because a few days earlier I had had a passing thought when chopping vegetables that “wow, I could just stab my sister with this knife,” and since then that had been the thought my mind revolved around. I had become convinced I was evil and wanted to harm my friends and family. The only way to calm myself down was to spend hours googling anything and everything I could think of that was related to my obsession. I would occasionally read something that made me feel better, but the temporary relief would only last half an hour before I found myself thinking “but what if…” and I’d be off again. I knew I was being ridiculous, I knew I wasn’t an evil murderer, but I think the cruelest thing about OCD is that even though you know that you are being irrational, you just cannot stop yourself going around and around in circles.
In a way, this obsession happening was ultimately a good thing. I had been struggling with thought patterns like this since the age of 11, but everyone just thought I was a bit of an anxious child. It’s understandable; the subject of the obsessions had previously been something external, something it wasn’t unreasonable to be a bit anxious about. On the rare occasions I did tell someone about it, I never managed to articulate how much of my time the worries took up, and how they dominated my thoughts for weeks at a time.
When I started having these extreme, obviously irrational thoughts about hurting someone, it meant it was easier for me to find information about OCD and how it can manifest in a purely mental way. I, along with most people, never realised that OCD took a form other than repeated cleaning and rituals, but it’s very common, and incredibly debilitating. I regret that I didn’t realise earlier that this wasn’t just my personality. I’ve been taking antidepressants for five years now, and since then I haven’t latched onto a thought in an obsessional way at all. It’s been literally life changing for me and it makes me regret my teenage years spent crying in my room for hours every day, and drinking too much with friends because it was the only way I would stop worrying.
Luckily, things have got better for me. But OCD is still not recognised in the same way as even other mental illnesses. I hear it so often “oh, I’m so OCD!” and it genuinely makes me cringe, because people have no idea what it’s like to be stuck in that irrational brain loop with no way out. The biggest turning point for me was realising that other people had the same thoughts and the same loops, and that there was a name for it. So if this helps anybody else realise the same, or helps someone understand a friend or relative with OCD, I’ll be very glad. Thank you for reading my story.
If you’ve been affected by this story there are several UK charities you can speak to for support. For example, you can ring OCD Action (www.ocdaction.org.uk/) on 0845 390 6232, or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. There are several other charities including OCD-UK and No Panic.