Last week when I was about to publish my post, my husband said to me ‘You know that if you do this, there is no going back?’ He was right. When you begin to tell the real truth of your story, you cannot stop telling the truth. You unravel. And that’s slightly painful. But you become free.
Some mornings I end up walking out of the house, stomach in knots, feeling like something is so not right. It takes every ounce of energy I have to put one foot in front of the other.
Some days my heart thumps so fast I feel like I cannot breathe.
I have been exhausted, tears flowing steadily down my cheeks, because I don’t want this. I don’t want this disorder that places doubt in my mind and steals time from me.
When I look back, it first began when I was 8 years old. Being young, I had no idea what it was. As the years went by I started to notice that what I had was a joke to most, a witty punch line in conversation, a meme to tag friends in. So I kept it quiet and hidden.
I have battled with an anxiety disorder called OCD for many years. And it has come in like waves on the ocean. At high tide, it is intense and distressing. When the tides roll away it is manageable, and life is calm again. But it is always there.
What most people don’t realise is that OCD is a disorder of the brain. A person with OCD has a brain thats warning system isn’t working the way it should. It tells them that there is danger, when there isn’t. People with OCD desperately want to get away from this unending anxiety but their minds get stuck on a certain fear or thought. We know it’s illogical, and makes no sense, but the anxiety is so paralysing that it is hard to cope with.
I have heard people mistakenly relate my disorder to their cleanliness, I’ve listened as they have laughed about their love of perfection, tidy houses and their need for symmetry. ‘Oh, I am so OCD’ is something people say often and it’s hard to hear. What I deal with is not an adjective that you can add to your personality. OCD is not about order, it is about fear and doubt.
Seeking help when the thing you suffer from is stigmatised and misunderstood can be incredibly difficult. Hiding becomes easier. It takes a great deal of strength to break that barrier and set yourself free.
My OCD is NOT who I am. It is something I deal with. It takes all my strength to fight it some days, but I show up and fight anyway.
When you have OCD you experience obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are thoughts that won’t go away, feelings that are so strong it’s overwhelming. Your mind gets stuck on those thoughts. Compulsions are the things you do to make that unbearable feeling go away, to help you become unstuck and ease the anxiety.
For example, people that have a fear (obsession) of germs and getting sick, can struggle with a compulsion of washing their hands again and again, until that feeling subsides. It’s not something that the person wants in their life. Most of us would give anything not to have to deal with it. But anxiety sufferers are tough. It’s tiring, but we keep going.
The alarm bells that trigger my anxiety are mostly that something bad is going to happen, or that something is unsafe. My main compulsions (as much as I can’t stand the word) are to check and make sure that things are okay. Doubt is a major battle in my life.
Leaving the house can be exhausting when the waves are crashing. I know that I have checked things and turned things off, but OCD messes with me, again and again. It says, ‘Are you sure?
If you have experienced anxiety in any form you will have an understanding of what it can be like. Anxiety doesn’t discriminate and it certainly doesn’t let you win easily.
It wasn’t until I learned that I couldn’t fix it on my own, that it was part of how my brain worked, that I could start to work out ways to retrain my brain, with counselling and lots of encouragement and understanding.
These days my OCD and the added anxiety I suffer from is mostly under control but like things of this nature, sometimes the waves roll back in. Still, I know how to deal with it better now.
I used to have this idea that my trust in God must be weak, if I couldn’t beat this, but I was wrong. My faith has held me together. I can keep going because my God is with me. My family and God are my strength.
I am proud of who I have fought to become. This is part of what I deal with but IT IS NOT who I am.
My anxiety has forced me to become STRONG because every time that I show up and keep going, I AM strong.
If you are dealing with anything like this I urge you, don’t keep it a secret. Sharing is the hardest and bravest thing you will do, but it will be worth it. And you can do hard things.
There are amazing counsellors, doctors, family and friends who can support you. Find them. Find someone who can help you make sense of what you are dealing with.
In my experience it has helped so much to bring this thing out into the light. It becomes less of a monster and I can see it for what it is, that it is not about me and it’s not my fault.
I imagine that there are some of you quietly going through this type of thing on your own.
Whatever you are going through, whether it is anxiety or something else you battle with, find someone who will listen and understand.
What we hide in darkness increases, what we bring before those that love us, breaks into much smaller pieces.
We don’t need to go this road alone. I‘ve learnt that feeling afraid cannot hold you back if you don’t want it to. You anxiety does not define you, but it will make you incredibly strong and empathetic. That is a formidable combination. I am convinced that when we share our hard stories, we give others permission to share theirs.
Guts over fear. Always.
*This is my personal experience with OCD, I have no medical training – please seek help from your doctor or medical professional if you are experiencing symptoms of mental illness.
*Awesome photo by NordWood Themes