I get stuck in a never-ending mental analysis of why “this is something to worry about” and why “this is not something to worry about”.
One February morning, I was eating breakfast and browsing social media as usual, when a thought floated through my mind: “What if I made a mistake in the past? Horrible things will come of this.” And in the next second, I experienced what I could only comprehend to be a panic attack. Heat flooded my body. All I could do was put my head down on my desk. I could not stop thinking about this possibility, no matter how remote it seemed. As the day went on, eventually I confided in my partner. I was so scared I could barely speak my concern. When I did, he assured me that my worry was unfounded. That helped at first, but then I couldn’t stop there. I contacted other people who I thought could give me an answer. None of them were worried either. But I still couldn’t totally shake it. Finally, just when I thought I’d resolved this potential problem in my mind and could let it go, I thought of another, and then another, and another, and another—until I had a list of possible ‘mistakes’ that I feared could have catastrophic consequences in the future. As time went on, I no longer lived in the present. I was trapped in the past and future. I was in a constant state of panic. I became a shell of myself, moving through day to day life while performing a constant analysis in my head, reviewing memories, assessing whether there were mistakes or not, what I could do about it now, and on and on and on. Just when I thought I’d eliminated a worry, my brain would scrape the bottom of the barrel and come up with something else to add to the list. Any glimmer of uncertainty pulled me right back in. I began to change some of my everyday behaviours too, as I wanted to pre-empt doing anything that I might end up worrying about later. This began to impair me further. Now some of my greatest strengths—being conscientious, responsible, diligent—were a double edged sword. Every morning I awoke with a sickening feeling of doom.
I managed to maintain a façade of functioning, for a while. Only people very close to me knew something was wrong, but none of us knew what it was, quite yet. Eventually, I had to take a medical leave of absence to focus on treatment. Thankfully today I am in recovery.
Although it seemed that OCD hit me out of the blue, after having gone through treatment I can now see that OCD was there all along. For a long time, I experienced an immense amount of stress in my life, always feeling like I had to think of everything, to take responsibility for ensuring everything was in order—or else something could go terribly wrong. But I didn’t have the insight at the time to see this thinking, nor the behaviours I undertook in response to it, as problematic. Despite the suffering, I’m grateful for that “what if” thought that sent me spiralling. I don’t think I would have ever sought help otherwise.
My OCD might be considered a less visible type—many of my compulsions were mental (such as reviewing past memories over and over again) or embedded in social relationships (like seeking reassurance). Indeed, many people have commented to me that they never would have known anything was wrong or suspected that I had something like OCD. I hope my story provides one example of the diversity of forms that OCD can take.
Categories: The Wall