A life of doubt
I distinctly remember the feeling of coming out of my dream and realising I’m about to wake up. I dreaded this moment every morning for the past five months. Fearing the level of anxiety that could build if today I managed to ignore the demands of the monster. The opening of the curtains in the morning is what I hated most. A reminder of the world I felt so detached from, being occupied by the prison that was my mind and knowing the harsh reality, that as much as I’d prayed to be released, the repetitive chores my mind had set for me, had to be met. Doubting and checking and cleaning and worrying… only to never be satisfied with any of it in the end. But I knew there was no other way. I’d have to continue giving in to the monster, my own thoughts.
I know that this is what has become of my life and this is how it shall remain. I must adjust to this monster, it’s in my best interest to do so. This way my loved ones and I remain safe. It’s better to remain safe, spending hours checking and washing repetitively, than to be sorry. It’s my responsibility after all. So it only makes sense then that I should avoid leaving my house as much as possible to limit the monster’s demands; the less I do, the less needs correcting. Would I even be able to face the smoker’s air, the filth on the roads, the busses filled with germs, all without thinking about nothing else but rushing back home to wash every inch of me and my clothing? I must put the monster before myself. I have become the monster. I have found new things that I should worry about now. I must rinse all my clothes after being around a bin, just in case. I must not come into physical contact with anyone because who knows what they’ve touched. New worries and concerns just continue to arise as do new chores, to meet the monster’s demands.
“With zero intention to cause any harm… damage is always done. I can’t wait for all of this to be over. Completely over. No harm to anyone’s life or routine. My entire existence wiped out.” Journal entry, August 15th 2015
I cried almost every day. The monster took over my life, it took priority over everything. I managed to get to the point where I would have rather not existed than to learn how to defeat this monster. I missed everything. I left the comfort of my house only when necessary and on the rare occasion that I was able to fight the monster, it would win in the end and have me begging to be home, filling my mind with the darkest thoughts. To avoid the stressful routine that these thoughts brought along, my mother would also give in to the monster and have me home in no time. She gave into the monster for me. Thank you, Ma.
11 months later.
My therapist tells me I’m ready to be dismissed. I begin to find myself. I am me again. After weeks of breaking down each one of my compulsions (specifically how I feed them), understanding anxiety and carrying out experiments to test myself, by putting all the information I was provided with into practice, I found significant improvement in breaking the cycle of continuous behaviours I was carrying out.
My life of repetitive draining chores is over: the showers at least 6 times a day, 2 hour long baths, constant rewashing of the same clothing, washing surfaces before coming into any contact with them, checking the iron, the gas nobs, the doors- repetitively before I slept and left the house, rewriting my work and taking 25 minutes (on a good day) to make Wudu. They were all finally behind me, I no longer give into the doubt… as often as I used to. I now focus on the things your average 20-year-old is concerned with. The monster has now been tamed.
Looking back, I wished I had gotten help as early as when I began to repetitively check my belongings and sockets and started to have doubts about my prayer. Even as a Psychology student I didn’t once believe that therapy would be the essential tool that would bring me back to myself. It took me a whole year of giving in to my intrusive thoughts to finally realise that I’ve lost myself and I don’t want to give in anymore. If I had gotten help much sooner, I know I could have avoided carrying out many additional rituals that had developed over time; instead I chose to avoid understanding what was going on and what was available out there as help. One in four people will experience a mental health issue every year in the UK alone. It’s so important to keep an open mind about mental health conditions. I can’t stress the importance of this — the more we know, the more we can do to help.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is far more debilitating and complex than simply being fussy or particular. It is an anxiety disorder whereby you are living with your worst fears building up inside your head. Often, we misunderstand OCD as simply being a disorder only associated with obsessive cleaning and organisation. This is not the case. In fact, the intrusive thoughts people become fixated on can range from fear of numbers, to fear of causing violent or sexual harm to others. The reason for the fixation on these thoughts is mainly because the thoughts are far from in-line with the morals or beliefs of the individual who is experiencing them. The sufferer usually believes that the only way to target and reduce the fear experienced (temporarily) is by counteracting the thoughts with mental and physical rituals. If the thoughts are not counteracted, anxiety builds. Anxiety can present itself in many forms: fidgeting, losing focus, losing sleep, losing your appetite, sudden bursts of anger and sadness and (the scariest form through personal experience) having an anxiety attack- feeling like your insides are closing in on you. You can’t breathe. Or you think you can’t, and you never allow yourself to realise that your body doesn’t just give up on you. Anxiety does subside, over time, so let it.
It’s important to identify changes in behaviour in yourself and in your loved ones in order to tackle mental health issues earlier on, to prevent them from building and taking over. It takes a lot of courage to bring yourself to realise that you need external help, but once you do, the procedure for getting help is exactly the same as the procedure for getting help with a physical problem. Arrange an appointment with your GP, explain your symptoms and receive the appropriate method of treatment. I have posted a link below to a GP card provided by OCD Action which can be useful to take along to your appointment to act as an aid to your GP during diagnosis of OCD. From here, a list of therapies/treatments and drugs are available to you depending on your diagnosis. You will find yourself again.
I will be forever grateful to all of my family and friends who were there for me during my lowest points of life with severe OCD and can’t thank them enough for encouraging me to get help. Please feel free to message me about anything associated with this post and my previous post. This was not an easy topic to write about at all, and I hope that anyone reading this, dealing with their own personal battle, builds the strength to access help and finds success in doing so. You are not alone.
Love and Duas
Click here to look at the OCD Action’s GP card mentioned in Uzma’s blog.