MY PLIGHT WITH OBESSEIVE COMPULSIVE DISORDER & MY JOURNEY of RECOVERY
“Not all those who wander are lost…”
I have always been anxious and I have noticed feelings of discomfort at the age of nine but I did not tell anyone. At that age, what would I have told and who would have listened? After all, I didn’t understand my own feelings and did not share it with anyone.I don’t know how, but I knew that things were not normal. I kept telling myself over and over again that I was normal, that I was okay.
I was annoyed, angry, and upset at why I did some of the things that I did. I asked myself why I was doing the things I did and what I could do to stop them? I didn’t even want to do those things. I would get into frenzy and would have thoughts one after the other. I thought so much that the situation looked so bad in my head and had to cry or do something to calm down.
I myself didn’t understand what I was feeling. There were these intense feelings of pushing and pulling within myself and a feeling of being uncomfortable in my own body. I would just keep repeating words over and over again or plucking out my hair or grinding my teeth. I cut up new clothes for no reason, threw them down from the balcony, kept washing my face repeatedly, had long baths – I scrubbed every inch of my body till it was red -started developing patchy skin and allergies -till I felt,in my mind, clean. I cleaned my room everyday finding new things to cut up and get rid of. I couldn’t write a note, the writing had to be perfect. I kept thinking bad things were going to happen, unless I did things right.
All this constituted the ’new beginning’ that I was giving myself. Apparently my mind had convinced me I needed one, and I was just agreeing to it. Not that there was some ways I could disagree with it, the discomfort, the misery, and the confusion that I was feeling was so high that I would have done anything to put an end to it.
I hid all of this inside of me for a long time. I was good at making people laugh.I hid myself behind humor and laugh. Indeed, people close to me could see something was wrong because I would jump from one extreme to another. They did notice that my hair was unusually thin or that my face was red. I couldn’t tell them. I wanted to, but it was stuck in my throat. I couldn’t gather the courage to tell my parents that something may be wrong with me. There was this invisible force that drove me which prevented me from telling it even to my parents.
I remember one incidence. My mother and I had bought new clothes and we had a wonderful day together. However, that night I had another anxiety attack and in the height of anxiety, I tore up all those beautiful clothes. I had no answer to my mother’s questions and just stood silently. She was as confused as I was. Slowly she also began to pick up on things and noticed something was affecting me. My parents assumed it was work pressure, and that I was going through my teenage phase. Even I thought that these feelings would eventually disappear and I would have it all together. I was mistaken. All through my school days, I was lost, confused, irritated, and angry.
My thoughts compelled me to do more and more irrational things. I began to have repetitive thoughts about having the perfect body. I started going to the gym. But, I had to do things perfectly, I could not afford imperfections. It was like I could not make a mistake or I would have to start my ‘life’ again. Slowly, my spirit was breaking. I was a mere puppet whose strings were controlled by those irrational and repetitive thoughts. I could no longer see myself.
When I entered my teenage, all these irrational thoughts started affecting my perceptions about my parents, my friends, and my boyfriend. It was more like I have made a checklist and everything has to adhere to it. I had friends, went to a good school was good in studies. Inside me, I could feel that monster that was making my life unbearable and too difficult.
I pushed myself towards perfection. I tried to keep a journal or to work out in gym. It was not easy; everything had to be done perfectly. Things remained like this till I was about 17. I felt as if trapped. These thoughts stayed with me, it followed me wherever I go; interfered in whatever I did. I started feeling sad and if not, lonely. Loneliness was worse as I had to pretend to enjoy the company of others while actually wishing I could just be at home all alone.
To my parents, my ‘teenage phase’ had lasted longer than it should have. They couldn’t see the struggle within. They thought I was being lazy, and that I was a rich spoilt child. I on the other hand, was trying my level best to control myself.
However I couldn’t. It was not possible to be perfect. It’s only possible for someone to be himself or herself. Therefore when I fell short of pleasing the demons of my mind they would attack in the forms of obsessiveness and compulsive activity. The only thing that ended up saving me was the fact that while it was happening I was aware of it. When I did something irrational I was aware of the fact that it was not okay to do this, and that something was wrong. I began to notice patterns and trends about when I would engage in these activities. I would get lost in my obsessions because I was attempting to create a world outside the realm of my reality. My reality was not a happy one, and involved a lot of struggle. I needed to find my own utopia and my irrational thoughts helped me create that.
In 2012 an incident occurred at home where I had to defend someone and this opened my eyes. It opened my eyes to my own personality for the first time. I had been OCD’s puppet till then, but what I did that night for that person was purely instinctual. It made me realize that I was courageous and that I did believe in doing the right thing. It gave me hope. Hope is a wonderful feeling. It makes you believe that you can strive for betterment. I didn’t want to live a life where I didn’t know who I was or where I felt alone and sad. I didn’t want to live a life where I could not find my passions where I could not even write in a notebook! Or wear comfortable clothes and just accept myself!
I decided I would give myself time and try and fight the OCD on my own. I had read enough of psychology to understand that it was in fact OCD that I was struggling with. However after a year of trying in March 2013 I started seeing a counselor. She helped me understand the full extent of my problem and taught me ways to handle the obsessive thoughts. Somehow in that state, I managed to get through an interesting course in a reputed institute. This changed my life. My anxiety levels were still high but there was so much to do, there were so many people, there was so much work and there was so much to deal with that by the end of the night I used to fall asleep like a baby. This lasted two months and then one day at night while I was standing at the bakery with some friends the panic just hit me. The panic, the anxiety the full load of it that had been suppressed for two months and I couldn’t handle it. It kept putting irrational thoughts into my mind and I crumbled. I couldn’t fight. I continued to crumble till I suffered from a nervous breakdown. It was then that I was put onto medication for obsessive-compulsive disorder, general anxiety disorder and depression. I was also going for therapy.
Through small steps, I started getting better. I would go to class every day, wouldn’t miss my appointments with the doctors, eat properly, sleep on time and I would try to exercise. I had a support system that held me together because I was still fragile. After a few months I became stronger. I began taking some decisions for myself in my life that I could not have taken otherwise. I decided I would not leave college but continue to study even with these ‘demons’ in my head. All this progress took about 7 months and, believe me, it was not easy. It took a lot of effort out of me to not give up but to fight for myself. It took a lot of effort out of me to convince myself that I had to just do whatever was correct for me in the long run. I keep slipping. It’s not like I got permanently cured from OCD. However yes, the way I thought changed to a large extent, the things I thought about changed to a large extent and while it was difficult I wouldn’t change any part of my struggle. It was this struggle that gave me confidence to fight for myself, and find myself.
I was labeled as a free rider, lazy, crazy, lost, confused, and a person with no direction. I was taunted and teased and made to feel bad. I was misunderstood and hurt. People couldn’t see my suffering. It was in my mind. People couldn’t see my pain. My ailment was a mental one, dismissed easily as it could not be seen. My ailment made me feel handicapped for 22 years. It had become such a powerful force in my life that I had lost control over my life. When I got a chance to fight back and reverse or at least to some extent control the damage- I took it. I took it as a chance to find myself, understand myself, make new friends, have a life, find hobbies and passions and things that interested me. I discovered a love for cartooning and shopping. I discovered that psychology intrigued me as a subject because it helped me understand myself better. I discovered that I love brightness and color and that I am fairly simple as a person. I rediscovered my lost love for stretching and skipping.
I still have to deal with the bouts of compulsiveness that come my way every other day. I still have to make a decision on whether to listen or not to that voice in my head saying cut this up, pluck out this much hair. Some days, I’m strong- some days I’m not. There’s no fixed rule. Life is about struggle, pain and difficulty. I’ve accepted that. I’ve accepted myself therefore I can feel comfortable in myself and prosper. However the biggest lesson I learnt was that in the midst of all this- if you choose to see the silver lining you can turn your life around and help yourself. Giving up lets your disease win and you are bigger than that. You are a human who has a lot of potential and can contribute immensely to society. You may not see that right now but a few months back even I didn’t. However it is true, you have the potential to make your life wonderful. People do care about you. If you need help, go and get it. Take charge of your own life and start doing things. When you start doing things, only then will you see the results. Whatever you do, don’t ever give up on yourself.
By: Anonymously lucky
Important note for the reader:
The above is a first person account of a young person’s struggles with anxiety disorders and depression. People with the same diagnoses may experience somewhat different kinds of symptoms and this write-up is not meant for providing information about what symptoms to look for and make a diagnosis for self/others.
Its sole purpose is to increase the awareness that a) there is a person behind any illness and mental health conditions result in suffering which is as real as physical illness b) that suffering related to mental health conditions can be mitigated when the person is able to receive support by family and friends, reaches out for support from mental health professionals and works through his/her recovery process. Our gratitude to the writer- for sharing this, for the benefit of others!