Obsessions and compulsions can be frightening and confounding. And if criteria are met for obsessive-compulsive disorder, the plot thickens. Take it from someone who refers to it as hell on earth…
If I didn’t do each one of the steps, it felt like I was going to die and everyone was going to get all of my stuff. I had to do this every time I left the house.
Jason McKean, author of How to Stop Walking Around in Shackles and Start Being Free and Alivegot in touch, asking if he could provide a guest post. Given his 40 years of personal experience with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), I was happy to get his story onboard.
As you’ll see, he writes from the heart and doesn’t pull any punches.
Let’s get after it. The floor’s yours, Jason…
What is OCD?
Have you ever survived hell on earth? Have you ever felt like a puppet under someone else’s control? That’s what an existence with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) feels like.
You get a thought that is scary, like harming someone you’re fond of. After this terrifying thought, you have to step back to make sure you didn’t actually do anything to harm the person.
You have to check each time, since the mind doubts that you ever checked at all.
The thoughts can be about many different things. They can be about germs, harming, dropping items, locking doors, etc. They are all “real” to the person, but they are all just thoughts.
How OCD starts
There are many different theories on how OCD starts. Below are some of them…
- Trauma from childhood
- Learned from parents or others
- Chemical imbalance usually involving serotonin
How OCD affected me
However it is started, OCD has had a major affect on my life for 40 of my 45 years. Here are some of the ways it has affected me…
I started being reined-in by this OCD demon around age six. I love dogs and wouldn’t hurt them, but I actually did do some terrible things to my beloved dog, Princess.
I had the thought, “I hope I don’t choke the dog and it gets harmed.” So I had to check by putting my hands around her throat and actually tried to choke the dog. I doubted that I did it right and had to do it again.
After about four times Princess had a tough time catching her breath while coughing. That was what it took for me to stop.
The dog had more forgiveness than I would have and I am glad she was fine. It still bothers me today – working on forgiving myself.
The AIDS scare
Then there was the AIDS scare. I wasn’t in any kind of harm from the disease, but just the thought scared me.
I would stay away from anything red, especially on someone’s hand. Even though I knew the facts, I still washed my hands and stayed clear of anything red.
It reigned over me and I couldn’t control it. Then it lost its power and the identity theft thoughts came.
When I heard about identity theft, it scared the hell out of me. I watched everything and made sure I locked everything well.
It would take me a half hour to leave the house. I would do the following every time I left…
- Go around the house and make sure to hide everything important and set a “trap” so I would know if someone took something.
- Mark down what was in my pants pockets to make sure I didn’t drop anything.
- Look out in the hallway to make sure I didn’t drop anything for anyone to find.
- When I left the house I had to mark down that I put a box in front of the door – to make sure I knew if anyone got in. I also had to mark down that I locked the door, and mark down that there was nothing in the keyhole or on the ground.
As I headed down the stairs of the apartment, if anyone came out of their room, I had to do everything all over again – beginning with the second one.
Sometimes I had to do it four times, which took twenty minutes. If I didn’t do each one of the steps, it felt like I was going to die and everyone was going to get all of my stuff. I had to do this every time I left the house.
There were others: thinking I hit someone with a car, calling God bad names, throwing important stuff out of car windows on purpose, thinking someone poisoned food I purchased, and saying bad things out loud in a public space.
The getting better journey
My journey to getting better included the following…
- I made sure that I was able to do my OCD thing, but quickly. When I think into it too much, that is when I can get caught in a web of repeating checks over and over – sometimes for a half hour.
- Pray to God and trust that His plan will go forward and that He gives me the strength to keep going.
- Say affirmations such as “I am a smart person and won’t do any of the bad thoughts.” “Just be cautious around others and not paranoid, etc.”
- Relax more, including visualizations of peaceful beaches.
- Learning to breathe deeply and keep a quiet mind.
- Being a watchman for my mind, leaving scary thoughts go like a song I can’t stand.
- Speaking and writing about the disorder to help out others.
- Taking medications to take the edge off.
- Tell myself that thoughts are not real, they are just junk floating in.
- Going to professionals such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, and social worker.
Hope for you
These tactics are helping to this day to rein-in the disorder, instead of the other way around.
I hope someone that relates to these symptoms or a professional reading this will give the sufferer more room and respect. It takes super-powers to handle this full-time job disorder, plus working a full-time job.
I hope all OCD sufferers can get better and use some of the things that helped me out.
Don’t stay in the shadows
Thank you, Jason. I was moved by your story. And I’m proud to tell you we share several thoughts and behaviors. I get it.
Readers, if you found yourself nodding your head, getting a lump in your throat, or tearing up while reading Jason’s piece, in some way you get it, too.
Question is, what are you going to do about it? Please don’t stay in the shadows. There’s plenty of help available.
Looking for a place to share what’s on your mind and help others? Check out the private Facebook group, Chipur: Living With the Mood & Anxiety Disorders.
And don’t forget about those Chipur mood and anxiety info and inspiration articles. Peruse the titles.