Living with OCD
Anthony Bryan writes about how his life has been affected by OCD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and the common misconceptions about the condition...
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). This little bastard affects around 1.1% of the UK population.
Each person will have different traits. From the more publicized cleaning and neatness, to the lesser spoken of. Intrusive thoughts, twitching and tic disorder.
I cannot remember a time I didn’t have some form of compulsive behaviour; from as young as 5-6 years old I’d have an overwhelming urge to straighten out creases in the curtains or counting how many times a door handle needed to be touched before leaving a room. These would sometimes last for hours and even through the night. No wonder I was a moody little shit.
This was labelled as ‘Habits’ I’d be told ‘’It’s just a habit, don’t worry, you will grow out of it’’… Okay then … ROLL ON MANHOOD! where I wouldn’t need to flare my nostrils continually to stop a family member from being hurt (True Story)
Sadly, this carried on throughout childhood and became worse. Some moments were pretty hilarious I admit. Situations where I’d randomly raise my voice volume during a normal convo, or blinking to the count of 100 before being able to talk.
The darker moments. Not so funny. I only learned that these dark moments AKA (Intrusive Thoughts) were one of the most common OCD traits… Oh the bloody thoughts!
Having no control over what would pop into my mind was beyond frustrating, and scary. The feeling I was slowly turning into a crazy monster. Now I wouldn’t want to go into some of the shit that floated in my head, especially as a child. Let’s just say it wasn’t sunshine and lollipops.
Going through these issues unnoticed wasn’t possible, many family and friends saw my so called ‘Habits;’ and just laughed. We hadn’t heard of OCD. There was no good old Google to help us out on this one, and to be honest, doctors didn’t really give a shit.
The first time the term OCD was mentioned to me was the late 90’s. That’s it though, just mentioned. No help, suggestions or advice, just the name… Cheers for that 👍
Roll on a few years and my habits and tics were even more pronounced. It was only when I started to become obsessed with germs that these started to ease. Going from face and hand twitching to a complete fear of catching anything and everything, mainly having a ridiculous fear of vomit was new to me.
To control not becoming ill I started to clean! Not just a little tidy up. Oh no, but to the point everything needed to be wiped down, vacuumed and dusted. Continually!
For my family this wasn’t a bad thing… Free cleaner!! To be honest I didn’t mind. I’d take this over phantom pain and tics any day.
In 2010-11 ‘OCD’ became a buzzword. If you were tidy you must have a little OCD… My kind of cleaning was leaving a sparkling bog seat cleaner than most people’s kitchens. Not putting the bins out.
Over time I realised the cleaning was me taking control. I was in control of my health, in control of my surrounding. As time went on my acts became extreme. I remember living with at my parents, not able to sleep knowing the floor hadn’t been washed. Midnight hits and I’m up on my hands and knees scrubbing away. Clearly this isn’t normal, especially as I was barely a teenager. After a good year or two I began to have more of a life, going out with the fear level of illness lowering. I’m not sure what happened. Maybe everyone was right? these ‘habits’ were due to my age and therefore I was growing out of them. Gradually I started to leave mess, and when I say mess, I mean a set of scattered keys or dirty mug. This OCD was fading, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. Don’t get it wrong, the cleaning standard stayed at solid ‘Spotless’ however there was no dread in bit of dust.
Thank f**k, its over!
Sadly, when facing a stressful period my compulsions do show themselves. After going 3 years with only a few thoughts and ‘Habits’ I felt good. I tend to acknowledge these random feelings with journaling and meditation, as well as saying out loud ”Fuck Off” … Meh, seems to do the trick.
2020 is here and times are hard for us all. This is when my latest OCD moment hit! This time surrounding a loved one.
It was bedtime. As always, I put my phone down ready to sleep. I started to get this very real feeling a loved one was home choking. Jumping up, I checked my phone to make sure everything was fine… ‘’Everything’s okay’’ they reply.
… Right, back to bed with my crazy self. The same feeling hits me. By this point I knew it was an OCD Moment, telling myself to shut the f**k up and taking a few deeper breaths.
This happened for over a month!
Now. I know this is mind f**kery. I know this isn’t real, yet I still got up and checked my phone throughout the nights. Meditation and acknowledging the thoughts allowed me to sleep and get past it, but it was so easy to run away with these thoughts and feelings.
OCD can be the devil, but these Obsessions and Compulsions come and best of all, they GO!
Coping strategies do work, as mentioned I have blips but that’s all they are.
Below are a few tips about what works for me:
- Meditation: best practiced daily, but when time is limited, breathing in for 6 and out for 6 a few times brings you back to the present. I’m a big fan of breathing exercises as for me they really work. Plenty of free apps out there. My go to is Insight Timer with so many guided meditations.
- Avoid body scanning, as you are so concentrated on your body from the head down to the toes, this can cause Phantom pain which can feel very real. Breathing meditations are best to relax you. The more relaxed you are, the less stressed you are.
- Talk to yourself: Close your eyes and Out loud, say “I acknowledge this feeling and accept it” YES, I am suggesting you chat away to yourself, but this seems to work. So sod it. If it shifts the compulsion making it less intense then you’re winning.
- Finally, to sleep: 4. 7. 8 technique is the main reason I sleep. Breathing in through your nose for the count of 4. Hold it for 7 seconds and breath out through the mouth for 8 seconds with a whooshing sound. I do this 4-6 times and gone! Sleep!
For more information and advice, visit ‘OCD UK’ https://www.ocduk.org/
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