The Demons in My Head a.k.a. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Primarily Obsessional OCD (POCD)

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I’ve debated for a while on whether or not to write this post. OCD is, in my opinion, one of the most misunderstood mental illnesses around. I suppose I feel compelled to write this post today because this week has been especially difficult for me. Maybe I can help somebody else dealing with this garbage. Maybe it will help me if talk about it.

First of all, let’s talk about what OCD isn’t. The term OCD has become a common phrase, flung around carelessly when people are perfectionistic, meticulous, fixated on doing certain things a certain way or the like. I have to say it’s a pet peeve of mine to hear people casually say things like, “Oh, I am so OCD” as if it’s something quirky or funny. Certainly perfectionism and meticulousness may be present in a person with OCD but many people truly dealing with this vicious disease would not be able to so easily make light of these tendencies. Edited to add - I’m of course not angry at anyone who has used the term lightly, just frustrated because it gives a false impression about what OCD really is.

Now, let’s talk about what OCD is. Wikipedia defines it as …”a chronic mental disorder most commonly characterized by intrusive, repetitive thoughts resulting in compulsive behaviors and mental acts that the person feels driven to perform…aimed at preventing some imagined dreaded event. Also, the psychological self-awareness of the irrationality of the disorder can be painful.”

When a person has OCD the brains “alarm system” so called, overreacts. Irrational fears that may come and go in an instant for normal people will take seed in the thought of a person with OCD and play out over and over causing severe anxiety and distress. Thus, the obsession part of OCD. Perhaps the most distressing part of all is that the person with OCD can’t control this. They know these fears are irrational, they know (or hope) that these scary thoughts are not of their own making or will, yet they can’t get rid of the thoughts. In my case it’s often more than just thoughts. Images will flash in my mind over and over that I can’t shake. It’s like someone has my eyes peeled open in front of a horror movie. Or like someone shouting in my head ceaselessly.

So what does a person do when they are hounded by scary thoughts? What do you do when a disease takes hold of your inner fears and taunts you with the idea of acting on them, or being victim to them? You try to beat the thing out of your head that’s what. Thus the compulsion comes into play.
Somehow you think that if you act a certain way or do a certain something that it will lessen the severity of the intrusive thoughts. So maybe you decide you have to count to 7 three times in a row, or lock the door 3 times in a row to prevent that terrible thought from playing out. Or maybe you have to say a prayer every single time a disturbing image hits. Not that prayer isn’t good, but when it becomes a part of the compulsion, it’s not.

It’s a disease I wouldn’t be surprised if the devil himself created. Why? Because acting out the compulsions only make it worse. As a kind psychologist once told me, it’s an invincible dragon. The more you try to slay it, the more it feeds off your distress and the worse it gets. I could hardly swallow it when he told me I had to stop trying to kill it. I had to learn to live with it. How do you learn to live with something you hate with such a passion? 

Knowing what your dealing with is only 1/4 of the battle. It did help when I was finally diagnosed and knew that these disturbing thoughts weren’t me. But after that I had to yield. I had to hear the stupid disease shout at me and not do anything about it. I had to learn to agree with my adversary while it was in the way with me. I had to see that intrusive image or have that intrusive thought and think “Yeah, that would suck” and try to focus on something else. The trick is finding balance, distracting yourself a little when needed without allowing that distraction to become a compulsion.

Many people I know always seem to be in wonder at how much I accomplish in a day, at how much I teach myself. Well now you know why. I don’t like to let my mind idle. I love to learn new things anyway and while doing so there is less opportunity for me to focus on disturbing thoughts. But sometimes no matter how I try to get along with this disease it will still rear up and beat me into exhaustion. Sometimes I can’t resist the urge to shout back at it. Sometimes I can’t wait for the day to end so I can find release in sleep. But I keep trying to live with it, keep trying to believe that who I really am inside is independent of it and that when I pass into the next life I will finally be free of it.

To read more about the type of OCD I most struggle with visit this article