- I wash my hands over and over.
- I turn the light switch on and off ten times before entering a room.
- I think my family will die or get hurt if I don’t stick to my routine.
These are the most common things people seem to think I must do and think when I tell them I have OCD. I would like to start by dispelling some myths. Not everyone who has OCD washes their hands over and over, yes a germ phobia is quite a common symptom of OCD, but I do no have this. I do like to keep clean, but only to the extent that most people do. I can see why people think this, if you look up OCD on Wikipedia, it even has a picture of someone washing their hands, which does not help me. I have never had to turn the light on and off over and over. I do have some issues with numbers, counting up to twelve when I do some things, but I do not have a set number of times I must do any one thing.
I have always realised that if I do not do my routine my family will not die, nothing will in fact happen to them. Most people with OCD realise this, and the thought that someone will die if the routine is not completed I gather is quite rare. The reason I have to stick to my routine is more how I will feel if I do not. I feel very uncomfortable and can’t relax if my OCD is not complied with. I feel wrong somehow and my mind nags at me. I can lie in bed at night, very tired and ready to sleep, but if I have not completed my full routine my brain will not shut-up. ‘You need to check the door is fully shut, yes you do, check it, check it, go on, go on’ a bit like Mrs Doyle in Father Ted will not let you get away until you agree to give into her. So I have to give into my crazy mind and get out of bed, no matter how comfy I am and re shut the door. This is the only way I know I will get any peace and my mind will switch off for the night.
Another thing people sometimes say to me is ‘I think I might have OCD’. Now everyone has some kind of order and routine or we would not function in society, but having a routine is not the same thing as having OCD. OCD stands for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and until your thoughts are so obsessive in your mind that you simply have to give into them or end up going crazy then you don’t have OCD.
Full blown OCD can effect you ability to function in society. Firstly I find it hard at times to live with others as sometimes they can do things that mess up my routine by interrupting it, meaning I have to start all over again. Sometimes people move or rearrange objects in a house, which can seriously mess with my mind. Half way through a routine to find that something is not where I need it to be can set me right back. Secondly I have been known to take so long to get dressed and ready to go out that by the time I am done the shops are shut or the event is half over. So I either miss out totally or have a rather rushed experience. Even if I do turn up in good time, I can often be worn out already by the long routine of getting ready to go out.
I have been on medication since I was about fourteen. Paroxetine is better known as an antidepressant drug, but is often used to help with OCD. I have no idea if it is still doing anything for me these days as I have been on it so long. I am sure it was helping me in the first few years of taking it, making me slightly less anxious about not doing certain things, but now I am on a lower dose and may have become immune to it. I do know I am addicted to it and have to take it or I feel awful. It take about two or three days without it, but then I feel dizzy, sick, tired and my head feels like it has been hit with a hammer. I ran out once when at university and I was without it for nearly four whole days, by the end I was seeing coloured sports in front of my eyes. I am not sure being left on medication with these effects is a good idea long-term, but I am glad I took it. I also had therapy for my OCD, but on its own the therapy clearly was not enough.
My therapy was mainly behavioural based and did help somewhat, but it was no cure. The trouble with therapy is that I would sometimes have a good week and be so relaxed at the session that you would fail to really explore the true issues. If you go on and have a few good weeks in a row the therapist may think you are making such good progress you no longer need to see them and then the sessions come to an end. Then you go and have a bad week and have no one to help you. I find stress, worrying situations and upset can trigger off a bad OCD phase.
Every day I have to do my OCD routines, but depending on my mood I can do them to a lesser extent at times, meaning that I can get on with life fairly normally. Then something triggers me and I have to do them to the fullest extent. This can be hard for other people who live with you, who may not understand how one day you can function relatively fine, then the next hardly be able to cope at all. I can sometimes work out why my OCD is playing up worse and explain this to people, but sometimes I do not know what the cause is and can’t explain it. OCD is not always at a constant level, which some people seem to have trouble grasping.
To learn more about the misconceptions of OCD and what it really is and is not check out this web link I found. OCD UK charity