I talked about meeting a woman - Sandra Wallace. She was diagnosed with OCD. Her diagnosis at the time set her on a path of learning about this crippling situation that she desperately wanted to break free of.
People often think of Monica from Friends or Sheldon Cooper from the Big Bang Theory when they think of OCD. Their popular characters are often depicted as people being unreasonably demanding for symmetry, order and uniformity. It's also possible that some of you have never heard of the term OCD before. And perhaps, some of you may be struggling with the symptoms all alone waiting for your happy little pill that could solve it at once.
Well, I'm here to tell you that there is no pill like that, but you're not alone. Struggling with this disorder for over 20 years and helping hundreds of people, can make pretty much anyone an expert and so, here I am.
Let's indulge our imagination for a while.
Imagine you're driving a car. One foot on the gas and the other one on the break, pushing both at the same time - you're stuck.
Or having the same thought stuck in your head for the whole day but not like the rhythm of your favourite song, more like a constant repetitive annoyance that won't leave your head no matter what you try.
Or wearing your clothes inside-out in the morning and having that uncomfortable-in-your-skin feeling all day long. It won't leave - this feeling of 'being stuck' sticks to you.
With the physical discomfort stems the emotional, psychological impact - Anxiety.
Anxiety is your brain's way of identifying danger whether perceived or real.
This, my friends, is OCD - Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
This is how it feels.
This is how it embeds itself in mundane everyday life.
Becomes a part of who you are, slowly, one day at a time.
During these moments of anxiety, people living with OCD fall back on the 'fight-or-flight' response in a way that is counterproductive. They often respond by following a compulsion - a ritual, of sorts to alleviate the anxiety.
Anxiety in moderation and within context, for most people, is a temporary feeling which is healthy. However, for individuals with OCD, the warning system in the brain is super sensitive. Therefore, their anxiety is a perpetual condition. Their brain can trick them into believing things that aren't correct - like their hands aren't always dirty, their food is okay, a little asymmetrical design won't collapse the whole project.
For the Sandra that I came to know many years ago, just a thought, any thought stuck in her mind led to never-ending worries. As much as an impulse or an image could instigate a fear to come to light. For any fear to become real, she just needed a thought. This is how potent a thought could be to a person living with OCD.
OCD - Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a form of Obsession.
Obsession is having an unwanted intrusive thought, image or impulse that runs in your mind over and over and over again no matter how much to try to put it in a box and shove it away in the darkest corners of your psyche. Failing to control the perpetual cycle becomes a daunting challenge. They try to not talk about it and hide it away thinking 'I don't want to fuel it more power by so much as uttering it'.
You must wonder, how does a person living with OCD neutralize this anxiety?
Well, most commonly, to alleviate the anxiety, they perform a compulsion or a ritual. It involves repetitive behaviours or thoughts to make the anxiety go away or suppress them over time. A person with OCD can realize his compulsions and the mind works against it. So, the solutions work well - temporarily.
'Temporary' being the keyword here - often short-lived reliefs until another obsession makes its way to the forefront and the vicious cycle starts all over again.
And that is exactly why this cycle of OCD needs to be broken.
Stay tuned for my next blog where I show you how Sandra freed herself from the manacles of this vicious cycle!