It’s the end of OCD Action’s Week of Action and I really wanted this post to be positive, happy, encouraging and inspirational. I know how hard it can be when you’re dealing with OCD and just how much it can take it out of you. My aim with this post was to provide an escape, a release from your worries and fears. Alas, I feel like I would be a liar and a fraud if I went against everything I stand for and wrote something that wasn’t a true reflection of how I’m feeling. I hark on about honesty all of the god damn time, and if I can’t be honest with myself, if I can’t be honest with you guys, then there’s no point in me doing any of this.
When I was diagnosed with OCD and depression, I knew my life was going to be different. This thing inside me, this twisted and dark version of myself that eeked out a living in every uninhabited pore of my soul had a name. It wasn’t a mystery anymore. I could call it out when I recognised it, I could shine a light on it whilst it crept about in the bleak and meagre depths of my mind.
It scraped up every negative thought inside of me like it was catching a butterfly made of dust from the brightest stars in the nebula. Building a Trojan Horse out of everything I was insecure and paranoid about, using fear and worry as the glue that held it all together, it barrelled this horse so hard and fast towards me that I didn’t see it coming at all. What’s the expression, “You shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth”? This glowing, golden horse, a symbol of strength and determination was a heinous trick, a cruel deception that I swiftly learnt was only brought to life by my own imagination. A devious and clever conjuring of my own doing. I had no choice but to pull away at the planks, one by one, and fight everything that careened out of this intrusive asylum.
For so long I’ve battled my OCD. It’s been there when I’ve succeeded at school and college, when I passed my driving test, when I trained to become a pilot, when I fell in and out of love, when I moved around the country, when I made and lost friendships, when I had to resign from my post as Head Boy because of OCD, when I was a crumpled mess atop a pile of washing, sobbing my heart out for hours and hours in the very early morning in my old flat on my own, when a shower lasted hours not minutes, when I couldn’t buy food from shops so had to resort to buying online, when I missed out on seeing family members as they grew older and faded away. OCD has always been there, for as long as I can recall.
It’s been a constant and not always unwelcome companion. You see, when you live with something for such a long time, you almost become dependent on it. You worry what it’ll be like to live without the false reassurances and the constant doubts that you wrongly believe are holding you together. “What if?” is a knee-jerk reaction, an impulse that I falter from uttering in times of desperation. When that’s gone, what can I do when things go wrong? How can I make things better if a shower doesn’t have the same impact? It’s a vicious catch-22 and one that I’m not fond of. I often feel like someone who is stuck in a revolving door, you know the ones, where in films the star goes round and round and round and can’t stop. It never stops. It never, ever stops.
At least that’s what I believed, because when you’re caught up in it, when all you can see is OCD, it’s understandable that you lose all sense of life free from the shackles of pain and torment. But those blue skies and sunny days where the birds sing and the people smile and the thoughts are quiet? Those days exist, I promise you. The thoughts do quieten down, the fears do shrink, the worries do subside. OCD only has some control, but it makes you think you are powerless. This is far from the case because, in reality, OCD is terrified that you’ll wake up one day and realise that you hold the reigns, that the power is in your hands and you can kick it into touch. Hold onto that idea, let that one turn over in your head. That’s an idea that you can allow to play on repeat.
One thing that I knew would happen yet still caught me off guard was once I started managing my OCD, my depression became increasingly harder to deal with. The trouble with OCD is that it’s so loud it blocks out all other noise and traffic. It screams for your attention and makes your blood run hot so that no other sensation or feeling is allowed to germinate. I couldn’t focus on anything else when I was caught up in the undergrowth, thorns pricking at my sides, demanding my scrutiny and persecution. But when it softened and the thoughts made way for clarity, a fog descended and I choked on the mist that rolled in from god knows where.
Suffocating on my own freedom, I now feel like I’m battling a whole new enemy. One that isn’t tangible, that doesn’t constantly bombard me when I’m happy or sad. But it’s there, all the time, it’s there. However you name and shame it, depression is a silent assassin that sucks away at any momentum or endeavours to resist it. Somehow though and in spite of all this, my little pilot light of hope is still burning away. It flickers a lot more of late, but it’s still there. Hope is such a powerful thing, it’s stronger than hate or fear, worry or doubt. Hope will lift you through the thickest fog, even when your inner demons are trying to drag you back under the crashing waves of the enormity of your life.
So don’t give up, please. I urge you to find your own pilot light, to nurture it with books, films, walks in the woods, trips to the cinema, your favourite food and drink, cuddles with your pets and loved ones. Comfort yourself, treat yourself and be kind to yourself as if you were caring for your closest friend. Show yourself the love that you deserve, because no matter the guise or shape or form mental illness uses to confront you, I want you to know that you can fight back. You can beat this foe that thinks it’s invincible. It has a weakness, and that weakness is hope.
Find it, hold it dear and never let it go.