Okay, so I talked about compulsions in Part 1 of this topic, but OCD isn’t just about compulsions – its also about obsessions.
Obsessions are the repeated, unrelenting, unwanted thoughts and ideas that cause us anxious feelings and intense mental discomfort. And compulsions are the acts we perform in a desperate attempt to alleviate the discomfort of some of these unwanted thoughts. Not every obsession has a compulsive act to go along with it. There is a form of OCD often referred to as “Pure O”, and this type of OCD is strictly thought based with no performing of compulsive acts for relief.
Obsessions are sort of along the lines of intrusive thoughts but a bit more complicated. (Everything about OCD is very complicated.) I have tried to find a good source online to explain the difference between the two to me…if there is a difference..and I have yet to find an article that explains it to me in other than a very basic, generic type of way, so if you know of one that might explain it well, I would love to know about it. I suppose some people might classify obsessions and intrusive thoughts as the same but it probably doesn’t matter what you call them…they are what they are. They are thoughts or ideas that get stuck in your mind and they seem to stick there with no way of getting rid of them. Any professional can and will explain that a thousand times better than me but at their very basic level, that is what obsessions are about.
I am just speculating of course, but I believe that in the case of intrusive, obsessive thoughts, subconsciously we believe that there is relief to be found from these thoughts and feelings – somehow, someway. So we just keep analyzing it over and over again, picking it apart, wishing it away but at the same time keeping it in the front of our minds so we can stay on top of it. The reassurance is out there somewhere it seems, and that is kind of what we are all stumbling around in the dark trying to find. We think we just have to keep thinking about it and dwelling on it.
There are also the kind of obsessions that co-exist with delusions. We have all heard about the people who have become obsessed with news anchors and believe they are in relationships with them, and that sort of thing. I will be the first to say that I know nothing about obsessions to that degree, or the diagnosis that accompany them, and that is not what I refer to when I speak of obsessions in this post. This post is strictly talking about the general, “milder” obsessions that occur with somebody who has an OCD diagnosis.
I have had both obsessions, or intrusive thoughts as well as compulsions and ne way to look at it, is that obsessions are like itches that we feel compelled to scratch. But there is not always a way to scratch the itch, so in that case, that nagging feeling is always there with no way, it seems, to get even a moment’s peace from it. Its alway lurking in our mind somewhere..making us antsy, anxious, scared or uncomfortable as we ponder what it means and why it is there, because it seems there is nothing else that we can do with it.
We are over thinkers, we are analyzers. That is what we do. But this over thinking and analyzing helped create this problem and it is also a main ingredient in the glue that keeps the obsession sticking around.
Now some people might say, “Well just stop thinking the obsessive thought. Or just stop performing the compulsive ritual. Easy and done.” But it’s not that easy.
It takes a specific series of “thinkings” steps to get yourself into the world of OCD. Steps we didn’t even know we were taking. We just thought we woke up one day and developed OCD but that is not how it works. We walked a specific path and we didn’t leave any crumbs to help us find our way out. So now here we are, stuck in the dark woods with no map and our inner voice is telling us to go deeper in the woods and even though we know that doesn’t make sense….we do it anyway because it “feels” like the right thing to do.
As I look back over the course of my life, I realized that I have had OCD to some degree ever since I was a teenager, I just didn’t realize it.
My first OCD symptoms evolved around the time I was dating my first boyfriend.
I was very insecure, very needy….he was a big cheater, just the worst…. and I would say that I exhibited some obsessive compulsive symptoms in that relationship. I would worry that he was cheating, and it would nag at me and nag at me and I would call his house ten times a day to get some “relief” and make sure that he wasn’t with some other girl.
I would show up at his house. I would show up at other girls’ houses and make a fool of myself because I couldn’t take these thoughts and urges to go check and make sure he was where he said he would be.
I never did anything illegal or too off the wall in my efforts to make sure he wasn’t cheating on me, but I definitely was in a very mentally unhealthy place and did things that no self-respecting girl should do.
Looking back now, I know that a lot of that was based on my insecurities and completely horrific lack of self-respect and dignity.
But I also believe now that a lot of it was OCD behavior. At this point in my life that I am at now, I can look back and see that it feels the same. The urges, the compulsions…..it all feels the same.
I was VERY dependent on my boyfriend. My desperate actions and reactions were me attempting to “save” myself by saving my relationship with him. I was trying to maintain control so that I would be “okay”.
Without him, I was nothing. That is what I thought. (Don’t worry. I’m not that girl anymore.).
I think my brain very quickly caught wind of the fact that I thought this was how to save myself and Wham! – it cemented this pattern into place. My brain wanted me to keep doing it whatever it was that was giving me this sense of control. It thought it was helping me. So I basically became addicted to my boyfriend and the drama and the pattern of “worry, check, relief”. And this pattern has repeated itself in many areas of my life.
Does any of that make sense? I’m scratching my head.
I don’t know. I guess my OCD relationship status is: “It’s complicated.” That about sums it up.
I have heard so many theories about the cause of OCD.
Some doctors have said that it is caused by some problem with the brain’s way of processing thoughts and our thoughts get “stuck” and skip like a broken record. But I just don’t believe that. At least not in the sense that my brain has a “glitch”.
That doesn’t feel right to me. Why don’t ALL my thoughts skip and repeat? Why is it that only certain bothersome thoughts or fears breed compulsions or obsessive thoughts? I fear a million things..but only a few grew into OCD.
I don’t know. This is why I don’t like writing about OCD. Its hard to write a post that makes sense about something that just doesn’t make sense.
Basically, I think the only thing going on with my brain is that I am sensitive and I react more to life than the average person, so my brain goes to greater lengths to protect me than the average brain. My brain wants me to be safe so it wants me to be SUPER careful around things that I have certain strong emotional reactions to.
If I really did live in a battle zone or a real life “Hunger Games”, I have to believe that my bad ass brain and I would go all the way to the end. We are survivors. But because I am not playing in a war zone, fighting for my life every second of my life, my brain’s way of handling things is a little bit “overkill”. Its like having a Ferrari engine in a minivan. Completely un-necessary.
But it’s not my brain’s fault.
Because of my way of thinking and reacting to my life, my brain thinks that my life really IS a war zone. (I am a little nervous that when my brain goes to brain heaven and starts telling the other brains all the grand stories about how it saved me from danger hundreds of times, it is going to be really disappointed when they laugh and show him the footage revealing that I am not a CIA Agent….just a nervous mom of 5.)
People always seem a little horrified when I tell them that my thinking is what I think caused my OCD. Their faces seem to say “Oh you poor dear. You are ill, don’t blame yourself.” That is sweet, but those people don’t get it. I am okay with taking responsibility for my OCD.
I am okay with it being at least partly “my fault” that I live with this disorder.
In fact, I WANT to be responsible for my anxiety and OCD. I would much rather think this was MY problem as opposed to my brain’s problem. I don’t want to take my OCD “seriously” and think of it as a “big deal”. I don’t want to believe my brain is sick or broken or different from everybody else’s. What I want to believe is that I am a nervous, scared, negative over-thinker, who needs to stand up to her worry/checking compulsion while letting go of her need to control the entire world, while learning to chill the heck out! I am okay with people joking about it. I am okay with people using the term “I am so OCD”, even if they don’t have it.
And I would have totally worn that OCD Christmas sweater from Target. Yes, I am admitting it. (Don’t leave me hate mail because I already know I’m not “supposed” to like it. Its kind of odd that I have OCD but didn’t buy that shirt because if I did, I would have been considered insensitive to people with OCD.)
The truth is that a lot of people do have compulsive tendencies that may not qualify for an official OCD diagnosis or affect them as much as mine do. I think some people are OCD – ish, and just because they aren’t debilitated by it, that doesn’t mean they can’t lightly refer to it. But even if they don’t have those tendencies, it does not phase me at all when people joke about it.
OCD needs to NOT be a big deal to me. Me treating it like it is some serious mental illness that is “not my fault” and that nobody can make light of, encourages me into victim mode, it encourages my symptoms to stick around, and I am not going there. In my hearts of hearts I know I am not “sick” and I know I will get control over this just as somebody can get control of obesity or drug addiction or whatever. Do not coddle me, do not feel the need to be “mindful” of my disorder or watch what you say around me. I don’t need it.
I just want to be just like everybody else. I AM just like everybody else. Telling myself, or making other people feel that I have a condition too serious to make jokes about or speak of in any way that is less than reverent is the fastest way I can think of to separate me from everybody else. No thanks.
OCD is not a terminal illness. I, personally, don’t even look at it as a mental illness. Not that I would be ashamed of it if it were, but I just don’t think my brain is ill. I have never heard that I CAN’T get better. I have never been told that it is something that controls me and that I have no power over it or that I am going to need to take meds for the rest of my days if I have any hope of ever having a “normal” life. There is a light at the end of the OCD tunnel for me…..for all of us. And the better my attitude is about it, and the more I befriend it, the brighter that light shines.
Not everybody is going to be in the mindset to look at it that way. I get that. Not everybody has the “relationship” with their OCD that I have with mine. Not everybody believes that OCD is a “thinking disorder” as opposed to a mental illness. And some people are really struggling with this disorder to a severe degree. It used to take me 4.5 hours just to check my house before bed. I know the struggle. But that mindset is something I think that we should at least all aspire to, shouldn’t we?
I don’t know. Maybe I am the only one who feels this way, but that is the way I look at it.
Anyway, I know I digressed big time there, but to wrap this up…..I don’t think that we all end up in the OCD maze the same way. We do all have a lot of those same personality traits I am always talking about, but we all have different thought patterns and events going on in our lives that combine with those personality traits to bring us to the door of the maze.
For me, at least with this round of my OCD, it was the trauma of losing my babies. For others it could be being bullied, or stress at work, or pressure from family over various things or even just overall everyday stress that accumulates. It could even be just your thought patterns or personality alone that are the cause. But it doesn’t matter. The point is that everybody has their own path that eventually leads them to that OCD door but once you are inside, I think all that matters is not how you got there, but how to get yourself out.
How do you do that?
I am working on that. That is a “post-in-progress”. I will add it to my list of Part 2’s and Part 3’s that I am so behind on. But really I wouldn’t have anything to write because I just don’t know yet.
But I can tell you how I have come as far as I have. It’s a whole lot of distraction and baby steps and tiny little spurts of courage here and there and a whole LOT of list making. But again, those are just parachutes. It is my goal that in a few months time, I am going to be able to tell you what motivated me to take the parachute off and hope it inspires you to take yours off too. No amount of therapy or talking or analyzing or anything will help you get REAL control of your OCD until you decide to jump without the chute. That is probably the only thing about OCD that I do know for sure.
I always like to leave a link in my posts to articles that expand or improve upon what I write about. It is hard with OCD because I haven’t found a whole lot of articles that make sense to me on this subject. But here is a link to a great article and a potential form of treatment, that I found at DiscoverMagazine.com. It is related to the theories behind the book “Brain Lock”, which can be found here at Amazon, which I have read and thought had some really great points in it, even though I remember there were some parts about it I wasn’t necessarily agreeing with. But clearly I am not the expert, and I still think the advice and information is great, none the less, and ultimately you shouldn’t read just MY thoughts on this matter. You should read many, many people’s thoughts on this matter and decide what makes sense to you.
Thanks for reading.
Tree Photo: Pixabay