While I am late to the party, I still wanted to draw attention to the fact that this week, October 8-14, 2017, is International OCD Awareness Week. OCD, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, is a mental health disorder that affects many people. According to the International OCD Foundation, OCD
"occurs when a person gets caught in a cycle of obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are unwanted, intrusive thoughts, images or urges that trigger intensely distressing feelings. Compulsions are behaviors an individual engages in to attempt to get rid of the obsessions and/or decrease his or her distress."
They go on to give an example on how it feels to have OCD.
Imagine that your mind got stuck on a certain thought or image…
Then this thought or image got replayed in your mind
no matter what you did…
You don’t want these thoughts — it feels like an avalanche…
Along with the thoughts come intense feelings of anxiety…
Anxiety is your brain’s alarm system. When you feel anxious, it feels like you are in danger. Anxiety is an emotion that tells you to respond, react, protect yourself, DO SOMETHING!
On the one hand, you might recognize that the fear doesn’t make sense, doesn’t seem reasonable, yet it still feels very real, intense, and true…
Why would your brain lie?
Why would you have these feelings if they weren’t true? Feelings don’t lie… Do they?
Unfortunately, if you have OCD, they do lie. If you have OCD, the warning system in your brain is not working correctly. Your brain is telling you that you are in danger when you are not.
When scientists compare pictures of the brains of groups of people with OCD, they can see that some areas of the brain are different than the brains of people who don’t have OCD.
Those tortured with OCD are desperately trying to get away from paralyzing, unending anxiety…
How do I know so much about this subject? Well, a few years ago I was diagnosed with OCD. Although I often felt I had tendencies toward OCD behavior, I was able to manage them on my own for most of my adult life. Once I hit forty years of age, however, I became overwhelmed with my obsessions. My obsessions manifested themselves in the form of intrusive thoughts, mainly regarding my health. I became unable to distinguish fact from fiction, reality from delusion. I spent hours fixated on my upcoming mammogram, obsessed over a freckle I was certain was changing into a mole, or bumps on the back of my head. I could be fine for days, and then suddenly, I would be paralyzed with fear because I saw an article on Facebook about a woman with a horrible disease. My OCD would then cause me to fixate on the symptoms, which I of course researched on Dr. Google...DO NOT DO THAT...and my mind would be filled with scenarios of my death.
Although the term OCD is thrown around quite randomly, it is a real disorder, and those suffering from it, in my experience, are initially reluctant to shout it from the rooftops. It is more than being neat, or disliking germs. It isn't a status symbol or worse yet, a joke. It is a serious mental health issue, and left untreated, will consume one's life and render him or her unable to function on certain days due to endless anxiety ridden moments.
I am beyond blessed that my husband Steve recognized my need for help when the time came. He literally put me in the car and took me to an amazingly empathetic doctor. But even more, I was blessed to have the most kind, respectful, and considerate nurse who immediately put me at ease. I felt able to open up and pour out all the thoughts I have carried inside my head for so many years without feeling judged, or worse yet, labeled. When I left, my nurse April hugged me. I knew then that I was going to be ok. And thus began my way back from the depths of OCD.
My new doctor is amazing. She will literally sit with me and go over each of my concerns. She checks to make sure my issues are not real medical concerns.Then she reminds me that I will deal with this forever, but I have tools to help me now. She and my new gynecologist and nurse April reassure me as well. They listen to me. They don't label me. I am comfortable with them and I feel so relieved.
How else am I handling this part of my life? Well, I do take medication. And I am ok with that. I understand the medicine does not change who I am...it doesn't change ME. The medicine helps the part of my brain that needs it to function properly, so I can be the healthiest me I can be.
I also have an amazing therapist I visit when I need to be reassured. She has given me tools to use when I have a slip up. Perhaps one of the best? OCD does not define me. I am NOT OCD. I HAVE OCD. It is a small part of me. And through medicine, therapy, mindfulness meditation, support and love from my family and friends...yes, you, Marian, Heather and April...I am now able to say that yes...I have this thing I deal with. It is OCD. It is a pain. I think of it as my cross. I think everyone has something. And this is mine.
So there you are. Something about me you didn't know. But something I am not ashamed of. Something I share to encourage even that one reader who may be helped by my story. My advice to anyone suffering from this mental health issue...
1. Admit it. To yourself.
2. Confide in a loved one.
3. Seek help from a doctor or nurse professional.
4. Follow the plan he or she sets out for you.
5. Continue your plan, even when your symptoms cease.
6. DO NOT GOOGLE.
8. Have faith and pride and love in and for yourself.
9. Lean on your family and friends when necessary.
10.Ditch the fear of judgement.
11. Anyone who makes fun of or judges you is not worth your time.
12. Pray. If that is your thing.
13. Live your life. OCD doesn't define you.
Thanks for visiting, my friends.
I am always glad you do.