2007: “It’s a sunny day, but it would be best to take an umbrella, just to be sure, y’know.”
2008: “Now I know I locked the door, but I need to go back and check again!”
2011: “I am not familiar with the hygiene standards of this restaurant, so I’m not going to order any meat or rice.”
2015: “Ah damn, my clean trousers touched the chair that I sat on earlier with the clothes I wore on the bus – now they are dirty too. Best wash them again.”
2016: “I wash my hands 27 times a day.”
2017: “I have different flip flops to wear in different rooms of the house, so that germs from the floor don’t get spread around, and also my feet then don’t tough the floor.”
2017: “I can’t hug my mum, I will get ill.”
Did you notice that gradual increase in intensity there? Because I sure as hell didn’t. It’s hard to pinpoint where anxiety/OCD starts, especially if you, like me, would identify as a naturally “anxious” person to begin with. By the time I was diagnosed in 2016 it was too late to look for the cause as a way to resolve the issue. My CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) adviser told me that OCD is a behaviour we teach ourselves; we are anxious of unpleasant scenarios, so we obsessively act out procedures that we believe will prevent it from happening. This quells the anxiety, but that lovely reassurance is addictive, and makes us do it again and again and again. Before you realise, you can’t stop.
I was told that with focus and determination, it takes two months to unlearn a behaviour for every year that you’ve done it, but how long was that?! I couldn’t see a distinction between the real me and the OCD, we were one and the same, I’ve been anxious since I first opened my eyes, obsessively compulsive was just my personality. How would I know when to stop? Would there be any of me left at the end?
I can say now, that I have had a glimpse of an OCD-free life, I’ll get on to that in a later post, but I can tell you, its wonderfully, brilliantly, and excitingly normal. Removing OCD did not erode any part of my personality, or leaving a gaping hole where worry used to be. In fact, I didn’t even notice the change at first, I simply became aware the that tightness in my chest that used to greet me first thing in the morning, was suddenly gone. I realised that I didn’t have to wash clean plates before I used them, and that trousers, could in fact be worn more than once (if not obviously dirty). I used to think that OCD and my personality were one and the same, then I realised they were two different entities, fighting for dominance in my head. When the disorder was controlled, I was left with, well, me.
OCD-free is not worry-free. Worrying about things is fine and normal, as long as you can control it. You could look at it as being the difference between choice and command; personality is motivated by choice, it is malleable and controlled by you. OCD is a command, it strict and immovable and it controls you. Being OCD-free is to go about your day to day activities by choice, and its delightfully pleasant. Living life OCD-free after being restrained for so long is liberating, even if I do still choose to take an umbrella on sunny days.