By: Risa S.
I have never written about my experience with OCD because it was only recently “officially” added to my roster, clinically and personally, even though I have suffered with it since childhood. I didn’t think of my behaviors as OCD and simply attributed them to my overall anxiety. I kept a lot of my symptoms secret, due to shame and severe humiliation. My therapist brought it up weeks ago in relation to my obsessive thoughts and that is when the enlightenment began.
I have steered clear of many of my symptoms, in terms of talking about them with therapists because I was very embarrassed. I felt weird as if I don’t feel weird enough with my long list of depressive, anxiety and PTSD symptoms. I thought it was enough to have had 4 severe treatment-resistant depressive episodes within the past 4 years which required many medication trials, ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy), TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation), Ketamine Infusions and 4 hospitalizations. Add on a current moderate depressive episode and I really wonder when enough is enough.
What I am writing here has only just been shared with my therapist, the first person I have ever told about any of these details. It was an extremely uncomfortable and terrifying experience for me, which she validated. She was quite receptive and did not make me feel judged. I couldn’t look her in the eye for the better part of the remainder of the session due to my intense embarrassment though.
Now comes the list of my obsessions and compulsions, my thoughts, urges and actions, and, no, OCD is not only about being neat and tidy. Some of my compulsions are picking my lips, picking my skin – usually my cuticles until they bleed and I must continue doing it and not stop until the skin is fully taken off. I did that at work yesterday and did not even realize I was bleeding until I was working with a customer and looked at my finger. It feels like I need to complete the action, no matter what. Cutting myself usually is related to my depression and how terrible I feel during those episodes but it can sometimes take on the role of something I “have” to do, as if it is a simple task to complete.
The constant spinning in my head of, basically, most of my thoughts is something I am used to, yet I would love it all to stop. I spin my tasking, such as coming home to unload the dishwasher, fold laundry, go through the mail, make dinner, etc. I feel I must do these things before I can do anything else. I’ll voice that I must complete these tasks out loud, to an empty house or to my husband and daughter. I need to concretize it in a verbal manner. The problem is, this is obsessive and compulsive behavior and when this happens around lunchtime, my personal needs go last. I may be famished, but I first must complete each task that I feel must be done while my personal well-being is always last. I must finish the tasks before I can care for myself. This is extremely distressing.
In the end, I feel no real satisfaction or closure. It just is. It is frustrating and torturous in many ways as I am often aware of the fact that all of these tasks can wait until I eat and even then, there is no emergency.
I set my alarm at night and re-check it about 6 times before I think I feel secure, yet I still worry it won’t go off when it should. It’s as if it doesn’t matter if I check or not as either way the anxiety and worry is still there. Again, there is no relief.
What I think of as the weirdest compulsion I do is something I have done since I was a teenager. Whenever I see a digital clock, I must add the numbers of the time together. For example, if a clock says 11:18, I add the numbers all together (11) and then the two remaining numbers (2). This seems completely crazy to me yet I do this each and every time I see a digital clock and feel I must do it. After, I do not feel a release of anxiety but it almost doesn’t matter. I simply can’t stop.
It’s a vicious cycle that keeps going and going and going and I am mostly aware of it as it occurs which makes it that much more agonizing, frightening, overwhelming and overpowering. It is as if there is a circular tornado in my head that never stops. A whirlwind that keeps me alert and at a heightened state of being. This is not at all how I want to be. It’s as if I can’t help it. It is exhausting and so energy-filled and feels as if it cannot be stopped. Having the awareness when it is happening makes no difference. I simply see no end.
Since the words, “obsessions” and “compulsions” were brought up a few weeks ago, I never thought to categorize these thoughts and behaviors as such, or else was in denial, but here I am. I feel a bit overwhelmed with this now as it continues to become more well defined for me. I wish I felt relief, maybe that will come with more time processing and working on strategies with my therapist. I am sick of these obsessions and compulsions and do not want to harm myself in the ways I have described. I am fed up with it yet the compulsion to keep doing these things keeps staring right at me.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, at least it finally makes sense.