Living with OCD is a 24 hour, seven days a week, 365 days a year battle. I often use the analogy of going into battle with no armour and weapons because that's what it's really like. It often feels like you against the world. A constant never ending battle.
There are so many misconceptions around OCD. People don't realise the struggle sufferers go through. Even if they do understand the illness, they don't understand to what extent it can impact its sufferers. By sharing my own experiences of compulsions and intrusive thoughts, which I have in 24 hour period, I hope that I can do two things. A. help people who go through similar battles with OCD every day, realise that they are not alone and B. To help provide a real example to help educate those to still think OCD is just all about being clean, tidy and enjoying organisation.
No matter how stuck you feel right now, in what seems like a never-ending cycle of despair and compulsions, you can escape it. It takes time, but it can be done. It's hard. It's really hard, but you are strong enough, to do it. With help, you can get your life back on track. It is possible.
* WARNING: This post contains detailed information about intrusive thoughts and compulsions, which may be triggering for some*
6:05 Wake up. Don't touch the light switch it's contaminated. Go to the toilet. Use feet to push the handle down. Don't touch the tap, use elbow to turn it on. Wash hands over and over till they feel clean. Dry hands. Don't touch door handle with hand or the light switch. Battle the thoughts that tell you opened the door with your hands and touched the toilet handle.
6:20 Get dressed. Hand sanitise. Go downstairs. Wash hands repeatedly. Use a towel to turn off the tap. Eat breakfast. Cereal only because you don't have to use your hands. Pour a glass of milk, not touching the fridge door or handle or carton top. Take medication. Put pills on the paper towel and swallow, so you do not touch them. All while constantly being told in your head that you didn't wash your hands enough and you touched your food.
7:00 Wash hands repeatedly. Same procedures as before. Brush teeth. Soak tooth brush in hot water. Avoid touching sink. Try and ignore the thoughts that tell you there are germs on the toothbrush and you are going to be sick. Wash face using separate flannel. Hand sanitise. Hand sanitise. Avoid touching anything.
7:30 Put gloves on. Turn everything off. Leave and lock the door. Check door 50+ times. Push door into make sure it's locked. Check again. Try and leave and ignore the thoughts that say it is not locked. Walk to the bus.
7:50 Avoid stepping on anything that may be vomit. Avoid touching traffic lights. Concentrate on the music. Try not to touch anyone. Meet friends. Smile. Tell them your fine.
8:00 Get on the bus. Try not to panic. Don't touch the hand rails. Try and get on first or last, so I'm not in a large group of people. Sit at the front for an easy escape. Hand sanitise.
8:35 Check that I've not lost anything. Check again. Check again. Get off the bus at college. Walk to toilets. Ignore the thoughts that tell me I feel ill, sick and that someone I have come into contact with is sick.
8:40 Don't touch anything. Keep gloves on. Turn the tap on with my elbow. Wash hands over and over and over again. Dry. Hand sanitise. Put gloves back on. Walk to the lesson.
9:00 Ignore the thoughts that I need to wash hands. Keep myself in the lesson for as long as possible. Wipe desk down with an antibacterial wipe. Clean hands. Work and listen to the teacher as best I can.
9:30 Leave lesson. Go and wash hands. Spend 20 mins washing. Intrusive thoughts become too much. Heart rate increases. Breathing gets faster. Feel dizzy. Legs feel like jelly. Burst into tears. A friend comes and finds me. Explain to the teacher I've had a panic attack. Gets work missed.
10:30 Spends time alone in the library. Cleans desk with antibacterial wipes. Washes hands multiple times. Try's to do work. Ignores Thoughts. Tell yourself you're not Ill. You're going to be okay. Hand sanitise. Avoid touching plug socket to plug my laptop in. Gloves haven't come off.
11:30 Ignores tummy hunger pain. Thoughts creep me. Telling me, I can't eat. Miss lunch. Won't ever be clean enough. Will make parents ill. Keep working to concentrate on something else. Wash hands. Same procedure as before.
14:30 Go to the lesson. Try to concentrate as much as I can. Ignore the intrusive thoughts. Panic. Leave to wash hands. Washes hands for 30 minutes. Use elbow to open the door and turn on tap. Leave, go back to the lesson.
16:20 leave to go home. Wait for bus. Panic because there are lots of people around in a small place. Resist the urge to wash hands. Get on the bus. Try to get their first to avoid being in a large crowd. Hand sanitise.
17:00 Walk home. Get in. Wash hands repeatedly. Do work. Wash hands again. Eat dinner. Try to ignore intrusive thoughts about not washing my hands enough. Shower. Brush teeth.
20:00 Take medication. Put on the paper towel, swallow, so I don't have to touch them. Wash hands repeatedly. Go to bed. Ignore intrusive thoughts. Try to stay calm.
23:00 Wake up in panic. Wash my hands in the night. Try not to panic too much and get back to asleep as soon as possible.
6:05 Drag myself out of bed for another day of intrusive thoughts, compulsions, dread, fear and panic attacks.
It can be hard to know if you really suffer from OCD. I know when I started realising that what I was doing wasn't 'normal' yet I couldn't stop, I thought I was going crazy. I was the only one going through this battle. If my 24 sounds anything remotely like yours, you can make it stop. You are not alone. There are people out there who will be willing to help.
Before you started reading this, if you believed that OCD was just simply being clean, organised and neat, I hope your perceptions and understanding of the illness have changed. I hope you can now see that OCD is a serious and debilitating illness and not an adjective.
Thanks for reading, as always X