I’m not really sure how long I’ve had OCD. I know I have had symptoms since at least middle school but it could have even started in late elementary school. However, I’ve only been officially diagnosed just a few months ago. This diagnosis was no news to me. I have been speculating for a few years that I had OCD but only finally got the courage to actually go in, tell someone all my oddities, and get diagnosed.
It might sound weird to say this but the day I got diagnosed will probably be one of the happiest days of my life. Because I had been dealing with symptoms for so many years silently and not understanding, I felt a huge amount of relief and like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. OCD surely wasn’t gone but I was on the path to fighting it.
Later that day I decided to make a short list of some of the thoughts I was having following this official diagnosis. (Of course I made a list because excessive list making is something controlling me right now …sigh… but I’m glad I made this list so I can write about it now!). I want to share these original thoughts because maybe they can be refreshing for those who have been fighting OCD for a while or maybe they can be helpful for others that are newly diagnosed.
My simple but crucial epiphany:
1. I can now know I’m not crazy. Others are the same way.
One obsession I had when I was younger (but thankfully eventually went away) was that if I accidentally thought about something bad happening to my family, then it would come true…unless I “knocked on wood” and said “knock on wood” 3 times clearly. If I messed up it turned into a super complicated counting ritual where certain numbers were either very good or very bad. Let’s just say I knew something was wrong with me but with no name for it, I thought I was plain and simple crazy. I think it adds to the stress of doing the compulsions when you don’t even know why you are doing them. Now I know it’s my OCD causing the stress, causing the obsessive thoughts, and making me feel like I have to do certain things. In a way it’s no longer me that’s messed up, just my OCD. Also, I can’t be crazy because there are tons of other people struggling with the same, named thing.
2. I now have a set name for this. A name means I can get help and start to get better.
A name= treatment
And not just treatment, but a very specific treatment that has been proven to be effective for OCD! Hallelujah! This diagnosis was such a relief in large part because it was the first step in getting treatment. All I had to do was keep going back to appointments and practice exposures. These are not extremely easy tasks, but having an “instruction manual” of hard tasks to do (but to help fix it) is better than having no instructions at all.
3. I can meet others with OCD. We can support each other.
As I’ve mentioned in a previous post (Introductions and Inspiration), one thing I did after being diagnosed was read a lot of personal blogs from others with OCD. I also noticed that the OCD community was very involved on Twitter. This seemed like such a supportive network and I was very excited to join in, both to receive some advice but also to hopefully help others.
and most importantly…
4. These thoughts aren’t real. I don’t have to believe them.
Of course people with OCD don’t really believe doing compulsions will prevent the bad things from happening. I knew when I was a kid that tapping on something wooden probably wouldn’t affect my family’s danger or safety and I know now that repeatedly checking that plugs are in outlets “just right” probably won’t prevent a house fire. I say probably because complete certainty is impossible. Yet, having a diagnosis made me a little more certain. I could more confidently tell myself that these thoughts weren’t real and more importantly, I could now more confidently feel like I didn’t have to believe or act on these thoughts.
(This got longer than I anticipated. oops)