How I've Learned to Live with OCD

Jennifer March, MS

My story of OCD.

My first obsession started when I was just 10 years old. This fear eventually faded but was replaced by another fear and another fear, and this pattern still has not stopped to this day.

What I didn’t know, and what wouldn’t be diagnosed for another 15 years, are these intense fears and avoidant behaviors were all a part of OCD. OCD is a vicious cycle that is constantly growing and evolving with you.

In August of 2020, I met with a new psychiatrist. I answered all her questions and spent a long time discussing my mental health and how it impacts my daily life. Partway through our two-hour conversation, my doctor stops and looks up from her paperwork and states: “Have you ever been diagnosed with OCD?”

I was dumbfounded at first. Of course, I don’t have OCD, it’s just anxiety! I wasn’t trying to make my surroundings perfect and neat — I was far from that!

I had been diagnosed with anxiety at 16 years old, so that is what I had always believed. What I had never shared were the compulsions that followed every obsession. What distinguishes anxiety and OCD is the simple fact that we have a ritual to stop our anxiety.

I saw my compulsions as a guilty secret that I had to protect. I thought my constant checking and avoidance was a shameful habit that needed to stop. But I had no idea how to stop it!

How can I live a normal life when I am constantly fed lies by my OCD?

I wish this was a great blog post about how I overcame my OCD. But the truth is I am nowhere near being free from my OCD. But I have learned some tips and tricks to share with you that hopefully can give you some guidance to find your path to freedom. And if you don’t have anxiety, and have simply stumbled across this post then great, you are ready to learn the world of OCD management.

Your OCD thoughts are lies, and your compulsions don’t do shit

Accepting these lies is the first step in understanding that my obsessions are not ME. I am more than my thoughts. We are all constantly looking out for our safety — it is a normal part of life, it is what keeps up alive. But OCD is like a faulty panic button, it’s going to go off whenever it wants, and it can be triggered for anything.

Yesterday I checked to make sure that my cats were safe and inside my apartment at least a few dozen times. I knew they were inside — I even saw them consistently. But my OCD was telling me that they would most definitely get out, and would be gone forever. So I had to check. The more I checked, the more anxious I got because I was very sure that this was going to happen. So of course I was doing the right thing in my head.

My cats were completely safe yesterday, not due to my compulsions, but because I had my front door and side door locked. That piece of logic and reasoning was not there. This leads me to my next point…

Combat your obsessions with logic

If you have an obsession with your pets as I do (or anything for that matter), then combat that with some stone-cold facts. Let me show you:

What if my dog got into my cleaning supplies?

You keep them in a locked cabinet unless they grew opposable thumbs and had a dire thirst for Clorox, then no, this is not possible.

I know I dropped something while walking to my car

All of your items are in a secured bag. The bag is zipped, and well accounted for. You also didn’t hear anything while walking. If something fell, you would have heard it.

Take care of yourself

If you don’t take anything from this blog post, then let this be the one thing you hang on to.

OCD is a terrible monster that aims at destroying your happiness with worry and compulsions. Even on a good day, OCD will still be there. You have to make sure that you are taken care of. This means meeting your own physical, spiritual, and mental needs.

Do something that will take your mind away from whatever it is that your OCD has chosen to obsess over. For me, this means gardening. Gardening pulls me away from my troubles, so I can focus solely on keeping my plants alive. This doesn’t take too much of my day, but it is enough of a break to allow me some reprieve from my obsessions.

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As Originally Posted on Medium

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Psych nerd turned freelance writer | MS in Psychology | Mom of two cats and some house plants | #MentalHealthAdvocate #BeKind

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