For me, I think the most terrifying thing about OCD was the idea that I might be the only one, at least among my friends, to have the kinds of disturbing, violent thoughts I had on an hourly basis. That I might be alone — or worse, that I might share a trait with serial killers or mass murderers.
No one else I knew talked about thoughts like mine. No one picked at their skin and bit at their cheeks to distract themselves. No one worried that they were going to snap someday, or that as much as their thoughts repulsed them, they might secretly want to do those things somewhere deep down. They didn’t worry they were fooling themselves and everyone else.
At least, that’s what I thought before I sought help and was diagnosed with OCD. It turns out I’m not nearly as alone as I was afraid of.
In my first visit with my therapist, I shared some of my tamest thoughts with her. I didn’t talk about the violent images or how I wanted to kill myself before I could become a danger to others. I just shared a couple.
She immediately recognized my OCD, and when I went home and got on Google, I was shocked to find that OCD often included the same kinds of thoughts I was having. Even the horrible ones.
Before that, like a lot of people, I thought OCD was mostly about cleanliness and hand-washing. If I’d known better, maybe I would have gotten help sooner. One of the reasons I jumped at the chance to blog about my OCD battle was in the hopes that someone else could bypass the years I spent in misery.
My sense of “not aloneness” didn’t end with the Internet. When my first SSRI made everything tasteless for a few days, I mentioned it to a trusted friend — who revealed that she has OCD, too. We’ve since swapped stories and support.
When I spoke about it on Facebook during OCD Awareness Week, a relative called and told me that she has struggled with panic disorder for years. A neighbor shared her own story of OCD and anxiety.
And when I finally got the courage to share some of my most frightening thoughts with my therapist, she told me that I was not the first patient of hers to have them (and unfortunately, likely not the last, either).
I wanted to write this post because I’ve seen a blog entry by Dr. Laurie Hollman going around on social media: You Are Not Alone: A Conversation About OCD. Hollman’s post is more of an OCD primer than anything else, but the advice is excellent.
I thought I was alone for years. I thought that if I revealed what was going on in my head, I’d be locked up as a danger to society and I would deserve it, even though I never wanted OCD.
Finding out that I am not nearly as alone as I think, and that so many of my friends, neighbors and even family members have also fought OCD and mental illness, has been so healing for me. Before, I thought this sort of thing only happened in stories like “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” or to criminals. Finding out that I’m just one of millions of normal, everyday people who happen to have an illness has made me so much more comfortable in my own skin. It’s even made the times when my medication doesn’t quite keep things under control easier to bear.
You don’t have to tell people about your mental illness if you don’t want to. It’s completely up to you how and when you reveal it. But even if you haven’t told anyone, please know that you’re not alone, either.
Photo by Tambako the Jaguar