The following blog post discusses topics that may be emotionally difficult for some readers. This includes, but is not limited to, discussion of mental illness/OCD, depression, suicide/self harm, sexual abuse, and health anxiety. If any of these topics make you uncomfortable or could be a trigger for you I would advise not reading further. I want to stress that I am not a doctor or a trained therapist. This is my personal story, and it is not intended to be used as a diagnostic tool.
Also, if you or a loved one is a threat to yourself/themselves or others, I sincerely encourage you to please reach out to a friend, family member, support group, religious organization, local hospital/police station, or call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 if you live in the U.S. or, if you do not, please visit this site for international Suicide Hotlines. Whatever you feel comfortable with most. If you are in the U.S. and are a domestic violence victim, please reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. Find help. Find shelter.
You matter. You aren’t alone.
This post may contain descriptions or language that may be triggering for some readers.
[Reader discretion is advised]
I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
And no. I don’t mean that in the “I’m just really picky and like things a certain way” sense. I mean, I legitimately suffer from obsessive thoughts and compulsive reactions that debilitate me in extreme and unhealthy ways.
Truth is that I’ve been developing it for years and didn’t know it. Since OCD sits so wonderfully under the larger umbrella of Generalized Anxiety Disorder, a lot of my symptoms were chalked up to “oh you’re just overly anxious“. Either that or they were labeled as a cute/annoying “tick” that I had that made me “unique”.
Which briefly, while we are talking about it, can we please stop making OCD out to be a cutesy thing…? Because let me tell you… It’s not.
The Mayo Clinic states that Obsessive Compulsive Disorder “features a pattern of unreasonable thoughts and fears (obsessions) that lead you to do repetitive behaviors (compulsions). These obsessions and compulsions interfere with daily activities and cause significant distress.”*
While it is a common mental illness that affects over 200,000 people in the U.S. alone, there is a lot that the world doesn’t understand about it. Especially when the signs for it are not easy to determine. Which I think is why it took them so long to figure it out for me. Because I do not have “traditional” OCD. Instead I am more heavily dominated with the obsessive thoughts, and my compulsive actions are things such as overly Googling, seeking reassurance from friends and family, “checking” my feelings and attitude, mental spirals and internal arguments, and asking things such as “does that make sense”. Which are compulsions that are often invisible to those who don’t realize they are compulsions.
But I will get into more of that later.
Because there are a few different subcategories of OCD that people don’t know about. And while they all fall under the same disorder, they each have their own characteristics. Some people have OCD in relation to suicide or self harm, where they are either so afraid of hurting themselves that they will go to the extent of avoiding sharp objects or anything else even moderately dangerous, or they have a compulsion to act in matters that would be considered harmful to themselves. There is also pOCD, which is characterized by the irrational fear of being attracted to children, which would lead sufferers to avoid any situation where children could be present or talked about.
Overall, subcategories of OCD include:
- Containation Fears (germs)
- Causing Harm by Accident
- Causing Harm to Others on Purpose
- Sexual Obsessions
- Sexual Orientation Obsessions
- Pedophilic Obsessions
- Religious Obsessions (Also known as Scrupulosity)
- Symmetry and Exactness (what one normally thinks of when they hear OCD)
- Health Obsessions
- Relationship Obsessions
- Pure Obsessional (obsessive thoughts without compulsions)
In other words: OCD is not always being a “germaphobe” or needing things to be super organized. And OCD looks differently for different people. Not everyone is “triggered” by the same thing”, and not everyone has the same compulsive actions.
Think of it as a custom tailored blueprint of self destruction.
While I have OCD traits in many areas, there are two subcategories of OCD that greatly affect my everyday life….
Also called hypochondriasis or hypochondria. It is described as “a preoccupation with the belief that one has, or is in danger of developing, a serious illness.”** While it is a great thing to be well attentive to your body and to be concerned about any issues that may plague it, hypochondriacs do this to the extreme.
Hi. I’m a hypochondriac.
The relationship between hypochondria and OCD is pretty simple. At least in my case. I frantically obsess that I have some rare, weird issue that is wrong with me. I truthfully can’t tell you how many times in my life I’ve thought I had cancer or a brain tumor or that at any moment I could pass out and die. In the last year alone I’ve convinced myself that I have had cancer 3 times, that I have HIV, that I had some weird flesh eating bacteria, and that my liver was failing.
I don’t have any of that by the way… Just so we are clear.
Since 2016 I have been to the emergency room 8 separate times. And I have been to a quick-clinic closer to 75 times. The only time any of that has been justified is the 4 times I actually had a sinus infection/strep throat and the time I broke my ankle in August of last year.
And 9 times out of 10 I totally know that whatever illness I think I have is completely improbable. It is the fact that I know – logically – that I don’t have a disorder or illness, yet my mind fixates on it, that connects my hypochondria to my OCD. And it fixates to the point where I can’t function or focus on doing anything, including work or school, other than worrying about an illness.
But my mind spirals. Like a trap. And instead of being able to progress from one thought to another, the original thought expands. For example:
“Oh. I have a sore throat. I wonder if I’m getting sick.” >>> “Wait. My previous partner said he hasn’t been feeling good. I wonder if he gave me something?” >>> “What if I have mono?” >>> “What if I have an STD?” >>> “What if I have HIV?!” >>> “Oh my god I’m going to die. And with HIV/AIDS that means I’m going to die alone!!” >>> *crying* “I don’t want to die. Not like this. Holy fuck I’m dying!!”
And so on. And so on…
Unfortunately for me, my OCD doesn’t stop there….
The website Intrusive Thoughts puts it perfectly: “OCD attacks the things we love the most.”***
And I love Dallas so very much.
Which is why in late February I was in a state of panic as I suddenly – literally out of fucking nowhere – began having intrusive thoughts regarding our relationship. Specifically my feelings about it and him. Thoughts such as “What if I don’t love him?”, “What if we have to break up?”, “What if we have nothing in common?”, “What if we are better off just friends?”. I hated life. Hated everything. I couldn’t make sense of what was going on in my head. Why I was thinking these stupid ass thoughts when I was literally just confessing that I saw such a beautiful and amazing future with him?
OCD attacks the things we love the most.
It should also be mentioned that OCD latches onto, and feeds off of, trauma. Being a survivor of 3 rapes and 2 1/2 years emotional, mental, and physical domestic abuse… I was the prime target for relationship anxiety and Relationship OCD (ROCD).
On paper, Dallas is my perfect partner. He is everything I have ever wanted in a significant other. Patient, understanding, loving, supportive. We have generally the same code of ethics, plans for our relationship, etc. Aesthetically, since the first day I saw him 8 years ago I thought he was one of the most attractive men on this planet. There are absolutely no red flags in our relationship. I have never once felt fearful or manipulated. I’ve never had a reason to suspect that he was lying or cheating (aside from my own paranoia because… ya know… abusive survivor). My friends and family love him. We’ve never even had an argument past small disagreements or misunderstandings.
Yet, my brain was screaming that there was something wrong.
I couldn’t focus on school. Or work. In fact, I ended up having to push my graduation date to July because my brain hasn’t been able to process much past “What if I don’t love him?” However, at the same time I kept saying “If I didn’t love him, I wouldn’t be putting myself through this. I would have just left.“
I’ll be honest and say that I am ashamed at how many times I have fucking Googled “How Do I Fall Back In Love With My Partner”. I’ve spent so much of my time being guilty about the thoughts. Not knowing how to talk about them. I love Dallas. And I want a future with him. But my anxiety kept screaming that I don’t.
Then we found the YouTube videos talking about ROCD. People such as Jazzmin Martinez and online courses such as Awaken Into Love finally put what I was experiencing into words.**** Dallas and I watched these videos together. Spent hours going over every video, Q&A, etc. I cried. He held me.
We decided to fight.
Living with OCD.
We both filled out paperwork to see psychotherapists here in the town we live in. Agreeing that in order to make our relationship stronger, we needed to work past our own individual mental illnesses. We have also been discussing looking into couples counseling as a way to better communicate to each other how we are feeling and how to rediscover our connection as a couple.
As for me personally. The thoughts are still there. Every day. I’ve been prescribed Gabapentin and Zoloft to help with the anxiety and intrusive thoughts. Which both have its benefits and bad side effects. Some times the thoughts are quiet and I can actually think clearly. The mornings are the roughest. That’s when there is a constant buzzing throughout my whole body that makes me uncomfortable and feel like I have to get up. I have to move.
Sex is hard. So is cuddling. I get anxious. Uneasy. The thoughts race and I catch myself feeling checking.
But we are miles from where I was even a month ago.
I can kiss him now without thinking about it. Hold his hand. I know I want to fight the OCD. Not only for myself, but for him and for us. I know I want to rebuild the damage I’ve done to our relationship. And I want to put in the work to make our relationship beautiful and flourishing.
It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to get a lot fucking worse before it gets better. I have a lot of trauma and wounds that will need to be revisted…
But for Dallas I would do it in a heartbeat.
*For more information see the Mayo Clinic website.
**For more information you can visit the webpage for Beyond OCD.
***Dallas and I have both looked at the articles posted on Intrusive Thoughts to help us both understand what I am going through. If you are a sufferer of OCD, or are interested in learning about it, please visit their website. If you are the partner or close relative of someone with OCD, please see this article to better understand what your loved one is dealing with.
****The Awaken Into Love YouTube channel is based off their online course which you can find here. I also highly recommend following Instagram pages such as Alex Bishop, LoveAndAnxiety, Jazzmin’s ROCD Instagram called ROCD&Me, and OCDinLove. Their pages have really helped me throughout the last few months. There are also Reddit forums and Facebook groups that you can join if you struggle with ROCD or OCD.