There are four main categories of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD): checking, hoarding, contamination, and intrusive thoughts.
The type of obsessive compulsive disorder I have is not like the kind you see on television. The kind where you feel bugs crawling all over you if you don’t wash your hands a certain way, or where you have to count cracks in the sidewalk, or where everything has to be an even number (although I do prefer even to odd like any sane person).
The type of obsessive compulsive disorder I have leaves me with an inability to concentrate if everything isn’t immediately fine. If something slightly amiss happens with one of my friends, my worries keep me up at night until I’m tossing and turning and in a panic. If I’ve got something hanging over my head for more than a minute, my OCD makes it so I can’t eat or focus on anything until it’s fixed. This is what having intrusive thoughts is like, and I hate it.
Intrusive thoughts leave me overanalyzing, jumping from moment to moment, conclusion to conclusion faster than if my life depended on it, which it does, because if everything’s not okay then what’s the point, what am I doing, why am I doing it, why does she hate me, what did I do wrong, how can I be better, how can I make people like me, how can I make these people see that this isn’t really who I am, how can I be better how can I be better how can I be better?
The type of obsessive compulsive disorder I have is the kind that makes me pull out my hair follicles one by one in an attempt to distract/detract/delineate my worries. I used to have to take showers before I went to sleep otherwise I wouldn’t be able to at all. It has me picking at the skin on the knuckle of my thumb until it’s bleeding and raw. It has me fingering my ring over and over, a rough callus in place where the skin should be smooth. It’s the kind that makes me hurt myself so I don’t hurt others. It is not something that makes me feel beautiful or quirky or cool. It makes me embarrassed. It makes me ashamed.
I almost wish I had the kind where I wash my hands and count.
I don’t want it. I never asked for it. But it’s a part of me, and it’s mine.
This is what having generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is like. This is how GAD feels.
It makes me feel like I can’t breathe– like someone is squeezing my chest, not very hard, but hard enough that it hurts and hard enough I can feel it every time I take a breath.
It makes my head ache– it makes my eyes heavy and watery and my shoulders sag and my hands sweat.
It makes me itchy– itch itch itch, like I have a place just out of reach I can’t scratch and I can’t get to no matter how hard or how much I try, and I can’t stop trying because it’s always there, itch itch itch, bothering me, sneaking up on me, always there.
It makes me panic— my heart racing, my fingers twitching, the world spinning. This is maybe the most obvious part. This is maybe the worst part.
It makes me doubt myself and doubt the people that care about me and that I care about and it hurts- oh man it hurts. And it itches and it aches and there’s nothing I can do except hold it in until I burst. It won’t go away since I’ve been here. It hasn’t gone away all summer. I’m afraid it’ll never go away. And I don’t want to play this game anymore.
There is no acronym for depression for me. Depression just is.
Depression is heavy. It feels heavy. It forces you to stay in bed for hours at a time, thinking about nothing, thinking everything that’s wrong with your life, and feeling bad for yourself. It makes you disassociate and not recognize your own privilege and what you have that other people don’t. It makes you lose all motivation to try. It makes you lose all motivation to get out of bed. It makes you lose all motivation to reach out to people— to socialize, to reach out for help. It makes you lose all ambition. It makes you pity yourself. It makes you cry until you feel like you can’t cry anymore, but then what else are you supposed to do?
Depression comes in waves. And the waves are painful— they rise up and they take over and fall down over your head and press on your chest and your brain and everything that mattered to you before doesn’t matter anymore because what else could you possibly deal with right now other than this pain?
Spending time with people helps. Being busy helps.
It’s so hopeless, sometimes.
There are days when I just want to reach out for my dad’s hand and not let go and have him make it okay. He is my constant. My sister is the other. But you can’t put all of your feelings and all of your pain onto people. That is just not fair.
On Getting Better
Everyone’s got their shit. This is mine.
My junior year of college I decided it was time for me to get better. Things had gotten bad enough that I knew I needed to change now or I would get worse. I’ve gotten to that point a few times, and this was one of those times.
Full disclosure: I had seen a counselor in Ithaca a few times, and they were the ones that diagnosed me with OCD and GAD and depression (not necessarily in that order) which helped me understand myself and what was going on with me a little more. But the Ithaca College counseling and therapy program is so severely understaffed and poorly funded that there was only someone available to see me every 2 1/2 weeks. I saw the psychiatrist at school (it took me two months to make an appointment) and he prescribed me Zoloft, so I tried Zoloft. I tried Lexapro. I tried some other things he gave me, too. But they never really worked right for me, or how I thought they were supposed to. My junior year I was in a relationship with a boy who told me he didn’t like how I was when I was on antidepressants, and asked me to stop taking them. So I stopped taking them for a while for him, but that made things worse. I started talking to a psychologist off campus and met with her for a semester, but she just wasn’t a good match for me.
And when you’ve tried enough times and when it’s hard for you to try in the first place, sometimes it’s easier to just give up.
I think that the worst part about mental illness is the lack of control you feel when things feel bad. They say that happiness is a choice, but with mental illness I don’t think it is, and maybe that’s a controversial thing to say. Sometimes you can’t control how you feel. You just have to let it pass, or you have to talk to someone about it or you have to take medication or you have to do both but either way, all of those things help you reflect on it and learn from it so you can just let it pass.
Do you ever think sometimes that you aren’t meant to be happy? People always say that you are not your mental illness, but it always feels like the other way around for me. Without my anxiety, I wouldn’t talk as fast as I do. I wouldn’t be so Type A, and that’s where most of my motivation and ambition and perfectionism comes from. Sometimes it helps, but a lot of the time it doesn’t. It feels hopeless— like I’m disappearing into my anxiety, depression, and OCD. Sometimes I don’t know what to do with myself when it gets really bad, and that scares me.
You have to want to get better. But sometimes I don’t even want to. Sometimes I do want to lay in bed, staring at the ceiling and commiserating. And sometimes I do want to be obsessively checking my phone to see if she/he texted me or snapchatted me back, and sometimes I do want to pick at my thumbs and shower constantly. These are my coping mechanisms. These are what I do to deal with how I feel. They’re not healthy, they just are.
People write about this stuff all the time online— saying that it’ll get better, and that things will be okay. Which is great! It’s so nice and supportive and encouraging! I’m sorry I’m not here to tell you or anyone that, as is probably evident from this post. I just want to know what to do when you’re just not okay.
I’m not writing this to make you feel bad for me. I’m not writing this for attention. I’m writing this to tell my story and experiences with mental illness thus far. I’m writing this because writing is another coping mechanism, another way to reflect on how I feel and who I am. Putting it out there in the world helps– it helps because I’m unapologetically like this and I know it and I don’t care who knows and here it is, right here on my blog for you to read and see. I’m writing this because I’ve tried and I’m tired of trying and I’m still trying even if it doesn’t seem like I am.
And that’s all I have to say on this at the moment.