I live with OCD, which means my brain is often a cauldron of worry. Most people don’t truly know what living with OCD means, so they say ignorant things or make stupid jokes. Here’s how I see OCD, but keep in mind that every person experiences the disorder in their own unique way.
Having OCD means a person is hounded by intrusive thoughts and lots of them. Intrusive = we don’t want them. So we engage in compulsions or rituals as a way of blocking out the thoughts. This only brings a modicum of relief until the thought returns, so we have to engage in the ritual again and again ad nauseam, ad infinitum.
The thoughts might run the gamut from harming your loved ones to doubting your faith to believing you’ll throw yourself in front of a train. People with OCD might worry that their house is on fire. Still others might be bothered by thoughts of stabbing or strangling someone. Now before you go judging, keep in mind that most people experience intrusive thoughts of some kind. More than 90% of people have experienced such thoughts in their lifetime. Over 90%. That’s a lot. Having these thoughts is essentially a part of life. If you have OCD, however, you take these thoughts seriously. Really seriously. After all, the thought came from inside your head, so it must have value.
Of course, such thoughts don’t have value. They’re just thoughts, but don’t flippantly tell someone with OCD that. We give these thoughts a lot of weight, and we can’t believe we’re having them. They are, in fact, contrary to who we are. That’s where the pain comes in. WE DO NOT WANT TO HURT ANYONE. We do not want to hurt ourselves. We do not want to be infected by disease. If we’re believers, we don’t want to be blasphemers. If we’re faithful, we don’t want to be cheaters. We do not want our actions or inaction to make the world tumble into chaos.
So we ritualize.
Here’s the caveat: we know ritualizing won’t stop the pain. So why don’t we just stop ritualizing? BECAUSE WE CAN’T. Okay, we believe we can’t. The pain is too real. That’s what needs to be understood. The pain is real. Imagine that time you were so frightened you could puke. Imagine that time you were so enveloped by dread it’s the only thing you felt. Now imagine feeling that constantly. This is OCD.
Pure, unadulterated dread. Crystallized fear. Doom.
I write this with urgency because I believe our pleas to stop using our disorder as a synonym for fastidiousness are being unheard. The seriousness of our condition is not understood. The pain is real. I just want that to resonate.