How can I help my OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder)
Updated: Nov 23, 2022
It's like having two brains, one is rational and the other irrational....
How many times have you heard the saying "but can that actually happen." I knew I was being irrational when it comes to my old traits and routines however part of me believed that something bad really would happen.
How can walking around a room stop me being fat, how can stepping forward 5 and back 5 stop my mum getting hurt? It can't however I feel I couldn't take that risk at the time.
Everyone has OCD traits they say, the amount of times my dad would have to walk back to the car to see if it 100% locked it or did he lock the front door? I hear a lot of you saying 'yeah I do that all the time.' The difference between every day obsessions and OCD is the compulsion is so fierce you have to do it or their is consequencences, if you don't do it your punished and have a bad day at the least. There are two main OCD that I witnessed in hospital and for me personally.
One was cleanliness which a lot of the patients in hospital suffered with, not being able to touch things that are dirty as this will cause them to have a full on panic attack. Having to constantly wash your hands till they bleed, scrubbing your skin in the shower until it was raw.One of the worst ones was glitter and dust, before sitting anywhere or touching anything they had to have their wipes to clean it and check it was clean to their standard. How many people have seen the tv series Glee? Emma from glee has OCD for cleanliness.
It can consume every part of your life and make it miserable and to the point it causes yourself injuries, skin conditions and lastly extreme anxiety and depression.
The second is routine based OCD. Where shall I start.... well this was the OCD that I had, I couldn't walk across a room, I had to get dressed in the same order, my daily routine had to be the same and my 'safe' number was 5. I had to do everything in multiples of 5. It used to take me half hour to get out my room....once I was dressed. If anyone interrupted me I would have to start from the beginning and I would can cross, as I was tired and didn't want to do these routines. If staff members stopped me doing one of my routines I would have a complete panic attack and say "I need to speak to my mum now, as something bad will happen to her because of you." It felt like I had two brains, Emma knew that these thoughts were irrational however the thoughts were so deep and scary that the thoughts became rational and believable. Even now being recovered I can see that little girl who was petrified as the thoughts would say if I didn't do the routine I would get fat. Question is though how can I help my OCD?
Eating disorders and OCD normally come had in hand. So how did I overcome my OCD? It hasn't gone away completely however it is now manageable and doesn't consume my everyday life. I am going to tell you the 4 steps I found helped me quiet down that voice and make it all manageable.
Medication- You have heard me mention this before with my anxiety, well OCD normally comes in the same category,OCD is made worse when your anxiety is heighted. (Click here to read the blog on anxiety) I was started on Sertraline and honestly that was a game changer. It made me take more risks and feel strong enough to tell that voice "No, that won't happen this isn't true." The medication cleared my mind and allowed my parents and therapist into my world. The first step to letting them in was me telling them my 'safe' number. This is where we built the foundations to help manage my OCD.
My Island- I had this island that I drew. I was on a boat and I wanted to get to my final destination which was overcoming my OCD. On the way though I had to stop on each individual island and conquer that island before I could set sail. Each island was a different routine I wanted to break. Once I knew my islands I want to conquer and routines I wanted to break, I set sail and my therapist gave me the tools I needed to help do this.
Tool 1- One of those tools was recognising the thought. I needed to know when that thought was irrational and why I was thinking this thought. My therapist then got me to break that thought into smaller manageable steps, why I feel I the need to do that routine and why I am I thinking that 'bad' thought.
Tool 2- Continuing on from the 'identifying that thought.' I now needed to cool down that thought. I have recognised why I thought that thought, I have broken down that thought into smaller more manageable steps, now I need to see if there is any truth behind it. That thought is an irrational thought, okay so now how do I prove myself that it is irrational, how am I going to work through these emotions and stop myself from doing that routine. Once you break it down and say no to that voice once, it gets easier each time and eventually you break that routine and conquer that part of your island.
These tools can be used exactly the same when it comes to cleanliness and OCD. The biggest thing for this type of OCD is exposure therapy. Setting a timer, exposing yourself to that dirty element or a bowl of glitter then slowly increase the time you have to sit there before you wash your hands. Talk through the "identify the thought and cooling down the thought" with someone when you have just exposed yourself. As the time increases you realise that bad things won't happen, it will be scary and you may cry however talking through your thoughts with someone helps massively.
This blog is all about keeping it real so I am going to say once you have OCD traits they never really fully disappear however they do become manageable. It is bloody scary when you say no the first time, however that is why you need the tools at hand when you have this urge to do a routine. I know your going to say "everyone says that, the first time is scary." Yes but the difference is I have been there, I have said no, had meltdowns but I am being truthful when I say it gets easier as I have had to work through the fear and learn through lived experience.
It's okay to not be okay, its okay to be scared and its okay if you are not sure if you are ready to say no. However these tools will help you take the first step when you are ready. Like I always do I am going to leave you with some things to think about....
Can you beat OCD all together? Do you believe everyone has a bit of OCD in them? Is there two sides of your brain rational and irrational or is it just the OCD making you think that? Has anyone else experienced positives or negatives on medication for OCD or anxiety?
Remember to be honest as with mental health 'Let's keep it real'