Living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is living in fear, worry, and doubt most of the time. The anxiety is grueling. I can’t focus or concentrate. It is like being immersed in freezing water; all I can think about is the pain.
What if my worst fears and worries come true? What if something terrible happens? It is overwhelming. The worst case scenario is something that makes me toss and turn at night, shake and tremor, and panic.
There is no relief. Often, my worst fears and worries end up not coming true. Unfortunately, there is never enough reassurance. I am constantly being abused and beaten down by my illness; and it is difficult to recognize that it is my illness. I endure multiple obsessions over a period of time, and each obsession taunts me as much as the former.
Reassurance is my first, preferable choice in coping. I reassure myself, preform a ritual or a compulsion that will numb or deaden the blow of the threat, the anxiety
It looks like I am free, that there is nothing to worry about! I say to myself after reassurance. But I always feel the need to be reassured again, and again, and again. I hate having to perform these compulsions! Yet, it makes me feel better, at ease; unfortunately, only temporarily. The illness does not surrender. It rears its ugly, tormenting face again, and again I feel compelled to reassure myself. This is exhausting work. And it is like putting a band aid on a gash.
Nothing works! Finally, I realize that I must surrender. I have to accept that my fears and worries seem real to me, and that I can’t distinguish between reality and my illness. Even if everything that scares me comes true, I have to gain the confidence of knowing that I could handle it. If I can handle mental illness, I can handle anything! I tell myself that serenity and peace will immerse me, and even though it is realistic to know that I will worry again, that I will fear again, I know that I will cognitively resolve it.
This is all ideal, but my problem is that I need to learn how to accomplish it. I tell myself that I will never again give in to OCD, perform another compulsion, but I always do. The key I feel is to set realistic goals for yourself. I look into the future and accept that I will win some battles and lose some battles. It is a slow, uphill battle. But the fight is never over. Perseverance is essential. The more I face my fears, the stronger I will become.
Though I still struggle on a regular basis, I have recovered enough to graduate from college, hold down jobs, and be active in the community, such as with NAMI; the National Alliance on Mental illness. I write about my situation, where I serve as an advocate for others with mental illness. In addition, I write to legislators to influence public policy that affects people with mental illness. I also speak about my experiences and I am a counselor.
I know that I will struggle; I accept that I will struggle. But I keep my dreams and goals in mind, and I believe in myself. I am reminded of the progress I have made, and I know that through time I will gain better coping skills and achieve even more. Never give up!