Hello mental health champions, how are you doing?
Whew! For anyone that read my last blog post, that was a doozy wasn’t it!? So for all of you that didn’t know much about OCD did I help you better understand? In this follow up blog I wanted to talk more about OCD and how it has affected me other ways than just mentally and a couple other symptoms that I have had. First off, I have Pure OCD, which like I mentioned last time, means that it is usually less compulsive behaviors and more compulsive thoughts. However, I do also experience some physical compulsions. Some of these include picking, grinding my teeth, rubbing my neck and stomach, tapping my foot, and sometimes scratching. I never even fully knew that I had these compulsions until I really started thinking about it. I had a couple people ask me if my stomach hurt when I would rub my stomach. Truth was that it probably did hurt, but mainly because of the anxiety I was feeling at that moment. Anxiety and OCD do have some basic crossovers as well like the physical symptoms of picking, tapping, etc. That is our body’s way of trying to get rid of some energy. When we are experiencing extreme anxiety, our bodies are fighting the fight or flight response. So basically your body is trying to release some of that energy.
With OCD, however, it is not only extreme, but it is nearly impossible to stop these compulsions once you start. For me recently, I have had a bad time obsessively picking. It is so gross but it is one huge side effect of having OCD. Many OCD patients actually have bad acne that is flared from the compulsion of picking.
OCD impacts so many other parts of your body as well. It can be so exhausting fighting OCD. I also find that I would get super obsessed and fixated on certain things in my life. I would quite literally be 0bsessed with whatever was in front of me at that moment. For example, when I did dance, everything I did was eat, breathe, and sleep dance. I danced in the grocery store, the mall, anywhere I could. I would come home from a 4 hour dance class and then watch dance moms for three hours while still practicing. It became an unhealthy obsession. This is also the same with my jobs and money. When I was finally old enough to have a job, I became so obsessed that I was nearly working full time hours at a part time pay while still going to high school. It became so unhealthy that I had to literally reduce my hours from how physically ill I was getting trying to keep up. This is the same with money. When I started making good money, I became obsessed with all things money. All I did was try to think of more ways to make more money. It was a very unhealthy relationship with money.
These are small things that I have taken note of over the years of handling and dealing with this disorder. I also need quite a lot of reassurance in my relationship. It is almost an obsession/worry that I will be abandoned. This fear then becomes almost an obsession where I have actually tried to push my loved ones away because I was that scared of them leaving me. These are all very obsessive behaviors that I hadn’t taken note of prior.
It is insane that I have gone to therapy since I was in seventh grade and it wasn’t until last year! I had felt like the worst person in the world over thoughts I genuinely had no control of. It was literally hell on earth for me.
However, I have really learned how to overcome my intrusive thoughts and that has only come with a mix of many different things. For one, I am on Lexapro now which can dramatically cut back the frequency of the thoughts and my reactions to them. The lexapro really helped me to not get worked up anxiety over these thoughts. For me, I fought medicine for quite some time. However, this has been the best decision I have ever made for my mental health.
I fought intrusive thoughts for gosh like 7-8 years without medication. Everyone is so very different and it doesn’t mean anything about who you are if you take meds or opt out. But I want to tell you all how I coped with intrusive thoughts before medication.
With intrusive thoughts, I learned that there is a pattern. I get a thought, I have extreme anxiety and distress, and then it just stays in a loop in my brain until the thought becomes worse and worse. Everything gets worse the more I try to suppress the thoughts. The more you try to not have the thoughts, the more aggressive they can become. It took me way too long to believe this and try to not repress the thoughts because obviously I didn’t want them.
However, what really helped me to handle my intrusive thoughts was this pattern I taught myself instead. I would have a disturbing thought and I would allow myself about five minutes to be upset and not like the thought. A lot of times I find that I can remove the guilt associated with the thought when I pinpoint maybe where that thought came from. I usually say something like “ I saw that horrible news story and it stuck in my head because it caused me distress and now my brain is just trying to connect that to my deepest fears”.
So I guess the first step is allowing myself FIVE MINUTES and FIVE MINUTES only to have anxiety.
Next, I try to reason with myself as to why that certain thought popped in my head. I remind myself of where I think my brain got that thought from and acknowledge that my brain is just tricking me.
After this, I LET IT GO. And no, this is not easy by any stretch of the imagination. It is not easy to feel like this. But, after trying so many things to get these thoughts to go away, this has worked the best.
I don’t try to repress the thoughts, I simply try to see them for what they are. I basically treat these thoughts like any other thought during the day. “It is raining out” “The sky is blue” “I hate that person”. When I look at that disturbing thought as if it is nothing important, then I will forget about it.
If you remove the guilt, the thoughts don’t have power over you anymore. They literally don’t. When you don’t give the thoughts power over you, they won’t control you anymore and you will be set free.
I can get more into this is another post if you guys want it, but if you take anything away from this blog regarding intrusive thoughts, remember that intrusive thoughts are a SYMPTOM of OCD, just like symptoms to any other physical illness. When I really look at my OCD for what it is, a disorder, it makes it easy to realize these thoughts are pointless. Having a symptom of a disorder does not make you a horrible person, a serial killer, or anything else for that matter. These are just thoughts caused by a chemical imbalance in your brain. DO NOT let these thoughts define to yourself who you are. These thoughts are NOT who you are.
Talk to you soon brain battlers, Gracie <3