Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder that occurs when a person gets caught in a cycle of unwanted and intrusive thoughts. These thoughts trigger distressing feelings and cause the person to feel driven to engage in repetitive behavior, compulsions.
Read Epifania’s story on how with the right help and the right mindset, she took back her life from OCD.
An Unexpected Thunderstorm
They came like an unexpected thunderstorm, rumbling into my former semi-placid mind, the first ones regarding sexual orientation, convincing me that just because I even dared look up to other women or find them pretty, that meant I was gay. I had always been self-aware and introspective. Indeed, this was not the first time I was living inside my head and it was usually my favorite place to be, far from the boredom that reality could be.
But this time it was different. I was scrutinizing my every thought, feeling, sensation, and behavior. In return, the way others behave or responded to me was constantly under attack by this evil side of my brain that I had never met before.
Thankfully, I was blessed with enough insight to acknowledge the differences between my overall imaginative nature and a disease I would later learn, carried the name of “Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.”
Life with OCD
Life with OCD has not been easy. It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions, a rainbow of infinite colors, some of which we never hear about, not your standard colors, but the more intense ones. However, I have come out from the other side, and as a better version of who I want to be.
I first attended therapy in 2013. After formally being diagnosed through a series of research trials I participated in, I was blessed to find OCD specialist James Bender Psy.d. I spent two months in therapy with James and later transferred to the care of a therapist in training, due to financial reasons. What no one tells you initially is how much you will have to work to pay for these sessions, and while free healthcare would be optimal, when your health is hanging from a thread, you cannot stop and think too much. However, the option to be seen at a lower cost significantly placated the burden.
Fighting The Myths
I immediately started OCD therapy with an emphasis on Exposure and Response Prevention and eventually mindfulness-based CBT. When I began therapy, my major themes were relationship OCD where the OCD was trying to sabotage my relationship with my now husband and Homosexual OCD.
After two years of intensive therapy, which success I attribute both to amazing professionals and my will to beat this disorder, my OCD became very mild.
You might be asking how can one defeat thoughts of such intense nature, thoughts that seem so real? I want to also emphasize that intrusive thoughts of taboo nature cannot be defeated if one does not modify their learned beliefs about what it means to think, feel, and even exist in this world. We are raised with schemas, but we are not meant to be schematized. OCD loves schemas, but they are not healthy. Hence, while ERP and mindfulness aided me in going from a moderate to severe sufferer, to a now mild sufferer, the breakthrough from illness to recovery, occurred when I began to break all the myths I believed growing up about myself, my relationships, and life in general. Challenging black and white thinking was the key to my liberation.
While I have been extremely self-sufficient in caring for my mental health the past three years, I have still developed other themes such as harm OCD and just right OCD primarily.
I also suffer from high functioning depression, anxiety, death anxiety, and health anxiety. I’ve been able to cope with all this thanks to mindfulness and ERP, but I have recently returned to therapy after a major health scare that led me to spiral.
Returning to The Reeds center has been a great blessing. In the beginning of the year I had a freak accident that confirmed to my health anxiety and OCD that If I didn’t listen to my body, dangerous things would happen. I knew deep down that it was just life, that risk is inevitable, yet I locked myself inside, even when my doctors told me it was okay to leave the house. I did not trust that I could be stronger than doubt when it was so evident that bad things kept happening to me. Thanks to continued ERP and mindfulness, along with my doctors’ approval, I was able to expose myself to my greatest fears and leave the house on my own terms.
The Right Help For OCD Exists
Having OCD in my life has also taught me that while we want the road to be “yellow bricked,” all the time, it’s mostly poorly constructed and gray. OCD is not a disorder of the tidy, perfectionists, and the quirky. It is a disorder of thoughts and feelings. It traps you into a never-ending vortex. But the right help exists and it is important that we believe and support OCD treatment and medication for those cases when it’s most necessary.
I want you to remember that it’s not your fault that you have OCD, but to defeat it, you need to be willing to let go of all that has conditioned you and break free. My recovery consisted in believing that compulsion was not an option anymore.
I am not saying that the path to recovery is going to be an easy journey. I am saying it’s going to be worth it. Taking back your life from OCD is always worth it.