Hi Lovely People. Today I want to discuss something that is very close to my heart, something I want to raise the awareness of and something I have suffered with for years. I realise most of you come to this blog to read about superficial girly stuff and as much as I love sharing my new favourite beauty product with you all, I sometimes like to sit down, write, and share my life experiences with others. As my header says, this is a 'beauty, fashion and life' blog. Now I normally don't like to bore you with my day to day life as I'm not all that interesting but this is a post I have been wanting to write for some time as I feel my experiences, thoughts and advice might help another girl (or boy, if there are any of you reading) to overcome and understand something I have only come to know too well for the past nine years. This 'something' I keep referring too is obsessive compulsive disorder or 'OCD' as know to many.
As I said, OCD is an illness I have personally had to deal with for years and something that I feel is all too often viewed as a 'make believe' illness for those super organised folk who like to clean their house one too many times a day. Time and time again, I hear jokes and off the cuff remarks being made about that 'neat freak' who is 'totally OCD'. Now don't get me wrong, we all know people like this, sometimes its just built within a person to be overly organised and clean but more often than you'd expect, there is more to these obsessive habits than meets the eye. If any of you reading have never heard of OCD, it is an 'anxiety disorder characterised by intrusive thoughts that produce uneasiness, apprehension, fear, or worry, by repetitive behaviours aimed at reducing the associated anxiety, or by a combination of such obsessions and compulsions.'
Basically, to make things easier to understand, it is a mental mind game that can send the most happy-go-lucky person to a very dark place.
I now want to share my story - how my OCD began, how it progressed and how it has improved. I know some of you won't be interested and if thats the case, feel free to click the 'X' but for those of you who can relate to the feelings mentioned in the statement above, I hope my story will help you realise you are not alone and that OCD is a very common yet very misunderstood illness. At the age of twelve, I sadly lost my grandad who I was extremely close to. Without going into too much detail, his death was sudden, he was young and I was heartbroken. For me, this is when my symptoms began. I was always a carefree 'I don't care what people think about me' kind of girl up until this traumatic time in my life. Suddenly I changed, my thought process changed and quite frankly, my life changed. As dramatic as it sounds to those who have never suffered with OCD, a switch flicked in my head and I was suddenly overcome by a sea of obsessive thoughts and irrational behaviours. Linking back to the death of my grandfather, I began feeling like someone close to me would be taken from me if I didn't live my life to a set of strict rituals.
The first 'ritual' that developed was the constant need to wash my hands and fear of germs and contamination. This is probably the most common and often laughed about form of OCD but I can assure you, it is far from funny. I got to a stage of washing my hands so much that they were chapped, dry and bleeding. I became obsessed with not touching door handles and would use my sleeve to open every door, even the ones in my own home. Now I'm sure you can all imagine that living this way wasn't easy. I began to feel ashamed of myself and would try my best to hide what I was doing from the people closest to me. However, the symptoms continued to develop and progressively got worse. It got so bad infact that it was interfering with my every day life and I wouldn't go to certain places as I would think they were contaminated. I would make a mess of my school work after thoughts like 'write it again' popped into my head telling me my writing wasn't neat enough. At one point it even affected me socially as the thoughts would tell me that I must not respond to a person without counting to nine first. You can imagine what an idiot this made me look and I started to feel like all I wanted to do was sit in the house all day and not have to see anybody.
The next 'ritual' that my mind was telling me I needed to do was one that would keep me awake till the early hours of the morning each night. This was my OCD at its most severe and it would include me having to touch every single thing in my bedroom before I went to sleep, opening and closing my door until it felt just right and turning my bedside lamp on and off 99 times. This is just a few of the things I would find myself doing each night and although I knew deep down it was ridiculous, these thoughts inside my head kept telling me something bad would happen to the people closest to me if I didn't perform these obsessive routines. With this being said, I continued to do what my brain was telling me until one night it all became too much and I broke down in tears on my bed. My mum was obviously concerned when she saw me in such a state and asked me what was wrong. I honestly didn't know what to say other than, "theres something wrong with me, I'm going insane" as this is what I truly thought. Luckily, I have a very understanding mum and she did her best to calm me down and talk things through. I remember feeling such relief after telling someone what I was going through and I then made it my mission to find out what was making me feel/think this way.
After doing lots of research online, I came across lots of websites that showed lists of symptoms almost identical to mine. Each of the websites had described obsessive compulsive disorder as an irrational thought process that makes us think we must do something to prevent bad things from happening. After reading up on the illness and finding out just how common it was, I began to feel like I could beat it and told myself I would stop listening to these stupid thoughts. However, it is easier said than done and for months I continued to struggle controlling them. It got so bad at one point that I was constantly having panic attacks, inability to sleep and constantly living in fear. I spoke to various people close to me throughout this time and all of them suggested the same thing; therapy. I had read online that cognitive behavioural therapy was the best way to treat the illness but I still felt too embarrassed to let anyone other than my family know about the things I was doing. Again, I continued with normal life and tried to ignore the thoughts. In time, things improved and I slowly learnt how to keep the thoughts at bay. I realised stress played a big factor and if I was worried about something, the thoughts would get worse. Over time, the hand washing and nightly routines stopped and the things I was doing gradually became less severe. I have never completely got rid of my OCD, nor do I think I ever will but I am slowly but surely learning to control and deal with it.
OCD is a very hard thing to understand if you haven't experienced it yourself. It can completely take over a persons life, it can make you doubt yourself, cause paranoia, insecurity and a whole host of other things that make day to day tasks a huge mission. As I said, I have improved massively in the past couple of years and I think that comes down to realising the way I was acting wasn't right, trying my hardest to ignore the negative thoughts and realising I'm not alone in this. To finish this post, I want to include some advice to bare in mind if you are struggling to deal with OCD -
- Don't feel ashamed or embarrassed - OCD is common and millions of people around the world suffer with it.
- Try and control your thoughts. Tell yourself nothing bad will happen if you don't follow through with the irrational behaviour.
- Get help. Although I didn't see a professional, it is something I regret. I feel I could of dealt with it much quicker had I gone and asked for help.
- Never feel worthless - It is easy to feel controlled by thoughts but remember the thoughts do not define who you are as a person.
- Surround yourself with supportive people - If the people around you understand how you are feeling, they can help you overcome it.
- Try not to get stressed - It will only make your thoughts and feelings worse.
This time last year I would of been too embarrassed and ashamed to tell anyone about this, let alone publish it on the internet. However, since starting this blog I have come to realise the blogging world is a little community of people where we can all share our life experiences and help each other. As I said earlier, if this post can help even one person who may be going through a similar experience to mine, I will be happy. I hope you have enjoyed reading this wether you suffer with OCD personally or are just someone who has never read first hand how it can affect a person. Finally - if any of you want to retweet or link back to this post to help me raise awareness, I would be so grateful. (Twitter- @k_leexjx)
Thanks for reading!
Lots of Love,