Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder in which time people have recurring, unwanted thoughts, ideas or sensations (obsessions) that make them feel driven to do something repetitively (compulsions)What Is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder? (2017, July). Retrieved May 14, 2020, from https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/ocd/what-is-obsessive-compulsive-disorder
When my therapist mentioned a possible diagnosis of OCD I felt two things.
- Relieved that all these feelings and thoughts I’ve always known have a name to it.
- Annoyed that “I have yet another diagnosis”.
We all have some type of knowledge of what OCD is. I mean, we have seen in on T.V. shows and movies. It’s all about cleaning and having things in perfect order, no? No! It is NOT all about that.
I do enjoy organization and cleaning, don’t get me wrong. I hate the stressful NEED to clean and organize the entire house. The uneasy stomach feeling and the fast-beating heart while I’m taking all of the clothes out of the drawers and file folding them. The thoughts that are going 100 mph in my head while I’m scrubbing the bathroom tiled floor. The voice of reason in my mind telling me to stop taking out everything from the pantry. I hate it when I feel I can’t stop myself from doing it because my brain insists we do it.
I’ve learned OCD is all about control and wanting control. I’ve learned, for myself in particular, that it all stems from my past trauma. I’ve learned that these intrusive and unwanted thoughts attack the closest thing to my heart.
It’s hard to truly describe what happens in my brain whenever I feel a lack of control. If something happens that my brain perceives as a threat the following starts to happen (all at once) :
tightens. Time freezes. I can’t catch my breath. My stomach is in knots. My hands get clammy. My heart is beating fast. My mind is thinking of a million ways I can take control. “Maybe I can do this, maybe if I say this..” I feel scared. I want to cry. I want to hide. I want to go back to the minute before this “threat” even happened.
ALL THE WHILE, I have this rational part of my mind telling me to slow down. Telling me to STOP and just breathe. Telling me everything will be okay. Telling me to not say anything. JUST STOP. I feel exhausted. I just want to finally be able to take a breath. I want to loosen the tension in my shoulders and loosen the grip of my teeth in my cheeks. I want to feel calm and safe.
The part of me that
demands control usually wins because it’s louder than my rational self. I usually say something or do something to get the control that I want of a situation. This must make me feel good, right? No. I feel exhausted. My lungs are convinced I just ran a marathon. I’m out of breath and my heart is beating so fast you can hear it. I feel selfish. I can feel the judgment I’m giving myself. I’ve lost the battle once again. I want to start apologizing. I want to cry and hide in shame.
I’m working on making my rational self part be stronger and more present to be able to knock the irrational thoughts and fears out.
The thing is, I know you can’t always get what you want in life. I know plans change all the time. Life is all about changes. I KNOW this. I UNDERSTAND it. I want you to understand, I know the difference between reason and irrational. So, why do I still listen to these irrational thoughts and fears? I’m still learning.
Due to trauma, my brain and body had to learn at a young age how to quickly best protect me. I have these defensive mechanisms that are instinctual. I want to learn how to appreciate and be gentle with the way that my brain learned to protect me. The brain is more powerful than we can even imagine. When it comes to trauma, the brain will do whatever it can to protect us.