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Me and OCD Part 2: Moving and Mayhem
In part 1 of this series, I talked about the stigma and trivialization around OCD and how that contributed to me staying mostly silent on the subject. Now that I’ve lifted that silence, I’m going to talk a bit about what led to me speaking up in the first place.
Until recently, I considered myself to be mostly in recovery from OCD. For that reason, it hadn’t come up very much in my mental health treatment the last few years. My other illnesses and life obstacles always took precedence because they were more visibly interfering with my life and functioning. Looking back, I can now see that OCD remained interwoven through my life and even overlapped with some of my other illnesses in ways I hadn’t realized — though, I am thankful that I hadn’t been dealing with a full OCD relapse during the difficult times I was already experiencing over the last seven years or so.
However, about two months ago I found myself very much in the midst of a relapse that I was not prepared for (not that one could ever really fully be prepared for it). Moving into a new place has typically been a pretty big trigger for my OCD (the first time I experienced this moving trigger was during my five month inpatient stay in an adolescent eating disorder program — which was also when I officially received my OCD diagnosis, despite it being prevalent in my childhood). Being that I was in the middle of one of my biggest moves to date, I knew there would be some increased difficulty. Even though this was an exciting move, as I was finally going to be in my own apartment, the OCD behaviours that came with this moving experience ended up being much worse than previous times. The obsessive thoughts became more severe and enduring, and the compulsions became harder to resist. I was so exhausted, not only with the moving process itself but also with the mental energy that the OCD was draining me of, that I got to a point where I didn’t have the energy to engage in a lot of my compulsions.
Unfortunately, this didn’t mean that the OCD went away. It meant that the obsessive thoughts became even more all-consuming. On the nights that I wasn’t awake until 4am cleaning, scrubbing, and sanitizing, I was still awake worrying that because I wasn’t doing those things, there would be a variety of awful consequences. I fixated on consequences that ranged from: me getting sick and passing it on to a loved one, a loved one’s health condition worsening, an evil ‘force’ taking over my body and making me do things I wouldn’t want to do, getting into a car accident and hurting someone, to a number of other terrifying things. I know you’re probably reading this wondering how the hell not cleaning a surface enough could result in crashing my car, or thinking that there’s no such thing as an “evil force” that could take over me. Well, I promise you, I don’t understand it either. That’s part of what made OCD so difficult for me to ever talk about, because I knew it didn’t make logical sense — and yet, that didn’t make the fear of those events happening feel any less real.
With the impact this was having on my sleep, it was becoming that much harder to cope with the distress or to regulate my emotions. As a result, I was having more and more panic attacks and, for lack of a better word, meltdowns. I regularly found myself crying on the floor, terrified that I couldn’t get things clean enough, exhausted with all the energy this was consuming, frustrated and ashamed that I had even gotten to this point, and hopeless over feeling unable to do anything about it. All the coping skills I was trying just didn’t seem to be enough, and I was beginning to feel terrified about how out of control this was getting. I knew I needed to speak up to my mental health team about how much I was really struggling with this, as I felt my capacity to cope dwindling. As for how that went and what changed afterwards, I’ll be covering that in Part 3, the final blog of this series — so check back later!
Scarlett started as a volunteer with mindyourmind in 2012 and has been a member of the staff team since 2016. As a Psychology graduate from King's University College at Western, she is passionate about all things related to the subject and is a proud mental health advocate with lived experience.
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