What Is OCD? | OCD Awareness Week 2020

Blue - OCD Awareness Week 2020

October is a big month mental health wise. Not only was last week World Mental Health Day, this week is OCD Awareness Week. Spoiler alert: I have OCD. To put it politely, it’s a complete and utter fucking ballache. I’ve written quite a few times now about how my brain works with contamination based OCD, and today I want to share a little more about what OCD is to me. I’ll warn you up front – I swear quite a bit in this post.

What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

OCD is…

A Bully

OCD is a merger of every single one of those horrible bitches that used to shout “catch the ball you fucking speccy midget” at me during P.E, along with all those kids in my class that used to call me a “boff” whenever I was given a higher than average mark at anything (admittedly, I still have some scars – can you tell?). But that’s how I see OCD. If it were a person, it would be a collective term for every single asshole that made me feel like shit about myself during my school years. It’s a bully. It hits you hardest when you’re at your weakest – when you’re stressed, angry, nervous or sad. It pushes you into stupid shit you don’t want or need to do. It caused me to destroy valuable possessions because of a fear they were contaminated. In the months before my wedding, it caused me to severely fuck up my cycle by taking the morning after pill on three different occasion because I was convinced I missed my pill by an hour and I didn’t want to be walking down the aisle carrying more than a bouquet (it also cost me a fuckton of money). Worst of all though – it caused me to destroy a friendship

Not Just About Being Clean and Tidy

This is a tricky one. OCD is often portrayed in the media as an obsession with being clean and tidy – Monica from Friends, Emma Pilsbury in Glee. I’ve always struggled with this aspect of OCD, because I unfortunately fit the stereotype, and by saying that, I feel as though I’m invalidating my diagnosis in a way. I get anxious when things are messy, I see a green mist appear over everything that’s touched by someone else, and I have an uncontrollable urge to stab anyone who doesn’t wash their hands when they go to the toilet. My OCD is hugely related to contamination, so unfortunately, it fits in with that stereotype about being clean. Yes, OCD is not just about being clean and tidy – it’s a hell of a lot more than that. However, the fact that I have destroyed numerous possessions and friendships because of the potential of being exposed to germs indicates that this particular OCD stereotype is not something that should be brushed over. You could even argue in my case, it wasn’t necessarily about being clean and tidy, it was about contamination – when I lived in my old house, there were areas that I didn’t actually clean because they were so vile that I felt I would be contaminating myself by cleaning them, so they just remained disgusting.

I’ll be honest – sometimes I feel a bit of shame when people say that it’s not just about being clean, almost as though I don’t have “proper” OCD. I completely acknowledge that it’s not just about being clean – there’s so many sufferers out there who experience intrusive and unpleasant thoughts around religion, sex, physical symptoms, violence and even the urge to hoard things. The fact that I spend a great deal of time worrying about whether or not I’ve ran a child over in my car or whether I’ll get cancer unless I “touch wood” every time I mention it also demonstrates that too. I made myself late for work on numerous occasions through constantly checking whether my front door was locked, whether my car was locked, whether my handbrake was on etc. I guess my point is this – OCD is NOT just about contamination, but it’s certainly important to acknowledge that it’s still a factor.

Not a Personality Trait

I hate those people who use OCD as an adjective. I hate Khloe Kardashian using it as a hashtag when she advertises cleaning products on Instagram. I hate those tacky AF sweatshirts with various phrases like “Obsessive Christmas Disorder” and “Obsessive Cat Disorder” on them. Spoiler alert – it’s not an adjective. OCD is not a quirk, it’s not cute, and it’s not a personality trait. It’s an illness that tortures, humiliates and ruins. If I hear one more person say “I have that too, I can’t stand things being untidy,” I will cut them. Personality traits don’t lead to you washing your hands such much that they bleed and they don’t cause you to check your front door so much that you end up with blisters on the inside of your fingers.

Difficult to Live With in a Global Pandemic

In the weeks where things with coronavirus kicked off, my OCD was not in a good way. I struggled with the news that there was a shortage on hand sanitizers and soap, and the sheer lack of control over the whole thing meant that I genuinely wanted to die just so I didn’t have to deal with it. In a way, lockdown was a relief because it meant for that time, I was free from the risk of getting covid, and I could avoid the news and stick my head in the sand. In another way though, it was painful and sad – having to only speak to my mum via video calls, drinking heavily and not knowing when this nightmare would be over. The rules around handwashing virtually blurred the lines of what was considered normal and what would be classed as a compulsion – similarly with things like disinfecting groceries and wiping down your phone. Contamination OCD meant that once the rules started to be lifted, I still didn’t leave my house properly for another two months. I feel as though I’ve taken a huge step back in my recovery because of this bastard pandemic and it’s certainly not over yet. I hate that the pandemic has undone a lot of the hard work I’ve done towards my recovery, and I hate that with mental health services struggling as much as they are right now, it’ll take me a very long time to get back to where I was.

Treatable

Despite everything I’ve said, OCD is treatable. Through six months of high intensity CBT and 100mg of Sertraline, I got to stages I never thought I’d get to again. I was able to clean my bathroom without having to have a shower afterwards, I was able to use my phone when I was out without soaking it in Dettol afterwards, and I could stop washing my hands after I’d done it three times. In the two years after my discharge from the mental health service, I was happier than I’d ever been – I felt successful, accomplished, and as though I had my life back. While I’m currently frustrated with where I’m at and worried about the future of my recovery, I’m grateful that I got to the point I did. Had I not gotten to where I did in my recovery, I dread to think how I would have coped over the last few months.

I hope this post has given you a little insight into living with OCD. I guess if I wanted you to take anything away from this post, it would be this: please stop using OCD as an adjective. Educate yourself more in the disorder and stop using it to describe yourself just because you need to have everything neat and tidy at home. Kay?

Take care everyone x

For More Information About OCD:

OCD Action

The UK’s largest OCD charity focusing on support and advice for anyone affected by the condition.

OCD-UK

The UK’s national charity run by and for people with lived experience of OCD. 

Mind – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Useful information on OCD, types, causes, symptoms and treatments by UK mental health charity, Mind. 

NHS – OCD

Information on symptoms and treatment for OCD. 

Photo by Sime Basioli on Unsplash.

19 thoughts on “What Is OCD? | OCD Awareness Week 2020

  1. From reading this post, I have learnt quite a lot about OCD now. I don’t suffer from it but I know people that do and you can see that it has an impact on their lives, I hope more people get to read this post as they could learn so much from it x

    Lucy | http://www.lucymary.co.uk

    Liked by 1 person

  2. One of the best posts I have ever read about OCD! Thank you very much for sharing – I can totally relate to everything you’ve said and the way you compare OCD to a bully is absolutely phenomenal. OCD really is like a bully – if it was a person, it would be the most horrible person in the universe!

    And well….Khloe Kardashian.. that’s simply no comment. She always describes OCD as if it was a kind of blessing which just makes me so angry. I know this may sound evil but I would love to give my OCD to those people who think it’s a useful thing to live with 😀

    Stay safe,

    Mark

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Mark, that really means a lot. I’ve tried numerous times to give it some sort of comparison as a person as I read in a book once it was a good way to separate yourself from the disorder, but I don’t think it’s possible to give it a singular persona – it’s certainly a combination of assholes!
      I’ve only recently found out about Khloe Kardashian’s thing with referring to it as a trait/blessing and if anything it’s given me more reason to hate them as a whole! 😂
      Thank you for reading x

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well yes! OCD really is like a combination of assholes. Or one asshole who’s extremely creative – creative is one of my favorite words to describe my OCD ’cause even after so many years it’s still able to surprise me with totally random obsessions. It really seems like there’s an endless number of “what ifs”.

        Well, same here. I have never been a fan of the Kardashians but Khloe’s videos made me dislike them even more 😀

        Stay safe

        Hugs

        Mark

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’ve never thought of describing it as ‘creative’ before but that’s 100% correct! I’ve thought of possibilities and scenarios no one in their right mind would ever think of as a result of OCD – there is literally an answer for everything! x

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow, this was a brilliant post. I honestly hadn’t realised just how traumatic having OCD (proper OCD, not just being a cleaning freak) could be. I’m so glad you were able to find a treatment that works for you, I hope you continue to be able to manage it. Thank you for such an honest and in depth piece of writing. x

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Fantastic read. I can resonate so much with what you say. I too suffer from the ocd bully and have done for years. Mine is around responsibility. Checking doors, well practically anything in the house, driving, my work etc. It really pisses me off when I see people using the word ocd so loosely or that it’s fashionable. I’m going through the process of letting people into my world now, mainly through blogging, and it’s made me feel great.

    Keep doing what your doing💚 x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for reading! I know exactly what you mean regarding the responsibility stuff – I remember distinctly that I used to struggle especially at work when I was given the task of locking the front doors, I spent so many nights panicking that the shop would be broken into/burned down because I didn’t lock it properly!
      The fact that so many people are using it as a ‘fashionable’ adjective just makes me so mad!
      I’m glad to hear that you’ve discovered the blogging community, it’s helped me so much over the last couple of years. Wishing you all the best with it! x

      Like

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