If you are reading this letter thinking it will contain endless information about contamination, washing hands, and compulsive rituals then you are in the wrong place. This letter intends to address the type of OCD that is typically swept under the rug. The taboo topics that nobody chooses to discuss for fear they will be defined by their thoughts. What I am referring to is known as Pure O, with sub-types known as HOCD, POCD, or ROCD (to name a few). The craziest part of our minds is that it works entirely against us, for reasons we will never be able to comprehend. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is one of the most misunderstood mental disorders as it is stereo-typically defined as a ‘perfectionist’. This belittles the struggle that true OCD sufferers encounter every single day of their lives. Living with OCD is like living with a roommate who you spend every waking moment arguing with. It is an endless battle with your mind trying to convince yourself that you are not your thoughts. What sufferers don’t realise is, that the more you argue with the thoughts, the stronger they become, and for as long as we define ourselves based on our minds, the longer we will fight the battle. See how quickly you can spiral into a vortex of anxiety and depression? The trick is to acknowledge the thoughts, but not let them consume you. Of course this is easier said than done, and it is a process that I, myself, am still struggling to follow, but with enough determination, it is possible. To be able to acknowledge the thoughts, you first need to understand that you are not alone. This is your OCD trying to drive you to insanity. Just imagine this, you are a huge lover of children, one day you receive this completely out of the blue intrusive thought that maybe your love for children goes beyond just a parental instinct, a non-sufferer will think that thought for a brief second before they laugh and shoo it away, an OCD sufferer – to put it into perspective – will think about that thought for the next three days wondering whether it is true. This can lead to incredible distress as the once love you had for children is now replaced with this fear that you may unintentionally hurt them one day. You start to feel sick in the stomach, and thus, you pull yourself away from kids. Another example, you are a devoted Christian, you spend your time visiting church, praying, and dedicating your time to the Lord. One day, you have an irrational thought that you have been possessed by a demon. You begin to repeat to yourself numerous times throughout your head how much you love Christ, to constantly reassure yourself that your love for the Lord still exists. Why not one more example? Everything in your life is perfect, you have a loving family, a good home and a supportive group of friends. One day, you watch the news, or you hear about something that triggers this alarm within you. A man kills his entire family when they’re asleep. Another intrusive thought decides to pop into your head (convenient hey?) you begin to panic that one day you would do the same. You start to argue with your head, telling yourself ‘stop being silly, why would I do that?’ and the evil voice responds ‘because you will want to’, and you find yourself trapped in this never-ending black hole of negativity. We’re on a roll so why not a few more? You are in a loving relationship, one day you have an intrusive thought that you are no longer straight (or vice versa) you begin to forcefully have sex with your partner just to make sure you are still attracted to them. Or one day an intrusive thought enters your mind that you are sexually attracted to a family member, you begin arguing with your brain to bring you back to reality but the more you argue the stronger these feelings get, and as a result you isolate yourself from everyone in fear that you are a terrible person. This is only a slight example of what OCD sufferers have to deal with and of course they vary with each person, some experiencing mild symptoms of these and other more extreme cases. But can you understand the frustration when people who deal with intrusive thoughts are belittled by a definition of a disorder that is purely associated with cleanliness and perfection? There is nothing perfect about intrusive thoughts, it is not a ‘trend’, it is not ‘fascinating’, it is distressing, heartbreaking, and incredibly difficult to face. The hardest part of OCD is how quickly people can forget the importance of speaking up. After all, how do you explain to someone the thoughts that go through your head without them labelling you as what the thoughts imply? How do you educate somebody on this notion that the mind is not a part of us? It is definitely a lengthy process, and this is why OCD continues to be so misunderstood in today’s society – as nobody is willing to educate themselves on the true struggles of battling this illness. Personally, I have been dealing with OCD since my early teens. At the time, as a scared twelve year old who started hearing these evil voices inside my head, constantly worried how I would make it through a dark night, I kept it to myself for years. Of course at times I wanted to speak up, and I did try to in simple words to see if anyone else would slowly open up as well in an attempt to make sure I was normal, but no other twelve year old was battling a mental illness, which made things even worse for me. I kept things quiet for a long time in fear that maybe somebody could hear my thoughts and judge me for it. The paranoia grew even more. With each good day came an even stronger intrusive thought. I was noticing a pattern. I managed to get through the nights that I thought I wouldn’t. And now, ten years later, where I can finally understand that everybody is fighting some sort of battle, and everybody is in this together, I am educated about the sickness and I continue to break the barriers of the stigma and allow myself to speak up about what I’m going through. I finally realise that things will be okay. OCD will trick you into thinking you are not worthy of happiness or that you are not getting any better, but believe me, as soon as you begin to acknowledge the thoughts yet practise ways to not react to them, the volume drastically lowers.
Living with intrusive thoughts can be debilitating, and it is extremely difficult to open up as your mind constantly convinces you that this is who you are. You have allowed your mind to have complete control over you and you need to seek redemption. I know it’s not easy, in fact it is ridiculously hard, but whoever is suffering from these repulsive, horrific thoughts, please post a comment below, even if it’s anonymously. I would love to help you and reassure you that everything is going to be okay. Everything is okay. These are all false thoughts and they are never going to happen. They are non-existent.
Dear OCD, I write to you because so many people are misinformed about what you truly entail. I write to you because so many are unaware of the consequences that people can suffer from dealing with this terrible disease. I write to you in hope that I can save a distressed mind from believing that they are defined by the traumatising seeds you have planted inside their heads. I aim to work entirely hard on beating you, defeating you, and thus having complete control over my brain again. I don’t give you the satisfaction of telling you I hate you because that again, is you trying to seek negativity into my mind. I acknowledge you, I see you, I notice you, but I will not react.
That’s a promise.