A few days ago, after a very difficult mental breakdown, I decided it was time to back away from my online support groups. Why? Because they were doing more harm than good.
When I was first diagnosed with OCD, the first thing I did was join as many support groups as I could find on social media. Intrusive Thoughts Support, OCD Support Group, Support for Pure O, and many, many more. It didn’t take much time to realise that these support groups were not necessarily providing me with much support, and in fact, were doing more detriment to my OCD than I had imagined. Don’t get me wrong, I have met some of the most incredible and inspiring people from these groups. But personally, there were way too many posts I found on these support groups that were quite triggering for me. These weren’t necessarily posts that specifically stated a trigger warning. They were simply just comments here and there that people would discuss, that would cause me to start questioning my own habits and behaviours. If the only issue with support groups were that they were triggering, then I’m sure the only solution would be to stop reading posts. Yes, that is true. But for me, the groups became a compulsion. Every worry I had, every anxious feeling I felt, led me to aimlessly scroll through endless posts till I sought some reassurance. The reassurance was always there of course, because each person in that support group has gone through such similar things. However, this was only a short term benefit for something that was soon enough going to take over my life.
After my mental breakdown last weekend, I realised that my life had truly become consumed by OCD. Every single post on my news feed was related to OCD. I often managed to incorporate my OCD in every conversation I had with any of my loved ones. I spoke about my OCD, I read about my OCD, I thought about my OCD, for a moment I started to think I was OCD. This is where things start to get tricky. I realised that it had taken up so much of my time that it was hard to breakaway. I was enjoying the comfort of having other people around me going through the same things. I was enjoying sitting on my phone chatting with all my new friends about all our intrusive thoughts. It felt great to know that I wasn’t alone. You may be thinking, how is that a bad thing? Well. When the internet crashed, and I no longer had support groups to reach to, I was alone. When my international fellow OCD sufferers were asleep, and I was desperately seeking reassurance, I was alone. When my brain was exhausted of all the thinking and I was numb to the anxiety that followed the thoughts, I was alone. The only person I had was myself. I could no longer rely on the support groups to provide me reassurance. In contrast, when I was having a great day only to check my phone at the end of the night and read that my fellow OCD sufferer had the worst day, I was triggered. When I woke up feeling refreshed, checked my news feed and saw that somebody put up a post regarding one of my OCD themes, I was triggered. When I finally felt like I was in recovery, and another person in my group questioned my recovery, I was triggered. In this day and age, it is inevitable that you are going to find something triggering on the internet. It is impossible to control every conversation anybody will ever have around you (trust me I have tried). But what you can do, is know when it is time to opt out for a while, and when you feel ready to use support groups for what they really are designed for, you can go back. Rob from @ocdtreated on Instagram made a very valid point. Often people who suffer from OCD join these support groups during their worst spikes, but when they recover they disappear, removing them in fear that they will trigger a new spike again. But my aim for backing away is not for avoidance. It is to learn how to stop heavily relying on my support groups to cure my OCD. I will continue to talk about OCD, after all, it may not be who I am but it is still a large part of my life. I aim to discuss my experiences in future with others and continue to share my advice and tips on numerous amounts of pages. But, the most important person who matters is myself, and thus, I will remind myself when it is time to back away from these groups and to notice the signs that perhaps they are causing more detriment to me rather than benefit. And I think you should too.