Severe OCD is very traumatic; it is mental torture of the highest degree. Whilst I was always performing well in studies and work, I rarely had any energy left thereafter.
It was about 2 years ago that I would class myself as “recovered”. Or rather, I felt like I had gotten to the best possible place I could for 80% of the time.
When I first recovered from severe OCD it felt like awakening from a mental coma. However, unlike normal comas, with OCD there is another version of you that still walks around having an impact on your surroundings. At times, like a tornado destroying indiscriminately in its wake, this OCD version of you can cause serious and painful damage to the self and others – mainly those closest to you. This is especially true for those who have had to watch loved ones suffer, often for years; those who have had their parental responsibilities increased due to the disablement of the person with OCD; as well as those who have been manipulated by the illness to engage with compulsions.
It is an underestimated part of OCD recovery in my opinion, but dealing with the fallout in whatever form it takes can be highly stressful and upsetting. Allowing others to explain the pain they have also endured has been important for not only my recovery, but to acknowledge the wreckage and subsequent pain that OCD has caused them.
OCD isn’t anyone’s fault
This is not about guilt or blame. This is about compassion. OCD isn’t anyone’s fault, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t talk about the issues it has caused. It took me some time to accept this.
I was so engrossed in obsessions at times I was taken away from my wife and child. I might as well have not been in the house. The amount of quality time I lost with my family because of OCD is incalculable. My wife would often describe me as being there but not there. I know it wasn’t my fault but it upsets me that I couldn’t be as present with them as I would have liked. It is ok to grieve what OCD has taken from you.
We are often expected to function like everyone else
I have the most amazing wife, she has been there for me always. But I have to accept I was not always there for her, and this has required forgiveness and understanding. Whilst I was stuck in my own head trying to work out the probability of contracting a virus from a toilet seat, she would be taking care of the house. Whilst I was obsessively reading about the historicity and textual criticism in relation to the book of Mark to see if the unpardonable sin was something I need to be concerned about, she was bathing our son. Understandably this was a very difficult time for her. It put a huge strain on her mental wellbeing also.
I am probably being quite harsh on myself here. I always tried to be the best father and husband I could regardless of the obsessions. However, the obsessions often came first and this took me away from what was actually important. It must be so difficult for others to understand how OCD actually feels – but because most of us look like the average person on the outside, we are often expected to function like anyone else.
In fact, my wife would probably tell you that its only within the last couple of years she has really begun to understand the disorder. For example, if we are watching TV and something comes on that might “spike” the OCD she will often joke in a creepy voice about what the OCD is telling me in my head 🤣. Or if I am going through a lapse she has an incredible reassurance scanning detector that makes it impossible for OCD to get past.
I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been to watch me suffer so much over the years
Speaking of reassurance, I used to do this with my mum for years. I would ask her dozens of times each week for confirmation that some crazy situation or event would not happen. It was never enough and even though I would ask the same questions over and over, she was always there patiently to answer me. Before treatment neither of us realised that this was actually making me worse. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been to watch me suffer so much over the years. I also know she felt tremendous guilt for not knowing how to help me, especially during the early years. This is something we have spoken about on many occasions.
Physically, I was also affected by having OCD. I would use alcohol to try to dull the obsessions and my diet was poor. I exercised infrequently and was overweight, and I didn’t care much about my appearance. Following recovery I now have a healthy diet, I quit drinking 18months ago and I am in the best shape of my life. But this has been a long and hard slog.
Its not all rosy, I still have lapses, some small and some painful, but these usually only last a week or 2 at worst. Most of the time I can prevent symptoms spiraling by using the OCD therapy tools I have learnt and adapted over the years. It still takes a lot of effort, sacrifice and discipline but I have finally found a way, alongside a better understanding from my closest family (with certain compromises such as extra naps when needed), to thrive despite having OCD.
This post might not be relevant to everyone, and I am only talking from my experience. However, I just thought it was important to mention for those it might apply to.