Living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder changes the way you see the world, and it changes the way you think the world sees you. I have new fears, new coping mechanisms, a new vocabulary, and a new lifestyle. I say “I’m scared” multiple times a day, and I mean it every time. My mind yells “danger” multiple times a day, and I believe it every time. One of the many dangerous pitfalls of OCD is the “what if it’s not OCD” question. Every time there is a trigger, every time my mind yells “Danger!”, I try to tell myself that this isn’t a real threat, that it is only my OCD lying to me. There are good days, when with some effort I can believe this and push on. There are bad days, when even with all my might I cannot move forward; I get stuck in fear until I can clean my way out of it. And then there are the really bad days, when nothing I do works, not trying to push on, not even the safety behaviors work, because on those days my OCD plays a dirty little trick. It tells me that maybe this fear isn’t my OCD this time. Maybe this time it’s real, this is it, the moment we’ve been dreading, the moment when the threat is real and there’s nothing I can do to fight it because it’s not a trick of my mind, it’s real. In these moments no one can talk me down, no one can convince me that this danger is once again just my OCD bullying me. Because in these moments OCD tells me that everyone on the outside sees me as the girl who cried wolf. The girl who cried danger. I’ve been scared too many times; no one will believe me this time when the danger is real.
“I’m the girl who cried OCD”
In those moments I feel so alone. I don’t know who to believe. And that fear that this time it could be real, that this time it might not be OCD, that only I can decide if it’s safe to keep going, to keep living, that fear is paralyzing. It feels like the weight of the world is on my shoulders, that the weight of the lives of all those I love is on my shoulders. OCD convinces me that it’s up to me and only me, to save the world. Because what if it’s not OCD? And only I can see it. Only I can see the danger, and no one is heeding my warning because I’m the girl who cried wolf. I’m the girl who cried OCD.
We all fall victim to the “what if” questions of life; OCD takes that human weakness and turns it into a weapon. Once you get stuck in that cycle it’s hard to climb your way out. So every time that OCD asks “what if it’s not OCD this time?” , I try to ask “What if it is?”. What if it is still OCD trying to control my life? Am I going to let it? Can I get myself to risk that “what if”, knowing that if I can, there is no doubt that I will feel the freedom and the relief of loosening OCD’s grasp on my life just a little more? Because I know from experience that if I have the strength to live with that doubt, the relief I feel from letting go of the need to control life is like finally coming up for breath. Like the weight on my chest that OCD puts there, the weight of feeling like I control fate, is lifted just a little more. So what if it is OCD? That’s the question that’s worth asking, even if it is the hardest question to ask.