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.
And only I can take it back.
I think that I am afraid of happiness. It’s the one thing that I desire most, the thing I am constantly fighting for. It’s what OCD holds over my head, the possibility of happiness in the future, as long as I live by OCD’s rules. But somewhere along the line my fear of not reaching that happiness transformed into a fear of that happiness itself. It’s like the carrot dangled in front of the donkey; the donkey never gets closer to the carrot, with each step it takes the carrot takes one too. I’ve let OCD convince me that I can’t reach it. So when I see something happy coming along in the near future, my mind immediately starts back tracking and second guessing. Do I deserve that happiness that is almost within my reach? What if I can’t get to it? As soon as happiness becomes possible my OCD tightens it’s grip around me. Using that light at the end of the tunnel as a bargaining chip. “You can have it if you do this and this and this…”. And every time I do what it says I get more and more miserable and that glimmer of hope gets further and further away. I begin to believe my OCD when it tells me that I don’t deserve happiness.
I think it’s easy for OCD and Depression to convince us that we don’t deserve happiness because we as humans tend to fall into that trap innately. We tend to value success, jobs, education, titles, possessions, etc. more than we value our own happiness. We’re taught that we’ll be happy once we graduate college, once we graduate grad school, once we get our dream job or our dream house. But what I am learning is that I can be just as happy if not more, without any of that. Without the job, without the fancy initials at the end of my name, without the fancy clothes. I can find happiness in simply being with the person I love no matter where that is. And I can find happiness in drawing and writing. I wish I had learned that long ago. I let go of grad school out of necessity for my health. But what I couldn’t imagine at the time was that I would be happy anyway. If we start measuring our success not by our job titles and the price tags on our clothes, but by how simply happy we are, I think we could all feel much more content in ourselves. We could retrain our minds to accept happiness, and to expect happiness.
All I need to do is let myself walk through the tunnel and reach that happiness. And once I get there, accept it; don’t live in fear of losing it, because then I never really had it. I deserve happiness.