Compulsive behavior is disruptive but there’s more…

Compulsions are not as benign as you might think, or as I thought. I live with OCD which means that I have ruminating thoughts. I struggle with checking to see if my keys and my wallet in my bag over and over again. It takes a toll on my brain and my body. I find myself physically and emotionally exhausted. I want to crawl into an OCD hole and cry sometimes. But I have to keep moving with my day. What helps? Mindfulness, breathing, telling myself something I learned from the book “Brain Lock,” which is to identify that my symptoms or discomfort are a result of OCD. It’s not my fault, I have a brain that repeats, like a skipping CD or record (oh yeah I brought it back there).

Rituals and OCD

My OCD is strange because I also have ADHD so my rituals get interrupted because I’m distracted. I’m trying to find my keys for 45 minutes and then once I get them in  then I spend another 20 minutes making sure they’re still in there. This ritual is annoying but it’s benign. I’m not going to hurt anyone by looking for my keys obsessively. I might annoy myself, but what I’m doing isn’t dangerous. There are compulsive disorders that do harm people, and I didn’t know about them.

Compulsions can hurt people

I mainly associated compulsions as annoying or disruptive but not scary or dangerous. However, there are disorders that have compulsions attached to them that hurt people. Kleptomania, for example, is a compulsive disorder where a person can’t help but steal things. They don’t want to take items from a store, and the things they’re stealing aren’t objects they need. Their brain is telling them that they have to steal. It’s hard to wrap my head around that one, but if I related it to something I do, it’s much like when I feel like I have to check for my keys repeatedly. I can’t imagine how distressed someone with a compulsion like this must feel. People with pyromania struggle with compulsions. It’s an impulse control disorder where the person feels intense urges to set fires to things. My OCD hurts me, but not like people with these disorders where the person is exposed to physical danger.

OCD can be unmanageable

Just because I don’t steal or set fire to things doesn’t mean my OCD is easy to deal with by any means. It’s loud, obnoxious and overwhelming. I can’t seem to turn it off most of the time. I can tune it out and tell it that I’m busy doing something, but it’s still there. Sometimes there’s a thought that tortures me. I can’t make it go away because it feels like there’s some truth in it. I don’t know what to do other than think the thought over and over and over again, which doesn’t make me feel good. I know that being afraid of my thoughts makes them feel overpowering. I’ve learned that exposing myself to what I’m scared of (although painful) is the best way to deal with obsessions and compulsions. Here’s an example of exposing myself to an OCD thought: I remember one time I was trying to leave my house and I saw my box of tarot cards sitting on the floor. I wanted to move them and put them on the table. I thought “is it bad luck to leave them on the floor?”  I forced myself to go the house with them sitting on the floor even though it made me uncomfortable. It was an excruciatingly painful moment where my brain was fighting me. But I did it.

Writing is hard with OCD

Writing can be difficult with OCD. I’m worried that a sentence that I’ve written is going to be misinterpreted. What if I get backlash for what I just wrote? I have superstitious thoughts like what I said is bad luck? What if I use a word that is going to drive negative energy to me? These are not logical thoughts but OCD is intrusive by nature.

Tame the OCD beast 

OCD hurts people whether it is subtle or overt. My OCD can cause me great emotional pain; however I’m learning techniques to manage it. It depends on the day. If you’re struggling with OCD I hear you, my friend. It’s not easy. But we got this. Exposure therapy fist bump.