Sunday, October 08, 2006

My OCD story in a nutshell.

Since I am getting too obsessed about my OCD and maybe I made you wondering twice, I decided to write few words in here. Not a big well written story that was originally planned, rather than as simple as it gets explanations, a history and few thoughts. I really need to express myself and give you the facts about this..

OCD stands for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. There are two major kinds of OCD. The traditional and more popular one and the more unknown and unseen called Pure or Primarily Obsessional OCD.

In the first one, the sufferer encounters an unpleasant thought (obsession) and tries to react to it with an external ritual (compulsion). Excessive keylock checking, washing, cleaning, hoarding are only few of the compulsions out there. I think you have noticed some of these in the movies :P. The patient suffers from unwanted thoughts like "If you don’t clean your house everyday for 12 hours, you will have germs around that will kill you.". These thoughts forces him/her to complete the compulsion more and more (e.g. excessive cleaning), though while this would naturally bring relief and end the cycle, it has the opposite results. The OCD traps you into continuing your compulsions because you fear about the negative results. Your fear is what fuels the OCD which starts the cycle again! I really don't know how it is to live an everyday life with such kinds of rituals that you are forced to complete, cause I never had such ones wasting my life, though the whole philosophy is similar to the Pure-O kind from which I was suffering.

The diferrence in the second one is that there are no external rituals here. The whole cycle of anxiety->reaction goes entirely through inside the sufferer's mind. Though, it is considered that there are still compulsions answering to obsessions here, it's just that these reactions to the unwanted thoughts manifested as thoughts themselves. Some say that the term Pure Obsessional is misplaced for that reasons (And thus Primarily Obessional is prefered). Compulsions play a role here too, though they are not outside for the world to stare. This kind of OCD is not so known, though several people are found to be suffering from it and only recently there was proper research going on in the topic. The reasons are that suffering goes in silence, because it's all inside someone's head and there are no characteristic external rituals for family members/friends to stare, also the thoughts are so shameful that force the victim to keep them secret. I'll be back more into this through my own story.

My first unwanted thoughts had a religious theme. A simple idea that popped up suddenly: "What if I went into a church and accidentaly made disrespectful thoughts towards religion?". That idea was enough for a follow up of unwanted thoughts because I instantly thought it was possible for my thoughts to harm me and had a fear of making these thoughts which brought more of them. I think I was 14-15 years old or younger when the first symptoms appeared if I recall well. And yes, I tried to confess about them to my mother while I was too doubtful about this. The reaction was possitive but expected. Thoughts can be random and it's natural that these might be shameful and unwanted sometimes. I was for one day relieved with this thought, though I had a bad feeling about this, that I'll wake up the next day having to bear the same suffering. And so was it..

My most common unwanted thoughts (which are called spikes in the OCD terminology and that's how I will call them from now on) had later to do with thinking of violent themes, sex orgies, wishing death or disrespecting people I'd see in front of me. It's like a demon tortured my soul by forcing me to make thoughts that were incompatible to my personality. Either by making me thinking about oral sex with male friends, torturing my loved ones or stupid thoughts like "If you step on the cracks in the pavement, a loved one of you will die". I never wanted to have these thoughts, how much about acting on them and that's similar for all OCD sufferers as far as I am aware. Such are the usual bad thoughts most Pure-O sufferers encounter, though each person can has his own spikes that might not bother others OCD sufferers at all except of him/herself, because everyone has a unique personality makeup.

You might say that everyone has such kind of thoughts at times. True because my friends have talked to me about similar thoughts when I talked to them about my OCD. This is the point where I'd like to make a distinction. The diferrence here is that these thoughts never bothered my friends. They passed once or twice through their mind and left unnoticed. These people could go on in life with confidence, caring about other more important and true matters.

These thoughts could get in my mind and make me thinking it harder and trying to excuse about them more and more for the rest of the day. They totally killed my self-esteem and sometimes they made me cry alone. Even when I understood that this was a nasty game of my brain, this fact couldn't wipe them off. It was even more suffering to know that even if I know this is a mechanism in my brain and so it wasn't me who was doing intentionally the thoughts, I still couldn't get rid of them! Or actually if I could stop caring about them? If they could stop making me feel so bad? This went on for years and everyday I woke up I thought I would never get rid of this ugly virus from my mind. It made me sad, sad, sad..

That's the diferrence between an OCD sufferer and everyone who can have such random thoughts too. The sufferer obsesses about these thoughts and this is what gives power to the further cycle. Then he/she is bothered for long periods with these thoughts that continue cycling in mind because of the fear of them, completely destroying self-esteem, making him/her acting weirdly, becoming unwanted to the people and family members around because they are not acting as "normal" as expected. It all goes through a vicious cycle which usually brings more problems in their real/social life. As a chronic disease (That means not a temporary quirk, but something you have to bother with for the rest of your life) it can bring up depression. Some people recently thought I might suffer from bi-polar depression (it has a very common relationship with OCD), even though I had never really noticed this on myself (I don't know how weird it really is to suffer from depression). I don't know if this explains my periods between passion and inactivity concerning OCD and my creative activities, the strong mood swings I sometimes feel to have. I haven't verified that yet.

Some people wonder why didn't I seeked for help if I was troubled so much by such a disorder. They say that if I had this OCD I claim, it would probably be too noticable. Since I looked fairly "normal" to them (regardless some strange but funny quirks ;P) I must not have this thing. Such is the nature of OCD (especially the Pure-O type) that is not easy to distinguish. It's sometimes characterized as the "suffering in silence" anxiety disorder. To explain myself, several reasons kept me away from seeking for help. First of all I wasn't sure whether this cycle happens also to most other people (it does but maybe not so excesively). Secondly, I was too ashamed to uncover my unwanted thoughts. All together, I thought it didn't deserved the try. At hard times I repeated to myself this can't be normal, maybe it's some kind of an unknown disorder nobody knows. And thus this became my big ugly secret.

Two or three years from now, I was so fed up with it that I decided to ignore it. I had other more important things in life to bother with and thus it succumbed into oblivion. The unwanted thoughts bothered me only slightly. I could still feel it deep inside me though. This wicked mechanism, this demon of my mind. Somehow I felt like this was something I had to look upon in the future again.

The revelation came when I accidentally read about "Obsessive-Compulsive" on wikipedia. I've read this pair of words somewhere in a blog and wonder what that means. Out of pure curiosity I ended up surprised and happy to have found so unexpectedly what was it called, the thing that was always bothering me. Before that, I kept ruminating over my life, the universe and everything, walking the wrong path with numerous assumptions about myself, nobody of them feeling so true. I was always in doubt. I thought everything is subjective and I'll never find an answer that feels so good about what I am. I only had this feeling when I discovered the name of my disorder. Everything suddenly started to make a sense when I read more about it!

I already knew about this bothering mechanism in my mind since an early age and lived it's implications, I was just not aware this is a known disorder I could investigate further. What I didn't especially know was that this anxiety mechanism called OCD, didn't only made me suffer with those stupid thoughts, but also killed my self-esteem in real life matters. Negative thoughts like "I am not too social enough" were extremely magnified in my case. I was always in doubt about myself and doubt is a very common characteristic in OCD sufferers. Overanalyzing, thinking it too much and too seriously (obsessively), vicious cycles, endless ruminations, negative feelings are overmagnified in our case. These characteristics affected negatively a big part of my real/social life. Finally, I can now see the whole image clearly! Even my passionate engagement in a creative hobby which occupied my life and became an obsession is properly explained now. It helped my mind focus off real life into something else that could give me a positive boost on my low self-esteem which I was missing in real life. Till I finished another creative work and started the negative cycle again. Everyday I refine the moments of my past with the new data. Everything fits perfectly now in my new explanatory system. The old predictable beliefs of my friends about what's the matter with me are only bothersome, confusing and lead me to the wrong way. I know now..

And thus, I am here, knowing this usefull fact, more sure about myself than ever. The road is still long though. Everyday, I feel how much anxiety and the negative cyclic thinking affects my life. I can see it in realtime now, I got so aware of my own way of thinking that I can truly see it. For me, there is no doubt about having OCD, though the matter is what follows from now on..

To be continued.


Pixie said...

I really think that you should visit a specialist.There is nothing to be ashamed about and their is a great chance of improvement.This is the first and most important step to take.

What happened to your blog photo?

Optimus said...

The photo is hosted in another server which is recently down. Maybe I could host it in the greek server of my website but that also goes down frequently :P

vvas said...

Hm, it's interesting to read that you get to feel guilty for your own thoughts. I've never really thought about it (not anytime recently at least), but I guess I'm not particularly surprised.

I get all sorts of thoughts like the ones you describe, I think. For example: I might be waiting at the traffic light with a friend in order to cross the road, right at the edge of the pavement, with cars and even buses coming at full speed. So then I get to think, if I give him/her a push at just the right moment (say as a speeding bus is coming), it's almost certain death. Very effective. So do I get any guilt for thinking about this? Hell no. I know I won't do it, and that's about it. I don't even try to suppress it; after all, there's no worse kind of censorship than self-censorship. And I want my mind to be free to roam wherever it wants, no barriers held.

Anyway, this is not meant to lead to any kind of suggestions for your case or anything; I'm sure it's quite complicated. I just wanted to provide some perspective about how other people might be dealing with similar things. I just hope my friends won't feel worried from now on when they're crossing the street with me. :^)

Optimus said...

Thanks vvas for your comment. It's interesting to read another description of how someone without OCD reacts in such thoughts. Since I never had the ability to go into someone else's mind and know it at first place, I couldn't be sure whether my struggle was something natural that other people have or not.

Though, after deeper discussions with close friends, reading sites and personal stories about OCD, remembering my past and feeling the unique perception SSRIs brought me into recently while comparing that one to how ease people might feel while they react in social situations, I think I am more closer into knowing how it is to live without OCD. And your description is very accurate and right of what I think now.

The similarities between OCD and non-OCD people are that 1) they both can have such nasty thoughts, 2) They both know they won't do any harm because they think of it.

The diferrences are: 1) OCD people still feel guilty about their thoughts. 2) Even if they DO know it's a game of their mind and that they shouldn't feel bad about these thoughts, they still do feel bad no matter how illogical. 3) To be fine with the thoughts and not try to suppress it as you say, is another basic diferrence. You let them go for once and then they fade away. That's how it goes on with non-OCD people. For the OCD sufferers, to try to suppress the thoughts is what makes them worse, that's how the mechanism works. Though they get into the cycle of trying to react/respond/defend against the thoughts no matter if they know it's illogical to continue the cycle.

In few words, the cycle works like this:

non-OCD: Nasty thoughts => alert => Review the thought => Is it important? No, don't bother => Thought easilly fades away, the cycle breaks.

OCD: Nasty thoughts => alert => dislike/anxiety => reacting/defending with other thoughts => the fact that you obsessively react somehow sends a signal to the brain that you fear of that thought and this brings it back stronger and the cycle starts again. That's somehow the pattern I read in OCD specific sites (iirc, I am not sure I've written it right) and it really makes sense to how I feel it works on me. And even if you know the whole logic, for some reasons it's not easy to persuade yourself to not be bothered with these thoughts and let them fly away. That's for all OCD sufferers as I read in their stories.

I was surprised to see how the first pattern started working on me after two weeks I got some SSRI medicine from the doctor in the army. I am not going to be based on drugs, I just wished to experiment on how it changes my thinking and it really showed me something. Thoughts and anxiety situations either in the army, the family or people were easilly fading away. Though the starting alert in the scheme is still there but that's natural of course. What surprised me (and the big diferrence) is that when I got the alert about a situation, I logically said "Ok, it's natural to be a little anxious about that thing", but then this anxiety didn't bothered me/stunned me for a long period as in the past. I let it flow immidiately and I accepted it. That doesn't mean that I didn't cared about the alert, it just didn't overwhelmed me and I just did the right thing easilly. So easilly the thoughts were flowing through my head without much struggle.

I'll be more surprised to see myself reacting obsessively to my thoughts again when I cut the medicine, no matter how illogical. For now on I have felt the other side.

Anonymous said...

Your story of OCD is so truthful. I feel that I suffer from OCD as well after discovering that my obessive thoughts fit right into the realm of OCD. Thank you for sharing your story.

Anonymous said...

I wanted to cry reading this because so much of it reminds me of myself. I always think of people dying and then I have to do something to make the thoughts go away, but they just come back worse. Or, the classic stepping on a crack in the pavement...
Does OCD bother you every day? I notice it is worse in times of stress, I guess it would be naturally.

Optimus said...

Thank you for your comments.

It doesn't bother me as much as in the old times, I either got used to it or I can easier accept it. But yes, in stressful times it gets stronger and reminds me of the past where I had to bother with this every fuckin day.

Nowadays I really want to learn more about it, especially from research. These data might reveal more about myself and also give some answers whether it's neurological or psychological in nature.

Anonymous said...

I need help how do I cure ocd myself, when they are bad religious thoughts

Optimus said...

There are a lot of different opinions on what consists of a cure. Some people really just want to get away of these thoughts and don't bother with them again, but that's what seems to be causing it. The hard way is to somehow accept these thoughts insist of resisting to them. Medicine can reduce the effects but not cure the root of all evil. Behavioral therapy is a better way to go through this, sometimes accompanied with medications sometimes not.

I used to have bad religious thoughts which somehow stopped, or well, they never, I just stopped caring because I was never a believer, just made believe that the god we pray is something I shouldn't think blasphemous thoughts about. I am more bothered with other kinds of thoughts having to do with sex or violence. I have learned to accept it or mock it, not easy but when I do it goes away easier.

I'll tell you something. In my surprise I have learned from other people I discussed that such thoughts are something other people can do too, most times it comes randomly in their heads, sometimes they think it's fun or have more fantasy that no weird thought can stop. The big difference between us and people not suffering from OCD in my opinion is not the thoughts but that we take them too seriously. And I know it's hard to not. So at least there is nothing to be ashamed, at least we don't suck so much, because everyone does some of these thoughts but most are not so sensitive to them. Also, they may have a random thought and because they don't bother it goes away. When we have that random ugly blasphemous evil thought and we ponder around it we keep it revolving around our mind for an hour or so and we are suffering. If it didn't bother us too, it would just fade away easilly.

Whatever, while simple in logic, it's too hard for you and me to just leave an ugly thought away without e.g. explaining to ourselves why we did this thought or not feel guilty. The hard way is to accept these thoughts as nothing bad or blasphemous or even accept that they sometimes will feel ugly to us but let it go. For me this is the cure. Which sometimes won't look to people as a cure because the thoughts are still there, only our perception towards them have changed. Remember, these thoughts are no disease for some people who have them, because they don't care. Being miserable about them is our disease that makes them grow more in importance and intensity and makes us worrying and that goes again into a cycle.

For further help please check some community sites like
there are a lot of people with similar thoughts explained.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say that I have pure o and have had it since 1995. I didn't know what it was until I was diagnosed in 2006. Therapy helps big time in conjunction with medication. I am going through a spike now, but it isn't disabling me as much as it would have in the past (though I still cried alone and have lost interest in things all the while trying to go through the mental hoops in my mind to try and rationalize the thoughts). All I'm saying is that getting help will help- the therapists have heard all of the obsessions and yours are about the same as mine (though mine actually at times were/are much more graphic). Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I visited specialist for years it didnt help until i seen a phyciatrist it really helped and now im getting better everyday. Im now in control of my thoughts not the other way round.

Anonymous said...

I visited specialist for years it didnt help until i seen a phyciatrist it really helped and now im getting better everyday. Im now in control of my thoughts not the other way round.

Anonymous said...

I have sexual thoughts about my family. It has brought me to this fact 'dear god. I would rather die, than live with these thoughts every day.'
Sometimes when I'm laughing, ill hear the thoughts. They're so disgusting, so evil, and so bloody persistant, they never shut up! Its never me thinking 'I'm scared I might do that', its the thoughts TELLING me I want to!! Even though I know I don't, they make me feel uncomfortable.
Recently though, I've been praying, taking one day at a time, and every time I hear a negative or disgusting thought I just think 'no. I'm in control. Tell me something positive.' And then once I'm grateful for the good that I really am, it helps. Also I'm getting hypnotized at the end of this month. Its a relief knowing 'its not me, its ocd' and my heart goes out to every ocd sufferer x

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