A Letter to My Younger Self

I know you might not believe what I’m about to tell you, but it does get easier.

You are confused right now. You’re not sure why you are thinking certain thoughts. You feel lost and you feel like you are failing at living normally. You feel like you are slow at everything, eventually you’ll know why and it will make a world of difference.

I can tell you now, that eventually it will become clearer. That you should do your best, and remember that simply trying your best is enough.

Don’t seek out things unless they make you happy. Learn that it’s okay to say ‘no’. The right people will understand if you don’t want to do certain things. Put yourself first and good things will follow. Just try not to be a jerk about it.

There is much love to be had in the future. You’ll have a great support system. You will also learn how to take care of yourself. And like I said before, doing your best is enough.

You feel alone right now, but know that there are people that have it worse than you. You’ll find a voice one day, and want to reach out to people that are struggling. You’ll be strong enough to do that, and that says a lot about how far you have come.

This journey you are on is very long, probably a lifetime. You are going to conquer it, and find happiness. You are going to learn what it’s like to be loved, and also what it’s like to be alone. You will be strong enough to know you would be okay alone, but also strong enough to invite love in and give an endless amount of love in return.

I don’t want to tell you too much detail about the ‘why’ and the ‘what’. It’s for you to discover, and you discover it and seek help. And again, do your best.

Magical Thinking

This is an interesting topic for me. Magical thinking seems to have different meanings depending on the context. It can be repetitiveness in OCD, feeling like you have to do something ‘x’ amount of times or ‘y’ won’t happen. It can be thinking that ‘x’ will happen, so you have to do ‘y’ over and over again to prevent it. When in reality, it’s irrational to stress over these actions. Unfortunately, the brain of someone with OCD makes it difficult, if not impossible to stop these thoughts and actions.

I do have a lot of magical thinking. I’m aware of those thoughts, even as they cruise through my head on a regular basis. Just being aware of how my brain behaves has helped this a lot. I view my magical thinking as woven within many of my obsessions.

Before I had knowledge of what was happening, and how it was happening, magical thinking was a big part of my daily life. From checking to more checking. Usually revolving around my safety. The difference between then and now, is that I don’t let those thoughts control me.

Over ten years ago, I had a lot of obsessions about religion, which I personally classify as magical thinking for myself. I’m not religious, yet I fell into this magical way of thinking about demons.

I became fascinated by demons, and that fascination fell right into the OCD trap. I obsessed over them being around me, being controlled by them. I bought books, studied them, getting prepared for something that never happened. “What if they do exist? I better read up on them.” The difference between this behavior being OCD and not schizophrenia, is that I was aware even then that those thoughts were not rational. They just fell into my head and since I didn’t know I had OCD, I just let them run around saying whatever they wanted. It was like knowing I was thinking about it too much, but being unable to stop it.

As some themes with OCD tend to do, it ran its course. I probably became hyper focused on something else and the demons just took a backseat. I look back on this time of my life and think it was all ironic, like my head was trying to tell me something was wrong.

When I realized I had OCD, my actual demons were put in the spotlight. The demons called obsessions and compulsions. The thoughts that caused so much grief. I started focusing on those instead, and it made a world of difference.

On Stigma

I’ve been delayed in writing as much as I used to, and much of it is because I want to write about topics that still have a ton of stigma attached to them.

And I will write about them. I just started to get frustrated that instead of thinking of how to form posts to speak to an audience, I started to think about how to word them so that I wasn’t viewed in a negative light.

That’s messed up, that I have that mental roadblock to hurdle over. Why can’t I just freely write about what the child version of me went through, or how far down the rabbit hole my thoughts went during the most severe moments of my OCD? Stigma is holding me back from offering my experiences, which if even one person reads and finds useful, that would be a really great thing. And even when I know that I will eventually write it all out, stigma is hovering like a dark cloud.

I’ve always thought that a lot of stigma is generated by media. Also the way of thinking in black and white. But there’s a problem with thinking like that, because the human brain is not so black and white. Point A does not always lead to point B. One thing might not cause another, and there can be multiple reasons behind one action.

It’s why I often form sentences with, “for me” or “for myself”, because what one person goes through does not mirror another’s experiences. No one knows another person’s thoughts unless you are in that person’s head, thinking with them.

Introspection on The Past

I recently completed my interview for the OCD study and I’ve been digesting it since. It was completely exploratory and open, and inspired some topics for future posts I will do.

Nothing negative came of it, and it was almost as if I was expecting some connection between events that happened in my past. This could have happened because of me talking it all out, or the way the conversation flowed to certain conclusions.

And it’s relieving, to see what I’ve been through and what it’s caused as some sort of Venn diagram. Multiple circles of disorders overlaying each other.

One of my questions was related to eating disorders. I said I was never officially diagnosed with one, yet for most of my life I’ve had issues with keeping on weight. Most of this is caused by not feeling hunger as often as I should. The moment anxiety sneaks in my head, any hunger I felt disappears.

My sleeping disorder came up as well as PTSD from moments of my life. Attention and concentration issues throughout my life. Going to college at 29 because I finally felt I could deal with the problems of spelling, writing in order, and reading while absorbing information. How I always felt like a late bloomer in everything, finding it hard to cope with what society calls a “normal life”. How OCD grabs onto any of these things and has a field day with it, makes it worse, or causes it.

Realizing I touch-check more than I ever wanted to admit.

At one point I just blurted out that anxiety caused by OCD feels like a different type of anxiety all together, and was met with agreement.

Thanks to social media, finding out that a lot of people with OCD have some or all of the same issues as well. Realizing how relieved I feel knowing I’m not the only one…since OCD likes to tell you that you are.

OCD and Other Things

I’m a flighty person. I have trouble making decisions from future plans to where to eat. I’m starting to tie this together with my OCD.

It’s usually obsession based, these decisions that bounce around in my head. A twenty second conversation of “well maybe this, or maybe this, or maybe this instead” has a TON of obsessive thoughts fueling these words, and tends to annoy anyone who is on the receiving end of it. Pretty much any obsessive thought that seems to be a theme with me (fear of stuff I’ve posted about before), added with pricing, convenience, and cravings are blended together, equaling me changing my mind 5 different times in less than 5 minutes.

On another note, I had trouble concentrating in school growing up. I’d like to think I was fully ready to take on learning at 28 years old. When I went back to college at 29 I was prepared for it, and was often on the Dean’s List. This was with OCD, along with it’s annoyances and distractions. On top of my notes often being a confused train wreck and words that I hand wrote spelled weird. The second and first letter often being switched.

When I took two college classes at 18 I did really bad. I barely graduated high school because I was involved with a lot of theater, but also because I flat out didn’t understand how to learn in a classroom. Someone could show me how to write a paper and it was beyond me. Math was a nightmare. It’s like my brain took longer to get to the point where it could learn successfully.

I heard that OCD can be confused for ADHD/ADD. I can see this. And some people do have both. Even with all of this, I don’t think I have ADD as I can now ride through my distractions and be okay most of the time, completing tasks with everything going on in my head. It took a lot of time to learn how to do this. OCD itself can have enough power to make it seem like several disorders. It’s wild as hell.

OCD in Childhood

In a few days, I’ll have my interview for a study on OCD in children. I’m glad I started this blog because it is jogging some memories of the past. I’ll be able to provide more insight for those that want to improve the diagnosis process.

When I was growing up I had a ton of stuffed animals. I remember briefly thinking about getting one of those nets you hang in the corner to pile them on, mainly because some of my friends had them. Then I would think something along the lines of, “but then I would forget about the ones at the bottom of the pile”. Instead, I lined up my stuffed animals on a top shelf.

They were ordered from largest to smallest, right to left. It was difficult removing any of them to play with because that’s “where they went”.

My bed was made in a similar way. In front of the pillows I would have my current favorites arranged a certain way. Biggest to the back, smallest to the front. Not in a row but some arrangement that I saw as the way it should be. Every morning when I made my bed, this was a task that had to be done.

I was very much into thinking that every animal had an actual soul. That if one was on the shelf for a long time, it was probably sad. I stressed about this silently. I didn’t want them to feel forgotten but I also didn’t want to move them from their assigned spot on the shelf. I thought this was the normal way to think because I was so young.

And that’s the thing. As a child, it was beyond my comprehension to know my thoughts were not normal. I accepted it as “that’s how it is”. I don’t remember the exact moment or age when the thoughts became too much and caused a huge amount of anxiety. I wonder if it was a slow progression instead of like flipping a light switch. More on that later.

Favorite Distraction

I love how my brain becomes completely immersed in video games that I love to play.

There’s not many things that completely distract my OCD, but time can seriously fly when I’m having fun gaming.

I start to notice that even in the gaming world, I can be obsessive. Overwhelmed maybe? There’s a lot to do in free roaming games and I do get rather absorbed in trying to find every little thing.

I get stressed when I’ve abandoned a game for another one. I feel guilty. It’s weird. I have to learn to just keep having fun in the moment and let the petty stuff go.

Interpersonal Relationships and OCD

My boyfriend is one of the most understanding and patient people that I’ve ever known. I always feel unbelievably lucky to be with him. And because of his amazing ways, I always feel like the ball on the “ball and chain”. I know that most of this thinking is all in my head. These thoughts tend to sneak into my mind when I’m anxious.

It’s not feeling like a burden but not feeling like you are offering all that you could. Reality is that I am doing fine, and doing my best.

I always get confused as to which part is my OCD telling me things and which part might be a normal train of thought. I think any thought that is cast into the future is probably my OCD. “What if he gets tired of you and leaves you?” Just seems to have OCD written all over it when it goes on repeat like a record skipping.

I can’t tell if some of my friendships and relationships ended in the past because I didn’t have a grasp on my OCD. How much of my paranoia was a gut feeling and how much was my OCD?

Although, I think everything happens for a reason. If someone wants to be with you, they will be with you and vice versa. I learned to not force something that simply isn’t working, even in friendships.

When I was younger, I thought disclosing my OCD once in the beginning was enough to excuse my possible future weirdness. What I know now, is that it never hurts to bring it up again. Communication is extremely important, especially during bad spells.

“My brain won’t let this thought go, and I know it’s irrational.” This leads to my boyfriend talking me out of the thought. My best friend does something similar, I don’t even think she notices how much she helps me because it feels so natural.

This is an example of a good social support system working well for those with mental illness. It really helps a lot.

OCD Latches onto Comorbid Disorders

Fear of hurting others is a very common obsession with OCD. I’ve been seeing people coming out and talking about this more, so I figured I should tell my story of how this fear manifested in my OCD.

It feels like the more you try to be a good person, OCD tries to fight against that and send you unwanted worst case scenarios.

I talked about having setbacks in an earlier post. I had one of these in my mid-twenties. I was social, working, happy, and just living life day by day. It had been about three years since my diagnosis and I was recovering successfully. My OCD was manageable, and I was using the tools I had to squash most of it.

And then I watched Dexter. 

I never finished the show because the OCD part of my brain resurfaced, dramatically, and decided to throw intrusive thoughts rapid fire right at me. 

“You’re going to become him one day.”

Over and over and over and over.

This is stemming from my childhood. 

I had a nasty few years of conduct disorder existing with my OCD. (I will write more about this as this blog continues.)

Dexter brought it all back to the front of my thoughts, thanks to some of his flashback scenes as a kid. My OCD latched onto it, like a magnet, and I didn’t even realize that this new obsession was my mind playing a mean trick on me. It completely blindsided me, and I didn’t know enough about OCD back then to catch it.

Weeks later, I eventually broke down crying and in full panic mode. I was freaking out, thinking I was going to kill someone. The thoughts wouldn’t stop and they were deafening. So I called the VA crisis line. They said there’s some hidden room I can go to in the hospital; check in at the desk and they’ll talk to me in that tiny room. I went in the same day.

I used to view this appointment as embarrassing. But there I was, OCD completely at the wheel. I told the lady about my thoughts and then blurted out the stuff about my conduct disorder as a kid. Everything my OCD was telling me was pouring out of my mouth, as I’m crying and shaking. She was quickly taking notes, paused, and looked me in the eyes and said, “if you are what you say you are, you wouldn’t be here right now.” It was like she hit the brakes.

Naturally, recommended to talk to a therapist. To sum it up, these sessions were focused on my OCD. It didn’t take many appointments to have me back on track again. We talked a bit about my childhood, and I was given an additional diagnosis of mild PTSD. It was like a giant weight was lifted off my shoulders. I had more insight into my mind.

My friends and I did a fun Dexter themed photo shoot after that, and those thoughts disappeared for a long time.

Those intrusive thoughts pop up once in awhile. But now I catch them in their tracks, and smack them down to the ground.

15 years ago

Before I was diagnosed with OCD, I didn’t know what to make of my thoughts. I wasn’t able to see a therapist and even if I did, I wouldn’t have known what to tell them. I wasn’t feeling depressed but I wasn’t feeling okay either.

My thoughts were everywhere, scattered and focused at the same time. I didn’t feel like I found my identity because my mind was telling me all kinds of horrible things. I thought my mind was turning against me, and that’s how life was going to be from now on. So I started a journal.

I looked through it recently, and found that I was transcribing my intrusive thoughts. It’s like a different person wrote most of the entries.

Just scrawled with no context. Seems ironic.

I think if I would have had a name for it all, it would have been a lot easier. Labeling what mystery thing was in my brain made a huge difference when I was diagnosed. It formed a path for me.

I consider myself lucky that I caught it when I did. I hope that people suffering from some unknown find the strength to keep going and seek help.