I have prided myself on being an independent person. I am the type who can stay at home, alone, for days on end happily. I find things to do. I read books. I make my own food. I listen to music. Whatever.
I don’t need to have a ton of people around to feel secure or happy. I’ve usually been the person who has a small group of close friends rather than a large group of acquaintances. Perhaps it was this self awareness that made me think I would be totally okay living alone in a studio apartment in Seattle during college. If you have read my previous blog posts, you may recall that this was when the OCD really made himself known. I had a total breakdown living alone, finding myself in a stressful and new circumstances without a solid support group.
Which brings me to the topic at hand: that of independence vs. codependence, at least as it relates to OCD.
While I still consider myself to be an independent person, I have found that, since having and accepting that I have OCD, I do better in a team situation.
Keeping away the crazy
There are times when I feel like I need someone else around just so that I can find my sanity. If I am with another person, there is someone else to talk to and be accountable to besides myself. I don’t have to listen solely to the OCD if someone else is there. I can distract myself from those obsessions until they become more manageable.
A sense of security
Similarly, if the other person is someone you trust and who knows about your OCD, being together feels safer. While seeking reassurance is frowned upon by psychologists, sometimes it is nice to know that you have someone there who you can check with to see if something is “normal” or driven by your OCD. They can provide reassurance that you won’t die or get sick or some other horrible thing if you don’t engage in a compulsive ritual. Ideally, you want to get to get the point where you don’t seek reassurance at all and live with the possibility that maybe you could get sick or die… But when you are just starting to fight the OCD or if it is extremely bad, having someone else around to bounce your thoughts off of is comforting.
A matter of survival
Speaking of when the OCD is extremely bad… I was so grateful to have my husband around when I was having my rough patch in December. Without him, I’m not sure I could have cared for my children properly or even survived from day to day. Just knowing that someone else was there provided a stability that was so necessary during that extremely difficult time. In addition, he had the strength to get me into help when I didn’t myself. He gave me that extra shove in the right direction. Sometimes we hesitate to get help on our own. Maybe we think that it would fracture our independence. Maybe we aren’t sure if we really need help. Maybe we are concerned about the expense or time that it would require.
Having a spouse or parent or friend to encourage us in those situations is invaluable. I worried about all of those things, but I know that I have support from my husband and family. I know I have someone who will watch my kids so I can go to therapy. I know that I need to get that help so that I can be there fully for my children and my other responsibilities.
And as for sacrificing independence? Well, I think that’s an interesting question. There were definitely times where I felt like I couldn’t be alone and was more dependent on my husband than anything else. But using that assistance and the support he offered allowed me to regain some of my independence over time and as I recovered.
Maybe you do have to sacrifice “independence” sometimes in order to find yourself again. It doesn’t seem totally logical, but then again, what is?