I’m the first one to admit that OCD can take over your life.
It’s not the ideal scenario, but unfortunately it seems to be the result of living with OCD and allowing it to go unchecked without either receiving care or taking action against the OCD.
It’s important to mention that yes, you can get care and still be a hostage to the OCD. You can go to the doctor and listen to what he says and tell him your story until you are blue in the face, but if you refuse to do the “homework” and exert your own willpower to fight the OCD, then nothing much is going to change for the better. You have to take action.
One thing I love from Dr. Reid Wilson’s book (Stopping the Noise in Your Head) is the idea that OCD doesn’t particularly care about any certain obsessions or compulsions. It’s not like if you overcome one type, it will give up and say, “Okay, fine, you win. I’m done trying.” Nope. It will just change tactics. I’ve been through copyright OCD, scrupulosity, obsession with laws, sickness, hit and run/driving OCD, and of course, contamination. OCD is part of me, and if I overcome one “area,” it will just decide to bring up something else (it also likes to cycle through these ones I’ve listed).
OCD is a liar
You can’t overtake the OCD and beat it by doing the compulsions perfectly. It will try to convince you of that. Let’s say you worry about following all laws. You think, if I follow all laws, the OCD, the obsessions, and the anxiety will go away. Nope. It won’t. It will not go away if you do that. But you think, “no, for real. It will. I just must be missing something. I must not be following all the laws perfectly. I must be missing one or doing it not quite right. Let me try again.”
Stop. Please. It does not work like that. OCD doesn’t care about the laws (or the contamination, or getting sick, or the oven burning your house down, or whatever else). It really doesn’t. It just cares about making you anxious and controlling your behavior, mind, and life.
Remember and repeat after me: the OCD lies. It lies! It’s a liar! It’s not telling you the truth. Doing whatever it tells you to do won’t make you better or stop the worry. You have to be okay with the worry. You have to be uncomfortable and uncertain and slightly convinced that everything will go horribly wrong. Maybe you’ll be arrested. Maybe you’ll get sued. Maybe you’ll get everyone sick you ever come in contact with in your life. Maybe someone will break into your house and steal all your possessions. Maybe your house will burn down. Maybe your dog will die. Maybe!
You have to push back against the OCD to get better. You have to stop letting it be in control.
So let’s say you are in a bad state. Let’s say the OCD is controlling your life. You are stuck in a round of compulsions for what seems like eternity. You can’t stop. First of all, try to stop. Breathe. Talk to a loved one about it. Ask for them to help you. For me, the help I needed was to get professional help. If you are at this state, you likely also need professional help from a psychologist who specializes in OCD. I cannot stress this point enough. If you have trouble finding such help (and have searched iocdf.org), get some books. I recommend (and was recommended to get by my first psychologist) The OCD Workbook. Once you’ve established care and done some homework, maybe get into other books (if you need recommendations, ask me or your psychologist).
So, you’ve gotten professional help. Good. Be consistent. I had to go about once a week to start, then maybe every two weeks, then maybe once a month, then back to every two weeks when I got iffy, etc. There’s no set routine. See how you’re doing and get the amount of help that allows you to make progress. Do your homework! Do your exposures! If you don’t, there’s really not much of a point to getting care. You aren’t magically going to get better. You haven’t yet, why would it happen now?
If things are still so difficult, consider medication. See your primary care doctor or a psychiatrist. There is no shame in medication. It was such a helpful tool for me, and if that’s what it takes to regain control, do it!
Now, you might balk at the time and money it costs to see a psychologist. For real, I understand. I’ve been there. But what are your options? Letting OCD control everything you do? Not having a job anymore? Not being able to go out of your house? Going on welfare? Losing your self respect? Not being able to take care of or enjoy your family? On and on and on. In other words, just go see the psychologist. Suck it up. If you had cancer, you would probably do all you could to get care, even if it was expensive and time consuming. Mental illnesses are just as real and sometimes just as debilitating as physical ones.
And then, keep at it. For real. It doesn’t stop. It doesn’t end. You aren’t miraculously going to be cured of your mental illness automatically. I have hard days frequently. I also have good days. And I don’t have to let the OCD be in control. Sometimes it tries to grab the steering wheel, so to speak, but now I have the information from my psychologist, books to read, and exposures to do. I have my tools to fight back so it doesn’t get to the debilitating stage.
I want the same for you. But you have to put in the legwork. Start now. Don’t let OCD destroy your life. Because it can and it will, if you refuse to do anything to stop it.
What are you going to do today to start your fight against mental illness?