Thursday, October 10, 2013

Paying It Forward....

Growing up with OCD I know how hard and embarrassing having an anxiety disorder can be. It is very hard to keep a sense of self esteem. It can be hard to relate to others. I once had a psychiatrist explain to me that I was not normal. That I did not react to things the way a "normal" person does. That I would have to realize this and those that loved me would have to come to understand that as well. It was devastating news to me and yet more proof to myself that I was fundamentally broken. It hurt. It made me really despise myself. Like I needed yet another thing to show me how messed up I was.

In growing into the person I am now, I have learned some very important things that I wish I had knew growing up. That is how life always goes as hindsight is 20/20. So I would like to discuss some things I learned along the way that might help you feel less alone and better understand some facts on OCD. I am paying it forward so to speak.

First and more importantly you are not alone. OCD is not rare. The International OCD Foundation states it estimates that one in one hundred people in the US are currently suffering from OCD. We are many and we all know what you are going through.

OCD is an anxiety disorder. It is a real mental illness. It does not mean you are broken or bad. 

The bad thoughts and images that play through your mind are called intrusive thoughts and they are not your fault. They in no way represent who you are or your personality. They are not something you will do or want to even think about.

Most people with OCD feel a huge amount of guilt for many reasons, not being normal, having phobias and fears, and experiencing intrusive thoughts that are scary and upsetting. We feel guilty that we may have said or done something to upset others. We are extremely sensitive and therefore tend to take everything personally and as a sign we caused something or did something wrong. We didn't and we may know that but we still wrestle with the guilt of it all.

Not all sufferers of OCD are clean freaks and or germ phobes. Some OCD sufferers have no interest in cleaning. Cleaning is a symptom not the whole illness therefore not everyone does this.

If you touch, count, and or check things then you have compulsions. Compulsions are what separate OCD from other anxiety disorders such as GAD and SAD. 

Not all people with OCD appear to have outward compulsions. Some of us do not count, check, or touch things but have mental compulsions. Something we either say in our minds or to ourselves to thwart the anxiety and horrid intrusive thoughts. In certain circles these people are called PureO's. As in purely obsessional thinking rather than compulsive. It is kind of a misnomer because PureO's do compulse just with mantras and words in their heads.

There are, like everything else, degrees of severity. Some have slight OCD, some have moderate OCD, some have severe OCD.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder has been proven to be hereditary. It is nothing that you asked for or did to yourself. It is not a failing on your part. It is genetics. If you suffer from OCD chances are really good that one or more of your immediate family members also suffer from it. Their symptoms may be and probably are different from yours, but if you talk with them you might be surprised on how many of them also have OCD. They may not know that is what they have, as in my case of my family until we all started to research it and openly discuss it.

 People who suffer from OCD  can go on to be productive members of society. There are famous people, CEO'S of companies, artists, doctors, teachers, police officers, politicians, ect....  that suffer from OCD. Some people are extremely high functioning in spite of OCD and sometimes even because of it.

Being diagnosed with OCD does not mean you are destined to end up like Howard Hughes. Living a sad life with scraggly long unkempt hair, jagged filth covered nails, secluded, isolated, grumpy, terrified, and peeing in jars. 

There are many ways to find support whether online, with your therapist, cognitive behavioral therapies, psychiatrists, physiologists, medications, group settings, chat rooms, websites, and charitable organizations that all deal with OCD. There is a mass abundance of help out there for us.

Having OCD does not make you a social leper. It may make things in your life harder but you will become a stronger person from it. It may make going out with friends more difficult and even sometimes embarrassing but if your friends can't accept you then they are not truly your friends. You will absolutely have times when you are exhausted, scared, sad, and upset. You can get through it.

Having OCD doesn't define us. It makes us different but we are so much more than just a diagnoses. We are strong, sensitive, caring, and kind people. We are worth more than the credit we give ourselves or the damage we do to ourselves when we belittle ourselves because of our imagined shortcomings. We are magnificent and unique and we can learn to embrace that.

So if this post gives you a little comfort then I will have accomplished my goal for today. Please feel free to share this with anyone you think may need to hear it. We need to reach out to each other and say that we are no longer willing to be ashamed of having OCD. There is no shame to be had. We need to show that we are the same and we understand the pain each and everyone of us go through. We need to pay it forward and show other sufferers that we know what it's like and they have nothing to fear or feel isolated about. We are not alone. You are not alone. I challenge each and every one of us that suffer from OCD to talk about it. To end the shame by being open and honest. I challenge all of us to stand up for ourselves and other sufferers that are too scared to speak out. Pay it forward by talking about our OCD and talking to other sufferers. Only then can we offer them comfort, compassion, and the knowledge that we all understand.

Neurotic Nelly

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