October 7, 2010

Hello

I have had OCD for as long as I can remember.  Of course, I only found out what it was a few years ago.  I am 38 years old, and I have a form of OCD called Pure Obsessional (Pure “O).  From what I can remember, it started with obsessing about my health.  As a child, my mom had me back and forth to the doctors, running test after test because I just couldn’t shake my stomach ache.  I was trying to “figure out” from a very young age. 
After that, my OCD switched to scrupulosity and fear of the devil and going to hell.  Eventually, as I got older, and formed my own opinions about the existence of God and religion, that theme became much less threatening for me. 
When I was fourteen, I met and fell head over heels in love with my high school sweetheart.  He was wonderful!  Kind, funny, good looking, adventurous and he quickly became my best friend.  Then the obsessions about my relationship started.  We stayed together for a long time – almost nine years.  Through that time I was plagued with doubts – “Am I too young for a serious relationship? Do I love this man or am I dependant on him? What if we stay together and I have regrets that I never had any other experiences in life?”.  And on and on it went.  It got so extreme that I remember being at the store one day shopping and had my eye on a shirt that I really liked.  The thought came to my head “What if Michael (names changed for anonymity) doesn’t like this shirt?” – and that started a whole stream of doubts about why would it matter?  Am I that dependant on him?  Is he controlling me?  Am I in an emotionally abusive relationship?  All thoughts that were exaggerated and untrue, but I couldn’t figure it all out, and I fell deeply into the abyss of OCD and depression.  Eventually, I sought the help of a very kind but uninformed university counselor who thought that the only reason I was feeling this way was because I was unhappy and in the wrong relationship.  Of course that made sense to me – that’s what OCD had been saying all along.  So – we broke up, and I expected that hell to be over. 
On I moved to the next guy.  We hadn’t been dating long and WHAM!  The doubts started again.  This time my thoughts were slightly different, but still had the same theme.  While we were dating, I went away for six weeks, and the whole time I was away I obsessed, which lead to yet another deep depression.  I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t just be like everyone else and enjoy my new, exciting relationship.  Why was I constantly worrying?  What was wrong with me?  This relationship with Mark also didn’t work out – surprise, surprise – and it also lead into another one of the OCD themes that I still struggle with – doubts about my sexuality.  I remember exactly when it happened.  I was in the midst of my breakup with Mark.  I was driving in the car to university with my friend.  She was talking about a friend of hers who had just come out of the closet and WHAM AGAIN!  It hit me like a ton of bricks. “Maybe that’s why you can’t make a relationship with a man work – maybe you’re actually gay.” And that was it.  My anxiety level shot through the roof and I immediately began trying to figure it all out.  That was thirteen years ago. 
I still suffer from relationship OCD (ROCD) and gay OCD (HOCD).  I, like many OCD sufferers have been to a multitude of therapists, all who claim to treat OCD.  But I have had little success in treatment.  In fact, I mostly diagnosed my OCD myself, from doing research on the internet (more in a later blog post).  For the most part I have been able to function throughout my life with OCD.  I have had a few larger episodes, but in spite of having very little treatment, I have been able to continue working, pursuing hobbies, and dating.  However, all this has recently changed.  The good news is that I have started exposure therapy, and I am working with a therapist who actually has experience in treating not only OCD, but Pure Obsessional OCD.  There is hope. 
I live in Canada and psychological care is only covered for those who have extended health insurance.  I do have health insurance, but my provider only covers $500 worth of psychological sessions per year.  Of course, I burned through that long ago.  There are no support groups in my area.  Very few of my friends even know I have OCD.  The only people that know the real details are my parents and my boyfriend John.  Most people who have OCD don’t tell many people due to fear of judgment.  I especially feel that way due to the type of OCD that I have.  Many well-meaning people are very quick to give their advice: “If you’re having this many doubts – something must be wrong.  Maybe it is the wrong relationship for you.  Maybe you really are gay.” 
 I decided to write this blog because during my recent severe OCD “bout” – I have been fortunate to find some blogs written by people who also suffer from OCD.  And it has been – literally – a God send.  These bloggers have become my pseudo support group.   The honesty and insightfulness expressed in their blogs, immediately provided relief for me.  I felt like someone understood.   I felt like I had found my support group.  I felt like I could have written these blogs myself!  This is also a sort of exposure for me too.  I am putting myself out there and risking what others will say – opening myself up for OCD triggers. 
I have no idea what I will say or write about.  But, here goes……

10 comments:

  1. Hey Pure O....Welcome to our little corner of the blogosphere! For most of my life I had pure O too -- and very similar to what you describe. After the birth of my first child, and then really after 9/11, my hand washing started. I realized I had OCD. I was very very ill after the birth of my second child. I had to be hospitalized due to post partum psychosis. That's when I learned that these thoughts since age 10 were OCD (and not really ME). I started to get the help I needed. I am well now, but still deal with OCD. It is easier to do ERP when one has rituals. However, I am pretty sure you can do exposures as well. Have you found any good info on how to do that?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Kinder Brain - thanks for the welcome! I'm currently in treatment and doing ERP. And it is going fairly well! Of course there are good days and bad days. I definitely have "rituals" but they are mental in nature. I do a lot of mental checking, and analyzing/figuring out. Reading blogs that have been written by other sufferers has been very helpful for me so I decided to start my own. It's a great little support group! Take Care!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Welcome! I am so glad you've decided to start writing a blog. I started my OCD blog in January, and it has brought me into contact with an amazing group of other bloggers with OCD. And I am even happier that you started Exposure Therapy! This made all the difference for me. I resonate with the responses people have about relationship doubts-- I went to a very liberal college, and I started obsessing that maybe I was gay, and my fear was not that I felt it was immoral, but that I would be missing the chance of true happiness if I stayed with my boyfriend(who I loved dearly, and didn't want to leave), because of all the coming out narratives I'd read.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Expwoman - it was your blog that inspired me to start my own blog! I read your post on relationship OCD and gay OCD and it was the first time I had heard someone else describe their experience with the same type of OCD that I have. My fear is also the same as yours - that I would be missing out on the chance of true happiness by staying with my boyfriend (or men in general). Thank you for your writings - you have such a great way of expressing what goes through the minds of us OCD sufferers!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I know it's a bit weird for me to comment on this old post--but, I just wanted to say that I could not identify with it more. I went through almost the exact same pattern of OCD as you, minus the obsession about health as a child. I started with religious fears when I was a teenager, and then literally left religion because I felt like it was either that or suicide (I am now agnostic). Then a few years later, I moved on to Relationship OCD, which has been with me for about seven years now. I have been in a relationship with my husband for five years (married for three), and at this point, I don't even believe the counters to all the negative statements in my head. I love him very much but I feel like we don't have that much interesting conversation or that much fun. I used to freak out when I had these thoughts, and chase each one down logically to debunk it. Now, I let the thoughts come, and though I still get anxious, and they still don't stop, I don't chase them down anymore. After five years of doing so, getting myself worked up to leave, and then never actually leaving, it doesn't seem worth it. I've done pretty much all the recommended stuff--CBT with ERP, read many of the books listed here, and nothing has helped. I have started a new type of talk therapy (which I know is overall counter-indicated for OCD), because I'm hoping to at least give these worries a chance to speak, and in feeling that they have finally been heard, they may be quieted. That's the hope anyway. All I know is that I can't continue living life like this.

    ReplyDelete
  6. UnusualMonkey - thanks for posting and I hope that through reading my experiences you don't feel as alone. ERP is hard - how did you find it? And I think it's even harder for ROCD. Probably the hardest part about it is finding a good therapist....one who can actually help you recognize your compulsions because doing ERP is useless if you are going to continue to compulse. I hope you have some luck with talk therapy - you never know that might help! Keep me posted!!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Wow! I have read much of your blog and while reading it I thought to myself, "She could very well be telling my exact story." I've been dealing with Pure O for about 12 years. Mine too took years to diagnose (even though I had already, no therapist would treat it as OCD). My favorite comment from a therapist was 'It's like a ball of yarn that we have to get to the end of". But I did find proper help for the HOCD and have had successful management of that part. The ROCD...not so much. The bit you wrote about disappointment ressonated with me to the core. Any small amount of disappointment from my current boyfriend would set me off like a rocket, "This can't work, he isn't right for me, he doesn't get me, maybe I never felt love anyway, this has to end, he doens't have time for me, he doesn't think of me, I'll never have a healthy relationship, I'll never feel love, what can't I be like everyone else." After this caused an almost break up I felt like it might be time to search for some support. Doens't look like there are many face to face support groups where I am in New Zealand, so perhaps a virtual one could be just as helpful. Not sure if you have found one, but I'd like to offer support out there as well. Thanks for your blog. Your sharing is brave and is an oasis for me to be reminded that I am not the only one out there!

    ReplyDelete
  8. lionamongsheep - Welcome! I'm glad you found my blog. Usually for me HOCD diminishes when I am in a happy relationship - reassurance that I'm not gay I suppose. It's when the relationship becomes challenging or not "perfect" that the ROCD ramps up and then the HOCD backs it up quite nicely. Right now I'm not in a relationship - dating for exposure as you will probably read. I hope you keep reading and sharing your experience!

    ReplyDelete
  9. I am so excited to read this post. I have had Pure O for about 12 years, been anxious all my life. I have conquered the panic attacks & depression, but the OCD...whew...it can just creep back in without my even recognizing it. I have the health and harm OCD under control, but the relationship OCD??? I cannot seem to separate what is OCD and what are "real" problems in the relationship, if any.....I freak out if I see anything about abusive or controlling relationships and constantly compare my husband to my friends' husbands...I never come up with definitive answers. If he expresses any opinion, I take it as controlling. If he gets mad, I take it as abusive. I feel like I am always looking for the next hammer to drop so to speak. I never felt this way in our 15 years of marriage until the past few years when he went throught some major stress at work and seemed to take it out on us at home with his bad moods and temper. Now he has resolved those issues and "come out of it" but I cannot let it go....Help!

    ReplyDelete
  10. I can relate to all of that re: ROCD! I would recommend reading my blog and others too. Are you a member of the Pure O OCD Yahoo group? That's helpful too. I broke up with my boyfriend a year ago and I am still pining for him. It's frustrating!!! Hang in there- you're not alone!

    ReplyDelete