OCD came into my life 16 years ago. It has been an impossible enemy, safety net, confusion and often paralysing entity at various levels, ever since.
OCD has at times crippled my body and mind, it’s left me unable to speak for months, and unable to have free will to undertake activities, visit places I love, or hug people I hold most dear.
My OCD has been known to create a personal dystopian universe of paranoia, danger and threat – where my mind is engaged in a maze of ever-searching, yet never reaching, a destination of relief.
I have so often found it impossible to fully describe – especially to those stuck in the stereotypic view that OCD is just ‘all about cleaning’, or when receiving a blank stare upon attempting to explain the reality [yet irrationality] of the thoughts, but most of all when navigating those who flippantly quip ‘Oh yeah, I’m a bit OCD too.’
How do you communicate the magnitude and intensity of the force – that renders you incapable of normal function, yet propels you to exert incomprehensible energy towards tasks that no other person understands?
One way I have found relief, some resolve, and been able to articulate my mental health challenges – is through poetry.
So I share a poem I wrote about OCD here:
I went through the scrubbing and washing of hands on repeat,
Despite routine precisions, the need was never complete.
And so painful, cracked and bleeding I covered in bleach,
My red-raw fragile skin in an attempt to feel clean.
But people would notice the behaviours and signs,
Taps tightened, bathrooms locked in no time,
So the rituals had to be hidden inside and not out,
A practical action, but in mind carried out.
So enacting the rules became more covert by trade,
And in turn the thoughts overtly screamed a tirade,
I could control the compulsions by scenarios played out in my head,
But this transition gave no peace, just more torment instead.
It’s an impossible task to put the feeling away,
To get all boxes checked at the end of the day
To have each thought finished, completed and right,
Done and sorted, perfect, organised, out of mind, out of sight.
The problem is that nothing ever feels done,
With each run of 3’s, sets of 5, 9, 10 or 21s,
The repetitions almost make me feel worse,
mounting anxiety, a cycle of patterns perverse.
It’s an infinity, continuum, with no limit or end,
And yet my mind chases that coveted silence pretend,
A mind field of fear – irrational wins over logical thought,
Finding no pause, no break, no halting or stop.
It’s a doubt, that’s been magnified, squared, 1000-fold times,
A parasite feeding on safety, peace, comfort and kind,
The ill trust of self, the omnipotent dread,
Without checking or tapping my family could all be dead.
It’s the ‘what ifs’, the ‘buts’, the ‘if onlys’, ‘shoulds’ and ‘coulds’,
That torment my brain cells and dictate what I do.
It’s a stringently controlled paralysis of action,
No will, person, or feeling a greater force of attraction.
It’s debilitating, upsetting, overwhelming, unjust,
To live with an illness that yourself cannot trust,
It takes over, and over, and over,
And over, and over, and over,
And over, and over, and over again.
A messed up internal monologue,
on a loop,
with no end.
I have experienced OCD at various intensities over the years.
Undergone treatment, developed coping mechanisms, and employed means to challenge the insidious thoughts, impossible compulsions and destructive behaviours it has driven me to engage in.
Sometimes it’s better, other times worse – but still [for now] ever-present – like a tattoo etched upon my brain. At times of coveted quiet, I wonder what my life would be like without it? Whether I could function now, if I were to wake up tomorrow free from its invisible, yet suffocating restraints?
I still aim for that freedom – every minute and every day – despite the unknown that accompanies it.
I am aware I can only speak of my own individual journey and do not wish to, nor believe I can, speak for anyone else.
These are my symptoms, resolutions, highs and lows. My thoughts will undoubtedly resonate – yet also equally [i’m sure] – markedly differ from others.
Overall, i’m grateful for the good days and the moments of free, unrestricted thought.
With or without OCD.
I believe in speaking out, to reclaim power over OCD or any other mental health challenge. Illness so often serves to silence and shame – so providing a voice – and turning the mess into a message, can only ever be positive.
I’m thankful for the growing awareness and understanding of mental health in our communities – but most of all – grateful for any opportunity to share my experiences in the off chance, they may provide identification, hope and empowerment for others to speak out, reach out and be heard.