This is my first blog here at OCD Tribe. I have written other online entries before about my struggle with anxiety, but this seems like a good place to connect with people who experience things which are similar to my own experiences. I guess I'll just get right into it:
I am a Psychology major in my last semester of undergraduate work and I have learned a lot about the brain over the past few years. I have not been formally diagnosed with OCD. I know that it is never constructive to self-diagnose, but I have recognized in the past few years that I have a definite problem. I have been diagnosed with anxiety and depression before, and I can say that I am pretty confident that I do have OCD.
I believe I have always had this disorder, and at the worst times in my life, it has shown itself pretty plainly. I've noticed that when I am particularly anxious, I will practice compulsive behaviors, which show themselves in many forms. I do a fair amount of checking, but the most invasive part of my problem is adjusting. I have a fixation mainly on the number five when I am performing these rituals, but sometimes when it doesn't feel like five times is enough I will graduate to higher numbers or perform tasks in many sets of fives.
These compulsions do irritate me and sometimes make me feel a little unbalanced when they get really bad, but the primary thing that concerns me is the obsessive thoughts.
My entire life has been spent feeling anxious, but at really pivotal times in my life, I have become especially anxious about my mother. When I was a young teenager, I would feel anxious everytime my mother left the house. I was certain that she would get into a car accident and die. I frequently made sure that I hugged her and gave her a 'proper goodbye' everytime I left her or she left me. Somehow I managed to curb this anxiety before I left for college, and I barely spoke to her for the first year. The less I was around her, the less I felt like I needed to worry…until my second year of college. My mother had a heart attack during the winter of my second year. She was ok, but I was told that she had gone into VFib and had to be resusitated. This information was sufficient enough to increase my anxiety about my mother in full force again. I haven't felt quite right about being away from her since then, but again, I somehow managed to feel relatively normal again.
I met my current boyfriend two summers ago and we started dating about a year and a half ago. I never really worried about him, because we went to the same school and saw each other almost every day. I did notice that when we parted at the end of our first schoolyear together that I was very anxious. He was not coming back to our school, but transferring to one which is about equidistant between my school and my house. It was not a long or even difficult drive to his house (about 35 min) but it made me anxious to have him out of my sight and to know that he would have access to a car. I managed to deal with everything, and by the end of the summer, I felt a little better. However, I still felt like I needed to say goodbye to him forever everytime we left each other. This feeling continued and progressed during my first semester at college this year, but it has been my senior year and I was forced to focus on other things. Even with all the distractions, it took a lot of effort to keep myself from crying everytime I said goodbye to my boyfriend when we parted.
All of that anxiety has been difficult to deal with up until recently, and for a while I felt like I could convince myself that everything would be ok when we parted. I would tell myself that bad things don't happen to people I know and that despite my fears, I had never lost anyone important to me. I can no longer tell myself this.
Two days after Christmas of 2011, my boyfriend called me to tell me that his brother was supposed to be meeting his parents somewhere and that he had never shown up. No one had heard from his brother, Dave. My boyfriend worries a lot too, so I thought he was just being silly. I told him that everything would be ok and that Dave was probably just being irresponsible (he frequently was and he had run away once before). The hours ticked by with no word until we finally found out that Dave was in a hospital near the location he was supposed to have met his parents because he was in a car accident when he was on his way. My boyfriend and his family went to see Dave, and he reassured me that everything was ok and that he would call me from the hospital. Dave died before the family ever made it to the hospital. He was 19 years old, less than a month shy of his 20th birthday. He was so young. He was someone I cared about. He was a good person whose life shouldn't have been cut short.
I miss Dave a great deal and my boyfriend misses him (obviously) much more. I do feel that at this point in my personal greiving process that I won't always feel so sad when I think of Dave. I know I'll be ok in that respect. What I cannot deal with is the debilitating feeling that everyone I love is going to die soon. Now that I have experienced my first big loss, everything about my perspective on life feels shattered. I feel anxious almost all of the time. I only really feel better when I know that all of my loved ones are safe at home or work and not on the road. I absolutely obsess over death and loss and what it would feel like to see each of my dearest loved ones in a casket the way I saw Dave. When I hug my boyfriend, I make sure to try to really take in the feeling of warmth under his skin, so I can remember how he feels alive when I inevitably have to see him dead. I barely touched Dave when I went up to see him during the funeral, but I will never forget how heavy and stiff his arm felt to hold. I never want to see or feel my family or my boyfriend that way. I'm so afraid of losing them that these thoughts plague the majority of my waking moments. I feel so trapped.
I have been going to counseling provided by my college. My counselor has had me write out lists of thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and situations which I experience. She set these lists up in a circle so I could see how each one leads to the other. I haven't met with her for a little while because of spring break and my busy schedule as a senior, but she tasked me to take one item on my list and to try to curb it and to see how curbing that item affects the others in the cycle. It's no good trying to stop the thoughts, because they're always there. However, I have found a marginal amount of relief by trying to curb some of the compulsions. This really isn't easy, though, because they're so varied and I seem to make new ones up everytime I get really anxious. I have managed to curb some compulsions, but I still have at least two really big ones which I have no interest in giving up. These two particular compulsions make me feel like I can prevent these deaths from happening (even though I realistically know that this is silly). Furthermore, I feel that if I am not expecting the worst and if I don't do everything I can to stop it, that it will absolutely happen.
Essentially what I'm saying is that if I do these particular two rituals before I go to bed, that I MIGHT prevent bad things from happening. But if I don't do these two things, they will ABSOLUTELY happen. The rituals may only take a small amount of anxiety away, but it's better than feeling like I've just sealed the fate of my loved ones by doing nothing.
Anyway…I should wrap this up. I want to get better, but I'm am terrified of getting better. I'm terrified in general. I don't know how to cope anymore, so I just avoid most things. The only times I feel truly invested are when I'm with one of my loved ones. When I'm with friends at school, or in class, or working on a research project that I've devoted the past year of my life to, I feel unfocused and lonely. I cannot afford to live my life passively anymore, and I am so afraid that I won't ever get out of this hole I've dug for myself. Every time I manage to climb up a little, I fall back twice as hard. Every time I accomplish something at school, I spend twice as much time avoiding everything and watching tv. I wish I knew a way out. I would settle for feeling my usual manageable level of anxiety again. This destructive amount of anxiety I've been feeling is leading me into a crippling depression and everyday is such a terrible struggle to cope.
I hope that everyone else here is coping well with their illness and making satisfactory progress. I hope I get there too.
Wishing everyone well.