This week, Oct. 13-19, is International OCD Awareness Week.
One of the reasons I started this blog was to raise awareness about what OCD is and how it can be treated.
Another reason I started this blog was to connect with others and remind them that they aren’t alone. And things will get better.
That things will get better—that OCD does not have to control you—is difficult to believe when you are in the midst of the seemingly endless cycle of obsession, compulsion, obsession, compulsion.
But it would have helped me, when I was a young woman struggling with a disorder I didn’t fully understand, if someone had told me that things would not always be so bad, that help was available, and that knowledge about and treatment of OCD would get better as time went by.
|My younger self.|
So I decided to write a letter to younger self and tell myself those things. Writing a letter to your younger, or older, self is not a new thing. But I’ve never done it, and I wanted to use this as a way to help my own healing and, more importantly, tell all of you out there who are struggling that it won’t always be so bad.
Dear me at age 25,
I see you slamming your hands against the wall in your kitchen. I hear you begging God to help you. I feel your tears. I know you want to scream. And I can read your thoughts—you think it’s always going to be this bad.
The stove there seems like an enemy, doesn’t it? Even when you don’t use it, you’re afraid that you left it turned on, or that you accidently turned it on when you were cleaning it.
And if you leave it on, then a fire could start, and it could spread to other apartments, and people could get killed, and it would be all your fault.
Two hours ago, you thought it was OK. But then you started thinking that it wasn’t. You couldn’t relax. So you decided to check it just once, and then you’d feel OK. You promised God it would be just once.
It’s never just once. You really do believe that it’s going to be just one more time, one more check. But it never is. That’s the nature of OCD.
Rest for a while. I know you don’t believe you have the right to relax until all your responsibilities are taken care of. But just take a few minutes. Just lie down and rest for a while.
You already know you have obsessive-compulsive disorder. You wouldn’t dare tell a doctor about it, but you read a lot, and you know.
But you don’t truly believe that anyone else feels the same way you do. How can anyone possibly think the same things as you? It’s so bizarre, isn’t it?
Like you used to be able to walk to campus without a problem. Now you notice sticks on the ground. You wonder if they’re actually nails. You have to check and make sure they’re not nails. Because someone might step on one and get hurt, and it would be your fault.
How can anyone else think something so weird?
I want you to know that you are not alone. There are many people around the world who have the same sorts of thoughts you do. They try to do things like clean and check so they won’t feel so bad. They feel desperate like you.
You are part of a large group of people around the world who are struggling with OCD. Someday you’re going to meet some in person. Someday you’re going to connect with a lot of them on the computer.
And your friends who don’t have OCD are going to understand and be supportive when you tell them about your struggles.
For now, just remind yourself that you are not alone.
I also want you to know that there are treatments for OCD. You are going to see a doctor soon who will diagnose you with OCD and begin to treat you. You are going to get better.
And the treatments are going to get better as you get older. You’re going to read some helpful books. You’re going to learn about cognitive behavior therapy. You’re going to learn more about how your thoughts work.
But don’t wait until then to feel good about yourself. Remind yourself of what you’ve been able to do: work, go to school, and be with friends. You may have a hard time doing all this, but you are already accomplishing things. Don’t think you have to be 100 percent cured to start living.
And please, give yourself a break. Don’t be so hard on yourself. You’re doing the best you can.
Remember: you are not alone, and things are going to get better.
Just rest for a while.
Your older self
I was asked to share the following information, and I am glad to.
OCD Connecticut is holding a free conference called “Living with OCD” on Saturday, October 18th, 2014.
It will be held at the Yale Child Study Center in New Haven, CT from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Topics will include the diagnosis and best practice treatments for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and there will be breakout support groups sessions for adults, teens, and family members.
For more information and to register for the program, please visit www.ocdct.org.
If you wrote a letter to your younger self, what would you say?