OCD and Me: Oli's Story
23 July 2019
Thoughts…an assortment of feelings, urges and who knows what bubbling up to the surface of the conscious mind. I thought I could control them or rather that I was in control of them. But the naivety of this became starkly apparent to me when at the age of eighteen I had a Major Depressive episode and developed Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
There are many different types of OCD. They are named based on the theme of the obsession e.g. Sexual, Contamination & Relationship. In my case I developed the form of OCD that is commonly called Pure O or Purely Obsessional. This is the condition that has been at the centre of Channel 4’s new show ‘Pure’. It has this name because the person with OCD seems to only have obsessions and no visible compulsions. In fact, the person does have compulsions, it’s just that the compulsions are done internally e.g. mental checking. To experience the condition is to be constantly bombarded with unwanted intrusive thoughts causing you great anxiety and at times terror. Intrusive thoughts are defined as unwanted thoughts or images that you find distressing and/or disturbing. As these thoughts are very upsetting you tend to ruminate and obsess about them questioning their existence in your mind. This can then lead you to do internal compulsions to relieve your anxiety levels such as checking how you feel when you think of certain scenarios.
The reality is that many people experience intrusive thoughts. So, in a way, most people can get a very small insight into what I’m going through. How many times have you been watching a performance like a play and the thought to randomly shout out something inappropriate has popped into your head? How many times have you heard laughter in a public place and thought people were laughing at you? These are intrusive thoughts. Usually when I’m feeling what I’d class as myself I’m able to acknowledge these thoughts, see them for just being thoughts and move on. However, when I’m ill my intrusive thoughts multiply and it seems highly likely that I will act on them even though the rational part of my brain disagrees. The power of the obsessive thought is truly terrifying at times. One key factor in the OCD cycle is doubt. OCD is not known as the doubting sickness for nothing. In my mind when I’m ill my tolerance for doubt is limited, I crave certainty that my obsession is untrue, but my mind is incapable of giving this to me or if it is this is only for a fleeting moment. Then the doubt returns slowly snowballing and the whole process starts all over again.
I’ve been quite lucky in some ways because medication has worked for me in the past. It gave me nine years in total of good health with little side effects relieving all my symptoms of OCD, Depression and Depersonalisation. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end and in June 2018 the medication stopped being effective and all my symptoms returned. So, I’m left a little bit in limbo; the drug that apparently is the best for my condition has stopped working; my psychiatrist is wary of trying a different anti-depressant; CBT has not worked for me in the past; ECT has been mentioned. It really for me just underlines how little we still know about the brain and how far behind Psychiatry is compared to other areas of medicine. But I’m trying to stay positive at the moment, it’s really hard at times but it’s one of my weapons against OCD and depression, that and a host of other things like Mindfulness and exercise. I’ve recovered twice before so hopefully the third time is not too far over the horizon.
You can find out more about OCD by heading to our fact sheet.