In the spirit of trying to be open with medical issues (something I espoused in the last few blog posts), I feel the need to write about this. Not in a "search for reassurance or comments of comfort" way necessarily, but more for myself. Writing is not only cathartic for me, but it makes it real. It helps me focus my thoughts and explain, even if only to myself. But it is still hard sometimes.
I have OCD. Not like, "I keep things so clean OCD" OCD. Like, I have a mental condition that has begun to take over my life and I feel like I can't even control my own behavior sometimes. Like, I will be washing my hands while saying in my head "I hate myself" OCD. Like, my hands look like they belong to an 85 year old and almost hurt while I am typing because of the washing and cleaning and hand sanitizing OCD.
There are so many feelings I have and things I want to say about it, things I am ashamed about and things I wish my family and I didn't have to go through every day. Yesterday I stood in my kitchen and thought something like, "I didn't want my life to be like this." I don't want to be someone who cries at the kitchen table and whose kids ask "what is wrong, why are you sad?" I don't want my kids to have complexes about whether or not they wiped their bottoms "enough" or washed their hands every time they touch their noses, mouths, or bums. I shouldn't not want to hug my children when they are sick or worry that they will contaminate the house, the couch, or my clothes.
When did my life become something I don't look forward to living? When did each day become something to fear and endure? When did I lose joy? What is joy? Where is it? When did I become scared of myself and scared of living?
I am grateful to the gospel, though, for instilling in me a sense of duty and obligation to my family and my life. Though, to be honest, sometimes I feel like I am scarring my children more than helping them at this point, which is partly why I let Jamund "force" me into getting help, finally. I say finally because I realized that I have been dealing with OCD for probably about 10 years, though I didn't really make the connection until this last week or so. I thought it was just anxiety or scrupulosity initially, but going to group therapy last week and hearing others share their stories helped me realize that those things I did (or do) or thoughts I have had (or still have) were part of this disorder. It isn't always just cut-and-dry hand washing or counting things or checking door locks. It can be a wide variety of actions or thoughts.
Realizing this was both eye opening and terrifying. I have started going to a psychologist who is qualified to help people with OCD, and I am grateful and terrified of that as well. Even just driving there (he is in the Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle) challenges some of my anxiety and fears. I am worried that I won't let myself be helped, that it will be too difficult for me to follow through with the assignments he will give. It's like I've become a slave to this rogue part of my brain. I feel like I am the OCD and if that goes away, who will I be? I feel like a shell.
Jamund and I were talking recently that it's almost like I have no agency anymore and without that, I cannot feel joy. (see 2 Nephi 2) And I am almost afraid to have them (the agency and the joy) back--but maybe I am more afraid that I can't have them back, like I don't have enough power on my own to fight the very real power that is my OCD. It feels like a real entity, and that is what makes it so difficult--it's like it's me but not me, and it morphs and changes and finds new things for me to worry about, obsess over, and do.
Reading the talk from Elder Holland, "Like a Broken Vessel" helped me (though I have to admit, the title didn't make me feel so awesome). I wish I didn't feel that there is a stigma to admitting you have a mental illness and getting help for it. I wish no one felt that. I think the getting help part can be so hard. I know it was for me. It felt like admitting defeat, like I couldn't handle my life on my own. But living with OCD has become debilitating and I don't want it to harm my family and my life (and my body!) any more than it has.
I found this article by Sarah Schuster and I loved her point in #5. Even if we have a mental illness, we are people. All of us. And we shouldn't be ashamed of what we go through or afraid of getting help. And if you don't have a mental illness, please try not to trivialize it or the people living with it. (And if you don't really have experience with OCD, watch that movie that should be at the bottom of that article if you want to get a really good glimpse into what it can be like).