About 1 in 50 people in the UK suffers from OCD at some point in their lives, which equates to over 1 million people*. I am one of those people! I am in my early 30s and was diagnosed with depression first, then anxiety and then OCD. I have been battling with this horrendous illness for about 5 years or so and I can honestly say that I would give ANYTHING to not have it.
My OCD presents itself in a few major ways; hand washing (I can’t stop once I’ve started), fear of contamination (from anything, people, the floor, the car, a pen, literally anything), I have a fear of contamination from the toilet, I can’t handle raw meat or eggs or bins and I find it very difficult to go outside and face unexpected ‘dangers’
OCD is NOT organising pencils neatly or having to have things in a certain place or having a clean house. So when people say ‘I’m so OCD about how my desk looks’ I always want to turn round and correct them. The thing that separates the want or need to have something a certain way is the thought process behind it – it’s driven by anxiety – because OCD is an anxiety disorder.
The thought process is what holds me captive. Compulsive thoughts that if I don’t make sure that my hands are clean then I will contaminate everything I touch or even go near (yes, I seem to have taught myself that germs/dirt can jump!). Or compulsive thoughts that if someone touches me, shakes my hand, or if I pass by a bin or person then I’m dirty and need to change and wash (our washing pile has sometimes been HUGE!). Or even the thoughts of ‘what if’ someone or something has touched me or I have potentially touched something dirty, makes me freeze with fear. Fear is a very strong emotion. It can make a person run, jump, and freeze and can make a person extremely tired. Obviously, fear also can keep us safe – you know the whole flight and fight thing!
My daily struggle to get up, go to the toilet, wash my hands, shower, get dressed and sit on a chair and watch TV, or work in my study or go out on an errand makes me so tired I can’t move. My brain shuts down and I can’t function. I used to have mild panic attacks when I started being so ill that my very new husband at the time (last year) had to do EVERYTHING for me and with me, but these have subsided. I can still sometimes get myself in such a state that my chest tightens and my brain fogs up but I’ve managed to battle my way through that, but I have learnt I get tired very easily because my brain is constantly fighting against the OCD.
Where is God in all this? Honestly I sometimes have no idea and at this moment I’m sitting here thinking to myself ‘He is with me in this’ whilst also being really angry with Him. It’s OK to be angry with God, but why am I?
Well, simply because He hasn’t healed me and released me from this horrible illness. I’ve asked and asked, I’ve had other people pray for me, I have people praying for me now but He’s still not healed me. I am living with the knowledge that He could heal me if He wanted too but He hasn’t. I’m living with the possibility that I may never be rid of OCD. I believe in God and I believe in His grace and providence but I also struggle with that. His grace and patience with me has enabled me to start to control some of the compulsive thoughts I get and it has allowed me to regain some of my independence, however I still can’t make myself food or a drink and I still can’t go out without having to think through what I’m doing and who I may or may not see!
Like other mental illness’ OCD is life controlling and debilitating and also affects people very differently. If you suffer with this, you are NOT alone and if you know someone who struggles with OCD, ask them what you can do to help, they may not know but it will offer them a willing helping hand.
For more of my story see https://droppingthemask.wordpress.com/
*Royal College of Psychiatrists