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Personal Stories - I Embrace You OCD

I Embrace You OCD

By Jill Armstrong

“As soon as I embraced OCD I took back the power it took from me so long ago.”

If someone were to tell me seven years ago that I would have the life that I have now, I would have called them crazier than me!  I’ve had OCD since I was about five or six years old, but wasn’t diagnosed until I was almost 27.  It was then that I had a breaking point that led me to recovery. 

During that span of 22 years, so much of my childhood and younger adult years were taken from me by OCD.  My OCD has ranged from mostly physical compulsions early on (repeating actions, checking, saying things over and over again, and more) to mostly mental obsessions and compulsions (ranging from perfectionism, moral scrupulosity, harm fear, and more).  Let’s just say I’ve had my share plus some!  I rarely let anyone see my anguish and hid my rituals to protect myself from the scrutiny and misunderstanding from others.  I had developed an unbelievable amount of shame over the years, combined with low self-esteem.  If I couldn’t stand up to a voice in my head, how could I stand up to others?  I managed to push my way through life staggering between my okay times and lows but, as I got older, the lows started to increase and with more severity. 

One day I was driving down the road in my car with tears streaming down my face.  I sat there thinking how great it would be to be hit and killed by another driver to silence my pain.  It was then that I knew to either get help or…well…I didn’t know.  I was reminded about the notion of OCD by someone and got a couple books from the library.  I sat on my porch one morning and began to read the first page and I cried with joy.  I wasn’t crazy after all!  Someone knew what I was going through and it was real and not just in my head!  I was understood and accepted for the first time in my life by someone I had never met, but I felt they knew me better than anyone else ever had. 

I sought an online support group for OCD, was referred to an OCD specialist, and started to recover.  I still had ups and downs while many other things happened in my life not related to my OCD, but I feel because I had started the recovery process, I was finally able to get a handle on life. 

It’s taken me a while and I’ve had to go through many more extreme highs and lows, even after diagnosis and treatment, to get me to the point of where I’m at today.  I attribute my latest success against my battle with OCD to acknowledging and embracing it’s presence.  Before when I would receive treatment and start to improve, I just wanted to pretend I didn’t have OCD, and would drop out of therapy. It’s the classic image of putting your fingers in your ears saying “I can’t hear you!  LaLaLaLaLaLa!”  Who could blame me though?  I HATED OCD and what it had taken from my life.  I can never get those years back.  But being in denial only led me to a darker place when one of the lows would hit, I was blindsided and debilitated.  I eventually became so tired and saw that what I was doing wasn’t working so it was time to try something new. 

I stood up and said “OCD, I know you will be with me throughout the rest of my life and you know what…that’s okay.  You are a part of me, but you are not me.  I am who I am today in great part because of you and with the great qualities you gave me, including compassion for others who suffer.  I say thank you but it’s time I say goodbye to our dysfunctional relationship.  I know we will still be acquaintances and I’m content with that now.” 

I started to attend OCD support groups, reached out to other sufferers, dove straight into my schoolwork on becoming a counselor to help other OCD sufferers, and I couldn’t be happier.  With each day I grow stronger because I am facing my OCD every day.  No more hiding, no more cowering in fear.  I did that for way too long.  As soon as I embraced OCD I took back the power it took from me long ago.  I’m okay with OCD now because I’m in charge, and it’s something I thought I could never do. 

So here I stand to tell as many other sufferers as I can reach out to, that you can take back control of your life too.  I’m not going to lie and say it’s easy because it’s not.  In fact it’s damn right hard, but so is living with OCD.  When you finally accept that it’ll always be with you there is nothing left to fear, and then recovery can begin.