We are grateful for the opportunity to publish another extraordinary piece written by an extraordinary young woman who has suffered with Pure-OCD. This is a great little primer about how family members can help a loved one with OCD.
Her first piece can be found here:
“Why would anyone in their right mind wilfully do this to themselves?”
By Bridgette Saunders
[Firstly, there is a myth you can just turn these repetitive thoughts off. You cannot. The most frustrating thing that arose from my beloved parents not grasping my disorder was their love for the statement, “you can stop thinking it if you want to]
I can recall when I first exhibited signs of OCD. My kindergarten teacher notoriously said, “she’ll be on Prozac by the time she’s 10” — I was a 5 year old at the time, fond of Winnie the Pooh and attached to my mother’s hip, unaware of mental health or anxiety or my need for reassurance. My routine at the time involved a daily call from my teacher to my parents to ensure they didn’t forget me, knew the drop -off location and knew the drop-off time. As if my loving parents would completely forget my existence or the location of my school. And I needed this reassurance of my remembered existence just to get past lunchtime without bawling. Thus, it was fairly predicted that I’d be on Prozac by the age of 10.
But I wasn’t. I was not on medication until the age of 22; taking the natural route. Then, the world rapidly became these two compartments of “without my OCD” and “with my OCD”. There was this ugly, elephant-of-a-realization that so many of my compulsions were quite elusive and unknown, even to me: abandoning me entirely as the OCD started to dissipate. But even more alarming was how deeply intertwined my anxiety disorder became with the other fibers of everyday, normal living.
Even going to the grocery store had been unknowingly taxing because my normal had been anxiety-riddled and vastly unhealthy for so long. I even began watching television differently — as I often read captions instead of enjoying a show due to so many themes at one time and the impact a solitary television show could have on me. It had taken over me for countless years and became my new normal, an albatross around my neck.
My last post on Pure- OCD resulted in a friend on Facebook — with a young loved one of her own suffering from presumably the same type of OCD — ask me a moving and powerful question:
If there was anything you could say to family members, what would it be?
So here are the most important things I wish I had vocalized to my loved ones, that I hope will aid family members of Pure-O sufferers understand their loved one a bit more or to give other Pure-O sufferers the courage to express themselves to their closest friends and family.
Firstly, there is a myth you can just turn these repetitive thoughts off. You cannot. The most frustrating thing that arose from my beloved parents not grasping my disorder was their love for the statement, “you can stop thinking it if you want to”.
What was wrong with me that I was voluntarily thinking these thoughts? That, at their worst, led me to dropping weight quickly from not eating and insomnia and bouts of inconsolable crying throughout the day, including at school. Why would anyone in their right mind willfully do this to themselves?
How insane must I have been to allow horrible, panic-inducing thoughts just prance through the front door of my brain and take up residence in my lop-sided house? But I couldn’t stop them and they weren’t in my control. In fact, the medicine I take now balances my serotonin levels, a vital chemical in the brain rather than a switch I can just turn off if I truly willed it.
A person without OCD could stand on a train platform and have the fleeting thought, “what if I jumped?”. These thoughts would come and go with very little entertaining them, but they also come out of nowhere as if the shadow, as Jung called it, or the dark side of your person, suddenly joined the party and then left as quickly as they came. With the OCD sufferer, the shadow joins the party and we begin to throw a fit about them being uninvited or their agenda for being there and why in the hell they are eating our cake. And we allow it to ruin our party entirely.
So that now that fleeting train platform thought became a Frankenstein thought of could be’s, maybe’s and what if’s melded together. You do not have control over all of your thoughts, as most tend to think. Be mindful of this when dealing with intrusive thoughts. They are called exactly that for a reason.
Secondly, I do not expect my family to understand my irrationalities when they do not experience irrational thoughts as I do. I used to get frustrated that my loved ones didn’t understand, but how could they? It is unfair to expect total understanding. Loved ones, you don’t have to get us entirely. If you merely can understand more about the things not to do — i.e. giving reassurance; insinuating the disorder is a product of choice; assuming professional intervention or medicinal and nutritional modalities aren’t necessary for managing OCD and time will just heal it; not allowing the sufferer to express themselves during a spike or making them feel bad for their fears — you will be making a world of difference in their life.
Simply opening up to my two incredible sisters and husband about my anxiety disorder and not receiving anything less than love and support from them has made me feel included in the world again, when I had felt abandoned and isolated by it for so long.
Finally, while avoidance in the grand scheme of healing and managing your OCD can be counterintuitive, there are, what I call “comforts”. Comforts are best used when your loved one is in a very distressed place. These are distractions that happen to maneuver around fears and themes.
Even as a 24 year old, cartoons and animated films are comforts to me when I’m in a bad place. There was a time I watched Disney’s Brave nightly because it was calming and safe in a world that seems spectacular at spiking fears. This could be a book, sketching, cuddles with a beloved pet or family member, whatever feels like an escape and hideaway. These always got me through abysmal times.
A book that has helped me tremendously, and I’d highly recommend, is Overcoming Unwanted Intrusive Thoughts: A CBT-Based Guide to Getting Over Frightening, Obsessive, or Disturbing Thoughts
Find more here: https://g.co/kgs/9w4xRe