While I’ve tried to keep a balanced view of OCD in other posts, there are some posts that will be less uplifting and cheery. (Go see the Good Parts of OCD for happier topics.) If you suffer from depression or have been suicidal, this might be the post you skip.
While the symptoms of OCD vary, there is a definite tendency for obsessive thoughts among nearly all affected. These thoughts crowd your mind and linger. Sometimes, you lie awake thinking of every horrible mistake you’ve ever made. Sometimes, it leads to self-harm like cutting. No matter how it manifests itself, the thoughts are there. If you’ve had OCD from childhood, you’ve recognized you’re different. Maybe you’ve even worried you’re going mad. Perhaps you’ve sat in a room and looked around and wondered if other people’s heads get so full of noise they want to scream. Then, you’ve drawn inward because you suspect it’s just you.
The thoughts themselves can be isolating. They can be dark–so dark. Sometimes, they’re violent or perverted. You mentally wrap your arms around yourself and wish they’d stop. You can’t be this person. You’re not like this. But you start to think that you are. After so many years, you suspect you are.
When I was a teenager, I used to go for long walks. I’d walk and walk, trying to outrun the demons in my head. Sometimes, I’d listen to music but, more often, I’d just think. The combination of physical exercise and being on my own often helped. I felt like I was in a judgement-free zone when I walked. No one could tell that I was weird. I could run through my thoughts, turning them over and over, and no one could tell. I’d often go to a nearby park to swing on the swings. The proprioceptive and vestibular effects of swinging soothed me further. My daughter likes to swing at parks also. She’ll spend a half an hour at a time just swinging like I once did.
Some of the isolation I felt and continue to feel is self-imposed. I want space to think. My brain is so crowded that I just need space. Some of that feeling originates in the knowledge that I am different. There’s a screaming in my head constantly. I don’t know what it’s like to think of nothing. Whenever a meditation guide says to “clear your mind,” I’m baffled by the command. Can people do that? Can you stop thinking of everything? I’ve had more luck with mindfulness where you focus on a specific thing than attempting to think of nothing.
If you have OCD and feel isolated, I understand. You feel apart. OCD often gets between us and loved ones. It can function as a wall keeping us in and keeping others out. That goes double for some aspects of OCD. For example, my contamination phobia doesn’t make being in close quarters with others necessarily desirable. The world is a messy and contaminated place and trying not to let it devour me puts me in opposition with social interactions. Quite honestly, I’m not sure why people still hug me. I have “keep out” signs firmly in place.
If you feel lonely, I get that too. One nice aspect of the modern world, though, is it’s easier to find others with OCD. You can find support networks on social media. Hashtag searches can bring you new friends. Actually, the fact that you’re here on my blog says that you’re not alone. Part of my isolation was that I didn’t think there were others like me as a teenager. By the time I was an adult, my patterns of hiding symptoms and keeping others away were ingrained. There are others like you.
Sometimes, being isolated gives you a chance to find peace in your crowded head.
Sometimes, it pulls your farther into the darkness you’re already too familiar with. Take a deep breath and figure out which it is.
If you ever need to talk, go to the contact page on this site and shoot me an email. My health has been finicky so if I don’t respond right away, it’s not because I don’t care. I usually see emails right away so if it seems urgent, I’ll respond as quickly as I’m able. I’m also always on Twitter and you can find me there at @WendySparrow. Be well and realize you’re not alone.
**If you or someone you love has obsessive-compulsive disorder, a medical professional would be able to give you more specific help and advice, and nothing I’ve said can replace seeking help or should be construed as advice. Be safe and be well and seek help if you need it. This post is based on my own experiences and my interaction with others diagnosed with OCD.**