Now that OCD is (mostly) under control for me, I find that it rarely instigates a random takeover on its own. It usually requires a little trigger – a doorway into my brain whilst holding hands with a seemingly innocent thought or event. OCD YOU WILY MINX. Triggers are the remaining scar from when OCD was at its worst for me. I try my best not to fall victim to the resulting obsessions and compulsions, but sometimes it’s disgustingly tempting. PSA: There will be numerous lists in this post. Mmmm, lists.
Okay, SO. Some examples of triggers:
- Conversations about teeth
- Eating crunchy foods (I can’t even eat Hula Hoops anymore – it really be ya own brain huh)
- Talking about ageing
- Any kind of twinge or pain in my body
- Any new mark that appears on my body
- Anyone mentioning that they’re ill
- Conversations about bodily functions
- My hands being too warm
- My face being too warm
- Touching unfamiliar objects
- Touching magazine pages / book pages / any kind of pages that aren’t brand new
- Small black objects in my food / on floors ETC ETC, YOU GET IT.
I understand that any stranger reading this list would be like “Jheeeez what an uptight human!” When in fact anyone who knows me would assure you that I’m not uptight (I am a human though so 1 point for Slytherin). I don’t expect people to tread on eggshells around me and more importantly I really, REALLY don’t want them to. I want to be normal. So when something happens or something is said that awakens the OCD, I don’t usually voice it. There’s more to this than just trying to avoid driving everyone around me crazy, but I’ll explain that part later…
In terms of the gravity of the fallback from the aforementioned triggering moments, it depends from one moment to the next. Some obsessions that can arise include:
- Becoming convinced that I’ve contracted a virus that has never been contracted by a human before
- Becoming convinced that I’ve contracted an illness that is incurable and that is my own fault (Didn’t stop my four year nicotine addiction though, huh OCD??)
- Worrying that my teeth will all crumble and fall out
- Worrying that I might accidentally hurt somebody I love
- Worrying that strangers want to hurt me (this one’s complex – I’ll do a whole post on this another time)
- Worrying that I am fundamentally a bad person
- Thinking about all of the pathogens on Planet Earth
- Thinking about the germs on my hands
- Being nervous of foreign objects in my food or in my bedroom
These obsessions can lead to the urge to give into compulsions such as washing my hands, washing my belongings, washing my face, checking my teeth, bruxism, researching the internet or books looking for ‘reassurance’, hinting for reassurance from loved ones, memorising dates and events in my head, counting in my head, checking electricity sockets and checking my skin for foreign objects. There are waaaay too many to include them all. The symptoms and triggers above are a small proportion. A delicious little taster for ya.
Before my diagnosis and treatment came into fruition, these triggers were constant and the obsessions and compulsions were unstoppable. I had completely lost my life to OCD. I didn’t have time for anything I enjoyed during my days because they were taken up frantically completing compulsions, whilst under the illusion that it would actually help in some way. These days, the triggers are less frequent and less strong. I still have moments – especially anything to do with my hands and viruses – but the key for me is to face the obsession head-on whilst avoiding the compulsion.
Pour example, my fine curious friends, I’ve been staying in a rented house in North Wales this week. It’s idyllic, and for most people, it would be a chance for pure relaxation. For me personally, it is chilled and peaceful up to a point, but staying in a whole new house full of brand new germs is a little bit of a challenge. My hands have felt warm and prickly (not physically but psychologically) for the four days that we’ve been here. This then causes the obsessions to prod at my stress receptors seductively, and the urge to wash my hands flashes constantly within my mind. BUT I SHALL NOT GIVE IN, FOUL OBSESSIONS – PROD AWAY. I’ve learned that allowing the obsessions too much airtime, and giving into the compulsions leaves me in an unresolved cycle for hours and hours, complete with a large amount of fidgeting, frantic singing, and adrenaline. (Blessed are the ones who have witnessed these cycles of panic.)
Therefore, to avoid the cycles of panic, I avoid giving into the obsessions and the compulsions. I give myself a set period during the day when I am allowed to obsess. Sometimes this is in the shower, or after breakfast, but I always make sure it’s in the morning. Once I have allowed myself these few minutes (without carrying out any compulsions), I try not to let obsessions take over my brain for the rest of the day. I only wash my hands when necessary, I am categorically NOT allowed to use hand-sanitising gel, and I have to touch anything that a normal person would. This low-level exposure helps me to keep the reigns on my OCD gooood and tight.
In conclusion; OCD is a sneaky b***ard… Do not give your obsessions free-reign on the amount of airtime they get… And whatever you do, stop giving into the compulsions. Also, remember that however far through recovery you have come, there’s still a way to go because you’re a little human bean and we’re complex as hell. Try not to worry when triggers are still affecting your mindset. Try not to demonise yourself for slipping up and giving in. YOU KICK ASS AND YOU ABSOLUTELY WILL MAKE OBSESSIONS/COMPULSIONS YOUR B*TCH.