Jenna writes an open letter to her OCD.
Content warning: contains detailed references to obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
Last year you came into my life and I had no idea what was going on. I was not expecting the worry you caused me, and I never wanted to admit it was you who caused me the worry. I wanted you to be a joke or a temporary thing, not a lifelong companion. You started so small but little triggers made you grow bigger and bigger till I started shutting off parts of my life.
“Nothing was more painful than the fact that I felt so alone because of your company.”
At your worst you tried to take me away from friends and shelter me from my parents as I was too scared to explain why I was acting the way I was. Each reason I could think of for why I performed the rituals you made me do only made sense in my head, but I couldn’t stop carrying them out. People would laugh if I tried to explain what I was doing, but nothing was more painful than the fact that I felt so alone because of your company. My thoughts were so clouded by you that everything you told me to do I obeyed because I felt I had no choice.
It got to the stage, around June/July 2019, where I was terrified to sit, stand or just be me. The most normal everyday things like the floor, the bathroom, seats, and school were just huge triggers to me. I would walk around with my hands in the air to make sure I did not touch anything; I’d hate any time I wasn’t in my room as I didn’t know what could infect me and worst of all, I was not able to hug friends or family because I felt they were “dirty”.
You consumed me — every thought, every outing, everything. Always just thinking about what could contaminate me. I would base every decision on you. I hate that I spent so long not being me.
I needed to fight you, but you are invisible, and you make it so hard to accept who you are and what label you give me.
I first described you to my GP a day before my birthday.
“I was frustrated and tired of living my life for you and not me. I couldn’t isolate anymore from the world.”
I told the GP I could manage you alone. For a while it worked physically. Mentally, you were just growing. Then I kept making excuses for why I should be allowed another wash and eventually I let go of all the progress I’d made.
I was frustrated and tired of living my life for you and not me. I couldn’t isolate anymore from the world. I couldn’t focus on anything but you. I had to try again to get rid of you. I revisited the GP and got a referral to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).
So I met with the psychologist and she showed me there was a way forward. Each week I challenged a compulsion and I became one step closer to being the me I used to be. But I couldn’t even celebrate the things I had overcame with other people because I tried so hard to hide them from everyone except you and me. However I came on leaps and bounds, and I could see the finish line.
When lockdown came, I thought it was a way everyone could start being clean without me confessing why I need them to be clean. But now I’m terrified again. Terrified because I use Covid as an excuse to perform the tasks you tell me to do because it’s the new normal. I’m telling myself I’m doing the right thing because I’m following the guidelines. But where do I draw the line? You keep sending me thoughts, and I’m scared that if I don’t follow them then that will be the time I could infect my family. But what happens when I don’t have an excuse anymore?
I just wish you would leave me alone and let me live the “normal” life I lived before. Why did you have to come?
I can’t say all this though without thanking you. You have taught me passion and determination to not just overcome you but to help others who face challenges like you. I was convinced that I knew what a “normal” life was, but I now know that doesn’t exist. Everyone faces their own problems, but so many of us wear a mask to hide them.
“You’re not worth the tears, sadness, stress, arguments and separating myself from the people I love.”
I want to stop wearing my mask and expose you for what you are.
I will do everything in my power to not go back to how I was last summer. You’re not worth the tears, sadness, stress, arguments and separating myself from the people I love.
I spent so long running from what I could be infected by that I didn’t realise you were the disease I should have feared.
You will not win.
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