If you don’t know me (you probably do) I’m Marissa. Nice to meet you, good to “see” you whatever applies here. I’ve had this thought, or I guess stream of thoughts running through my mind over and over for days, I think I have literally written this post 4 times, in my mind, so I figured I would write it for real, for you. It’s not always what it seems, that’s what I want to talk about, things aren’t always what you you would assume them to be, or what they would seem to be. Sometimes things are far more complex, multi-faceted, we just need to take the time to understand that.
A little background, I was diagnosed with OCD at the age of 18, I had been living un-diagnosed with OCD since I was a child, not to the fault of my parents I simply just didn’t mention it. (more on that later) As you read that you probably had some fleeting thought like “oh her house must be so clean” or “I wonder how many times a day she washes her hands?” and I too would have had that same thought before I was told I had OCD but as I began to understand I realized, it’s not always what it seems. I wanted to write this because so often when I say I have OCD people tell me they don’t think I do because I don’t exhibit the classic symptoms they associate with it, they mean well, they just don’t understand… OCD or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is defined as “a mental disorder in which people have unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas, sensations (obsessions), and behaviors that drive them to do something over and over (compulsions). Often the person carries out the behaviors to get rid of the obsessive thoughts.” The term OCD is most commonly associated with cleanliness, washing hands, excessive cleaning, fear of germs, and that’s valid and real for some, but not all. For me the obsessions (not the good kind) are with health concerns, things happening to me while I’m alone, not having intrusive thoughts, the list could go on but those are the major three. When I was younger I did have some “classic” obsessions and compulsions excessive hand washing, and having to do things a certain number of times because that number was “safe” and others were not, but I just that was normal and never talked to anyone about it, it didn’t bother me. As I grew up though it all started changing. I would obsess over the thought of a friend or family member dying and me never being able to get them back so I would not be able to move things they had put somewhere or touch things they had touched and I would experience extreme anxiety if something was moved or I accidentally touched something. Even then I thought this must just be normal, and I didn’t talk about it. It wasn’t until high school when it started showing up in health related concerns that I started having to talk about it strictly because my obsessive thoughts were starting to make me physically feel unwell. I began being terrified of having a heart attack, I would obsess about not having one so much that my body would start exhibiting symptoms of one, chest pain, arm pain, back pain, and then the compulsions to stop the obsession would kick in. I was obsessed with not fainting, so much so that I stopped walking around, if I wasn’t standing up I couldn’t faint, problem solved on that one, except not really, because then I was bed bound. I would chew gum incessantly, massage my neck over and over, take constant baths (how this stops a heart attack I don’t know, but it made sense to me) I would have to be in a moving car, that somehow was going to save me, the compulsions were endless and ever changing, and never made sense to anyone but me. These obsessions only grew and the tools I used to stop them (the compulsions) only became more ridiculous. My life was literally consumed to the point where my thoughts felt like they weren’t my own anymore like someone had taken over my brain, someone I hated, and turned it into a terrifying place where every bad thing that could happen lived and gave me lists of things to do to stop them from occurring. So when I say things aren’t always what they seem I simply mean OCD doesn’t always mean I have a beautifully clean home, or that I take 4 showers a day… all though I still cannot sleep at night without taking a shower first like literally will not sleep… it means that my brain obsesses about things to the point of extreme anxiety and then invents odd ways to “fix it”. Obviously these little tricks I’ve created don’t actually fix anything, they merely mask the issue and provide a temporary comfort. Comfort is great, but not when it’s temporary. I’m slowly learning what permanent peace feels like.
It has been a journey, one that I haven’t wanted to walk, but one that I am proud to have traveled. My family, my friends, my husband have all been the most gracious and loving people in my ugliest of times, find your tribe, they make all the difference. As a Christian I have prayed countless times for healing and while God hasn’t taken my OCD away from me He has walked right beside me and shown me so much, given me so much compassion, insight, understanding, and wisdom as I’ve walked. I know He works all things together for good and if I can help just one person because of what I’ve experienced then this has been good, worth every second. I’m still on my journey, some days are good and some days are bad, but all days are worth it and everyday is a gift. I guess what I am trying to say is don’t always make assumptions based on limited knowledge of something, take time to understand, you might be surprised what you find. I don’t claim to be a psychiatrist, I don’t know it all, but I do know that OCD looked a lot different than I thought it would and had I not been blessed with a psychiatrist who helped me understand I probably would have thought that this was just the way my brain was supposed to work and remained anxious and depressed for years. If you are still reading, thanks, this was probably the most boring thing I have ever written, but I couldn’t get it out of my head unless I deposited somewhere else so here it is, in all its grammatically error filled glory. I’m not going to obsess about what you think of me now, its taken awhile but I’m learning to love even the not so pretty parts of me.