My recently diagnosed OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) is in many ways atypical, and therefore so hard to even begin to explain. I also experience a lot of shame and self-judgement around how it manifests and my inability to control it, and often doubt its legitimacy as a diagnosis (for the symptoms I personally experience), so tend to keep the specifics to myself.
I often feel very misunderstood, especially when my study-related symptoms are mistaken for ‘perfectionism’, or when people put certain behaviours down to ‘habits’ – and it can feel frustrating and lonely. Even if it is perfectionism, even if they are habits, it can still be life-interfering much of the time. I don’t know anyone who experiences it all in the same way I do, although I do see a few similarities in the 12 year old I used to nanny who has just been diagnosed, which is interesting.
How it manifests is also more transient than one would expect. Although the symptoms impacts me on a daily basis, some days I can deal with it, whilst during others it creates an unmanageable existence. Sometimes there is a correlation, but oftentimes there is nothing I can pinpoint at all.
One of the most consistent things I struggle with which I have blogged about previously is the BFRB (body-focused repetitive behaviour) aspect, specifically skin-picking. For me this is 100% a compulsive behaviour, and one which I am struggling to target despite constantly addressing it in therapy and brainstorming many solutions. In recent days (or weeks or months or years?), it honestly feels like I can’t control it; like I HAVE to engage in it; like otherwise I’m going to bubble and boil until I BURST full of negative tension and energy and simply explode. Like it keeps me afloat and if I stop something bad will happen. I have scabs on my legs and arms (although they are healing), and am making my fingernails even more disgusting to look at than they already are, and yet I cannot seem to stop.
Then there are also the intrusive thoughts which plague me, more so in recent months since a lot of my behaviours have decreased: the ones which tell me to jump in front of trains or off ledges even when I don’t feel sucidal; the ones that say I’m moving too much and that my neck is going to snap; the ones that convince me to change my thoughts and conversations because my lecturers can read my mind, and the paranoia that comes with that; and the ones that say “If you don’t overtake X number of people (usually 4) on the escalator then H’s baby is going to die” and similar variations on the theme.
Additionally, there are all the ways it impacts me with my academia and at university… Although I’m not going to go into that right now because it is currently stressing me out a lot and I’ve therefore gone into total avoidance and procrastination around it!
Overall I used to think these symptoms were all related to my BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) or anxiety but apparently they are not, my psychiatrists says it’s OCD, although I am doubtful, and that it’s just common to see various overlaps. These things just simply didn’t occur to him as problematic until I put them altogether and explained them, for him to label as a ‘disorder’. For example, I became so used to doing so many things in certain ways that I never considered them to be symptomatic of something more identifiable, neither something I could even develop freedom from.
My psychiatrist and I explored this all the other day, and he reckons that because of the BPD symptoms overpowering everything for so long, and because of the overlaps, it was easy for all of us to overlook some of these other potentially OCD symptoms as not being a separate issue.
Like I said above, the extent to which it affects my life is variable; however this week the BFRBs and one specific intrusive thought I experience have been more troublesome than usual.
If anyone has any tips for either this or the “skin-picking” (including nails and cuticles) this would be much appreciated…. I really do not want to go back on meds (see this post here) but am at a bit of a loss.