By Laura Joseph
Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) can sometimes hit you where it matters most. For me, this meant having obsessive thoughts of uncertainty about my relationship.
I was officially diagnosed with OCD two years ago. On my first day in intensive therapy, I was asked to write down my thoughts from the moment I woke up until I fell asleep. By 9 a.m., after being awake for only three hours, I was exhausted by my thoughts. They were uncontrolled and torturous:
I want to be with her but do I need to explore myself more before making a commitment? How do I know I want to be with her? I have never experienced these intense emotions in a relationship before. What if she isn’t the right person? What if I should be with a guy? But, wait, I have been with guys. Can I see myself with this person? Should I try again? What if I can’t commit to her? How should I feel? Does this feel right? What if I get hit by a car? Would I care? This is too much to deal with. What if my family never accepts me being with a girl? What makes me happy? Should I move or try to go out more? No, that’s not who I am. Who am I?
At that time, these thoughts consumed about 95% of my day. The internal dialogue and questioning never ceased. It tore me to pieces.
Prior to my diagnosis, these thoughts caused many challenges for me and my partner. Some days, my silent screams could be heard through my smiles. I would speak to friends incessantly about the topic, seeking reassurance, but this only fueled the OCD cycle. The thoughts would return a few minutes later, leading me back to where I started.
I did not know what the disorder was until I felt completely exhausted and broken; by this time, my partner was hurt. My patterns of uncertainty were too much for her to handle. Our relationship broke down as I continually doubted my feelings. This was the tipping point.
I fell into the self-destructive self-blame game believing it was all my fault. Why me? I thought. Why can’t I just be normal and embrace love and be happy? These thoughts got me nowhere fast. When I entered intensive therapy, I shifted my whole focus to improving my mental health. I discovered my intense willpower and strength. I was diligent with journaling, and became cognizant of my mental status, thought patterns, triggers, and reactions. I worked tirelessly, moved out on my own, and asked friends I trusted to keep me accountable.
I am happy to say that after a lot of therapy and hard work the obsessions now only consume about 10-15% of my day. I am now more confident in my ability to handle OCD, comfortable with a fluid sexuality, and excited about the idea of commitment.
Part of managing the OCD requires leaning into the uncertainty and welcoming it into my life no matter how uncomfortable it may feel. For ten years prior to my diagnosis, I battled depression, panic attacks, and withdrawal; I lost friendships and hurt my family. After receiving treatment, I am more knowledgeable about the disorder and have developed effective coping strategies. This helps me to maintain perspective.
If you struggle with any form of anxiety or OCD, I strongly encourage you to find a therapist who you connect with and who specializes in the treatment of OCD. This will help you to fight to reach the other side. You are worthy!
Laura Joseph is 27 years old and lives in Hamden, CT. She is the Director of Fitness & Customer Experience for a company specializing in exercise for people living with diabetes. She has a strong passion for helping people to live healthier, more enjoyable lives through writing, conversation, and education.
This story is part of our blog series called “Stories from the OCD Community.” Stories from the community are submitted and edited by Toni Palombi. If you are interested in sharing your story you can view submission details at www.iocdf.org/ocd-stories.