Life before I developed obsessive-compulsive disorder cannot be described as anything other than free. A life when ‘the five second rule’ still applied, of sharing water bottles and chapstick, a brain filled with thoughts of the new show on Netflix everybody was talking about, and how I was definitely going to watch that show instead of doing my homework. It felt easy. Sure, I understood biology, germs, viruses. I just didn’t care. I will always grieve the ease in which I used to live my life, before I got sick.
Then, at only sixteen years old, my life was tipped on the head. As if all of a sudden my brain hit a self-destruct button and destroyed any sense of logic I had. When water turned red with how much I washed my hands. When the soles of my shoes stayed intact because I couldn’t even walk and step on the ground. When soap bottles ran empty, the cobalt liquid being poured onto bowls, forks and spoons to wash them five, six, seven times (and that still wasn’t enough.) The moment my brain decided to turn against me, it felt like game over.
Recovery wasn’t even a concept I’d heard of. I thought once I was diagnosed, that I was given the most tortuous life sentence of cleaning, tapping, knocking, repeating, clicking, crying. That was it. That was my entire existence. But the idea I could get better? That I could fight this? That revelation changed me.
At first, I didn’t know how to explain it to others. Or myself. ‘I am in recovery from my OCD’ just felt wrong, because it didn’t fit what I thought I knew about it. I have been in recovery from my eating disorder for a year, and now, I eat (everything) without fear, guilt isn’t an ingredient and my smile reaches my eyes. That is recovery, isn’t it? It didn’t feel the same with my OCD.
But maybe it’s not meant to. Because what recovery means to me with my obsessive-compulsive disorder doesn’t mean returning to that life I had before, or having a mind absent of anxiety and doubt, or never thinking about germs again. To me, it means living a life despite this. That monster in my mind comes over as a guest sometimes, he doesn’t live here rent-free, and overthinking was given the eviction notice too. It means that I can think about that Netflix show and neglect my homework (even though I really shouldn’t!) I can still go to university and laugh, and I can live, not just exist. It means I don’t view my life as a personal kind of hell but as something I am grateful for, but my illness just gets in the way sometimes. It means I go to therapy and I accept treatment, however scary it is, because sometimes healing hurts more than breaking. Recovery means I still get to live, I just do it with OCD.
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