The national OCD charity, run by and for people with lived experience of OCD
Our Young Ambassador Lucy has used this month’s theme ‘OCD is’ to share with us her experiences of ‘theme changing’ in OCD. Lucy captures the physical feelings that come with intrusive thoughts so creatively.
Thank you, Lucy, this is wonderfully written.
A monster in disguise.
One thing I didn’t learn in therapy is that OCD is a shapeshifter. A monster masking itself, making a subtle switch, so soft, so smooth and yet capable of creating the most paralysing thoughts, encompassing us in a debilitating terror in which offers no escape. Despite having been diagnosed with the contamination subtype of obsessive-compulsive disorder, my already fiendish thoughts morphed into a new theme, forcing me to experience the illness in a new way.
March 2nd 2020, a hot day, a good day, I was wearing my black dress and sipping cherry Pepsi from my pink water bottle and giggling with my friends in my English class, neglecting the worksheet my teacher was expecting us to complete. Upon the whiteboard, we were told to watch a scene from the movie adaptation of one of the texts we were studying and having read the book numerous times, I turned my eyes towards the screen thoughtlessly. Yet, one action triggered it. The thought hit me. Hard. Unprecedented. Not about sickness or germs or death at all, but about something completely irrelevant and sickening. It was an overbearing and humbling idea but those twelve words in my head caused my heart to shatter. My stomach dropped to my feet with an excruciating thud, sending a disgusting wave of sour nausea to ripple through me. In those forty-three seconds where I couldn’t recognise I wasn’t evil and this was just my disorder, I was in a cage. Alone. In complete isolation. Disconnected from reality, consumed by horror, unable to communicate to my teacher about the hurricane in my head.
My stomach dropped to my feet with an excruciating thud, sending a disgusting wave of sour nausea to ripple through me.Lucy
Suddenly, the hurricane transformed into a labyrinth to navigate, a complex and frustrating network of cognitions, a puzzle of what if, what if, what if, catastrophizing and obsessing. The horrendous thought was thieving my logic and intelligence that would allow me to identify this for what it was: a product of mental illness. A statement void of fact. A lie. Yet, it played in loops, my mind replaying it over and over and over, each time demanding tears and creating more distress and disgust. When I finally found the strength to breathe, to move, to speak, I whispered a sentence I was endeavouring to convince myself was fact: “this is my OCD.” And although it didn’t seem as real as the thought, I knew it was. The shock that it wasn’t about contamination, about invisible parasites seeping into my bloodstream, my appendix rupturing, my bones disintegrating, rather it was about...it was unspeakable. It took me almost a minute to realise it switched themes, like the cruel monster OCD is. But, it was a valuable (definitely vile, but valuable) experience which taught me that this monster is more complex and nasty than I once thought, but theme switching can and does occur. So, if it happens to you, remember, it is fake. False. Untrue. A lie. Whatever it tells you, don’t believe it. You’re stronger than that.
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