Danny Bowman – The Reality of Growing Up and Living with OCD

Anyone who has experienced Obsessional Compulsive Disorder, whether they are a directly suffering from the illness, or a family member or friend witnessing the condition will know of how debilitating and cruel it is. After interviewing the brilliant Johnny Mercer MP last year, I felt inspired to dispel some of the myths associated with OCD and tell the trauma’s it can bring into a sufferers life.

As an OCD sufferer you are constantly negotiating the terms of some ritualistic deal with the aim of stopping some dreadful reality from happening. You find yourself manoeuvring through the obstacles and traps lay bare by the illness.

The consistent misrepresentation of this condition should concern everyone –  people often believe it to be about being overly tidy and clean, or as one of my secondary school teachers dismissed it as something “half my staff suffer from”.

As a young boy I would find myself in deep, crucial and tense negotiations with my OCD. The constant battle that would commence between myself and my OCD, debating on whether the ritual I had to do would be running around the field in front of my house repeatedly until it felt right or standing on the spot for an hour, unable to move until the hour was up.

I knew that both options in front of me were bad, both painful and both going to make me weaker than I was prior to doing this self-inflicted punishment, but what would you do if you experienced threats of this nature?

I would try desperately to negotiate a slightly less harmful and aching ritual that would at least hurt a little less than the other. I sometimes was successful in negotiating the less painful act, giving me a much-needed win over OCD. Although, that feeling of a win was short lived, and as quick as I sat down the thoughts would be back, increasingly disturbing, overwhelmingly debilitating and crushing my spirit further.

Every Minute, Every Hour, Every Day

I understand it is hard for an individual who has not experienced OCD to really comprehend the harmful and destructive nature of this illness. I would find it hard too, if I hadn’t experienced the condition for as long as I have.

It’s hard to imagine the amount of time wasted on the thoughts catapulting through your mind. Think of a thought you get, but instead of discarding it you hold onto it and scrutinise it for hours or even days.

The nature of OCD is that even if you want a moment of peace, or a break from your mind, you can’t, because the threats imposed on you are too vicious, too scary and require a quick response.

As someone who has experienced OCD I found the time commitment the hardest. The constant burden of having to do embarrassing rituals to counteract something terrible happening to my family or friends, spending minutes, hours and sometimes even days mulling over and negotiating with my own brain. The sense of responsibility that OCD imposes on you can make you do some illogical things, like stand on a spot for an hour, drop a rugby ball on the try line or even not speak to a family member for years.

The pressures of OCD don’t stop when you want to go to bed, OCD will try to interfere, telling you you’re not working hard enough. It’s a full-time job!

The Personalised Nature of OCD

Most people who have experienced the illness will talk about how personalised it is as one of the hardest things to deal with.

It’s hard to escape the personalised nature of OCD in everything you do. When I was younger I would kick rugby drop goals at my local football field for hours, not because I wanted to, but because I had to get every single one of the ten kicks over. I couldn’t leave until every single one flew over the posts and it didn’t matter that my leg was starting to hurt, or my energy was draining out of me, I had to do this. When I used to go for a run and my OCD would tell me unless I pushed myself to the limit, till my legs were aching and my heart was pounding uncontrollably.

A more direct personalisation could be a focus on a family member which can be horrific. You want to protect your family, make sure they are safe, and OCD knows that about you.

The Happy Part

The reality is OCD is not compulsory, you can recover from the condition, even if OCD makes you think otherwise. Sometimes a person suffering from the condition can feel like their life without OCD would be unsafe, out of control and lacking any meaning. It is simply false.

Being free of the constraints of OCD is a breath of fresh air, not having to spend hours of rituals opens new possibilities, increasing energy and the ability to forge your own path. The reality is that OCD limits choices and takes away the pleasures of daily life.

It created a hostile environment and an unhealthy relationship with my own brain.I became trapped in a constant cycle of negotiation without any real answers. The simple solutions posed by OCD was not logical, neither did it produce the riches it promised. I eventually realised how good my life was before OCD and how much control, time and choice I could have without it.

If you are suffering from OCD, get help and don’t be afraid to allow the thoughts in your head to just pass. People with OCD can go onto achieve incredible things as shown in cases like Johnny Mercer.

For more information about OCD check out https://www.ocdaction.org.uk/ or visit https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/

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