I got thinking about how to describe OCD to the lucky souls that don’t have this condition. I have had a few terrible days with it when I thought I was getting a handle on it and it’s hard to say to people “actually iiiitttttt’s back!” People try to be understanding of course but because they don’t see so much of the struggle (it’s the secret disease after all) I think we all hear the words “little” in relation to it a bit too often.
“You’re a little bit OCD”, “Are you a little bit obsessive?” Feel free to fill in the blank I’m sure we’ve all heard it and sometimes I feel like screaming there is NOTHING small about it!! In my experience it is huge, it is all encompassing, it eats my days and swallows my dreams.
SO when I was talking to someone about it I came up with an analogy. It’s my analogy of ‘Pure O’ to explain it to the lay person who hasn’t been down that dark road and so I told them that OCD is a bit like chicken pox (bear with me). At first I was a bit baffled about where I was going with this but suddenly it started to kind of work. After all people love a comparison with physical illness – they can get their heads around that one.
So here it is, my ‘Pure O’ is like having chicken pox.
Remember having chicken pox and how consuming that terrible itch was? Well that’s my thoughts, they’re the itch. They’re all I can think about, every hour of the day and it takes over the whole of me. I’m constantly examining the spots, wondering what I can do about them. You know you shouldn’t scratch but yet it’s all you want to do.
Well meaning people tell you to “just not think about it” and so you dutifully try. Surely it can’t be that hard to be restrained? To not scratch at them until they bleed and you’re in misery? After all that’s in your best interests so why wouldn’t you do it? No one wants to suffer. And yes that works for a while, but the itch is still there as a dull ache and eventually when you’re not expecting it, it rears its head and in fact it seems to feel worse, causing a feeling of such acute distress and helplessness – it’s all you can think about again until you’re practically screaming in pain…
And so you have a good old scratch, you allow yourself to really immerse yourself in it until you’re sighing with relief convinced that you’ve solved it, got rid of it for good. You smile thinking that you know best after all and perhaps those people with their ideas and solutions to make it better, well they’re well meaning but what do they know after all? Satisfied you start to cautiously go about your business but then slowly, surely (sometimes quickly, rapidly) the itch is back, taunting you, telling you that you need to attend to it, something needs to be done….
You think that sleep might help, it will be soothing, surely it will get rid of some of the pain for a while. But even in your dreams the itch is there, a shadowy figure giving your sleep a restless and agitated quality.
When morning comes, you’re starting to feel a little desperate and you feel like you’re going to have chicken pox for ever, nothing seems to be making it better and you feel scared, swathed in a blanket of terror. You start asking family and friends, what do they think of your itch? Can they help? In your mind a good in depth conversation about your spots is going to be fascinating for all concerned. But really you’re only going to be comfortable with exceptionally good friends or family seeing your spots up that close and so you start trying to cover them up, presenting a front to the rest of humanity of normality – nothing to see here!
It is unbearably painful, isolating and frightening, nothing small about it whatsoever.
So how about you? Does that make sense to you or was it just a crazy blog post about chicken pox…What would your analogy be? How would you describe your OCD to those who don’t have it? I’d love to hear any ideas 🙂