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11.12.16

I Feel Free: How I Dealt with OCD




I finally feel free. I never thought I'd say that. I never thought I'd have a day again where my brain wouldn't force me to do certain things at certain times or to feel a certain way, or to be overcome by panic or fear because of something so minor, other people would think I was mad. I just never thought it was going to happen.

I'm an incredibly strong person, I know that. However, that doesn't mean that I'm not allowed to have weaknesses and boy oh boy, do I have a bunch of them.

Now, I know I talk a hell of a lot about Mental Health and the things I'm going through. I've touched on Eating Disorders and talked a vast amount about Depression and Anxiety, but one of the illnesses I suffer from, that I tend to keep incredibly quiet, is OCD.

OCD is something that I never imagined that I would be dealing with. For years I just thought OCD meant that you wanted to frantically clean your apartment from top to bottom, six times over, like Monica off friends or something. Dear God, was I wrong. OCD is one of the most horrific and consuming mental illnesses and has caused me so so much change in my life and the people's lives who are around me. Don't get me wrong, all of my illness combined have obviously been a huge source of my problems, but OCD is definitely one of the ones which likes to lead it all.



Let me take you back to about the middle of 2014, which is where I would say this all began.

I've always been a very organised person. I've always been very punctual and hated being late or even 'just on time'. I like to be early and ready for things.

I remember that I was in my last year of high school, so Year 11 is what we call it here in the UK. I would come home from school, get changed, watch TV etc etc, just like any other teenager I guess. But when I started to develop my eating disorders, that's when the routine began to become obsessive and things began to get out of control (or into the control of my mental illnesses if you like). I began rushing my way home, speed walking so that I would get back to my house before 3:30pm. I'd began to focus entirely on the clock and for some reason, I will never know why, specific times of day began to become more and more increasingly important to me. Anyway, considering it takes me about 20 minutes to walk to the high school, this was pretty optimistic. I only got to leave the class room at 3:00pm, before having to battle through a sea of teenagers and make a long winded journey to my locker on the other side of the school. I'd often get filled with panic if it reached 3:15pm and I was still about a ten minute walk from home. My heart would race and I'd feel overwhelmingly anxious, wanting the people I was walking with to hurry up, but also trying not to let them see the panic inside of me.

The reason I would rush home is because I'd instantly get through the door and I'd began dedicating that time after school to exercising. Of course, this made sense, because I was slowly but surely becoming Anorexic. I wanted to fit in as much exercise as I could before 4:30pm (the time in which my brain told me that 'the time for exercise' was up), which is when I'd then sit and watch an episode of my favourite programme, Friends. Yes, I'd become so obsessed with this routine that I even dedicated time for a TV programme.

In my house, my Mum would usually cook our tea before my Dad got home from work later in the evening, so that she could get us fed and everything before he got back. I'd been used to eating my tea (dinner, what ever you want to call it... I call it tea haha) at around 5/5:30pm all of my life and so, as you can probably guess, I'd then dedicated that time after watching an episode of Friends, to eating food. However, I'd only allow myself to begin eating at 5:00pm on the dot. Not a moment before, not a moment after, it had to be 5:00pm. I'd often begin to panic if I missed the 5:00pm mark and it was suddenly 5:01pm - it felt like the world was going to end.
After eating, I would force myself to sit still, in one place, for at least an hour, because I'd read somewhere on this crazy place we call the internet, that moving after eating made you fat (just FYI, this isn't true in any way). So, I'd sit and sit and sit and I'd barely move a muscle.



This routine went on and on and on, and it gradually began to consume my life more and more and more. I began not letting my Mum cook food for me so that 1. I could control what I was eating (again, that's the Anorexia for you) and 2. I could ensure that I would have the food ready and waiting for me to eat it at 5:00pm on the dot (like I said, I always like to be early and ready for things). Doesn't that sound like fun? lol, nopeeeee, it doesn't, does it?

As the months passed and I left school and headed to College, I began to become more and more unwell. This crazy routine that I'd created for myself after school oh so long ago, had now stemmed into something that consumed my entire day. It consumed every single thought that I had. It made me feel numb.

Gradually, my OCD developed and, of course, so did my Anorexia, my Depression and my Anxiety. They all molded into one big illness that had grabbed a hold of me and wouldn't let me go.

I began to make myself to wake up, every day, at 4:30am. This was so that I could drink 4 pint glasses of water and make myself a measly bowl of porridge without any of my family seeing or 'judging' me. I wanted to just be alone and for no one to see all of my weird habits or notice me doing 'disordered' things. (Of course, forcing yourself to wake up at 4:30am is pretty disordered... so I think they noticed haha).

College is something that really caused me to realise what I was dealing with here. I was miles away from home at College, not just a 20 minute walk round the corner from school. I couldn't speed walk home or make it back before 3:30pm. I was still at college at 4:00pm. It caused me to have probably one of the biggest breakdowns I've ever had (and I've had several lol). I'd be trapped on a double decker bus full of students, feeling like I wanted to cry, almost every single day, because more than 90% of the time, that said double decker bus would be stuck in rush hour traffic and my OCD would be screaming at me in my head because this 'sacred routine' of mine was entirely out of sync.

It got to a point where I'd be having panic attacks in the canteen just from thinking about it and I'd be getting my Mum to come and pick me up early so that I could be home in time and not have to go through the trauma. Eventually, I couldn't even bring myself to get on the bus in the morning. The idea of not being in control or able to escape just made me freeze up from fear inside.

It really has become one big blur to me now, but I vividly remember one morning where I broke down after pacing the floor in my bedroom for a good 2 hours, trying to convince myself I'd be okay to get on that bus and go to College and that I could get through it. I couldn't get through it. I could barely convince myself to walk out of my front door, never mind be trapped at college miles away from the comfort of my own home.
I sat on the end of my bed with my Dad and cried. I cried so so hard, and yet it was weird because I still felt absolutely nothing. I felt so in control of my life and yet I was sooooo out of control. I was confused and stressed and constantly anxious. I'd lost any form of freedom that I'd ever had. My brain was filled with numbers. Nothing but numbers and the thought of the next time I would allow myself to eat. That's all I could think about it.



My OCD began with some little routine after school one day that I began to repeat and repeat and repeat and it turned into this huge obsession with time. I wanted to control all the time. I controlled the times I ate, the times I slept; everything in my life had a specific timing. I never realized how free I was before I became consumed by the time that was on the clock.

OCD had such a huge effect on my relationships with people and how I spent my time: I could no longer just spontaneously go out with my friends or have a lie in on the weekends. I had to drop out of college and that meant not seeing my friends every day, and my family had to start accommodating for my controlling habits or else I'd have breakdowns and panic attacks stood in the middle of the kitchen because it was 5:02pm or some stupid other reason. It caused me to drift from my friends, missing out on fun nights and days out and it caused me to lose the time I used to spend with my parents in the morning or in the evening. It caused me to cry and to scream because I wouldn't be home in time to do a specific thing that my brain wanted me to. It became absolute madness. Nothing about my life was 'free' anymore. Everything I did was controlled.


Now this isn't actually a post about me being 'cured from OCD' or something, because to be honest, I think there's always going to be a little part of me that needs that control. That's what mental illnesses can do to you and I'll be frank, it's something that is sooo tough to just be 'cured' from. This post is more about me beginning to let go and take back the freedom that I've not well and truly had for the past 2 years.

Don't get me wrong, I've made soo much progress over the past few years - I honestly don't know how I managed it. I just had to start telling myself that my compulsions were irrational - that my compulsions weren't going to control me and that other people's lives weren't controlled by a clock, so why should mine be? I've made loads of these little changes - things that other people wouldn't even notice - and they've just slowly but surely, made loads of those irrational compulsions disappear. However, there are obviously bigger changes that need to be made to fight those bigger and tougher compulsions.

Since about June this year, I've been contemplating the idea of changing (and by that, I mean bigger, more 'life changing' changes). Because, yes, until recently, I was still waking up at 4:30am and isolating myself an incredible amount from the people I love. I've still been letting OCD stop me from hanging out with my friends or spending time with my family and it's not something I want anymore. I've spent the past 6 months telling myself, 'I'll change tommorow. Tomorrow I'll wake up later. Tomorrow I'll do it.' But, let me tell you guys, it's is f*cking terrifying; change is an absolutely terrifying thing. I kept chickening out. I kept fearing all these irrational things that could happen if I changed things (all completely ridiculous and very unlikely to happen, but you know, I've got a wild imagination)Until, one day, I just really had to say 'fuck it' and I did it. I woke up at 7:00am and I felt sooooooo immensely proud of myself that I cried whilst looking at the clock and just staring at that time, '7:00am' (I never thought I'd write such an emotional sentence about a clock). It felt so amazing to not see the numbers '4:30am' and to not feel compelled to panic. I felt relaxed, free and 'normal' for the first morning in the past 2 years and it was bloomin' wonderful.

This isn't to say that I'm completely free from everything now, and that I don't still like to do somethings at specific times, because I do. It's just become 'routine' to me in my day-to-day life, but for me to break one of the most inconvenient and difficult parts of my OCD, that to me signifies sooo much change and growth.
It's weird because although, yes, I do sometimes feel like I've got to do something at a specific time, I can also tell myself that it's okay not to have done that at that time, or to even do it at all. I am now actually in control of what I do and it feels so good. I feel like a huge weight has been lifted and like I'm really finally 'okay' again.

I'm at such an amazing point in my life right now. I feel soooo happy. I feel so content. I feel so free from worry and obsession and it's just amazing. I can't even describe it.

So, let me tell you. If you're suffering from OCD, or any other mental illness for that matter, and right now, you feel consumed and like you can't breathe, please keep going because one day, you're going to have that moment, like I did, where you finally feel like you can take a deep breathe again and like everything is going to be fine.

It's taken a lot of guts for me to write this post. My OCD is something that I honestly feel pretty ashamed of and one of the things that, I feel like, would make people think I'm absolutely insane, but I finally feel okay to open up about it. Yes, you might be reading this and be thinking that I'm a total nut case and you can't comprehend what I went through at all - but that's okay, because someone out there will and that's the whole point.
It's okay to be dealing with things and it's okay to talk about them. I hope that someone out there reads this and it makes them feel a little less like there's no way out or like they're not the only one with some weird ass habits that other people might not get. We're all a little bit irrational sometimes but I just want to show that if you feel like you'll never have a single rational thought again, you will.

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6 comments:

  1. So Brave. Amazing post, keep going gorgeous you are fab X

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  2. This is such a brave post. I don't know you but somehow I feel proud of you, so thank you for talking about this. I've only recently been diagnosed with a mental illness and right now I feel like I'm drowning with no way to come back up. I'm just hoping it will get better some day and I'll be able to feel like myself again. This post was comforting to read, so thank you Holly for making my day a little less horrible x

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    1. Thank you so much Evie - I'm so glad that you found comfort in this! I hope you're okay xxxx

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  3. This was a really eye-openng post for me. I've suffered anorexia, depression and anxiety for years but never considered I had OCD but I relate totally to what you've written. I feel I need to get up at the same time every day, drink coffee at particular times, eat at certain times, do particular things before I can go to sleep. I've turned down invitations for days/nights out just because my routine will be upset... I'm now going to read up more on OCD (I really thought OCD was things like washing your hands five times in a row not what I was going through) and maybe try and break a few rituals like you have done. So glad you shared your story, which I know can't have been easy. Love Aimee xxx
    - By the way you look stunning in that red dress Holly :-)

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    1. Hi Aimee, OCD is never something I considered either. In fact, the first time I was told that that's what I could be dealing with I chose to completely ignore it. I thought it was just an 'anorexic' thing or something. I think it's definitely a good idea to read up about it and try and see if there are small things you can start to change. I'm so glad that you found comfort in this post. Thank you so much! xxxx

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