OCD and Addiction

OCD is a monster. One that we feel we must constantly keep pacified out of fear that the next spike will be unbearable. My OCD is mostly gone, save a few bad days and irritating moments, but I kind of appreciate those moments because they never let me take for granted what I now have. The OCD is mostly in remission, but the habits I developed to deal with it are still around. In my desperate attempts to escape, I developed a problem with addiction, which is now the new monster I am fighting.

Drugs is a controversial topic and one I have been shying away from, but many of us know the unpleasant stigma of mental illness and I think the only way we can get rid of that is to speak the truth. I know there are many others out there struggling with their OCD and hiding their addictions, which is why I am also choosing to discuss this; because it is when we suffer alone that we truly suffer.

I began to treat myself before I knew I had OCD. I was not diagnosed until I was 21. In my teen years I developed an eating disorder. It had nothing to do with body image, but entirely about control and escaping my emotional discomfort. I think the most important thing a lot of people misunderstand about eating disorders like Anorexia and Bulimia is that they are anxiety disorders, not issues concerning low self-esteem.

I deprived myself of food to induce stomach aches which would distract me from my racing and obsessive thoughts. After it was getting out of hand, I started smoking weed. Every night, it put me to sleep, for years. Then, one fateful day in hte hospital, I was prescribed Ativan for my rapid heartbeat, which I explained was normal due to my anxiety. I started taking the drug every day because it made me feel “normal”, but I became dependent on it and the side effects were so awful I decided to get off of it. I did this safely.

I replaced Ativan with narcotics, sex, drinking and cutting. To me, it didn’t matter what the vice was, as long as it was something that changed how I felt. The one thing all these vices had in common was that they all altered my mental state, but lead me to a crash the following day.

I had gotten so used to escaping my feelings and running at the first sight of OCD or discomfort, I stopped feeling anything… anything bad, anything good. And trust me, the thought of feeling numb sounded pretty fucking good, but it wasn’t numb, it was just kinda down all the time. No joy, no color, no vibrance, just gloom.

Therapy has helped me tremendously to learn how to not only tolerate my emotions, but to accept them. I realized that my use of drugs and such was because I didn’t know any coping skills for feeling emotions, and feeling emotions was and still is scary.

Drugs still have a place in my life, like once in a great while when I am really anxious because of traveling or something, then I do take an anxiety pill, but other than that I am learning to deal with my emotions and such without self medicating.

The complication for me was that my need to compulse and need to use drugs or alcohol got intertwined (like when I cut) sometimes I felt like stopping, but my OCD brain felt like the number of times I cut was wrong, so I would cut more than I wanted to. It was weird to lose control doing what I started to do because I thought it gave me a sense of control.

The addiction monster and OCD monster can feel the same, but what I’ve discovered to help both is learning to accept myself and learning how to deal with emotions. I have also learned that when the need to cut or use comes up or the need to compulse comes up, I take a deep breath, remember what I learned in therapy like journaling, and most of the time I get through it, and the more times I get through it, the more I learn I can get through it.

If you struggle with addiction or OCD or both, you are not alone. Please seek help if you want it, because you can get through both if you want to. Stay strong.

To Keep or Dismantle My Network of Vices

I have never considered myself to have an “addictive personality”; whatever that means.  For most of my life, I could take or leave alcohol, cigarettes and food, but more recently things have looked very different to me.  I wasn’t using the classic poisons to escape my emotions, but rather self-destructive habits like starving, cutting or casual sex to get out of my conscious.   I have also noticed that when I drink alcohol, a story of regret usually follows.   I do not know if this means I would be better off avoiding my vices or just dealing with it for the time being.  After all, cutting out alcohol, sugar, sex, smoking weed and self-harm sound like a lot.  Logically, I know that I need healthy ways to cope with my emotions, but I feel addicted to my tendencies and am intimidated by the work ahead of me.  I anticipate being alone for quite a while.

One step at a time I guess.

Put the Knife Down (self harm topic – may be triggering)

i felt so much pain and if someone were to ask me what made me so sad, i dont think i couldve told them.  i didn’t really know exactly why…i just felt stressed, anxious and so sad.  “fuck it” and i went to go cut myself.  i went through all my prep and as i held the blade, i found my mind scrambling for reasons not to.  i saw the scars on my legs and though part of me wanted to add more, part of me didnt.  i always listen to the self destructive part of myself, but the next day i feel like shit and im sick of feeling this way.  i dont want to be depressed anymore.  i thought of my family and how they wouldnt want me to.  i thought of how i would soon want to wear shorts.  i thought of how my therapist told me he would never allow anyone else to hurt me and how it made him sad that i hurt myself because to him the act of harm by the self or someone else was the same.

i put the blade away and continued to cry.  i knew from therapy that this feeling would not last forever and decided i would try to tolerate it instead of harm myself.  logically i felt i might have made progress, but emotionally i felt confused.

ultimately i decided not to do it because i really want to get better.  i want to be successful in my career and my life.  i want to travel and have wonderful friends.  i want to fall in love.  i want to see the beauty in the world and feel a craving for adventure.  i know i cant have all this and harm myself too.  i cant have both because my dreams require the best of me.  they require my confidence, self love and self worth, and the self destructive coping mechanisms support none of this.

if i had gone through with it, i know it would not have meant i was a failure.  but there comes a point when a choice has to be made and i made that choice last night.  i know this means that i may cut again one day, but for the first time i proved to myself that i didn’t have to and that even though i feel wilted, there is hope.  an image i think about a lot is of a blade of grass growing through a crack of concrete.  if a little spark of life can bust through something so harsh, then i can too.

Self Harm – Sometimes Scars Are Not Worth Having

I have always felt the need to punish myself.  Even as a child in a non-practising religious family, I felt compelled to confess my sins.  Not knowing what I actually wanted was reassurance for my shamefully obsessive thoughts, I wanted justice and forgiveness for thinking the worst things ever to be thought.

It started out with food.  I would deny myself.  I would use the ache of hunger to take my mind out of the mental loops.  Even if I knew I had not done anything terrible, I still wanted to make things “right’.  I felt guilty all the time, even hearing a story on the news about something a thousand miles away.  I started piercing, over and over again.  Letting the piercing site heal and then doing it again.  I started to enjoy the pain.

Then I cut myself.  Drunk, on the floor with a blunt kitchen knife on my wrists.  I had no intention of suicide, it was just a place.  I wanted the scar.  I couldn’t stop and then my legs looked a mess.

I wear pants almost all the time now as I wait for the scars to heal; the scars I wanted as a way of proving that I had atoned.  It was not until something clicked with the help of a councilor that I realized that pain did not mean healing.  It blew my mind.  Pain did not mean healing and it was then that I did not want my scars anymore.  For the first time, I felt that I had hurt myself and that it was wrong.  I felt bad that way I would feel if someone else had hurt me.

I cant even fathom cutting myself again, until those days when I am depressed; then I feel the desire come back a little, but not even close to enough to go through with it.  I can’t accept that anymore.  It’s almost like I am two people at times.

I am now learning to respect myself and it is so challenging in some ways.  I just want to be normal.

“The OCD-Girl”: Identifying with OCD

The idea that OCD and I had this almost Jekyll and Hyde relationship defined me more than I would care to admit. Because of therapy and tending to all my health problems, my OCD is at a minimum. So much so, that I rarely see it as part of my life anymore. This was amazing; not having OCD steer my ship anymore, but it wasn’t that simple. Who was I now that my OCD was mostly gone? I had such severe OCD, that I had trouble keeping a job, few friends, and threw out stuff (opposite of hoarding). I dressed plainer than Jane, hated traveling and feared everything. Now that I was not this girl anymore, I hated my clothes, hated how I acted, hated that I had no career…It was like that movie with Val Kilmer where he plays a blind man, but gets his vision (not as extreme, but you get the idea). He was confused by shadows and mirrors and though he could see, he still lived the life of a bind person. I felt like I was still living the life of OCD and I hated it.

I am sad. At first, I felt spoiled for not being full of pure glee for my new mind, and I assumed that the adjustment period was to blame. I then realized that this sad feeling is too much. For years, I have been told I had depression and I would always deny it. For some reason, I refused to admit to it. Now that OCD is not the main issue, I feel like these other issues are coming to the surface which, though painful, is for the best.  Now I am in therapy again for the depression and continuing to work on my physical health.  That was the biggest difference for me, healing the body as a whole.

I am not the “OCD-Girl” and though it makes me a little unnerved to feel like I don’t know who I am anymore, I feel hope in knowing that I am now free to find out.