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.