When I first developed the symptoms of OCD I was about three years old. Little things would bother me such as tags or flawed seams on stuffed animals or making sure a door was locked 3 to 4 times even though I knew I'd just locked it. I was raised in a conservative home and taught to stay clear of modern day psycology because I was told that most forms of mental illness are just labels for spiritual problems and sin. As a result I grew up ignorant to things pertaining to psycology and I never thought anything was abnormal about myself or those "quirks" which I grew out of with age. Although I'd heard of "OCD" I hadn't really known what it was (just constant hand washing and color coordinarion) and I never thought I'd had it because these "quirks" had passed.
If I had anymore OCD-like quirks I didn't know it, and don't remember them, but when I turned 15 everything changed. I suddenly began having unwanted thoughts that scared me. I couldn't understand "why in the world I was thinking such a thing. (Aka, "Intrusive thoughts.") These thoughts would disturb me and I hated them, knew they weren't so, and yet I couldn't push them out of my mind. The more I tried to push them away and reason them out, the stronger they became...until one day my mom found me crying because I'd convinced myself that I was some kind of demented psyco. I'd convinced myself that because I was having these thoughts....they must be so, and I must be mad. At the time my mom was able to console me, although I never did tell her exactly what these thoughts were.
Gradually and after at least 6 months of fighting uselessly with my own brain, these thoughts crossed my mind less frequently, although every now and again I would go into a bad relapse for about a day to a week. As a result of thoughts like this, whenever I would have them I would withdraw from situations in which I would be forced to "face the thoughts" or where there would be any chance of them resurfacing to the forefront due to what are often called "triggers." Certain situations, objects, or things that trigger unwanted thoughts. I still believed it had to be my fault even though I had no control over them. Although I never had any outward and physical "compulsions," I believe that my over thinking is a form of a compulsion due to the fact that I attempt to rid myself of these irrational thoughts. It then becomes a vicious cycle.
I've been able to push those thoughts to the back of my mind for about 4 years. And though the last three years have been very stressful for me due to other situations, in the midst of the chaos I found my best friend and the man of my dreams, who's now my husband. The situation with my husband was different from the start and part of those "rough and stressful" three years due to the fact that we'd ended our relationship due to other people's pressure the unusual-ness of the relationship. I won't go into detail about all that. I lived a year without him and neither of us could take it anymore. We were so in love it was crazy. I wound up having a friend talk me through that next couple months until he and I married. Idk exactly what changed in my friend that coaxed me through it all, but he started saying that I wasn't really in love with this man. I knew it was rediculous because I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I genuinely loved this man.
During this three month period I developed severe anxiety. I'd been living depression and moderate anxiety for a long time and I'd known that, but never saw a need for treatment. But during this three month period my anxiety was through the roof. I was constantly afraid of something happening to my boyfriend/death/car accident etc. (due to threats that were made) And I was constantly worried that someone would talk him out of marrying me. This anxiety was near constant due to the situation but it keyed back whenever I was talking to him. However, if I didn't hear from him by a certain time, (after work or after church) I would go into absolute panic and would immediately jump to the worst conclusions. He didn't know it, but I was under more stress than I could handle... combined with the added stress of constant fighting with my family because I wanted to marry him. Every time I would have an anxiety spike, I would get a massive headache. He and I had been doing long distance covertly to avoid conflict. He told me one week that he'd have a date for our marriage picked out by the end of the week. I was ecstatic because that meant I'd finally be with him (which was my dream come true) and that the war was almost over with my family in my mind
I'd asked him mid- week if he'd made any progress with a date and he began talking about postponing our marriage on the basis of something that wasn't even a sure thing which could have postponed our marriage for years. I was hurt, because he'd made me a promise and I'd put my trust in it. I'd been so happy. I didn't tell him I was angry but argued with him about it. He tried to reason with me and passify me, but I was pissed. I was tired. In those moments I didn't want to fight for anything anymore. I felt like throwing in the towel. In a moment of anger I'd had the thought, "If he does this, I'm breaking up with him. We only have so much time" But then the thought crossed my mind, "if you really love him, you'll do whatever it takes." At that moment he made me promise that no matter what happened, no matter how long it took, I wouldn't give up on him. It was like he'd read my mind....which he does a lot. We're synced, we've been synced. Later that day I apologized to him for getting so upset but it bothered me that I'd even thought of leaving him. If I really loved him, I shouldn't have felt that way. I knew this wasn't rational but for whatever reason "What if I don't love him?" was morphing into "one of those thoughts" that wouldn't go away and would crop up just when I was feeling happy again.
I managed to push it to the back of my mind until one night midweek when talking to my other friend. Once again, out of the blue, that friend suggested I really didn't love him and didn't know what love was. This time, it alarmed me. I knew I loved my boyfriend and that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him, but for whatever reason, my brain felt the need to do an analysis on every single motive and feeing I had. "What if I don't love him?" "But I do love him, this is stupid." "But if I love him I wouldn't be thinking this...this never bothered me before." "How do I know I love him?" "Because I love him, he's my best friend, and he's everything I've ever wanted." This gave me an incredible amount of anxiety and the more I wrestled the worse it became. I wanted to be fair to my boyfriend and I couldn't go into a marriage unsure of my feelings. Although I knew I loved him I felt guilty because of my thoughts. My boyfriend bought my ring that week, and I was officially engaged, but my anxiety worsened. I had to get to the bottom of it all and I could. Not. Shake. Those. Thoughts. It was as if "I thought, therefore I was," but inwardly I knew better. This was when I realized a pattern between the thought process when I was 15 and the thought process I was having now...It was the same. Those thoughts I'd had then haunted me, but they'd never amounted to anything. Despite this knowledge and admission, I couldn't get passed it.
This was when I began having a form of "compulsion." I began looking to my feelings when I was talking to my boyfriend, when I was reading quotes, or when I was saying "I love you" to see if I really meant it and felt it. I did, but the infatuation stage of our relationship had ended and it was no longer built on fantasy and endorphins, but on reality between two humans. At first this added an insane amount of anxiety to my mind because I realized I wasn't gettIng that same "love high" I'd had at the start of our relationship but after reading some things online, I found it was perfectly normal. And despite this, the thoughts still plagued me. One thing was certain. I knew I didn't want to live without him and I knew I adored him and wanted nothing more than to be with him. Our relationship was near perfect....except for an age gap. But I didn't care and when the time came, I'd care for him. Id decided long ago that I loved him for him...his personality. Then even his looks became attractive to me. The thought of losing him shook me to my core. What was scary was that my anxiety seemed to be blocking out my true feelings and that the more I looked for feelings, the less I found them. I was in absolute turmoil. My husband had picked out a date (he decided against waiting) for our marriage and the closer it came the more anxious I was due to the fact that I hadn't come to a resolution in my mind. The more I looked, the worse it became. I never talked to my husband about it because I didn't know how to explain it, and I was afraid this was something that could do damage because I think it's hard for people who don't suffer with it to understand.
Finally I began looking online for some kind of answer. I became more alarmed as I researched, until I came across an article written by woman with severe anxiety who had the same. Exact. Problem. She almost destroyed her relationship of three years, but after getting psychiatric help was able to come to a resolution. After reading this article I literally was in tears of joy and relief. I wasn't alone and there was hope. I did love my boyfriend, and it wasn't our relationship. With this knowledge, I was able to push past the thoughts for about a week and a half. But one day I thought "wow, I'm feeling a lot better" and as soon as I thought about how I wasn't worrying, it all came flooding back. I went back and read that article, and it helped for a time, but it was if my brain was becoming immune to it's help. I confided my anxiety (without this much detail) to my friend who said it was perfectly normal to have pre-wedding jitters. My husband told me the same thing because he could sense my worry. Some of it could be attributed to that, but I knew better.
Once again I turned to the web and stumbled across something called "ROCD" (Relationship Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.) It didn't click that this had to do with OCD until I began researching it. Bang! It was exactly what my problem was...I began reading testimonials and sat there in shock that there were so many people who struggled with my exact problem and it wasn't my fault...I began reading about OCD and intrusive thoughts and realized that's what I'd struggled with all throughout my teenage years. I had OCD and ROCD. This whole problem was the result of an actual mental illness? I didn't want to call it that because after reading about it, I felt it was just a badly ingrained thought process that could be changed over time through CBD. The thoughts were called "intrusive thoughts" and they fed on overthinking and reassurance; they could be triggered by certain things too. Which was what I noticed. The only way to get past them was to accept that you had the thought. When I realized what this was, it helped me immensely. The majority of my anxiety about "whether I loved him or not" went away, although it could still crop up at any time. When I stopped worrying about the thoughts and started being happy, I was happy. I never told my husband about this, but I did tell my mom who apparently struggled with the same thing when she was younger. I did discover that I had the pre-wedding jitters too, although the thoughts never totally went away. My boyfriend and I married and I'm so glad I married him. It was amazing but as soon as we married and since we've been married my headaches totally stopped. I lived with migraines for years...and they're gone.
Off and on I still have these thoughts even though I know Iove my husband immensely and want to spend the rest of my life with him. One thing I've realized is that when I focus on positive things and ignore the thoughts as they come and quit worrying about them and trying to rationalize them out, they fade away to the back of my mind and I can enjoy myself. But some days are worse than others, and the thoughts seem to jump from one thing to another. Last week, I had a good week and I told myself, "remember what you feel like anxiety free, because that's where your heart's really at."
But every other week is a bad relapse and my ROCD thrives between two subjects...my love for him, and his age (which doesn't bother me at all and never did.) Recently the theme has been, "what if I stop loving him when he gets old?"
"I'll love him the same as I do now...and if need be I'll care for him."
"Well what if you'll be missing out."
"I'm not. I don't want anyone else. He's my best friend. I fell in love with who he was, not what he looked like to begin with."
"See look, you can kind of see his aging already. Do you still love him."
"Yes, it makes me sad that he's going to age before I will, but we've got a good amount of time together, and we'll make the best of it." Then I start automatically calculating how many "good years" we have together and trying to picture what he'll look like. Brain goes "are you sure you'll love him? Are you sure you'll stay with him when he's old?" And I go round and round between that and whether I love him or not (which I know I do.) I think it's also Partner Related OCD. Also "how do you know it's OCD." THAT RIGHT THERE. When I do get out of a relapse I'm more than happy and I KNOW I love my husband and I'm unconcerned about the age gap. "We'll cross that bridge when we get to it, I'll still love him, and it will all be okay." I've made mental notes of that
I don't want to hear arguments against agegaps, because I've already made my choice and I know what I want. I've been happier than I've been in a long time since I married him, but I want to know how to stop ROCD. I know rationalizing doesn't work...but how can I be happy if I keep having these thoughts? How can I overcome it? Will I have to deal with this crap for the rest of my life? It's draining.
I've had OCD all my life but never heard of ROCD. I just Googled it and the treatment is more or less the same as severe OCD, a psychoterapist who specializes in CBT.
I don't think you'll be able to sort this on your own. As you say, rationailizing doesn't work, or it may do for a short while before it 'wears off' and you're back to square one. I think what you're suffering from really needs analysis by a professional and you should seek professional help. There's absolutely nothing wrong with admitting you may have a mental 'instability'. Otherwise therapists wouldn't exist and you'd find yourself in an asylum.
In the UK, most major GP practises have a resident CBT therapist. I didn't really know what they did until I just read a few things on Google about ROCD. I guess because you've also researched ROCD you know what CBT means.
My OCD started when I was about 11 brought on from starting high school. It started off with crossing out handwriting, because it didn't look right. Eventually I was crossing out lines of the same word before teacher stopped me. It was only 22 years ago but even then there was no support, I just got detention a lot for it and letters sent home. That stopped after just a few months but I started on the light switches and developed a weird thing in my throat, where I had to like make a "ugh" sound so many times. Or force breath out so many times, until I could go to sleep. It drove me crazy, I thought I was a proper weirdo. Anything powered by electricity had to be turned on and off so many times, I sharpened already sharp pencils until they were destroyed and couldn't be used. I never did suffer with hand washing.
I stopped because I stopped myself. It was torture to get into bed only having turned the light on and off twice. I'd leave the TV on, so I wouldn't keep turning it off. It took months but it stopped to a degree. Ever since, to this day, it comes back when I'm tired and stressed, but not so bad. I check door locks several times and I have to double check any electrical switches are in the off position even though I know they are. I have roller blinds on every window so I don't keep checking curtains are closed and I hate labels. Cutlery has to be in the right position on the hanger, coffee mugs have to be facing the same way, I've stopped making sure tins all have labels facing forward (in fact when I'm on a good day I turn a label the other way to laugh in the face of OCD). Taps can't be dripping, bed sheet can't have wrinkles, laundry has to be hung specifically, and other stuff.
But I've made it part of my life, otherwise I'd just be stressing over having it in my life. I probably could go and see the CBT specialist at my GP pactise, now I know they treat this kind of thing. But when I'm tired, I obsess over the obsessing. I have to force my mind to change the subject, I have my own distraction techniques - usually YouTube Fail videos to put me in a better frame of mind, or half an hour playing an xbox game. I avoid the kitchen, I'd be in there all night! I know ROCD is different but with a strong willpower, I imagine that can be managed too. It's knowing how to distract yourself when those thoughts start up. As someone who's suffered a few mental 'illnesses', I will freely admit that it is all in your mind. It's simply how your mind deals with anxieties and stresses of daily life.
I do believe it is genetic. My father suffers from anxiety as did his father. My 3 year old daughter has crazy levels of OCD for her age - things have to be put back, she hates labels, nothing can be out of place or she won't rest. I let her do what she has to do, because I remember how it felt to think it was abnormal and I remember how it felt to not be able to rest until it's done. Eventually, I may need to have her seen to, because I've noticed she doesn't get certain toys out because she will have to put them all back again before she can move on to the next thing.
I'm rambling now, but I just wanted to let you see that it's not abnormal to have mental instabilities. Everyone is built differently, everyone's mind works differently. If you can't see a way to help yourself, if you don't feel your willpower is strong enough to say a big NO to those thoughts you get, go and see someone professionally. They're there to help, they won't think any differently of you, maybe respect you all the more for seeking help.
You don't mention if you go to a support group or to counseling. Please consider it. You have found others have the same issue as you do. A support group would help you out.
In the meantime - Live One day at a time.
It does no good to think about tomorrow - it's not here and it's not ours yet.