Thanks for sharing you story. This was meaningful to me, because I have suffered from OCD and ADHD since I was about 12 or 13. I’m 49 now, and have been on medication and in therapy for about 20 years. It’s been a long process. H ere are some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way. Maybe this can help you on your own journey.
1-The first piece of advice comes from Pete Dickinson, the excellent physical therapist associated with Uphill Athlete. Pete helped me recover from an athletic injury and surgery. He said, “Progress may not necessarily be becoming pain free, but being able to do more with a manageable level of pain.” In a similar fashion, your OCD may never go away completely, and your goal may be simply learning how to manage symptoms and live a full life. Who knows, maybe your OCD will disappear (Yey!), but probably not. So, perhaps think of this as a long winding road with many ups and downs.
2-It can be exhausting. Mentally, physically, financially. You know this. But the people around you may not know this, or understand completely, and that can be hard, especially for your closest friends and loved ones, which constitutes and added burden on you, because of what you know you are putting them through. There’s really nothing to do about this, it’s just something you need to accept, try not to beat yourself up about, and try to manage as best as possible.
3-Be prepared for people to dismiss or minimize your struggles. For example (I’m sure you’ve experienced something like this) if the topic of OCD comes up, people might say, “Oh, I’m totally OCD! I always check to see if the stove is off, or the door is locked!” It’s almost like OCD has become a buzzword for any kind of slighly-above-average conscientious or systematic behavior. Fair enough; there’s probably a spectrum. But, as I’m sure you’ll agree, OCD is much more debilitating than checking to see if the door is locked. The same is true of ADHD. It’s fashionable to dismiss ADHD as a modern diagnosis promoted by over attentive parents with unreasonable expectations who want an explanation as to why their normally energetic children won’t sit still in class and earn good grades. But, if you suffer from ADHD, you understand that it basically guides your entire life. I was only diagnosed as an adult. The diagnosis really helped me put my life in perspective, or understand some parts of my life.
It can be especially hard for others to appreciate your struggles if you are outwardly successful or normal. For example, I have a wife, a child, a job I love, good friends, a little financial stability and security, I’m a lifelong athlete, and so on. Maybe it’s the same for you. In some sense, this shows that my (or our) condition is not really that serious. After all, there are people with OCD who need constant care in an institutional setting. However, judging people on their outward appearance of success, or, more importantly, judging oneself on one’s outward appearance of success, risks minimizing the daily struggle to maintain everything, the incredible investment of time and energy, the psychic cost, to keep it running smoothly. It’s like the adage about walking a mile in somebody else’s shoes. I always wonder to myself, “What would people think, and how would they react, if they spent a minute inside my mind?” So, as above, try not to minimize your condition, and give yourself come credit for lacing up those running shoes and heading out the door every day.
Feel free to email me if you want to discuss the intricacies of OCD (firstname.lastname@example.org). I’m happy to share publicly as well if anyone is curious, but that’s not my intent here.
All the best, Bruno.