I think everyone’s experience with OCD is different. I have had quite a few years of CBT therapy to help enable me to stop doing some of these behaviours. In Lincolnshire you can contact the steps to change team and they can start you on this journey, especially if the root of the behaviour is an increase in anxiety/emotions.
Speaking from reflection on old experiences.
I have always had to do things in patterns, I say have to as if I missed the pattern or it wasn’t right, I would get panicky or a full on frustration headache, like I would have a headache and feel annoyed.
To give an example, my earliest memory of the behaviour was in secondary school, I would be walking to the bus stop. At the bus stop I would check for my key items and count them 1,2,3,4,5. Phone, house keys, purse, locker keys and bus pass. As soon as I got on the bus the same. When I sat in my same seat as every day the same, when I got off the bus and walked 4 steps the same, when I got through the main gate of the school and 4 steps the same saying out loud each time 1,2,3,4,5. When inside the school door and 4 steps the same. To my locker counting them in 1,2,3,4,5. Then I would have to open the locker door 4 times and count the items 5 times, when counting the 4th item (locker key) I know it didn’t go in the locker, but it was still an important item. If one was ‘lost’ ie not in view my panic would set in. yes, I was bullied for this behaviour and laughed at but the impulse to do it was huge.
I would check my pocket for the locker key 4 times, by tapping my pocket, and this would be once I walked to each lesson. That was secondary school.
I was 14, when my eating disorder took full control of my life too, I was late 15 early 16 when I first received treatment for it in the outpatients.
It was in college that the CBT had started and the eating disorder recovery journey truly started. I would have to still check my belongings often, but I managed to control it to 4 times a day. Like key times, first thing at college, break, lunch and home. I also tried to make it look more ‘normal’ so chose these times.
At home, I would turn the light switch on and off 4 times in my bedroom when first entering or leaving. I would try and hold the impulses in when around the house but would often feel frustrated.
When I had my first flat, I was very obsessed over it being clean and people being in the flat before me. I would have to bleach absolutely every inch of the house. I had set rules about what clothes could be worn on different chairs. So, for example ‘no outdoor clothes’ (things you’ve been in the shops to) on the chairs. I felt I could feel my hands tingling when touching things like this. This is something that I have always found hard to let go of. Yet I have had dogs all my life, they come up on the sofa and they don’t change their coats beforehand. I knew some of this behaviour had no logical sense to it, but the impulse does feel this way completely outweighed the logic.
After my then boyfriend (now husband) moved into my flat and when I’d left the therapy behind I felt control over the OCD behaviour. I was able to just flick a light switch and only check for items as and when needed. I felt settled, but also had the support from someone understanding. I would have to unplug everything but the boiler and take pictures of it in order to leave the flat. This is something that used to drive him up the wall.
During lockdowns and the loss of my dog. The behaviour escalated again, we’d brought our first home and I found everything and the changes too much. I felt the need to unplug things, check things 4 times, take photos of everything, walk backwards and forwards to my car 4 times. I was late to work one of the days. I knew that things were getting out of hand so I rang the GP and steps to change for support.
Now after some support, I have been able to ‘relax’ the impulses again. I can leave without unplugging everything, go places without checking for items, I can not have to be clean all of the time and I can sometimes go out without taking pictures of the inside of my house.
I still don’t like outdoor clothes on the sofa, if it is a ‘stressful’ day I will take photos of my house and I will count to 4 when touching the door handle when leaving the house. Front and back.
I have the same weekly routines, same/similar weekend plans, I will reluctantly change things in my life. But that’s me.
OCD like an eating disorder is a recovery journey to find a way of coping and learning your triggers to this behaviour to enable you to get support. Just like in an eating disorder journey there are ups and downs, I felt like I was doing well then, my OCD score trebled in lockdown and has now relaxed again. The thing is, I knew what behaviours I needed to look out for and get support.
OCD is ok, you can live with it and quiet the impulses down. Give yourself a gift this Christmas and ask for some help with it.