OCDiaries: The Up-Downsides of Diagnosis
Before we go the fuck anywhere with this, I just want to yell loudly about the fact that my debut novel is out in THREE DAYS and you can still get it at a pre-release discount till then right here – it’s about rape, sexual dysfunction, misogyny, and harassment, so it’s all round a bundle of laughs. Just like these articles! See, I tied it in.
So, obviously, I’m mental. Which I have somewhat always known, of course. But it wasn’t until a few months ago that I actually got a name and a description of what was wrong with me.
I think most people believe, to some extent or another, that the way their brain works…well, works. And there are two strange opposing sides of my train of thought: one that tells me that I am normal, that the way I have experienced life for the last twenty-four years is average, that my brain function is just The Way Things Are. And the other that recognises, and has always to some extent recognised, that it isn’t.
Getting diagnosed with a long-term mental health problem has been a very strange experience for me, and, from what I’ve gathered from my interactions with fellow not-sanes, I’m not alone in that. Because my immediate reaction to finding out this about myself was that there was something profoundly wrong with me, because if it was right, it wouldn’t be called Obsessive Compulsive Disorder now, would it? It felt isolating and a little overwhelming initially to realize that there was something wrong with my brain that I struggled to put into words, and that would probably last for most of my life.
All those logical paths that my brain had created to make sure the entire world didn’t dissapear into a black hole of my own anxiety just aren’t correct. They make no sense. And, while I always sort of understood that counting to nine over and over again, and having to block the word “cancer” from my online searches because even looking at it would curse me to die of it within ten days like the fucking video from Ringu, it’s something of a shock to know that yes, your brain isn’t standard-issue at all. Sometimes, when I’m talking about my stuff with people, I see that brief “oh, that’s some full-on wild shit” flash pass over their face. It doesn’t bother me like it used to, but it’s still a surprise to remember that no, this isn’t how it works for everyone.
But, in other ways, getting diagnosed has been the biggest relief of my life. One of the characteristics of OCD is intrusive thoughts, often of terrible, horrible things (this description is a good place to start, if you’re not acquainted with them), and for the longest time I believed that the constant crush of hideous images in my head were proof of my own inherent immorality and badness. Do you know the relief of finding out that they were symptoms of an illness? That I wasn’t some badly-dressed Patrick Stump wannabe with terrible hair secretly housing a serial killer brain?
And I’ve found such joy reading through the experiences of other people with OCD, figuring out that while my brain isn’t neurotypical, that I am normal, somewhere. That I’m not evil or utterly broken or just a big vaguely human-shaped ball of mental – I’m just like these other people, trying to navigate the weirdness of the world on top of the exciting weirdness going on inside my own head. It might sound cheesy, but getting diagnosed has made me feel more grounded than I have in years, because I know that, with place names and paths and directions, this map is a little easier to navigate.