As I sit here, I’m home alone. I’ve got a TV switched on in another room, QI playing, just loud enough to drown out my internal monologue. I can’t sit here in silence. Hell, I can’t go to sleep in silence.
Everyone has a voice in their head – mine is just an asshole. It tells me I’ve not double checked that record enough times for scratches, it tells me I’ve sat awkwardly and everyone else on the train carriage hates me. It tells me I’m breaking my PS4 by using the disc drive. It forces me to inspect screens for dead pixels and microscratches. It wants me to minimise all background apps every time I lock my phone.
OCD doesn’t just ‘appear’, it’s often dormant in people for years before it rears its head. Mine crept up on me over my three years at University. When I’d be afraid of how I’d said or done something, I’d stop the loop by counting.
I’d laugh to myself. It was stupid, but it stopped my mind. I knew they were just numbers, they didn’t mean anything. Who’d be stupid enough to let that take control? Less than six months later, I was repeating my name – 1,2,3 – tapping my palms – 1,2,3 – tapping the wall – 1,2,3 – before I could sleep. I’d verbally loop (repeating things aloud) to myself three times before leaving my bedroom in the morning, or else thoughts would linger and trail.
OCD does many things to many people – mine is tied to list-making and perfectionism. My mind hates thinking it might have missed something. My mistake (as any sufferer will tell you) was indulging the thoughts. I’d rewatch entire episodes of Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones because I missed one line. I’d listen to an album start to finish multiple times to make sure I’d really heard it. Then I started letting it creep into gaming. I couldn’t play games anymore, there were too many variables, too many unknowns. I’d stick to story based games by Telltale or Naughty Dog, at least than I could replay the story and know how it would play out. Games like GTA infuriated me. I knew I loved them, but there were so many stats I’d never see reach 100%. I wanted to play everything, but my brain hated anything I’d less than a completionist attitude towards.
This summer, I sat down for a talk with myself. I’d decided that enough was enough. I got myself a book on CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and an app for meditation. 4 months ago I’d often be screaming inside my own head, just to stop my eye twitching. Last night I finished Uncharted on my Vita – a game I started in 2012. This morning I played some Rocket League with my brother.
I wasn’t counting, I wasn’t obsessed with perfection – I was present, playing, smiling. I can watch any episode of any series, I can read a few pages and put a book back down. Sometimes it still hurts, but it gets easier. Reminding myself that I am in control of my own mind was the best thing I did last year. This time last summer, I’d have to write lists to myself, read them three times and then throw them away to silence my mind. I’ve not written a list since August.
If anyone reading this is suffering, please, please, get help. I know how embarrassing it can be. I know people often don’t understand. But being able to play a LEGO game with my little sister and simply be present has been worth all of the anger, frustration and discomfort. I know how difficult it is to ignore intrusive thoughts, to not engage in rituals, but things have to hurt in order for them to heal.
Now I’m gonna go play some Mario Kart. I’ve not 100% the last game I played, and that bothers me, but the more I ignore it, the more my brain gets the message. I’m not being held hostage anymore. Sometimes I slip up, sometimes I realise I’m in a loop, and often I need to stop, think and breathe. I won’t wake up one day and be OCD-free, but I will wake up one day without even thinking about it.
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