Ever since I can remember, my life has been driven by finding answers and the supposed reward that comes with it. Want to be popular with the teacher? Answer her questions. Confused as to why you can’t sleep? Search for answers from your parents who tell you to go back to bed. Confused as to why the kids at school don’t like you? Think hard to find the answer to what you can do to make them like you.
My brain is often riddled with anxiety trying to find an answer to my obsessive themes. My main obsessive themes?
One: Is my relationship right for me?
Two: Am I Gay?
It can involve questioning if I even love my boyfriend (often this happens at the most inappropriate time, for example, when I am on holiday with him or in moments where love ‘should’ feel super strong) to looking at every woman on the street and working out if I fancy her or I want to be with her. Some days it’s hard to walk down the road without a thought popping up which has me questioning my whole identity.
You could just tell me to accept I am bisexual or that I have thoughts about others or that I am questioning my sexuality. I remember a friend telling me this as I told her about the anxiety I was facing. But it didn’t make me feel validated instead it made me realise that these endless thoughts were more than that; they were a way for me to seek certainty which I could never find, an endless search to be in control, something I have searched for every day since a small eleven year old bullied and left out at school. Whilst I have not been formally diagnosed, my thought patterns are similar to those with ROCD (Relationship OCD) and HOCD (Homosexual OCD); forms of OCD with compulsive thinking needed to mitigate uncertainty. Like many others, I didn’t know OCD could be around any theme other than cleanliness.
I cannot think of a single day in the last five or so years where I haven’t been plagued with questioning. If it hasn’t been around these themes it will be about why my friend didn’t text back or wondering if people think I am weird because I speak a certain way or don’t know all the latest shows on Netflix. I even question why I am questioning and if people can see that I am not really there in the moment with them, this leads to yet more questioning and feelings of guilt and shame.
Sometimes I feel stuck in a continuous cycle. The more I can’t find an answer the more I question, the more I question the more I can’t find an answer. To many, I guess, I seem put together, maybe quite controlled and with it. I have a nice flat, a boyfriend, holidays, a good job, a few close friends, enough money in the bank. I am lucky, extremely lucky. I don’t live in poverty or have to worry about my family’s health or not having a roof over my head. I am in fact insanely lucky to have a brain that considers different sides of things and is analytical – a skill many desire.
Why am I writing this? I guess mental illness still has so much stigma and shame, particularly for those which you can’t see it. I may be high functioning on the outside but that doesn’t mean I’m okay. Sometimes it is a real effort for me to talk to you without having intrusive thoughts or panic rising in my chest. I remember sitting in a work meeting and working out how many penises and vaginas were in the room… slightly distracting?
Recovery is a process and something I am attempting every day. Yes, I may not be in the right relationship, yes, I may be gay, yes people may think I am weird, yes people may not like me and exclude me again. All these things are uncertainties which I can’t control. I can’t work out right now. If your brain is doing the same as mine, I am asking for you to give yourself permission; permission to have a break from figuring it all out. The thoughts will come and go and you can’t control them, but you can accept them and in accepting them as uncertainties you can maybe start living, and that will feel way better than all your thoughts.
Image credit: Free-Photos
Kathryn is 26 and lives a sunny seaside town in the UK. She works as a charity fundraiser and in her spare time enjoys going on walks, going to charity shops (thrift stores!) and being arty. She decided to write this piece to help others and as a way of accepting her mental health conditions.
I really liked what you’ve written, Kathryn. I didn’t know there were other kinds of OCD.
I also liked this a lot because it’s what we OCD people do. “If your brain is doing the same as mine, I am asking for you to give yourself permission; permission to have a break from figuring it all out.
We don’t have to figure it all out! Who knew?!
Thanks for your comment :). Often it feels like the only way is to work everything out right? But then there will be something else to work out won’t there!!
Hope you have a happy new year with some breaks from this endless cycle!
This is legit me too.
I’m 27, straight male in a relationship with a female, heck we even own a house together. But I am plagued with doubts and intrusive thoughts that I’m gay, it’s crazy as I have never fancied the same sex, the thought of it makes me shudder…
I’ve been battling this for some time now and am still to find a way to overcome this..
If yo or anyone can point me in the right direction, I’d be super grateful!
I am sorry to hear that you are also struggling with similar thoughts. It seems like they can be intensified at this time of year when everyone is looking to self -improve etc right?
I would say don’t put too much pressure on yourself to overcome the thoughts. Whilst it may feel like the only way to make them better is for them to go away accepting them (even if this is super hard!) will be more helpful in the end. But also the most important thing is to be gentle on yourself and know that we all have uncertainty in one way or another even if for most people it doesn’t seem as strong.
Some resources I have found useful for getting help/understanding what’s going on are:
Awaken into Love ( you can sign up to their programme or follow their Instagram for free)
I hope this helps! Let me know how you get on 🙂
What you are talking about is shame. I would recommend “Healing the Shame That Binds You” by John Bradshaw (1988 book).
“Toxic Shame, the shame that binds you, is experienced as the all-pervasive sense that I am flawed and defective as a human being. Toxic shame is no longer an emotion that signals our limits, it is a state of being, a core identity. Toxic shame gives you a sense of worthlessness, a sense of failing and falling short as a human being. Toxic shame is a rupture of self with the self.” (page 10.) While guilt might tell a woman or man, for example, “You made a mistake,” toxic shame will tell her or him, “You are a mistake. You are worthless.”