'How My Diagnosis Helped Me Understand Myself'
Growing up I always had the pre-conceived idea that OCD was about cleaning and organising (I myself am guilty of using the disorder as an adjective when referencing how I liked to colour coordinate my books in school). This misconception meant that when I was finally hit by my first wave of the mental health disorder at 19 years old, I was in no way prepared and was completely clueless as to what the hell was happening to me. What I didn’t know at the time was that I was experiencing a subtype of OCD called ROCD, or Relationship OCD. Relationship OCD can take many forms; it can be a fear that you’re going to cheat on your partner, that your partner hates you, that your partner is cheating on you, the list goes on. For me, it’s this overwhelming anxiety that my feelings for my partner aren’t enough. This worry is accompanied by horrendous intrusive thoughts about me hating my partner.
It all started in 2017, a few months before my diagnosis. I was in a very healthy relationship with a man I was very into, and I really saw it lasting for a long time. Despite this, a few months into our relationship, my brain suddenly switched to “What if you hate this guy?” and I repeated this ‘what if’ question 24/7 in my head. In order to “prove” these thoughts otherwise, I would go out of my way to make huge romantic gestures, planning picnics, moonlight walks, buying him gifts, and so on. Despite this, it became way too overwhelming, and I had to break it off. For him, this came out of nowhere, as prior to me breaking it off I had shown no signs that I wasn’t happy. I did not even have the words to describe why we broke up, as this was all going on in my head, and I had so much shame over the outcome. As soon as the relationship ended, my mental state went back to being how it was prior to that relationship, so I put it down to a fluke, that I must have just been confused in the relationship.
Despite getting my diagnosis for OCD later that year, I did not make the connection between my problem with relationships and this diagnosis, as I was diagnosed for a completely different reason. For the next two years, I was stuck in a cycle of dating, being overwhelmed with intrusive thoughts, and then breaking it off, only for my mental health to dramatically heal. Every time it healed, I was sure that the next relationship would be different, but low and behold nothing changed. This eventually led me into a spiral, where I completely lost my sense of self-worth. The relationships I searched for became very surface level, with me telling every new guy I began to date that they shouldn’t get attached to me, despite desperately wanting that intimacy with them. At this point I had built up a reputation for myself as a fuckboy amongst a very small gay scene in my university culture.
I went into therapy again in 2019 where I was finally told that this was a way in which OCD could attack. This changed everything for me. I realised I had just spent the last two years not dealing with an underlying issue that needed to be resolved and began my journey to regaining my self-worth and love. I’m still on this journey, I still fear attachment, but I have the communication skills to be able to tell people I am dating about my OCD and how this affects my perception of them and the relationship. My relationship with dating has become much healthier, and I know that when I am finally ready again to date properly, I will have the tools to handle my OCD. But for now, I am at least comfortable with the precarity of dating.
I still get negative thoughts like these daily, around a range of things even outside of dating life, but I have now learnt and noted that at the end of the day, thoughts are just random electrical impulses in your brain, and sometimes it makes mistakes! By allowing yourself to look at your thoughts as things that do not represent your values, you can begin to move forward, accepting the uncertainty of life and being happy with the fact that you’re not always going to have an answer to what things mean; and that’s ok!
I am very open with my story now, with my own mental health Instagram page where I write about my experiences with different types of OCD. I would never want someone to go through what I went through, so even if just one person sees my recovery story that would mean the world. My diagnosis as well as the amazing community has taught me that I am the furthest thing from alone in this, and not only that I am able to love, but that I am deserving of it too.
We are all deserving of help, we are all deserving of success, and most importantly we are all deserving of giving love and being loved.