We can beat OCD and depression

OCD is not a character flaw. It is a brain glitch and basically your brain is malfunctioning. You may find yourself constantly asking people for reassurance that something is OK or something didn't happen. Asking people for reassurance is like a drug, the more you get the more you keep needing more. This creates an endless cycle that keeps making the problem worse.

I wrote this not to talk about my battle. I wrote this in hope it finds someone who may be struggling with OCD and/or depression looking for some kind of support; a place I have been before. I have endured three major episodes of OCD coupled with severe depression and suicidality. I have used drugs as a way to feel happy and overcame addiction. I want you to get the help you deserve and understand you can get better the right way.

Outside of depression I am a rational functioning member of society. When my OCD and depression got out of hand it made very little sense to me. I can understand why it was hard for others to understand because OCD is not rational. Again, your brain is malfunctioning and no amount of trying hard or talking to yourself will make it go away.

You can beat OCD. You can beat depression. It doesn't happen overnight and won't happen without help. You can find a therapist who understands OCD here: https://iocdf.org/find-help/

When you are trying to find a therapist, they should be well educated in exposure response prevention which is the gold star treatment for OCD. Exposure response prevention is an evidence based treatment that makes you confront your fears. For example, if you are afraid you hit someone in your car and find yourself thinking endlessly about what-ifs, watching the news for hit and run accidents, or driving around the block endlessly, you do the opposite. You record yourself depicting the worse case scenario where you did kill someone and you listen to it endlessly. Your anxiety will spike but in time it will come down. Maybe you listen to it while you drive and don't check what every bump in the road is.

Exposure response prevention is designed to bore the brain. Think of getting in a cold pool. At first the water is freezing but as you stay in the pool longer, your body acclimates to the temperature and the water begins to feel warm.

OCD finds that grey area in uncertainty and creates havoc and torture in your mind. Having OCD doesn't mean you are a weak person or aren't strong because you can't dispense of the irrational thoughts. If you're dealing with OCD I'd say it actually makes you a strong person. You're battling something that very few people understand and unless they experienced it, will never fully grasp. OCD sucks the joy out of your life and makes you feel like you deserve no happiness because you're the worst person in the world.

Human beings do not really have control of what comes in their head. The problem with people who suffer from OCD, our brains get stuck in a loop we are unable to stop. Unfortunately, the more we try to suppress or control our thoughts, the worse it gets. Think of your thoughts as leaves flowing freely down a river. We want them to continue on, acknowledge them and move on. With OCD, our thoughts get clogged and bunched up and before we know it, the river has stopped flowing.

Along with therapy, medication can help OCD. While meeting with a behavior therapist, you may want to inquire about a psychiatrist. Medications known as select serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can help. I found SSRIs to be like training wheels which help give you a window of opportunity to engage in ERP to beat OCD. SSRIs help slow down the ferocity and speed the constant obsessive thoughts occur. Again, OCD is a brain glitch and medication is sometimes necessary to correct this biological imbalance in your brain along with the correct therapy. Sometimes SSRIs are combined with atypical anti-psychotic drugs like Seroquel to help OCD further. I do not believe medication alone is a magic bullet; it is a piece of the puzzle. You have to engage in the work.

Do yourself a favor and don't read the reviews online for different medications. I found myself discouraged by what a lot of people wrote online about Lexapro when I first started taking it. I wanted assurance it was going to work but was unable to find it. The truth is most people who write online about medications are ones who are understandably upset about one particular drug not working. Maybe the first medication didn't work for them. Maybe another one did. I had to try a couple different ones before finding the right one.

Most people who find a medication that works, by the time they find themselves feeling better, are out enjoying life and not writing online positive things about it. Medication takes 3 months at the right dosage. ERP success doesn't happen overnight. During your recovery, you have to remind yourself that healing is not linear. You will have good moments and bad, bad days and good days. It's like the change of seasons from winter to spring. It's not immediately hot; it's cold one day, then warm, then eventually hot.

With OCD, the content of your obsessions is irrelevant. You can be worried about germs, harming others, not shutting off the oven, or being a pedophille; it doesn't matter. These thoughts are all spam flying through your head and talking through the obsessions or analyzing them won't help. It's all garbage your brain is incorrectly alerting you to. Your fight or flight system has gone awry.

Think of OCD as a separate entity; it is something that exists separate of your healthy brain. OCD will do everything possible to find what bothers you the most and do its best to stay alive in that grey area of uncertainty. OCD screams at you it needs certainty. Truth is, it doesn't. OCD is a bully that does a great job being loud and the center of attention so it's understandable it's impossible to believe otherwise. However, by challenging OCD the right way, you can defeat it and live a happy life. Even if you found certainty to your current obsession, OCD would just move on to something else and torture you that way.

Along with OCD, I also had severe depression. I found behavioral activation helpful. Behavioral activation is basically forcing yourself to do things. Depression will make you feel like all you want to do is sleep or sit in a dark room and not speak to anyone, eat anything, or enjoy anything you once did. I found behavioral activation, along with Lamotrigine very helpful. Again, success doesn't happen overnight.

When my depression got really severe, I found electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) extremely helpful. ECT is a small brief seizure you experience while asleep which helps "reboot" the brain. Don't believe the scary nonsense online about ECT if you are considering it for severe depression. Thousands of people undergo ECT every year to successfully overcome their medication resistant depression. You can find more information about McLean Hospital's ECT program, where I received treatment, here.

OCD is a bully. The only way to beat it is to knock the bully out.

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