“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
I would like to end this series by sharing real life stories of rOCD sufferers that found their path to OCD recovery. These are their own words as they were given to me. The key takeaway lesson is that anyone can recover from relationship OCD if the right practices and principles are applied.
Guest post from Holland
My name is Jel, I am a 31-year old woman in a 1,5 relationship with a lovely man. rOCD first hit me a few months ago. It was simply awful. I went through all the stages of rumination, anxiety, panic attacks, numbness and endless doubt. Now, a few months in, I feel rather good. I know I will have some bad days to come, but I will try and deal with them. I went to see a therapist (mostly CBT) and signed myself up for a course of mindfulness. But what also helped a great deal was acceptance.
You mentioned on your blog that a lot of sufferers get stuck on the point of acceptance of rOCD, because we always doubt if we really suffer from this disease. And because of that doubt, and the endless search for an answer, we do not really get any further in treating rOCD.
The same thing happened to me. Even though I started to feel a lot better, the thought that ‘this isn’t rOCD, I must be really wanting to end my relationship’ just kept making me feel awful and ruminating. To give you my example, of how strong my doubt can be:
Despite my dad having OCD and me being diagnosed with anxiety disorder and OCD by specialists twice, on bad days I still doubt I have rOCD. Every ‘normal’ person would roll their eyes over this doubt, because there is just so much evidence to prove it! But I doubt it, and since I have OCD I am always going to doubt it. There is just no certainty to be found that will ever make me stop doubting.
So, at a certain point, I realized, there is no point in keeping up the search for that certainty. What I did instead was, I made a choice: I chose to believe I have rOCD!
Guest post from the UK
I wanted to share my experience and say how thankful I am that I found your blog. I hope that what I am writing will also help others.
Firstly, in desperation I searched for what was going on with me…and there it was in black and white…rOCD! This is exactly what I was experiencing!
I downloaded and read your book and it strengthened my belief in rOCD and gave me the strength to face it head on. Luckily I have an extremely supportive (incredible) boyfriend who was with me every step of the way and we began to tackle it and in less than 3 months I’m feeling again…Feeling love, feeling happy, feeling joy! Yes I have weird thoughts sometimes but I deal with the, now, see below how I do it:
- I found this blog and read the book
2. I booked an appointment with a psychiatrist. I’m lucky to have private medical care with my job this was easy to do once I admitted I needed it. You can go through your GP in UK and ask for a referral. It was a huge step and felt like I was sending a very strong message that I’m not putting up with this anymore.
3. My boyfriend and i started making light of it…we played around with the thoughts and made jokes about them, we took their power away from them, I guess we belittled them.
4. I saw the psychiatrist and poured my heart out. I know that certain experiences have lead to this rOCD manifesting itself, I’d done a lot of searching in my past to make sense of it so I told him everything.
5. He gave me mild dose of something to calm me down a little…it worked a treat with no side effects. Half a pill in morning and half at lunch time. This gave me the rational head I needed to start work on removing the gremlins!
6. I then read The Chimp Paradox which broadened my self development and enabled me to understand where my thoughts come from. This might not work for everyone in the same way but is a great read and I recommend to anyone.
7. After less than 3 months I forgot to take my pills for a few days so I’m currently seeing how that goes…
Oh and upping my yoga and fun sports (tennis) was very important for me too!
I’ll never rest on my laurels with this, I’ll always keep my tools by my side to deal with things if I need to in the future but right now I couldn’t be happier.
Guest post from the US
I can’t express how grateful I am for Bruno and his guidance. After 5 sessions with him I am finally at a place where I am content. What do I mean by content? Well, I don’t mean that the thoughts are gone and I don’t mean that I have discovered how to have 24/7 feelings for my husband. What I mean is that I have learned how to enjoy my life and my marriage despite the thoughts. I truly can say that thoughts are just thoughts now. Living with an OCD brain is quite the adventure and I can most definitely say that it has made me a more compassionate person.
I started having OCD when I was 15 years old and am now 25. My OCD has changed forms from HOCD, POCD, Scrupulosity OCD, Harm OCD and ROCD. The type of OCD that has always tended to follow me is the ROCD because I value a loving relationship. I am realizing that mature love is FAR more meaningful than infatuation because mature love is stable, consistent and dependable. I have learned that it doesn’t matter what the thought is, it is just a thought. I promise you that if you tell yourself when you have any negative thought related to your relationship “that is just an OCD thought” and then focus on something positive (I personally love reading and spending time with my son), the thoughts will become less and less powerful over time.
If you want to live a life that allows you to break free from the bonage of OCD, continue that process and remove the expectation of that thought going away. I have suffered for a long time and my suffering is one thing that is under my control, the thoughts are not. I committed to putting away the relationship books, giving up the google searches for ” what is love?” (and other various relationship topics), putting away the OCD books and just focusing on what matters in the present moment. For me, what matters is my faith in God, for me what matters is learning hobbies and finding things that I find pleasure in (i know it is hard to do this when you have rocd but it takes ACTION to remove the chains of bondage from rOCD and those chains have NOTHING to do with the relationship), for me what matters is learning to live with the thoughts and treating them just as thoughts.
I will also say that I am taking sertraline (Zoloft), it took me 4 months of being on the medication and now taking 150 mg a day of the medication in order to be able to really grasp that it was my OCD and not my relationship fully. (simply because logic will not make OCD go away). I have an OCD brain, it is wired differently and God gave me this brain for a reason. My OCD brain has made me a better person and someday you will realize that it has made you a better person as well. All you have to do is stop focusing on the relationship and start focusing on your values and your life.
Thank you Bruno for being such a blessing to myself and my family. I now have a baby on the way to really look forward to and I feel prepared for my husbands deployment. I will now be a better mother, wife and child of God because I committed to focusing on my values and accepting that I have OCD.
God Bless you all,
A success story
About a year ago, I had recently turned 21 and life was going great. I met a girl I really liked and we hit it off for about four months. Suddenly, as I was studying for an exam one night that feeling of happiness was turned upside down with feelings of doubt, anxiety, and depression. I had no idea what hit me and none of my friends knew either. I felt crazy, alone, and desperate for my life to return its former state. Finally, I realized I was feeling anxiety in my relationship and was able to go online and self-diagnose myself with ROCD. The feeling of isolation went away but it would be a long time before I would learn how to cope with this monster.
When I figured it out, I explained it to my parents who were both understanding but I hid it from my girlfriend for 3 heart-wrenching weeks because I was afraid of how she would react. I contacted my therapist who had helped me in the past and encouraged me to tell my girlfriend. He told me to tell her that I loved her but was experiencing obsessive irrational thoughts. When I finally told her, she was very understanding and even proud of me for seeing a therapist to deal with it. That was a huge relief but admittedly still a low point in our relationship. My heart would beat fast around her and I would constantly question whether or not I felt the way “I was supposed to feel” when she sent me a cute text message. I would constantly question whether I even had ROCD or if I just plainly didn’t like her anymore. And when I spoke about it with her, it was a sensitive topic and I would have to reassure her that I loved her. In a summer time where I was supposed to be relaxed on a break from school, I was absolutely miserable.
The first step was education. I had plenty of thoughts that were quickly disproven. All of my thoughts said essentially the same thing: that I needed to be thinking about her all the time, and that I needed to feel something every time she called me, texted me, and saw me. One strong method of disproving these thoughts was comparing my relationship to other things that I loved. For instance, I don’t always think about Mexican food, but does that mean I don’t love it? Of course not. These realizations helped me improve, but I was still tormented by constant obsessive thoughts and heart palpitations. This was because I could not accept my anxiety for the life of me and that made my improvement much harder. Every time I experienced a feeling of “something wrong” or an obsessive thought, I thought “this is so stupid, why is this happening to me?” and I would become anxious about getting anxious and it would spiral into a depression. At one of my lowest points, I learned to accept my anxiety by repeating the phrase “I can allow myself to feel anxious because I know my body is over-exaggerating the threat of danger.”
What I didn’t realize is that the trick to making obsessive thoughts going away, is to not think about them at all. Every time a thought would come up, I would try to rationalize the thought and disprove it instead of just simply ignoring it. It felt as if I was missing something important if I ignored the thought. When I realized how to “thought stop,” I made a lot of progress. Highly effective methods that helped me “thought stop” were visualizing a stop sign, biofeedback, observing my surroundings, zapping myself with a rubber band, and looking at a compiled album on my computer of pictures from Google images or my photo album that make me happy. Also, although I have always lifted weights, running improved my anxiety sensitivity significantly.
All in all, it’s important to have some sort of routine to stay motivated; otherwise progress can be frustrating and discouraging. I recommend that anybody who is struggling should get a therapist and read Bruno’s book which I learned a lot from. I improved without medicine which was hard but worth it in the long run. My key realization was that it’s impossible to try and feel a certain way since that just adds anxiety and works counter-intuitively. The best thing to do is to just think about something else that makes you happy. Currently, my girlfriend and I are happy. I still experience a few anxious moments a day but I give them no importance and they gradually dissipate.
My name is Christopher, I am 29 years old. Almost two years ago I went through a very tough time personally with a lot of stress and worry building up I became depressed and I developed panic disorder, a brutal yet luckily a very treatable anxiety disorder. Anyone who has had a full blown panic attack knows how awful this feeling can be. Having them daily sometimes multiple times is far from enjoyable
A month before I started my medication and really began to understand what was happening to me I met the man of my dreams John. I fell in love from the get go and knew that John was the one. He also had suffered with panic disorder and still copes with anxiety. I recall one night on our 3rd date I slept over and awoke at 5 in the morning having a panic attack feeling like I could die. I wanted to be in my own bed which was an hour away. My boyfriend John spoke with me on the phone the entire hour until I got safely into my bed. I knew at this point I’d found someone very special. That was also the day I decided to do something about this near crippling anxiety and I began taking medication. The medication worked and I was feeling like myself again and things with John were great.
5 months into our relationship I hit a wall. An awful thought entered my mind. Was John the one? Was this real or was I only telling myself I wanted to be in this relationship? Every perceived flaw of John seemed to stick out and I couldn’t focus on the positive. I found myself looking at John and when I didn’t feel an explosion of fireworks in my heart I felt this is it… Our relationship is over. Every time I had a break and would feel better another thought would pop up and contradict the previous thought until it became an exhausting never ending cycle. I felt guilty and selfish and didn’t know why after 5 months my anxiety was coming back full force. That weekend I ended our relationship over much tears and a day later I knew that even though I felt this was the right choice, it did not feel right and I had made a big mistake. I knew that something was wrong. It was like a light switch had gone off. One day I was in love and the next day I was not. Something had to be wrong. The following day John and I got back together and even though my mind was still playing out its battle with its self, I felt happier having him in my life. I spoke with a therapist and my doctor upped my medication. A couple months later I came across this site. What I was feeling had a name and they’re other people like me and it made everything almost better from the get go. Practising CBT and mindfulness did the rest and I have good and bad days majority are great and I feel I have this under control. I am so thankful to have found this blog it’s changed everything for me. I’ve opened up to John about my struggles and he’s a great support. I never knew that I was OCD prior to developing my panic disorder. It turns out that it brought a bigger monster out, one that I am determined to beat. Also, in case you hadn’t picked up, I am in a gay relationship and I wanted to show others out there that regardless of your sexual orientation ROCD does not discriminate. Thank you so much for sharing your blog and your own struggles with us. You have no idea what a difference you have made. Today we are living with each other for over a year and both planned our first big trip to Paris this summer which I would never thought possible almost two years ago. I also found Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) to be even more useful than cognitive behavioural therapy alone.
Hi, my name is Brandon and I have been suffering from ROCD for just over a year now. I have been with my amazing partner for a year and two months, but unfortunately most of this time has been spent on worrying about my relationship. Sure, ROCD is hell, but I know for a fact that if it wasn’t for the ROCD then my relationship would not have lasted this long. Why? Because ROCD (and any illness as a matter of fact!) always has its positive sides.
Now you’re probably thinking that I’m a mad man for what I have just said. “How can ROCD be good!?” You may ask. But think about it, once you have finally beaten this disease imagine how happy you and your partner will be together. You have gotten through the one disease that has the most chance of splitting you apart, and now you are happily living the rest of your lives together knowing that your relationship is so precious and strong that even your “own” thoughts and feelings could not come between you. (I say “own” because they are not really your real thoughts.)
I am a ROCD sufferer. And going through my ROCD journey was one of the most difficult and confusing periods of my life. I have started this blog as an attempt to help all those that are going through their ROCD journeys. And like me in the past, find it very difficult to find happiness and joy in everyday living. I am glad to say, that today, ROCD does not control me anymore and I live a very happy life with my beautiful wife.
I would like to focus this blog on finding ways to moving forward instead of getting trapped in our own thinking (which caused ROCD in the first place!).
Doesn’t that sound similar to what I have just said? This is from the very first article that was posted on this blog.
I know that most of you read this only took in the part that mentions about sadness and struggling to be happy, but now, if you have read the advice and tips on this blog, it is time to stop the self-pity and stop feeling sorry for ourselves. I know this disease is hard to live with and I know that right now you feel as if nothing will ever be the same again, but if we don’t start being more optimistic about things then we will never improve. There is hope, and you WILL get through this, but for now you’ve just got to try your best to be as happy as you can.
P’s guest post
I had my first OCD thought when I was 19. Since then I was living in a vicious circle of psychiatrists, antidepressants and bad therapists, who never really believed I could ever get better. A couple of years ago I decided it was enough and found myself a proper therapist. With his help I managed to get rid of all my medication but started having terrible withdrawal symptoms and some of my OCD and anxiety came back (especially ROCD). I didn’t want to start taking any drugs again and was looking on the internet to find help. That’s when I discovered this blog. After some hesitation I emailed the blogger and he offered to help me straight away. He told me how he got better and introduced me to meditation and mindfulness. Most importantly he gave me hope! I followed his instructions, started exercising and eating healthy, bought a few books on mindfulness and really got into it. I started meditating every day and focusing on living in the moment. Few months on I feel like a different person! I get up in the morning and I’m not miserable. I go to work and I don’t think “what is this all for, why should I bother?”. I look at my boyfriend and instead of having a million questions in my head, I know I love him more than anything. I learned to accept that nothing will ever be certain and that there will be times when I won’t feel in love with him. And maybe he won’t feel in love with me. But that’s life and I feel like I’m now much better equipped to deal with setbacks and difficult situations. And I look forward to whatever life brings next.
CG’s guest post
I have been suffering from OCD all my life, I just didn’t recognize it. There have been times when it was easier to cope with, especially when I met my partner more than three years ago. Last year, OCD came back with full force, and I was absolutely desperate. It was almost unbearable for me – I didn’t know how to move on, I didn’t know what was happening to me. Then I discovered this blog – entirely by chance. This was the first step: to know that I was not the only one, that this is just another face of OCD. I slowly started meditating and doing yoga, eating healthier and practising mindulness skills. I learned to accept the disease and I understood that no matter how involved I am in all this trouble, this man could still make me laugh. He was always by my side, even though I hadn’t been myself for a long, long time. I finally understood that ruminating was the worst thing to do. And I learned that this was neither my fault, nor was it his. When I really started to accept the situation, things really improved. I’m taking a small dose of SSRI and consulted a psychotherapist who gave me some useful tools for working with OCD. Without this blog, it would have taken me much longer to recover.
I have learned to live with it, and I still have my bad days – but there are a lot of wonderful ones which mean the world to me. This might sound bad to someone who wants to be normal again so badly, but trust me, once the clouds start to disappear, life gets so much better.
Dear fellow OCD sufferers: hold on. Practise your mindfulness skills. Do meditation. Do yoga. Don’t ruminate. Accept things as they are – but keep on working. And dear Blip: thank you so much!
Well, I’m still with the most wonderful man alive and a few weeks ago, I asked him to marry me. He said yes.