Ciska suffers from two types of compulsion: compulsion to control and what she calls ‘magical thinking compulsion’. At first Ciska suffers from pressure to control. “When I went on holiday, I had to check everything absurdly often; gas stove off, door locked, etc. I made videos as proof. I would watch it again during the entire holiday.”
“I also suffered greatly from something someone called ‘magical thinking compulsion’,” Ciska continues. “I was afraid that if I thought something, it would come true. My fear was foremost that something bad would happen to someone I love.” These thoughts went very far: “I was even afraid that I would banish a family member to hell with my thoughts, while I am not even religious.”
Ciska performs compulsions with these thoughts. “As a mental action, I had to think the opposite, because then I thought it wouldn’t come true. For example, if I thought a friend was going to die, I would have to think to myself ‘my girlfriend is not going to die’. I repeated those kinds of mantras with every thought in my head, which kept me busy all day long. The more you are not allowed to think about something, the more you naturally start thinking about it.”
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As a child
But when do you notice that you have OCD? Ciska has suffered from compulsion to control since she was a child. “I used to have a rug in my room. It always had to be perfectly positioned, otherwise I couldn’t sleep. And I often checked the tap because I was afraid it was still on.”
Fortunately, that fades away later. “That was mainly because of my mother, because she would say it was good,” says Ciska. She had little trouble with her compulsion for the rest of her youth.
Yet at the age of 19, Ciska’s compulsion to control comes to the fore again. “I went to study and live in Utrecht. That is of course a very exciting change. At that time it was to an extent that I could reasonably live with it and because I was ashamed of it, I hid it from people.”
In addition to the tension of studying, something else also influences Ciska’s OCD: “I used drugs at a festival. When I took that pill, I immediately noticed ‘oh shit, this is not good’”. Then the obsessive thoughts started, which even led to severe panic attacks in the following months. The drugs opened doors in my head that should have remained closed.”
In retrospect, Ciska also thinks very differently about drug use. “It is of course different for everyone, but in my case I wish there had been someone who had told me the negative effects in advance. I know many people in my area who sometimes take a pill, but no one has ever told me about the negative side of it. If people asked my honest opinion, I would never tell them to do it. Of course everyone can do whatever they want, but if you have mental complaints, I wouldn’t start. That one nice evening ruined my life for a few months.”
Ciska therefore thinks it is important to tell her story. “I wouldn’t call it a ‘relapse’ in my case, because the OCD was always there. Maybe otherwise it would have exploded at some point, but those drugs did ensure that my feelings of anxiety reached a peak.”
Ciska will therefore look for help in the weeks after the festival. “I went back to my parents for a while, where I had a lot of support.” After a severe panic attack in her parents, it was time for professional help.
“With a lot of luck, I was able to go to the mental health service in Utrecht quite quickly, with a psychiatrist in training. I benefited a lot from that. I received exposure therapy, where I had to think scary thoughts without performing any compulsive actions. Then I saw that nothing bad happened after thinking such a thought. After all, thoughts are just thoughts.”
Ciska is doing much better after that. “The next time I had a thought, I said to myself, ‘Maybe, we’ll see.’ That worked very well. That is easy now, but it was very difficult then.”
However, there are sometimes triggers that can briefly rekindle her OCD, for example if someone unconsciously brings it up. “My roommate recently started talking about manifesting. Manifesting is also about the power of thoughts. That’s a real one for me no go. I find that terrible, because it gives me obsessive thoughts again.”
Ciska also finds it difficult when terms such as OCD are used randomly by people who do not know what it means. “I recently told a friend that I have OCD and she immediately thought of fear of contamination. I happened to be cleaning and she said ‘oh, that must be your OCD’. No, it wasn’t. People often have no idea what OCD is and how intense it can be. I hope people think a little more before they just use that term.”
Are you struggling with questions yourself or are you worried about someone else? You can always contact fellow sufferers via OCDnet.nl. If you have any questions, you can also go here or contact your doctor. For life-threatening situations, call the emergency number: 112.
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