It’s a vicious circle. I can’t know for sure what comes first, but I doubt it would matter even if I knew. The relationship between stress and my illness is symbiotic in nature, but never in any way that benefits me.
While I’m sure stress influences all of us suffering from a mental illness, likely more so than it does the average person, the impact that stress has over my Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is especially hellish.
It was during a very tumultuous period of my childhood this disease first made itself known, and since then, excessive stress in my life always exacerbates my symptoms.
Compulsions are a way I falsely reassure myself.
Whether I’m counting silently in my head, checking various parts of my body for signs of sickness I’m sure are there, or tapping drawers and checking locks, I am always simultaneously hoping these motions — which rational Lindsay knows, are ridiculous — will bring me relief.
But, as comforting as the relief is, it’s also fleeting. It disappears as quickly as it comes, always just out of reach, always one more ritual away.
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At the same time, my obsessive thoughts are never-ending. They are forever there in the back of my mind, and sometimes in the front, clouding everything. While what I worry over can vary, some things never change.
I fear my own body, this shell that holds me together, and is so very fragile. I jump from one ailment to another, convincing myself I’m always that one-in-a-million unlucky victim, suffering from conditions both terminal and terrifying. I’m afraid of other people and their germs, walking cesspools that no amount of hand sanitizer will save me from. I see my doctor more than any healthy person should in a year, even fearing that maybe he’s lying about the tumor I’m sure is hiding somewhere inside, waiting to kill me.
And so, you can imagine how these thoughts might stress a person out.
I am stressed because my OCD is winning again, and I use my OCD, hoping the temporary feeling of control it gives me might relieve my stress.
The real sadness is that it never ends, and each constantly gives power to the other. My thoughts lead to stress, which lead to compulsions, which lead to stress.
While I cannot always control the hold my mental illness has over me, I can ensure that my own self-care always remains a priority.
There are a few precious things, like a good book and a rainy day under a blanket, that always manage to quiet my mind. By ensuring that this time to myself remains a priority, I can lessen the amount of stress permitted to affect me.
Life gets busy and responsibilities call, but we have an obligation to ourselves and the things we need to help us on our journey to recovery.
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