A lot of readers have been asking me about when exactly I was diagnosed with OCD and how I reacted to it. Did it drive me into a deeper depression? Did I worry about being misdiagnosed? Let’s see if I can retrace those moments…
The diagnosis was slow in coming, though I always assumed I had what I had. When I first started getting help in 2004, that first therapist resisted giving me a diagnosis. For one thing, it was still way to early to pin an acronym on my demons. The therapist also hated diagnosing people because she felt a diagnosis was just a label that never tells the entire story.
My third therapist finally gave me a diagnosis in the spring of 2006.
I sat there in her office, staring at the floor as I told her about the old therapist’s dislike of labels.
“Well, do you have obsessive thoughts all the time?” she asked.
“Yup,” I said.
“Does it make you do compulsive things?” she asked.
“Yup,” I said. “I binge eat all the time even though I know it’ll eventually kill me. I just can’t stop.”
“Does it cause disorder in your life?” she asked.
“Absolutely,” I said. “Every day is an exhausting hell.”
“Well, then we may as well call it what it is,” she said.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
Was I misdiagnosed?
It really doesn’t matter. I had a problem that was destroying me from the inside out. Putting a label on it helped me because instead of smoke and shadows, I finally had a way to see my struggle in a more concrete fashion. It had finally taken a form. I could see it, therefore I could punch it. Punch it I did, repeatedly.
It always gets back up and I have to keep throwing punches. But it’s better than trying to swing at shadows.
It’s a tricky thing, because in plenty of cases people do get misdiagnosed and the results are damaging. It can lead to prescriptions that don’t get at the root problem, making you worse.
In my case, the diagnosis was accurate. The treatment turned out to be right on, at least.
I think it was more of a relief than cause for a deeper spiral into depression. Because I had something to call it, I could move on to the next phase of recovery.
I still had many bad days after that. Some of my worst days, in fact. It would still be another two years before I could bring my addictions to heel.
But slowly, I got better.
It would be stupid for me to tell you not to freak and backslide after getting a diagnosis. It can be a frightening thing.
The biggest fear is that everyone will define you if you go public. That didn’t happen to me. At work, I’m judged on how I do my job, not on my disease. Of course, the OCD sometimes fuels some of my best work, which makes that less of a problem.
To me, the lesson is to not let a diagnosis be the excuse to live a less than worthwhile life and give in to your darker impulses.
Like anything else in life, you gotta make the best of it.
Obviously, that’s easier said than done.