Virginia Woolf, the 20th century English author who also suffered from mental illness, once wisely wrote “You cannot find peace by avoiding life.”
Recently, I was talking to my psychiatrist. It was another one of those “Do I or don’t I?” medication moments that people with mental illness routinely have to live with.
He had treated me for my obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) for about six months before I decided to be treated by another facility. I didn’t like the new facility’s recommendations, so I had gone back to this doctor for a second opinion.
Since I had been treated by him for at least six months, he felt like he knew enough about my situation enough to honestly ask, “Did I really help you?” This was in regard to medications he had given me in the past. It appears I am treatment-resistant to some SSRIs, a type of medication that is most commonly used to treat OCD.
Psychiatric medications are sometimes necessary. What my doctor was really implying was that, because of the nature of the disorder, he didn’t feel like he had done too much for me besides prescribing Xanax.
He also pointed out that I still seemed to have a tough time enjoying life due to the intrusive thoughts that come with OCD. My point is: Finding enjoyment and peace in one’s life is hard for everyone (not just those of us with OCD). I am obviously not a doctor. I do not presume that I know more than anybody else about OCD and life. I do think that I have insights to add to the conversation on understanding and coping with mental illness.
Quality of life is a relative term to each person. My experience with OCD has made it hard to enjoy anything about life. Some doctors call this “anhedonia,” which is an inability to feel pleasure, possibly caused by medications.
All I know is, when medications stop working, the OCD sufferer progressively feels more and more helpless. They feel like they have to “win” the medications side effect game.
Now that I am 33, I have come to the realization that the challenges OCD has constantly presented have made it nearly impossible to enjoy life and get peace that Virginia Woolf is talking about. This is not my fault. This is OCD.
I guess what it comes down to is that I am somewhat odd. I get joy and find humor in things that others don’t necessarily think are funny or recognize as insightful. In some ways, I don’t think my journey in life is much different from another person’s as far as finding some peace.
The term “beating the OCD” is a useful one but should be taken with a grain of salt when it comes to personal accomplishment. My life is definitely not unfolding as fast as I would like it to and there is a lot that is not known about mental illness.