DISCLAIMER: I'm not recommending any of my experiences be used to deal with your own, your friends', or anyone's mental disorders. This is my story of what I feel about my disorder.
I've suffered from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder for as long as I remember. Because I've dealt with this mental disorder my entire life, I have a unique perspective that many might find interesting. This post is for you.
For people with little to no knowledge of my particular brand of crazy, OCD's mental manifestation is extreme anxiety over obsessions, and its physical manifestation is an alleviation of anxiety through compulsive and logically non-causal actions. Simply put, I get stressed out about real and imagined situations and then uncontrollably do things I think will keep those situations from happening; as a consequence, the anxiety is kept at bay. The things I do are often called rituals and come in a huge and changing variety, while the thoughts I have are often repetitious and many have stayed with me since I first remember.
There are several "brands" of OCD including obsessions that focus on mysophobia, agoraphobia, hoarding, sexual perversity, religious obsessions, "just right" feelings, and much more. Many people suffer from a combination of these brands, and I'm no exception. Specifically, my obsessions (often called intrusive thoughts) stem from worries about people I love. I'm afraid that through my action - or lack of - in fulfilling my compulsions, I might put them at harm. This is especially true of my parents, maternal grandparents, little sister, older brother, and my girlfriend.
My grandpapa suffered a series of strokes over the past decade. He doesn't walk well and stumbles even with his walker. He's fallen several times and has become a shell of the man I knew growing up. Any grandkid would be worried - anxious - about this. My compulsive response to him stumbling is rhythmic "just right" feelings where I tap my leg, close doors, walk in step, or hum until the anxiety is sated. This has taken hours of constant thought at a time and is not limited to being around him. If I become anxious about his health while away, the same rituals are repeated, but I have no confirmation they worked unless I call my grandparents on the phone. They really like the phone calls :)
To recap: my obsession is my grandpapa's health, and my compulsion is ritualistic, rhythmic sound to get a "just right" feeling through repetition which can take hours.
My girlfriend gave me a promise ring. The ring rarely leaves my finger and has never stopped touching me since I got it. Even through a year-long separation, I kept it on because taking it off gave me anxiety - a natural response to a memento. However, the disorder keeps me from expressing that anxiety. Instead it fabricates a series of intrusive thoughts that link taking the ring off to my girlfriend's death. Although logically it makes no sense, emotionally I would feel responsible for her death if I took the ring off. Even if her death didn't happen immediately.
To recap: my obsession is my girlfriend's death, and my compulsion is to remain in constant contact with her ring.
I'd like to point out that these are non-causal. My compulsions do not logically make sense. I understand that. The emotional obsession still forces the action regardless of whether I rationally think it makes a difference.
Self-Treatment and Support:
My family remains unaware of my disorder. I don't take medication. My therapist, my girlfriend, and people I've met online are the only people who know. Intrusive thoughts have a way of warping what you feel you want. Many sufferers of OCD believe that at some level their obsessions of death and harm about people must mean that at some level they desire that pain to come to loved ones. Guilt springs up out of that doubt, and many people keep their disorder to themselves because of it. I do.
That doesn't mean I lack support. My therapist was helpful diagnosing, treating, and setting me on the right track to continued self-help. Between me and my girlfriend, OCD is hardly ever a topic except on the worst days.
Self-help includes rigorous mental activity that effectively drains the amount of time I'm able to dwell on anxiety. I jump from topic to topic and from one form of expression to another simply to keep my brain from settling down. I've learned from experience that challenging it with new things will save me a lot of pain.
Those familiar with mental compartmentalization will know about strongbox/locked box methods for dealing with overwhelming trauma. I use this all the time, and it's one of the most efficient learned behaviors for dealing with my anxiety.
Additionally, music plays a role in my continued mental health. With musical noise, my compulsions to perform rhythmic sound rituals die. Intrusive thoughts are kept at bay while my brain is active with something else. However, if I become too familiar with a song/album it becomes useless to me. My brain tunes it out as white noise and carries on dealing with anxiety in its own broken way. Because of this, the music I listen to genuinely keeps me sane. If I've enjoyed your musical taste - thenewgreen, this means you :) - then you've helped me more than you know.
What many don't realize about OCD is the incredible dichotomy most sufferers feel between themselves and their mind. I often feel my brain works me like a puppeteer, manipulating me with dread-strings to work my body and to satisfy its grotesque play which becomes my life if I let it.
Introspectively, I'm excessively critical. I often say I'm cripplingly self-aware because of the inner struggle I fight against my mind daily. Sorting obsessions from regular thoughts is difficult when they've always existed side by side. kleinbl00, we had a talk where you mentioned cognitive dissonance. I live with a constant cognitive dissonance.
For those of you that remember or liked the Salt Man poem - lil, elizabeth, flagamuffin - I'm tagging you in case you want more insight on the poem. I feel comfortable answering questions about my experience with the disorder if that interests anyone else. Thanks for being a community that I can share this with.