Dating Someone with Severe OCD
The Challenges and the Rewards
Like many of you, I had no idea what OCD really entailed until I started dating Lucy.
In the beginning, I was oblivious, completely so. Years of friendship had not been enough for her to disclose the thing she was so utterly ashamed of. And now, having been with her a year, I understand.
What Is OCD?
OCD is one of the most misrepresented mental illnesses I've ever come across. I can only speak for myself on that, I'm sure there are many, many others—but perhaps none of which that are portrayed to be as fun or comical as this.
I remember vividly as a child the term 'OCD' being used to describe funny little preferences people had—the aligning of their knives and forks, the order in which their pencils came—and whilst these can be a symptom of OCD, it comes nowhere near the reality.
OCD (or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) can affect people in different ways and in varying degrees of intensity, but in all cases, it makes life for that individual very difficult.
I want to give a 'for example.'
Imagine you're sitting with your partner, a person you love and respect and cherish. Imagine that you notice a look of discomfort on their face, and so, as you often do, you rest your hand on their shoulder. Now picture, seemingly out of nowhere, them recoil from your touch, as if you are a stranger to them. You draw away, concern awash on your face as you realise what's happening. It's the OCD.
"Are you okay?" you ask, fully aware of the answer.
"No," they say, miserable, guilt-ridden. "I'm sorry, I just cant... please don't touch me. I'm sorry."
You feel something swirl in your stomach, sadness, pity, you aren't sure; all you know is that it isn't fair for them to feel this way.
"What can I do?" you ask.
They clench their eyes shut, fighting desperately to rid their brain of the torrent of thoughts battering away at them.
"Nothing" they say "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry"
This is what happened to me when Lucy and I started dating. Why?
Even though she knew it was ridiculous, knew that it made no sense in the slightest, her brain condemned her for dating me. Her every conscious hour was filled with thoughts of:
"He didn't ask you how you were four minutes ago, he must be a horrible person. You shouldn't be with him."
"This isn't right. Something doesn't feel right. What doesn't feel right?"
"He doesn't really love me. I thought something bad about him this morning, so why would he?"
On this particular occasion, she felt that my touching her made her dirty.
It was a difficult moment, all the more so as were with friends, none of whom had noticed or had any idea the toll her brain was taking on her.
You see, OCD isn't about turning light switches on and off, it isn't about repetitive cleaning, it isn't about any of that. It's the lies it tells you.
In the year I've been with Lucy, that much has become very clear to me. The OCD is like a dark part of her brain, like a tumour, that constantly and without let up, lies to her. It tells her things are wrong, that she isn't happy, that everything, everything, is her fault. From her dad cheating, to a car crash three cities away. There's no logic, no reasoning. Only lies.
The Obsessions are the hallmark of OCD. They can range to encompass nearly anything, but all are very real.
Ones that, in my experience, have been especially persistent are:
- Incredibly disturbing thoughts involving the murder of a loved one, terrible fear that you will and want to.
- Profound worry that you will do something extremely embarrassing, like screaming out an obscenity at a funeral
- That something isn't right. Her brain gets itchy, restless, like something in her life is out of alignment but she can't know what.
These thoughts are common for most people to have, but for someone with OCD, they are suffocating. They swallow up every other thought, completely dominating your thinking, convincing you that you will do what it says.
It is these that leads to the compulsions.
Compulsions are the series of mental or physical tasks a sufferer does to relieve the pressure on their mind. They reason that if they do this, the tension will lessen, will get better, that they'll be able to think clearly. It isn't the case. The compulsions are a double-edged blade. If you don't do them, you suffer, if you do—you suffer more. Guilt plays an unextractable part in OCD. They feel dirty, ashamed, and at complete subjugation. There is no 'winning.'
What's worse, these obsessions latch onto the things they care about most, i.e. their romantic partners. I've lost track of the number of times Lucy has said she'd been tormented by the thought she was going to accidentally stab me, or that she was terrified because she thought she wanted to stab me. The fundamental thing to remember: Thoughts are just thoughts. Nothing more. Never has a person with OCD carried out these wicked desires, and never will they. People with OCD are good people, it literally drives them mad to hurt others. They can't bare it.
So yes, dating a person with OCD certainly has its challenges, but it also has a great many upsides.
First of which, they hate the OCD as much as you do, more so. And so when it finally does give them a break, they make the most of it. They are kind, loving, thoughtful, and incredibly grateful for the efforts you go to in looking after them. They know it isn't easy, and they want to show they'd go to the same lengths for you.
Another benefit is that people with OCD are generally hard-workers, a side-effect of their compulsions. They are committed to making things work between you, and despite the problems, communication and honesty are the key to getting through them—they will do whatever they can to make it easier for the both of you.
Finally, being so attuned to suffering in the world, they are always aware when you aren't feeling yourself and are ready to jump to your aid.
So whether they have OCD or not doesn't matter. At the end of the day, everyone has problems, at least with the OCD you know what it is.
I love Lucy. If they find a cure for OCD tomorrow? Great. If not? We'll work thorough it together, for as long as she'll have me.