HELP! – My Best Friend Has OCD (A Guest Post By Amber, Intro by Mark Wester)

Does any of your friends have OCD?

I guess the answer to this question is likely to be yes, as this mental disorder is far more common than many of us think. I have been living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) for most of my life and I can tell you that spending time with me may not always be simple – it is not always obvious when someone has OCD but as it is a terrifying mental illness that can make one’s life significantly more difficult, there are a few signs and symptoms that I guess those who are close to you will be able to notice.

Since I started this blog, I have been sharing my stories and been writing about my feelings but there is one thing that I haven’t really been able to write about:

What is it like to be around someone who has OCD?

Now, why could I not write about this topic? I think the answer to this question is pretty obvious – I am suffering from OCD so I perfectly know what it feels like to have it but I do not know what it feels like for other people to be around me and to be exposed to my compulsions (or to my intrusive thoughts in case I feel comfortable talking about and as you might have already noticed, I usually do feel comfortable sharing them!).

But I have always thought it would be nice to publish an article that tells the story from a different point of view. And who would be better at sharing her experiences than my best friend, Amber? (That’s just her pen name).

So, as Amber loves writing, I decided to ask her to share her thoughts about what it feels like to be around someone who has OCD – and well, that someone happens to be me! Now, that was a long intro…so here is her story! 🙂 Enjoy!

HELP! – My Best Friend Has OCD

It was a long time ago when my friend, Mark and I first shared our OCD stories with each other. I remember telling him about the terrifying thought of unintentionally hurting one of my family members. I myself do not suffer from OCD but many years ago, I also had intrusive thoughts and had been afraid of harming one of my loved ones. I had also been afraid of telling or yelling offensive and hurtful words to my mom. This was obviously less intense than “a real OCD symptom” and it did not cause a lot of distress to me, neither did it prevent me from doing what I had been doing at the time this happened. Also, I was going through an emotionally unstable period of my life at that time so this might have also been one of the reasons why I had this “mental disorder” (if we can even call it like that, as after all it is not usual to have such thoughts.) Fortunately, I have managed to get rid of these scary thoughts.

Well, this was my short intro and now let’s talk about what it feels like to be around someone who is suffering from OCD.

Luckily, one does not have unwanted thoughts all the time, so, normally, being around somebody who is diagnosed with OCD does not feel very different from being around someone who does not suffer from this mental disorder. However, there are a few signs that you can easily recognize. And to better describe what I experience while spending time with my friend, I will share a few of his “OCD stories” with you.

The Boarding Pass Story

What if we all loose our boarding passes and the airport stuff will not accept mobile boarding cards or even if they accept it, what if the batteries of our phones die?

Normally, people print a single copy of their boarding pass. Now, you could guess that this is not what my friend does. I went on holidays with Mark and with a few other friends a couple of years ago and when we got to the airport and met each other in front of the check-in desk, we would all receive two extra copies of our boarding passes for both the inbound and the outbound flight (just to be safe, like, what if we all lose our passes, right?). Some of us did not like this waste of paper (at the end of the day, it is bad for the environment) but it was a funny situation.

Tardiness

I guess tardiness is one of the potential consequences of Mark’s OCD. When I meet my friend, I will often get the “I am terribly sorry, I will be late” – message and I’ll just laugh at it because I know this was going to happen. And you can imagine that it is not only about 5 or 10 minutes. I usually have a backup plan for these situations (going for a walk or shopping) so it doesn’t really cause any problem for me. When we arrange a meetup with other friends, we sometimes tell Mark to get there (at least) 15 minutes before the meeting actually starts, so he has a chance to pop up on time. Obviously (and luckily) it is not always OCD to blame.

Crossing The Bridge

Chainbridge – Source: panaromatours.com

As many of you may already know, walking across a bridge is not one of Mark’s favorite hobbies because of his fear of jumping off it. So, many years ago, when we were walking across one of the most beautiful bridges of Budapest, we needed to move quite quickly – guess you understand why. I am not entirely sure if I had already been aware of Mark’s OCD at that time but I do remember that he was feeling uncomfortable and wanted to be on the other side of the river as soon as possible. I felt a bit frustrated because at that time I did not really understand how somebody can experience such a weird feeling. I was also trying to tell him not to panic “I am here, I can help”. Well, obviously, this did not really help.

Anxiety In Crowded Places

Now, this is a thing that I can totally relate to. I think I am not the only one who prefers quiet, peaceful places with not too many people. Some years ago, we spend a nice day (on holidays 🙂 ) at the beach in Romania. We were hungry so we went to buy lunch to a local fast food restaurant. In the middle of the season, you can easily imagine what that was like: long queue, a lot of people with a lots of questions, some of them pushy or some of them moving very slowly, so basically: everything that is not a synonym of comfort. On the top of this, some of us were asking Mark for help (translating food names from Romanian to Hungarian, as we did not understand everything). And then, all of a sudden, he became speechless and apologized telling us that he just had a panic attack and couldn’t stand with us in the queue so we just needed to look for another restaurant. We were very sorry for him and kept asking him if he was feeling fine. And luckily, he could quickly overcome this feeling.

I guess, reading this you may think that it sounds more like panic disorder rather than OCD, but Mark later told me that it’s the obsessive thought of fainting that would normally lead him to actual panic attacks.

How To Help?

Mark does not usually show any clearly visible signs of OCD – and I think most of the people do not – so this is why we should be particularly careful with a person who has this mental disorder as it is not always easy to realize when something is not alright. We should also learn what helps the person and what does not and we will only be able to do this if we talk to our friend about their problems. I am sure there are a lot of websites that share professional advice for people who would like to know how to deal with someone who’s suffering from OCD so I will only mention a few tips that I think are helpful.

Accepting

I think it is very important to understand that OCD is a serious mental disorder and we may not always be able understand why some intrusive thoughts that are fully unrealistic for us, are extremely distressing for our friend.

Humor

Do not get me wrong – I do take OCD very seriously but in my opinion, some of the “what if..” questions are pretty funny and I think laughing can really help reduce distress and anxiety.

“What if I forget to breathe?”, “What if I will rob a bank?” , “What if I forget to speak?”

Now, let’s imagine what kind of face our grandma would make if she was asked these questions? Or imagine yourself buying a black face mask and a gun or just entering the bank and shout at people? What would that look like?

Note: Laughing has always helped Mark to keep his OCD under control, but I know this may not be the case for everyone. So, before you start using humor to help your friend cope with their OCD, it’s better to ask them how they feel about it.

Junk Mail/ Filter Not Working

Last, but not least, here is an advice from my side – for those who are suffering from OCD. I know it is not that easy but imagining that your intrusive thoughts are just junk mails that your mailbox hasn’t managed to put in the spam folder and that you just need to delete. (As I do not have OCD, I am not sure if this will work for all of you but Mark said this worked for him!)

Final Thoughts – From Mark

It is not easy to live with OCD. But our friends, family and all the people who are here to support us, make our life so much more enjoyable. So, I think it’s time to say a big thank you to all those who themselves, do not have OCD but do everything to help those who’re suffering from it.

Further Reading

Your Stories

As you know, there’s one thing that I love more than sharing my stories: reading yours. So please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section.

Love ❤

Amber & Mark

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