That's totally it, knowing it's a compulsion that's separate to your rational mind and desires. And yeah it's no means to an end, although breaking up will definitely seem like it.
I actually DID break up with my partner for about two weeks. I'm insanely lucky because my partner knew I was unwell and not making a logical decision; we persevered and kept talking, and as I got better we reunited and got back together.
After the break up I felt the briefest sense of relief, then, as you can imagine, an overwhelming sense of loss. But more importantly, my OCD soon started to focus on something else. Only a day after the breakup, I felt a nonstop compulsion to quit my job immediately (I didn't haha). But yeah my OCD transformed.
The compulsions of OCD are like a black hole. You feed it one thing but it will soon want something else!
I hope that anecdote is helpful and not frightening. As someone who's been on the other side of a ROCD compulsive breakup, I can tell you the grass is not greener haha.
Keep fighting! I believe in you :)
Sometimes You Have To Break So You Can Rearrange The Pieces
Your feelings about others can be a projection of your deepest fears.
The first time I had ROCD, I had become obsessed with the idea my partner wasn’t good enough. My anxiety began around the false idea he wasn’t popular with friends and family but later morphed into a many-headed beast. I worried he wasn’t talkative/witty/decisive enough.
You name it: I thought it.
Looking back, it’s heartbreaking to see none of this was really about my partner at all: it was simply a reflection of my own fears, the ocean-deep belief I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t worried about how people saw my boyfriend, I was worried about how people saw me.
The more research I did, the more obvious it became that we all unconsciously project our own fears onto others. As this comprehensive essay on A Conscious Rethink explains:
“Psychological projection is a defence mechanism that occurs when a conflict arises between your unconscious feelings and conscious beliefs. In order to subdue this conflict, you attribute these feelings to someone or something else.”
This opened a can of worms: for the first time, I was faced with the reality my own low self-esteem could be at the root of my relationship anxiety. It was also the best thing that could’ve happened because it forced me to learn how to be kinder to myself, and that’s genuinely changing my life.
The lesson applies to all of life: if you find you’re unfairly judgmental of others, it’s worth looking more closely at yourself.
If you have unhealed trauma, anxiety will target your peace and happiness.
When my partners were troubled, I’d been able to shift my focus onto what was wrong with them; when they were distant or cruel, I’d been able to throw my energy into trying to convince them to love me. With a secure partner who offered consistent love and care, I was suddenly claustrophobic.
As I worked with my therapist to unravel why healthy love itched like wool on bare skin, it became there were many reasons why.
I’d somehow grown up believing love was something you had to earn by doing well, so unconditional love was unfamiliar. When I’d dated people who were bad for me, the cycle of highs and lows had been addictive. And without a tumultuous relationship, my anxiety no longer had anything to attach to.
I detail why healthy relationships can make us want to run in this article (I guess I’m not alone because it’s my most-read story of all time); for now, I’d just like to say that if you have unhealed trauma, anxiety will attack your best relationships, not your worst.
It’s something to consider working on if you struggle to choose or accept stable partners or friends.
Relationship decisions shouldn’t be based solely on feelings.
Think about areas of your life other than romantic relationships for a moment. Would you give up your dream job just because sometimes you felt bored, tired or frustrated doing it? Would you abandon your family just because you couldn’t viscerally feel your love for them 24/7?
When it comes to feelings, we put too much pressure on our romantic relationships to be a constant source of joy; if sometimes we’re not feeling it, we mistakenly think it’s over. On the flip side, I’ve known friends stay in a horrible relationship because they still felt those heady in-love feelings sometimes.
I now make all relationship decisions based on my inner wisdom, whether it relates to my partner or my friends. I don’t ask “how do I feel?” because that changes day-to-day. I ask “Is this person good for me?”, “Are they generally loving and respectful?”, “Do I like and trust them?”
You can’t ever have certainty in relationships (or life).
A big part of ROCD is rumination: spending hours cycling through worries without ever finding your answer. Experiencing it was hell, but it also prompted me to research why anyone can suffer excessive worrying.
It turns out there’s a scientific explanation: rumination makes your brain feel like it’s actually solving a problem, so when we worry, we experience temporary relief. That relief is addictive, so rumination becomes a habit you return to again and again. Understanding this has helped me realise why excessive worrying hurts me in the long run.
I was also forced to ask what I was really searching for when I spent hours analysing my relationship; it soon became obvious I was desperate for certainty. I wanted to be sure this was my best possible match; I wanted to know, without a shadow of a doubt, we’d be happy together forever.
What I realised is we can never have 100% certainty about anything in life, and my need to be sure about the future was holding me back in so many ways. It’d stopped me from sharing my writing because I couldn’t guarantee anyone would like it; it had prevented me from being honest about my feelings because I couldn’t be certain how people would react.
Now, I try to lean into uncertainty because it’s nearly always where I find the most growth.
So i feel like i need to give background on the whole situation for you to really understand the context of this. I was with a boyfriend for a year in my first year of uni and the relationship was awful, we fought almost every day and we were doing long distance so didnt see eachother much. On top of this, i didn’t have very good friends that i could really rely on and ended up settling for people that were “okay”. We had broken up and I felt quite good about it, i was sad for a while but i knew it was the right thing to do.
2 weeks after we broke up i slept with a guy and we quickly became quite attached to eachother. we had a lot in common and enjoyed spending time with eachother. I wasn’t fully over my ex when this was happening but i was open and honest with this guy and told him that i wasnt sure if i wanted to be exclusive. He said he respected that and we were talking all summer long via facebook. I was developing feelings for him throughout this time and i knew that we were going to end up in a relationship, but i was unsure about the timing as i didnt feel like i had enough time to really be happy on my own and not being dependent on anyone else.
We got into a relationship after the summer (this was my 2nd year of uni) and i had the time of my life. We got along so great and really understood eachother, we never had any fights (apart from a few arguments but never turned into anything serious). I had sort of ditched my other “friends” cus i had so much more fun with him than i had with anyone else. This past summer was incredible as well as we had gone on holiday together multiple times. Everything was essentially perfect.
The new school year began and thats when things started to get bad. I had awful anxiety and started to feel really lonely as the same “friends” i was living with started ignoring me and didnt acknowledge me at all when i was around. I began realizing that I didnt really have any real friends at uni and essentially was only with my boyfriend a lot of the time. I did enjoy being with him, but i definitely missed what real friends can offer. I started considering maybe having a break from him so i can focus on myself for a while, but i quickly disregarded it. One night i had a panic attack that I didnt love him anymore, and thats when the ROCD and depression kicked in. I was obsessing over whether i loved him whilst being extremely depressed. I was constantly crying, suiciadal ideation, and he took care of me the entire time. I told him about the ROCD and he was so understanding about it, which made me feel even worse.
over the course of September to beginning of January it was constant up and down of ROCD and depressive episodes from feeling like “I’m in love with him” to not being able to feel anything and just wanting to die. My grandpa also passed away during this time which was upsetting, but i dont feel like i was even able to process it properly because of all the obsessing about my boyfriend. I’ve been having CBT since october to help with all this. On top of this, my friends that i was living with did nothing for me, so i had essentially no contact with anyone other than my boyfriend. He told me that i needed to move out and find new housemates, and at the time i agreed but thought that as long as I was with him everything would be fine.
The worst depressive episode was when i had spent New Years eve with him and his Friends in London, and I felt numb the entire time i was there. I felt like i couldnt feel any kind of emotions towards anyone and this upset me, as i felt like i couldnt feel towards my boyfriend as well. On the bus journey home i was crying the entire way, and spent 4 days in bed wanting to kill myself. I kept thinking that if i broke up with him i would be completely alone and no one would want to be with me (not romantically just be associated with me in general). The fact that i had these thoughts troubled me at the same time cus i kept thinking that if i was really in love with him id only be sad about not being with him not anything else.
I got out of the episode and went back to uni. The second i saw my boyfriend again i feel like i fell in love all over again, I was up in the clouds. For a week everything was great and i was trying to get my life back together. One evening as i was on my way to my boyfriends house, i went downstairs and my friends completely ignored me and didnt even acknowledge that i was even there. This really got to me a lot and started giving me anxiety again. I felt better once i saw my boyfriend, but then the ROCD thoughts slowly starting popping up. Over the course of the week i started feeling more and more distant, and realized that I didnt feel that in love feeling with him anymore and I couldnt fight it. I still love him to death, and im not sure if with all the depression/anxiety caused me to fall out of love with him or if i really just didnt love him all along, but I knew deep down that I needed to focus on myself and myself only.
We broke up 2 days ago and he was very understanding of where i was coming from. I feel relieved and happy to be getting my life back together, but now i feel like the OCD thoughts are playing on me in terms of what i should be feeling during this time. Sometimes I’m crying and then other times I’m okay and feel optimistic. But when I’m feeling better I start to feel guilty and start thinking that maybe all I want to do is just be with other people and that I just got sick of him. I also start thinking thoughts like I was never in love with him in the first place because he already feels so distant to me. I dont know if this is a defense mechanism or not but its really bothering me. We said that we wouldnt rule out a future together at some point but for now it is permanent, but I’m uncertain as to whether or not I want a future with him now because I’m feeling more optimistic?
I just need some support and right now I’m all alone with no friends and I’m moving house next week with some new people who seem super friendly which has made me also feel better about the whole thing. It was heartbreaking to let him go and he was the best boyfriend anyone could ever have, and i just feel like i dont even know what im supposed to be feeling or what im feeling is real or not. I could just use someone to talk to 🙁
A Day in My Life With Relationship OCD
I wake up at 7:00 a.m. and my brain begins its morning routine: “Do I hate him? What if I hate him? Should I break up with him? What if I do? What if he leaves me? I don’t want him to leave. What if we’re not compatible enough? What if I don’t actually love him? What if he doesn’t love me? I love him. He doesn’t love me.”
A few words repeat for some time. “Hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.” “Breakup, breakup, breakup, breakup, breakup.” I try to tune out the thoughts with the sound of water from the shower.
I feel shaky. The front of my head is hot. There’s a layer of fog around me deafening sounds and blurring my vision. There’s pressure in my brain.
I get on the bus and go to work.
I sit at my desk and open my work. I open Facebook and think of messaging him. “Should I say good morning? Maybe if I message too often I’ll seem clingy. I don’t want to distract him if he’s busy. If I’m annoying he won’t like me and he’ll leave. But my partner shouldn’t be bothered by my messages, that means he doesn’t actually like me. I shouldn’t be with someone who’s annoyed so easily. If he loved me he wouldn’t care how often I messaged. He doesn’t love me.” I’m now angry at my partner, and at myself for being angry over a fictional situation (I’m wondering if it’s fictional). My face is burning, my head feels like it’s full of sand. A co-worker wishes me a good morning, and I reply with a smile and pleasant tone of voice. It was difficult to hear him over the sound of my own thoughts.
It’s lunch time now and I go for a walk. I blast music through my headphones in an attempt to drown my thoughts. Angel Haze, Purity Ring. Grimes. They bring me some temporary peace. I’m exhausted, so I lay down near a tree. I try to meditate and let my thoughts wash over me, unbothered. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. Today it doesn’t. I go back to work.
I chat with my partner for a while over messenger. He makes me smile. We talk about how we’re feeling. I don’t go into detail, I say that I’m feeling a bit unwell but that overall I’m having a decent day. We discuss plans for the weekend. He tells me about some TV shows and movies he thinks I’d be interested in, and I share a short film with him by a director that he mentions. He shares a brief analysis of it. We exchange sappy emoticons. I feel temporarily elated. I try my best to finish the work day without letting my thoughts spiral out. The busier the day, the better. I get up and take a walk around without an objective just to get my body moving to help stave off the
anxiety. I start thinking about last week, how he didn’t want to watch a TV show that I like. I think, “But this show resonates with me, how could he not want to watch it? How will he ever understand me if he doesn’t watch this show? He doesn’t care if he understands me or not. He doesn’t care about me. Why doesn’t he care about me? Why I do I love someone who doesn’t care about me?” I’m angry again (at him and me, again). I go to the washroom to hyperventilate and cry. When I return to my desk a co-worker asks if I’m OK. I tell them I sneezed five times on my way back from the washroom. We share a laugh.
I head home.
I make a simple dinner of rice and frozen dumplings and praise myself for preparing a meal. I send him a message before I begin eating, and check for a reply when I’m done. He doesn’t reply. I’m scared. “He hates you.” I try to calm myself down, telling myself that that it’s OK, it’s not true. “How do you know?” My brain replies to my calming mantra. I can’t answer. I begin to shake. “You hate him.” I shake more. I decide to distract myself. YouTube. I look for movie trailers on YouTube. I watch the trailer for “La La Land” and think it looks decent. I wonder if my partner would like it. In that moment, I realize that I don’t know if I like it anymore. What if he hates it? What if he hates what I like? What if this means we’re not compatible enough? Suddenly, his opinion of this trailer, which I only kind of liked, is more important than anything. I begin to hyperventilate and my chest hurts. The room spins and my vision blurs. I can’t breathe. I’m having a panic attack.
I check my messages and he replied. I smile.
Relationship OCD (rOCD) is a type of OCD that revolves around the fixation on the “rightness” of one’s relationship. It’s characterized by repetitive thoughts, ideas or impulses that are described as unwanted, intrusive and anxiety inducing. ROCD is invisible to the naked eye, as all of the “checking” and repetitive behaviors associated with OCD occur mentally. ROCD is rooted in doubt about one’s own feelings for their partner, their partner’s feelings for them and whether the relationship is the “right” one.
In the last eight months, I’ve gone from daily crippling feelings of guilt, shame, panic and suicidal ideation to an enjoyable life.
I saw a doctor who I’m forever appreciative of. She examined my thoughts as well as my physical health. She let me speak freely. I stopped feeling so ashamed of what I was experiencing. I discovered that my iron was low and began taking supplements, relieving some fatigue and improving my mood. I began taking an SSRI, which (after two awful weeks of side effects) relieved the pressure in my brain and helped me create more positive thought patterns. I started journaling regularly as an outlet for my thoughts. The interesting thing about writing thoughts down is that it allows you to step back and decide if you agree with those thoughts. The world in an OCD mind is confusing and misleading. When you remove the thoughts from your mind and put them to paper, suddenly they transform from all-consuming to small.
I also started to write and draw, and that’s how I created
Homebound. The story is a reflection of my journey from feeling like an inherently bad person, terrified of uncertainty and consumed by doubt, to finding equanimity in uncertainty, and learning that I am not my thoughts. While Homebound marks a turning point for me, the journey isn’t complete. I still battle daily with my OCD, but it no longer controls me. I recognize it, I see it for what it is. I’m not afraid of it. I also recognize that I have certain privileges that made my recovery easier than what others will face. I had money saved from working, a family I could fall back on when I was too ill to continue working and friends and a partner to lean on in moments of panic. To those who face more difficult circumstances than me, I’m not going to pretend I know what you’re experiencing. But I can tell you that it’s possible to come back from wanting to die to truly living, not just surviving. If you have OCD in any form and you’re still alive, you’re strong as hell, and I believe in you.
You can find Homebound at my online shop along with prints and miscellaneous merchandise reflecting my mental health and relationship journeys.To read this article on The Mighty, head here, and for additional OCD resources, check out The Mighty's OCD page.
Break up rocd
I hear it often: “If I could just find someone to love, someone to love me back, I’d feel better. I’d be happy. Life would be great.”
But what if being in an amazing relationship, loving someone who shares those same feelings for you, only causes you pain?
This is life with Relationship-OCD (ROCD), a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder that attacks relationships (typically romantic, but not always). People with this disorder often doubt their love for their partner, and/or their partner’s love for them. This can take form in various ways, from worrying your partner is not “the one” to feeling like you’re cheating simply by finding another person attractive. Many question their sexuality, their loyalty, their values, their feelings, and even their character on a loop until they’re depressed or numb, unable to enjoy their relationship.
ROCD is becoming more well-known, thanks to the OCD community opening up on social platforms and in the media; however, it’s still widely misunderstood by many, which can be detrimental to sufferers who don’t know what they’re experiencing or why they’re experiencing it.
On my column, “My OCD and Me,” I plan on sharing my full ROCD story (which I will link once it’s written/live), as my struggles date back to my first ever relationship (and even before that). But first, I wanted to collab with Kiyomi LaFleur, founder and creator of Awaken into Love, an online community for people who experience ROCD, and share some stories to break the stigma of the disorder. Kiyomi helped spread the message to her followers, encouraging them to speak up and cultivate awareness around this complex illness.
Below are submissions I received from individuals experiencing ROCD first-hand. I hope their stories shed some light, offer some comfort, and spark some hope to those in need. ♥
Hell when I thought I was in paradise. That’s how it felt when my ROCD started … From “What if I don’t love him?” my thoughts changed to “What if I’m with him only because I can’t stay alone?” and “What if I’m lying to myself?” After that, they developed into any thought that could give me the proof I was in the wrong relationship. Even, “What if I’ll wake up in 20 years and realize I’m lesbian?” which caused me to doubt my sexual orientation. I was afraid I would like another guy in my class. I was afraid to leave my hometown for just three days because what would happen if I wasn’t in the same town as my boyfriend? Would I really understand that I’m not in love anymore? … I cried every day, I didn’t eat, I lost weight, I was depressed, I couldn’t do the easiest tasks like taking a shower or watching a film … ROCD is the most painful experience I’ve ever had. But you know what? The greatest things in life aren’t easy, and I’ll forever fight for my relationship. I’ll always love him. — Chiara
My boyfriend is the sweetest guy and jumped right in from the beginning, which was foreign to me. I soon began to obsess if I really loved him, if I liked him at all. It was crippling. I kept Googling and trying to seek reassurance. Now, however, one-and-a-half years into the relationship, we live together and ROCD is much more subtle, which tells you this is a lifelong battle you need to fight. I still get triggered if I have an argument with my boyfriend, or if I see happy couple pictures of my ex-boyfriends. The anxiety won’t be crippling, but just enough to distract me from work, give me headaches, cause me to sleep poorly … However, it’s not just downsides, I’d say. I really dove into learning about how to be a better partner and how love works and what it actually is. Sure, I miss the lovey-dovey feeling and sometimes feel like I’m lying to myself, but then again, I know this relationship is the best and the most committed and loving I’ve ever had. At my worst, I was trying and doing my best. — Anonymous
To be honest, it’s still very hard for me to believe I even have this. It did not really show up in my life until I met my now ex-husband. When we first met, I noticed my body and mind going through things that reminded me of having a panic attack, and it really felt like I was having a heart attack at times … I noticed I was feeling this way every single time a man showed romantic interest in me. Stress down my left arm, heaviness and burning in my chest, my mind going a mile a minute. I found myself just very obsessed with the relationship itself, not so much in a love obsession mode, but more so asking questions of, “Where is this gonna go?” “Do I really love this person?” — Chenoa, 48 (Hear more on her podcast.)
My strongest thought is compatibility. I constantly check whether or not we are compatible enough. When we encounter differences, and we experience struggle due to it, I immediately think that we are not meant to be. This jumps in to the thought of him not being “the one” … Another thought I get is about being too young to be in a relationship … My brain focuses so much on what people are doing around me, and it makes me want to be doing what they are doing: being single, free, wild, and promiscuous. I get so many thoughts about whether I want to be single and live a crazy life or not. This also causes me to get so many thoughts about my partner “holding me back” and “preventing me from growing” and “not letting me find myself.” My thoughts start off as one and multiply into several other ones that compliment the first thought. And the ROCD does everything to try to make me leave. It nit-picks little things such as my partner’s habits and looks and personality traits. It catastrophizes small things, like my partner being a little late to our date. It makes everything feel like it is break-up-worthy. Except it really urges you to break up to the point where it feels like you will collapse if you don’t. — Sammy Nuñez, 22
Looking back, I can pinpoint the very first time I experienced ROCD thoughts: I was sitting in my office cubicle at my summer job, anticipating my future transfer to another college; and while I was nervous about that, I was more nervous about how my relationship with my boyfriend would work out. We’d met in college the year before, and now I was transferring. I was a terrible girlfriend. I was going to cheat. I didn’t love him. I never did. I should just break up with him. He hates me. All of these thoughts raced through my head … It still tells me that I’m a horrible girlfriend. It still tells me that I’m going to cheat and that this is something that I want. It tells me that I love his best friend. It tells me that I’ve already cheated. It tells me that I need to be single because I want to be with his best friend. It tells me I can’t have any guy friends even though they’re platonic relationships. It tells me that I can’t be vulnerable with anyone, especially guys. It tells me that I love the attention I get from stares at the bar and that I’m a bad girlfriend and need to break up with him. It screams at me that I need to feel guilty for all of these things. It tells me that I can never be happy in my relationship. It tells me that I am not sexually satisfied because I’m not in the mood to be intimate one day. It tells me that I never will be able to have pleasure in this sexual relationship because I am not in the mood once. It screams that I don’t deserve love. It tells me that he will break up with me if I cry in front of him. It tells me that I need to break up with him because I thought that actor was attractive. It tells me that just because I am becoming friendly with another guy, it means I am going to leave my current relationship for a relationship or even a fling with another guy (or even a girl sometimes). It tells me that because me and another guy bond over music and shared past experiences that I love this new guy and want to leave him. These are just the loudest things that it says to me, but rest assured, it can and will find and attach to anything that comes up. — Anonymous
I have battled with ROCD for about a year now. It first happened after our honeymoon phase ended and I was under a lot of stress from uni and other things. I have experienced many ROCD thoughts such as: “Do I love my girlfriend?” “Do I love my girlfriend enough to marry her?” “Do I truly love my girlfriend or just the idea of being with her?” “Are we compatible enough?” “What if I am supposed to be with my ex instead?” “What if I still have feelings for my ex?” I’ve also felt guilty for finding other women attractive and thinking about kissing them; and I’ve experienced Homosexual Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (HOCD), where I have obsessions about being gay or bi and how that would ruin the relationship. I believe that if I was actually found out to be bi, I would be lying to myself, my partner, and my family. It impacts my daily life by causing me to spend long periods of time caught up in my own head. It makes it difficult to be present and focus on other things. I wake up with physical symptoms of anxiety. It make me feel anxious when around my partner as I am questioning my feelings for her. I sometimes feel as if I have to act in a certain way to be a “good boyfriend.” I try extra hard to be the perfect boyfriend even if it exhausts me. I get obsessions about sleeping with other women during sex occasionally. It makes being in the relationship difficult as I want to be close with her but struggle as I am anxious and questioning my feelings. — Anonymous
At my worst, I was waking up every day immediately flooded with thoughts and anxiety regarding the questions in my head … Sometimes, I would go to bed and didn’t want to wake up because of its grueling nature. I would sit in class all day on Google and search the same questions over and over again, finding some relief, seeing something else, getting triggered, and immediately falling back into a state of panic and extreme anxiety. I couldn’t focus, I wasn’t eating, I would stay in bed all day … It put a lot of strain on my relationship when my partner would ask me what I was anxious about or what I was reading, but I felt I couldn’t talk about it. “Do I love him? What if I don’t love him? What if I’m too good for him? What if I’m not experiencing OCD? What if I’m lying to myself? If I loved him, I wouldn’t be having these thoughts. I guess I don’t love him. What if I have to leave? I don’t want to leave. What if I have to? Why am I attracted to other people? Does this mean I don’t love my partner? What if I don’t love them? Is this intuition or fear?” — Anonymous
ROCD is hell. Serious hell. It’s the first thought I have in the morning. “Do I love him? Do I want to be with him? I’m not feeling love for him, that must mean I don’t want to be with him.” I know I love my boyfriend. I want to be with him. We are amazing partners, and I’ve never felt at-peace with someone as much as I am with him … I get waves where I feel okay and I feel in-love. And then, like right now, I get relapses. It usually spikes worse after a fight/argument. I’ve had to postpone my graduation because of this … All I want is a stable relationship with him. A happy one. Where we are deeply connected and feel in love. I want that with him because we both deserve it. And I want to work for us and fight for us. — Kelsey, 25
I’d have guilty feelings of sometimes finding other people attractive. I’d feel ashamed and like I was cheating to the point where it would make me sick with worry. I would have panic attacks and cry so much and have to confess to him, which in turn caused more problems because I’d upset him for no apparent reason. I’d ask myself if he is 100-percent “the one,” obsessing over being single, obsessing over being in a monogamous relationship, obsessing over being with someone else. “What if, what if?” Constantly feeling bad or guilty when spotting imperfections. Avoiding intimacy (I avoided it for so long, I was too afraid of not feeling it “enough,” and I usually would cry afterwards because I evaluated it deeply) … I couldn’t work. I had to leave school most days because I would walk around school crying. I was suicidal at one point. I had to be picked up from work because I had to go to the toilet to cry every 10 minutes. It was awful. It makes my relationship harder, creates distance, and affects the quality of time I spend with my partner. — Lily, 19
Some of my thoughts are: “Maybe I’m using my husband as a crutch and just don’t want to be alone,” “Maybe I’ll never be happy again,” “What if life is always like this?” “What if I made a mistake being married with all of the doubt?” What helps me is not feeding the thought or giving it validity. I remember love is a choice and not a feeling. I remember anxiety is not a sign from a loving God. I remember that trauma occurs and anyone can have OCD regardless of their trauma. I remember I have this for a reason and can be more than just a victim. It forces me to look inward and not project my lack of feelings or pain onto my husband but to see where I need to heal. Anxiety isn’t meant to be cured; it’ll always be around because a healthy level of it is meant to show us danger, but we can learn to turn down the smoke detector. — Kelsey, 22
It used to impact my everyday life severely. When it first started, I couldn’t get out of bed. I was so depressed, crying all of the time, and just begging for it to stop. It was hands-down the hardest thing I have ever gone through … I always felt like I had to figure out my thoughts because that was going to make it better. That could not be further from the truth … It impacts my relationship because sometimes it’s hard for me to just sit back and enjoy myself when I’m around him. Sometimes the thoughts are loud, sometimes the tightness in my chest is excruciating; but other times, it’s so easy. He is honestly the sweetest man I have ever met, and I was so used to being treated like shit. I think that is why I am experiencing ROCD. Because for the first time in my life, I actually feel loved. — Charlie, 21
ROCD was ruminating whether or not I actually was in love with my boyfriend or if I just fell out of love again, whether he was attractive, whether this was worth all the pain, etc. I would ask my family, friends, and teachers if this was normal or how they felt in their relationship. It just made me feel worse about mine and like something was wrong with me. It got so bad, I would have a breakdown every night, and as soon as I came back from school because I felt like I couldn’t breathe, my thoughts would never leave my head and I could not concentrate on my assignments or work. I would cry and cry because I was so confused, and I felt so guilty not knowing if the thoughts were true or not … Many people would say, “You can control your thoughts, it’s not that hard, just don’t think about it,” but it really isn’t as easy as they say. — Dariana, 18
When I was at my worst, my boyfriend organized a weekend in Capri with all my friends. I was so enthusiastic, also expecting a marriage proposal. I had a nice weekend, but I often felt disconnected, like something was wrong with my partner. I remember we were watching the sunset together with other couples, and I couldn’t stop comparing my relationship with theirs. I started looking at my boyfriend and asking myself if I really loved him. I couldn’t feel anything at that moment due to depression, but I didn’t know that at the time. I thought it was our relationship. The next day, I felt so apathetic … Suddenly he said that he wanted to make a speech in front of everybody. Slowly, I understood what was going to happen. My thoughts at that moment were, “Please don’t ask me to marry you, because I don’t know. I might say no, here, in front of everybody; and I don’t want to break your heart.” I said yes anyway, and I felt so anxious, I had to run to the bathroom. I felt like I had to vomit. I felt so guilty, like I was a liar. I felt like I was such a bad person. I thought he deserved better … Sometimes, ROCD came with a sensation of something being “wrong.” At one point, I gave him back the ring, crying for the sense of guilt. Now, I know it was a flight reaction … My partner really helped me. He was so strong. He stayed with me and he bravely believed in our love, even when I didn’t. — Alessandra, 28
At the beginning, I didn’t know what it was. Deep down, I knew it wasn’t anything to do with my boyfriend. But what if it was? What if the reason it wouldn’t go away was because it was my truth? What if I didn’t love him? What if he didn’t make me happy? What if I was a lesbian and lying to myself? What if he was gay and lying to me? What if I accidentally killed him? What if I was with him just because of Z, Y, Z? What if none of this was true? What if I was stuck in limbo forever? Questions like these bombarded me continuously, but none of it made sense. I cried all day, I couldn’t work, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t get peace. I sought help. It took three therapists to get to someone who introduced me to the idea of acceptance and guided me in letting go of the fight … My journey has been tough, lots of peaks and troughs, and I’m still on my journey to recovery. I’ve learned to be more rational and accepting of my experience. I try to lean into the fear when I can; and when I can’t, I try to be kind to myself and accept that I’m doing the best I can. — Martha, 26 (Follow her art account on Instagram: @marthasmentalsketchbook)
(Submissions edited for brevity and clarity.)
In the interest of time, I didn’t get the chance to share everyone’s full stories; but if I had, you’d notice that their endings, though not quite so fairy-tale-like, share these common themes: love, acceptance, and hope. Love for their partners, acceptance of their situations, and hope for better days — because they will come.
If you relate to any of these experiences, know you’re not the only one. Opening up about your struggles can be intimidating, especially when your thoughts feel irrational and are attacking something/someone you value most. However, understand that you are not the first person to think these thoughts or feel these feelings, and you are not wrong for experiencing them.
For more information on or support/guidance through ROCD, don’t be afraid to connect with the community on social media, schedule an appointment with an OCD specialist near you, or book a support or therapy session through Awaken into Love.
Special thanks to Kiyomi LaFleur, Founder and Creator of Awaken into Love, an online community for people who experience Relationship OCD. With over half a million views on YouTube and over 1,000+ course and community members, she dedicates her life to raising awareness on Relationship OCD, anxiety and relationships. Having experienced debilitating Relationship OCD and having found freedom from it, she dedicates her life to coaching and supporting her course members in the awaken into love ROCD 2.0 Course with her co-worker, Alexis de los santos, the professional ROCD specialist for awaken into love.
Want to help #BreaktheStigma against mental illness? Contact me to share your story!
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