A Letter to My Family About My OCD

Dear family,

You have plenty of experience dealing with the effects of my mental illness, and want me to get better for the sake of not only me, but for the family as a whole. There are some things that you as family members can do to help me in my journey to recover from OCD.

  • Don’t reassure me, ever. While it will ease my anxiety in the moment, it will hurt my long term recovery.

  • Don’t try to force me to do exposures. It is my recovery and I am the one going through the anxiety and panic, so leave it up to me to decide to do the exposure. You can do some nudging, but the final decision is up to me.

  • Understand that some days will be better than others. What was fine one day could trigger me the next, everyone has bad days.

  • Recovery is not a straight line. I could have obsessions that I thought I got over suddenly come back full force. I can have brand new obsessions pop up out of the blue. That is how life works.

  • Do not use negative reinforcement to try to get me to not do compulsions. As you have learned from experience, it doesn’t work, and just leads to fights and arguments.

  • Do not refer to food as good/bad or healthy/unhealthy. Also, while you may be on a diet or trying to lose weight, please don’t tell me about it, or mention how you can’t eat certain foods due to your rules for healthy eating or weight loss, it will make it much harder for me to expand my diet.

  • If I blow up at you, or have a panic attack or melt down, I’m sorry. I’m not upset with you, I am upset with my OCD and you are the unfortunate individual that my frustrations get taken out on. I do not mean the things I say during those times.

  • If something triggers me, I will say so and then please don’t talk about it. Even if it makes no sense how what you’re saying is triggering, just stop and talk about something else.

  • I am not my OCD, I have OCD. There is a very important difference.

  • Don’t blame everything you don’t like on my OCD, I am a unique person and not everything is my OCD.

  • I am not exaggerating my OCD or what I am going through. In fact, I often under exaggerate because I fear that you will think I’m exaggerating.

  • I have a different relationship with each of you, and there some things that it is okay for one family member to say but not the other. Don’t get mad about it, just accept that it’s because you are all different and move on.

  • You can ask me if I want to talk about things, but if I don’t want to talk don’t force me.

  • I am going to be pretty open about my OCD, but if you tell someone about it I’d like to know that you told them.

  • I know my OCD is frustrating a lot of the time, but try to not blow up or get mad. It isn’t going to help the situation I am in if you get mad.

  • My triggers are not a joke, and it is not funny to set them off to get my reaction. If you need something to relate to, it feels like if someone smashed your phone in front of you (because no phone is like the end of the world to those of us in the digital age) just to get a reaction.

  • Do not make fun of my obsessions or compulsions. I am aware that some of them are completely ridiculous, but they feel very real to me. OCD logic doesn’t care at all about real logic.

  • If I am freaking out or having a hard time, that is not the time to talk to me. If you do, it will not go well.

  • Everyone gets a therapist. We each have our own personal issues that we have to work through, and if I’m going to be going through all of this effort to get better you guys get to come with me. There isn’t a single person in the world who wouldn’t benefit from a therapist.

Sincerely,

Ashley