I’m feeling kind of lousy tonight, so I thought I’d write something and see if I can sleep afterwards. Damn heat.
So, one of the things that doesn’t really get mentioned with OCD is what I, in my head, call bodily compulsions or tics.
You may or may not know that OCD is quite strongly linked to Tourette’s syndrome – in fact, it’s comorbid, which means OCD often occurs in people with Tourette’s, and folks with OCD can experience tics.
The trouble is knowing what’s compulsions and what are actual tics.
As far as my own experience goes, I think I have both.
The bodily compulsion I’m struggligh with at the moment is one where I feel like I have to engage my lower abdominal muscles until it feels ‘just right’. This isn’t simple (if it sounded so) – it inevtably involves a lot of pushing and flexing of muscles until, for a few seconds, I feel like some insubstantial equilibrium has been satisfied. The argh inducing thing about this compulsion is that it occurs a hundredfold more when I’m walking. Walking is pretty much my favourite exercise, but I feel like I have to do it perfectly – to move in such a way that I’m getting a good workout and strengthening myself and building stamina at the same time. This is all so intertwined that I don’t really know how to explain it. The short version is that before I was diagnosed, my first term away from home at university, I developed an eating disorder without realising, which was accompanied by what I believe is called exercise bulimia. Which means I obsessed about exercising as well as restricting my food, and pushed myself physically to the point where I was convinced I was going to faint most of the time I walked anywhere. I also probably got anaemic and my periods stopped for 2 years! Fun times, kids! So, the upshot of that part of my life (and, probably, my obsessive brain in general) is that I can’t exercise without becoming all obsessed and unhealthy about it.
Where was I? Yeah, bodily compulsions. Interestingly, a friend with OCD similar to mine texted me recently to say her physical compulsions were driving her crazy. I reassured her – I’ve been there, it’s horrible. I spend so much time when I’m walking trying to suck in my stomach the perfect amount that I worry I’ll cause myself damage (health anxiety there, hmm). However, probably the most hellish body compulsion I’ve had is my breathing/reading tic. I don’t remember when it started, but since sometime in my teens I’ve had a strange tic that means I expel air through my nose in short bursts until - you guessed it – it feels right. I feel like a wierd snuffling pig when I do this, it’s….not attractive. At some point in the last 5 years this morphed and joined itself to a tic that occurs when I read. Now, I get stuck on certain words that I perceive I haven’t pronounced correctly in my head, or with the right intonation, or with enough characterisation, and at the same time I’m going over and over this word or phrase, I’m doing my wierd breathing. This seriously gets so bad I hyperventilate. I feel so dizzy I can’t keep reading (trust me, I know how ludicrous this sounds).
The truly sucky part of this is that I *love* reading. I’ve read voraciously since I was a child, and it used to happen so easily – whole words would just appear in my head, it was effortless. Now, it’s a chore to read, and I am apprehensive to read fiction, which is where the tic gets worst since there’s so much speech that has to be pronouced and ‘acted’ just right in my head. I think this is one of the things into which I most resent OCD’s intrusion. It was so much a part of me. I’m trying to get that back, and right now reading a book in a fortnight feels impressive to me, which believe it or not is better than the last couple of years have been.
As far as true tics go, I think I have a blinking one where I squeeze my eyes shut or blink hard/ too much for no reason. People have noticed this, which is really quite embarrassing.
Well, that’s it for now. I suspect I’ll go into the story of my eating disorder another time. Hopefully this post will do its small part in making information about bodily compulsions more available. This is just my experience, I know at least 2 other women with similar or identical tics. It’s all part of the package, don’t worry, potential OCD reader!