Olivia's Tribe - The Character Community
This is the place for you to share your own creations. Do you have a character which helps you externalise your OCD? If you would like to, send it to me and I'll put it up on this page! You can use any creative outlet you like; painting, poetry, creative writing, abstract pieces, etc. If you feel able to, and your character is not in written form, please add a little introduction too so we can glimpse the thinking behind it. So far I've spoken to people with cute characters, ridiculous characters, unsettling characters, amusing characters... all serve a huge purpose to the person who invented them.
Please welcome Vera to the Olivia Community! Vera has been created by Rebecca and was one of the first alternative characters I was introduced to. Rebecca does such a great job of describing Vera and how she uses her to help externalise her OCD. It's so easy to imagine her as you read along. Thanks so much for sharing Rebecca!
My friend Vera - by Rebecca
I am 35 years old and can trace my OCD symptoms back to age 11. My compulsions are mostly mental compulsions. I am fortunate that between flare ups, I have had stretches of milder symptoms. Last year, a series of events in early pregnancy led to the most terrifying episode of OCD I have experienced.
I hated the OCD thoughts and tried very hard to get rid of them. Of course, this only led to more mental compulsions which made the thoughts stronger. My therapist suggested that I could think of my OCD as a misguided best friend who actually has the best intentions at heart but is going about it in an extreme way and maybe that I could try to have some compassion for her.
So Vera was created. I chose Vera as it is not common enough to have an association but I think it is quite a sweet name!
Vera is very fit and has lots of energy. I imagine her in my brain pedalling on an exercise bike, shouting relentlessly at me. She is always on high alert, scanning the extremities of my brain, covering all possibilities and demanding definite answers to questions where there is no definite proof. I think of her pedalling those intense feelings of panic and doubt that accompany OCD thoughts. I feel sorry for her.
I sometimes think of her as an older woman who has collected all the world’s possible fears on her shoulders and sometimes I think about her as a scared child. She is vulnerable and very protective. My therapist made the connection that she is pedalling so hard to get away from her fears but because she is on an exercise bike, she is not going anywhere. It’s the same with OCD, we try so hard to get away from the thoughts but in doing so end up getting more stuck to them.
OCD batters self esteem. It makes us feel as though we are unlikable, bad or dangerous. But as Vera, I am trying to think of it as her merely searching through every potential and extreme possibility. Of course, she will cling to those thoughts which are most frightening to me and the ones which go against my morals, values and beliefs- the ones which threaten me losing what or who is most dear. But that doesn’t mean that the thoughts represent me as a person.
Trying to view Vera with compassion is an intentional attitude. I have to pick myself up and try again several times a day. We can spend hours in the same argument, with me trying in vain to re-assure her/myself and I still experience regular panic and panic attacks. But there are times she has been quieter, when she hasn’t been pressing me quite so urgently for an answer. One day she will realise that she doesn’t need to pedal so furiously and maybe in future she will get off her bike and have a rest.
I am learning to accept Vera and maybe even will learn to have some affection for her. She needs to be heard and I am trying to acknowledge what she is saying without engaging with it and practising getting used to the anxiety this causes. I say goodnight to her and somehow this helps me sleep better. I hope that in future Vera will eventually become less of a crazy best friend and one day she may just be a crazy acquaintance.
Olivia's Tribe has grown by one more! The next member for our Character Community has been kindly provided by Laura. An honest piece, full of hope. I think this one is going to be especially helpful for parents who have children living with OCD.
Meet Ben - by Laura
I've had OCD as long as I can remember. I guess you could call me a "lifer"... some of my first memories are related to OCD worries. However, it wasn't until I was 10 years old that I first sought treatment.
For some reason in 4th grade, my OCD struck hard. I was constantly washing my hands, and I had intrusive thoughts and fears about being suicidal, bulimic, or anorexic. When I went to see the therapist, she had me start a journal about my OCD, which I then apparently spelled "obseseve compolseve disorder" (Hey, I was only 10).
In my first entry in October of 1999, I introduced my OCD and named him "Ben." I then drew his picture on the bottom of my journal. How he got his name is forever lost to time, but almost 18 years later I still remember that little drawing.
I wrote down the way my psychiatrist framed my fight against OCD. Misspellings and all, the idea was that "My Family is supposed to be my cheerleaders, my phyciatrist is my coach, me the player, and 'Ben' the apposing team." I love that framing of it even now... my OCD may be a part of me, but it is something separate that I can fight against. I have great support and I can emerge victorious.
By December of 1999, I had announced to my journal: "The OCD, don't worry, I'm pretty much cured." At the time, I had been put on Zoloft and the medication had worked quickly and miraculously well.
But, Ben wasn't done with me for life. The fight wasn't over, and OCD came back with a vengeance right before college. It was the hardest time in my life, but I survived. With the right therapy and medication, I improved and was able to move on with my life.
Whatever you name OCD, and however you visualize it... whether it's a little furry monster like Ben, a creature like Olivia, or like Melanie's "faceless stranger".... know that you are bigger than it. In the years since college, I've gone back and forth in battles with OCD, but what's important to remember is that I always come out on the other side. For all of those fighting out there - I know that you can too.
Thank you so much again for sharing Ben, Laura! Laura is the author of the blog "OCD Neuroses and Other Nonsense." You can also follow her journey on the OCD Neuroses and Other Nonsense Facebook page.
Here is a wonderful piece written by Melanie who, after reading about Olivia, decided to create her own character to help with her driving. It was important to her to create the character from scratch, the result is incredible!
If I'm going to drive, I'm driving with a monster. I will create a monster. I need a monster if I'm going to start driving again.
The monster is with me anyway. She's been my faceless passenger for years, breathing fear into the steering wheel, dread onto the dashboard.
Today I have chosen to give her form.
Just not a face.
She doesn't need a face. Her presence speaks volumes, doubt and dread on overdrive. Her dialogue, relentless:
Watch out. There's a person on the sidewalk. What if you hit them? Check and make sure they're still on the sidewalk. Was that them? Was that someone else? What if it was someone running to get help? What if you just hit the pedestrian? You're getting closer to that a car parked on the side of the road. A child could dart out. What if a child darts out and you kill the child? Be careful. Drive slow. Check to make sure you didn't hit a child. Can you be sure? What if you just hit a child? There's another person. Be vigilant. Drive carefully. What was that bump? Did you just hit someone and not notice? Check. But are you sure you didn't see a body? Maybe you should replay the situation over in your mind. Play it again. And again. Can you be certain that bump wasn't a body? Check the news as soon as you can. Find out if you're going to jail. Your life will be over. Wait, was that a scream or a bird? Listen closely. Did you just hit someone and they screamed? You have to be more careful. Driving is dangerous. Check and make sure no one is hurt. Are you sure it was just a bird? What if you killed someone? How can you be certain?
She's my faceless passenger. She's the passenger who's made me become the passenger. Her dialogue is haunting, consuming.
But now I'll hang her from the rear view mirror in lieu of air fresheners. Now I'm choosing to drive with her dangling in my peripheral.
I've resisted my faceless passenger for years. But today, as I hang her from my rear view mirror, I'm accepting that she'll be coming along for the ride.