When he was dealing with severe obsessive compulsive disorder, my son Dan spent nine weeks in a residential treatment program. During this time, he kept saying that he “wanted his freedom back.” I wasn’t sure if he was talking about getting out of the program, or about regaining his independence from his family.
Turns out it was neither. What Dan wanted was freedom from OCD. Since that time, I have read many blogs and spoken to lots of people with OCD, and I keep hearing those same words: “I want freedom from OCD.” More than once, in fact, I have read first person accounts of sufferers who have successfully battled OCD where they refer to the “chains of OCD being broken.” They are no longer prisoners.
But what does freedom from OCD really mean? A non-sufferer may think it simply means saying good-bye to the disorder and having it be nothing more than a bad memory. Unfortunately, this is not usually the case. While OCD is highly treatable, it rarely goes away completely. So if you always have OCD, can you ever experience freedom from it?
I would answer with a resounding Yes. Freedom from OCD does not necessarily signify the absence of OCD, but rather the lack of control that the disorder has over the sufferer’s life. While someone who is not in control of their OCD will feel compelled to perform compulsions or avoid situations to rid themselves of the anxiety that comes with their obsessions, those who have freedom from OCD will accept their obsessions as just thoughts and nothing more. They will not let their OCD dictate how they live their lives.
It is not uncommon for those with OCD to name their disorder as a way of affirming that it is separate from themselves. I talk about this more on the post entitled The Enemy. While those who do not yet have their freedom from OCD may be dealing with The Enemy, those who do have their freedom are dealing with something more akin to a little brother or sister tagging along. Sure, they can be annoying and a bit of a nuisance, but they sure as heck aren’t going to boss you around!
Gaining freedom from OCD takes a lot of hard work and may be an ongoing process. When I write about Dan’s story these days, I often say, “Dan still has OCD, but OCD does not have Dan. There is a big difference.”
And that difference is freedom.