What does OCD feel like? Notes from my most recent episode
I have written a lot about mental health recently, especially my struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder. I have also explored aspects of minimalism and the importance of compartmentalising your priorities. However, mental illness does not discriminate, and associated crises can occur at any time, without forewarning and behind a smiley façade of inauthentic happiness.
Amid my latest creative spurt, I have suffered some setbacks on the road to recovery before managing to stabilise and recover again. I want to share that experience to illustrate the often-innocuous external appearance of a depressive downturn, and to explore the internal agony it can cause.
Types of OCD
As I wrote a few weeks ago, my obsessive-compulsive disorder centres on ideas and plans, notes and processes, spreadsheets and obligations. I tend to be sucked into a black hole of obsession, becoming preoccupied with projects and concepts that, in the wider realm of humanity, are fairly microscopic and inconsequential. Without setting boundaries and being challenged, I lose myself all too easily in details, schemes, plans and dreams. Anxiety visits with crippling force when my senses are smothered by misplaced worry, clutter and things. It all gets too much.
What triggers an OCD episode?
I’m unsure how I actually allowed this latest overload to happen, but being frustrated with myself after the fact will not solve anything. This year, an individualist awakening led me to discover minimalism and make essential changes in my life. But there is a fine line between individualism and egotism, and the latter began to encroach uninvited on my newfound path to self-discovery.
What does an OCD episode feel like? OCD symptoms and feelings
For the past few months, I have flailed in a fractured mode of thought prizing engagement over creativity. Within that dark tunnel, soundproof and pressurised, my passions were submerged in a misunderstanding of capitalism. For example, I dedicated myself to writing about mental health, campaigning for change and challenging stigma, but for some reason, in my distorted, obsessive mind, that ambition needed a definitive plan, a robust process, a permanent roadmap and a dictatorial schedule.
In order to reach a large audience and make a tangible impact, that ambition needed a brand, I thought, perhaps selling products, definitely possessing a myriad of social media accounts, certainly publishing a post every day at the optimum time for its target demographic. Maybe it needed a trademark, and copyright protection. A logo, too. And what about a slogan? Then it would need revenue, paid marketing stimulus, and maybe additional staff. Perhaps it could become my job, then my career, five years down the line, all linked back to this moment, right here, right now. Why are you resting? Get up and write. Create something!
This is a snapshot of the chaos that engulfed i'm fine - an offshoot blog I launched in February – and numerous other projects I have been involved in recently, rushing with anxious panic.
I became sadly, terribly, worryingly infatuated with the idea of creating brands, launching them across social media, posting prolifically, honing an audience and somehow transforming them from hobby to profession, that supposed guarantor of contentment. I can’t explain why. Such is life with obsessive-compulsive disorder.
How I recovered from my most recent OCD episode
As always, Patrycja was there to help. Once again, she challenged my worldview, telling me that it was out of kilter but also bringing a fresh perspective and new solutions to the table. She told me to drop all of the personas, all of the half-baked brands, all of the social media facades. Forget about the side projects and the subsidiary accounts. Bring it all together and focus on yourself.
I’m enthusiastic about many topics, a vintage manifestation of obsessive-compulsive disorder. That multifarious zeal creates a cauldron of self-expectation within my head, and the interface between different interests is often crippled by surging anxiety.
I’m passionate about Tranmere Rovers, for example, but also about Major League Baseball. I’m interested in Polish culture but also Wirral history. I enjoy writing about travel, architecture, politics and marketing. I’m a keen mental health campaigner with a fervour for music, fashion and European football. I want to indulge in coffee from around the world and share my experiences through this blog.
I’m random. I’m contrarian. I’m unendingly inquisitive. But I’m Ryan, simply a human being. I’m not a Twitter account, a logo or a series of obscure brands. It’s time for me to embrace the diversity and stop worrying about external factors such as target audience, post optimisation and business development. Just write. That’s my plan. Live in the moment, live as myself, and experience everything this wonderful world has to offer. Then write about it - as me, not in dubious disguise.
Things are changing in my world, and that will be reflected in the content I produce. I’m building my own personal brand, and the sense of relief is exhilarating. I feel free, liberated from the cacophonous self-assessment that drove me to an addled state of confusion. My aim is to enjoy things as they happen and share them with you. Nothing more, nothing less.
Those who follow me for Tranmere coverage may be miffed by stories on Derek Jeter, just as those who enjoy my baseball writing may be confused by odes to James Norwood. If you enjoy my work on Polish culture, blogs on the need for a Birkenhead renaissance may appear useless, just as local friends and family may be dumbfounded by my interest in Legia Warsaw and my appreciation of kotlety.
You never know quite what is coming next on these pages. Often, I don’t even know! That’s a blessing and a curse, but let’s accept it positively. There is something for everybody here. Probability says that I will eventually write about something that strikes a chord with you, be it an undying love for Micky Mellon, a deep adoration of Fenway Park, a spirited desire to make mental health first aid a legal requirement in British workplaces, or a tribute to Half Man Half Biscuit.
“Life is too short to suffocate your true identity in obedience of cultural rules that, by attainment, lead to approval from people whose opinions don’t mean anything to you anyway,” I wrote in a recent blog. That has become my credo, my guiding philosophy and my defining spirit.
Deep within, every single person harbours the ability to achieve something great. We all possess at least one special skill that can be gifted to the world, our unique contribution to the tumultuous tapestry of life. But all too often, that potential and skill is lost due to inherent reticence, fuelled by a fear of judgment and an urge to conform. In my case, the inquisitive kid who loved to read and write was smothered by the bewildered adult who chased approval. My inner nerd was quashed by my outer insecurity.
Well, not anymore. I’m done with vain popularity contests and anxious pleading for societal consent. I won’t hide my interests any longer. I won’t play to a crowd or justify my otherness. I will just do what I love and what I enjoy. I will just write – about anything and everything that intrigues me. I will promote my work through one brand, across a limited number of platforms. That brand is Ryan Ferguson. That brand is me.
If people enjoy what I create, fantastic. I’m humbled by their support. And if people don’t engage with every aspect of my work, that’s fine, too. The beat will go on. The ideas won’t stop. The content will continue. Maybe you will create something as well, as yourself, and together we can tackle the overbearing scourge of social judgement.