OCD

OCD and my social media break

Olivia Epley

Founder of Millennial Girl, Interrupted, a senior in a small Connecticut high school. I've been through many treatments and recoveries and am eager to share the lessons I've learned!

This week, I’m probably going to be tapering my phone back onto social media. This statement may prompt some of you to ask, but how have I been seeing her post on Instagram, etc? Well, let me walk you through the timeline of my social media break and exactly what it’s entailed.

As you all now, I have severe OCD. This manifests itself in a wide range of ways. I have dermatillomania, I have moral scrupulosity, I have an eating disorder, I have been convinced by my disorder that I have terrible illnesses, so on and so forth. These are symptoms of a brain that is made to function using OCD, or my “OCD brain,” as we like to call it.

A brain formatted such as mine can get stuck in loops very easily. It’s why I’m particularly susceptible to PTSD following trauma; my brain revisits things over, and over, and over and won’t naturally stop even when it causes suffering to keep going. That’s obsession, and negative coping mechanisms are the compulsions.

As you might imagine, social media factored terribly into my loops.

Recovering from the trauma of a year ago has been hard enough, but doing so with social media constantly available was next to impossible. I had the words of the girls who bullied me out of my old school at my disposal at all times, at the click of my phone’s home button. I had their social media profiles, his social media, everyone’s, immediately available. Whenever I’d post something, it was immediately subject to their scrutiny. I tried to kill myself in the wake of some of their words. It wasn’t sustainable, and clearly was quite dangerous.

Fast forward to post-hospitalization. I get my technology back because I have schoolwork to do, but most things are only available on my computer. This means that if I want to post something, check something, it takes me a while to have access to that check. I need to be settled at home or with a friend who is willing to show me my accounts.

This separation between the obsessive moment and the urge to compulse, and the moment I would compulsively act, is crucial. When I’m out of the house I am always wanting to check my social media, check if they’ve said anything, check what they’ve posted for mentions of me. But being unable to do so until later has been actively retraining my brain to wait for gratification, something that OCD hates.

It’s been really hard.

The first few weeks were especially difficult. I was out and about a lot and so I had only Snapchat- an approved app- and texting to work with. This has been how it is since, unless I’m home or have access via someone else’s phone.

I feel freer. I am more willing to go places without my phone, do things without my phone, because it would make little difference to be separate from it. I am eager to get out and do physical things with friends and family, regardless of my internet access.

And, most importantly, my brain is being retrained to wait.

I may limit my app access, still, for the next few weeks. Parental controls let me do that. But for now, I want you to consider the ways in which you are reliant upon social media, and perhaps consider limiting yourself in terms of the frequency of access. We live in an age of instant gratification, and in an existence in which waiting for things is sometimes necessary, it behooves us to practice it when we can.
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