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Friend or monster? Coping with the "authoritative" inner voice of OCD

Flickr user/Benjamin Watson
Pagacz likened the experience of OCD to that of "falling off a cliff."

Some call it the Doubting Disease.

OCD—Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder—is when you've got recurring, uncontrollable thoughts and behaviors. 

You get those unwanted thoughts or urges. Those make you anxious. So you start performing some action or ritual to assuage that anxiety. Maybe excessive hand-washing or cleaning. Maybe arranging and ordering things in a very particular and precise way.

Kirsten Pagacz of Howell started experiencing OCD symptoms when she was just nine years old.  

After decades of wrestling with them, she finally managed to be free of what she calls the "OCD prison.”

Pagacz has written a memoir meant to help those who struggle with the disorder. It's called Leaving the OCD Circus. She joined Stateside to talk about her experience with OCD, and the process of writing about it.

Pagacz said she initially welcomed her symptoms, because they instilled a sense of order into what was otherwise an unstable childhood.

“I started to hear a kind of an inner monologue or an authoritative voice that would give me certain instructions,” she said.

Tapping out to a certain number, or otherwise following the instructions of the inner authoritarian, gave her a sense of control.

Such control was short-lived, however.

Soon after she "let OCD in the door, it became much less of a friend and more of a monster," she said. "More and more, he would come into my daily life, my daily thoughts, and the challenges that would be set out before me became much more rigorous."

It was only through the process of writing Leaving the OCD Circus that Pagacz finally hit on the right name for that monster: Sergeant.   

Listen above for the rest of the conversation. 

This segment originally aired on Nov. 22, 2016.

Minding Michigan is Stateside’s ongoing series that examines mental health issues in our state.

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Stateside is produced daily by a dedicated group of producers and production assistants. Listen daily, on-air, at 3 and 8 p.m., or subscribe to the daily podcast wherever you like to listen.
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