almost one year after beginning recovery, but I have learned to discard them and accept them for what they are—OCD.
Before my onset of OCD, I had suffered from debilitating depression and a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), a common trend for a recent college graduate without a clear path. Covering up depression was something I had done for years, while my panic attacks followed a near-perfect circadian rhythm as I laid down to sleep, out of earshot from any potential listeners. Nobody knew about the depression and GAD, but when I got OCD, the effects were immediate and painfully obvious to everyone around me.
Two Christmases ago, I went on a trip with my best friend and her family. We were eating out at a wonderful Italian restaurant, gabbing and laughing with my second family. Suddenly I look across the table at my best friend, thought about how nice she looked, then suddenly the thought hit me: she looks beautiful. I must be a lesbian. I immediately dropped my fork and sat there paralyzed while all the blood drained from my face and my stomach began tying itself into knots.
These feelings simmered unrelentingly for the next six months while my OCD thickened everyday. Every detail, conversation, action and relationship in my life leading up to that point was examined endlessly through this new lens. Here are just a couple of the millions of intrusive thoughts that took over my life, dictating my every word and action.
I can’t step in my closet to pick out clothes because then I would officially be “in the closet” and therefore I am secretly gay.
OCD caused me to do many things:
OCD caused me to not wear blue, my favorite color; because blue is for boys and boys like girls, therefore I like girls.
OCD caused me to throw my clothes around my room because going into my closet was symbolic and meant that I was “in the closet”.
OCD caused me to not be able to not be able to walk around my house, cook in the kitchen or go to the bathroom out of fear of seeing my three girl roommates.
OCD caused me to never go to the gym or do any physical activity because this was a “butch” thing to do and meant that I was gay.
OCD caused me to take the long way home from school everyday because on the main route, there was a house where a “most likely gay couple” lived over 30 years ago (before I was even born).
But with the right help and support I know I can get better.
I was always been a different child, I obsessed over a lot of things that other kids wouldn’t. I believed that if I didn’t pray a certain amount of times, someone I loved would die. This was scary to deal with at such a young age. I would obsess over things and get worked up about things. Eventually my OCD grew, it manifested itself into everything in my life. As I started high school my OCD got unbearable. It took up my life I couldn’t function normally, I couldn’t even walk into a room without my mind telling me “don’t go in that room or someone will get hurt”. Things that I used to love became meaningless, I didn’t find joy from anything anymore.
I started going to therapy and soon started CBT. It was hard at first to open up to someone and let them know about my thoughts. I struggle with intrusive thoughts, these thoughts are so real to me sometimes I can’t tell what’s real and what’s in my mind. These thoughts revolve around harming people I love. I believed that once I had this thought it would come true. This is so scary for me because I take responsibility for everything. I started self harming because I felt worthless, like I needed to punish myself for being a bad person. I got sent away to a psychiatric hospital when I was 14, this was so scary. I didn’t like it at all, I felt alone and my self harm got worse after being in hospital. I ended up being discharged from hospital as they believed it wasn’t the right environment for me.
I continue to look for an edge, not a cure, for dealing with OCD.
I can recall doing drills in after school soccer practice during elementary school. During this time period, it was common for kids to wear tee shirts with college logos and names printed on them. My mind became engrossed with the number of syllables of each school. Over and over I would say these names to count and recount the number of syllables in each school. Schools with a particular even number of syllables were grouped together and labeled as good or acceptable. My mind seemed to thrive on this type of counting activity. Around this same time frame, I can remember being transfixed by the alphabet which hung over the chalk board in the front of my grade school class. Almost endlessly, I would look at the letters and make patterns and count the number of consonants between vowels. My mind did not know how to shift gears, I would fixate on my mental gymnastics and frequently not pay attention to other more appropriate class room activities. As I understand OCD, onset is usually in the late teens and early twenties. There is usually a lag between first engaging in repetitive mental gymnastics and having overt symptoms severe enough to qualify as full blown OCD. This time period can be considered the prodrome phase. I often wonder if proper early intervention would have prevented the continually spinning wheels of OCD I came to endure in later years.
Other events during this period of life seemed to help shape the form my OCD would take in future years. I recollect rifle shooting out in the desert near our home. I enjoyed shooting tin cans and bottles with a 22 caliber rifle. My aim was often true and I found the activity exhilarating. One Saturday, a small propeller plane flew over the area where we were target shooting. With a quick thought I wondered if I could hit the plane and bring it down. On one hand, it was a moving target and would be a challenging feat. On the other hand, I was morally revolted by how I could use a vehicle transporting humans for target practice. Was I lacking a conscious? The thought provoked extreme anxiety. How could I think of such a gruesome thing? What was wrong with me? I must be the most heinous person alive. In my religious upbringing, thoughts were nearly as important as actions.For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” – Proverbs. I really believed these teachings. Somehow I had become an irredeemable murderer. In later years, I would learn about the cognitive distortion of thought/action fusion but as a 12 year old I lacked this understanding. Murder was unforgivable. No need in asking for forgiveness. I was a lost soul. Many times I tried to push this thought away and force it from my mind. Yet, the more I engaged in thought suppression the worse my anxiety became.
You may feel like your life will never go back to normal & that you will be stuck like this forever, but there is hope even in the storm.
I have been struggling with OCD since I was 16. It started with a bad thought about the bible. I never had a thought like that before, and I was basically traumatized. It felt like the world was turned upside-down, & all I could think about was that bad thought I had. I always grew up in a Christian family. We didn’t always go to church, read the bible, & we are definitely not perfect, but my parents did the best they can to teach us about Jesus & to go to church, pray, & read the holy bible. I remember crying & praying to God for forgiveness in my room for hours. Even though I prayed & asked for forgiveness, I didn’t fell like I was forgiven. I began to obsess over the thought & the more I tried to avoid having the thoughts, the worse they became. I started to think that I was this bad person & I continually ask god for forgiveness. It only grew worse from there. I began to avoid cursing (in music & language), and going to church triggered the bad thoughts.
I’ve talked to my parents & my pastor about it, but I wasn’t completely honest with them about the nature of my thoughts. I was afraid that I would be judged, especially by my parents. I thought I was alone & I felt like as a Christian I wasn’t suppose to have bad thoughts about God & Jesus. I quickly became depressed, & it felt like everyday was constantly not trying to think those thoughts again. I started having thoughts about harming babies, & just thinking bad things towards family, friends, & even strangers. I was always the person who wanted to make people happy, & do good things to make this world a better place.
I will never quit and you should never quit either.
I have had OCD for as long as I can remember. My first memory is when I was 11. I watched a movie and became obsessed with being hurt sexually like the person in the movie. It was a unhealthy fear. I told my parents and they took me to a counselor, and they psychoanalyzed me. This did eventually go away. I became obsessed with my health in my teen years. I thought that I would die from some sickness even if I had no symptom of anything. It was ridiculous.
Then when I had my 1st baby at 19 years old was when I really met OCD like no other. I remember walking with my 4 month old baby and all of a sudden a thought came to me “What if you accidentally dropped the baby” and then it went to “what if you purposely dropped the baby”. These thoughts of harming my baby almost destroyed me. I knew that I would never hurt my child. I thought I must never tell anyone or I will loose my child. So I suffered in silence. This OCD fear did did loosen its grip eventually.
But OCD started to make me think that I was a lesbian. I knew that I wasnt but the thoughts were so strong. I recognized the feeling of fear was a similar feeling I had with the harm thoughts of my child. It still felt so real. This also did eventually lose its power and things were normal for a bit. Then I had a 3rd child and 5 days after he was born.. the harm thoughts came back with a vengeance. I became extremely depressed for I recognized the feeling and I was overcome with sadness. This was my first episode of a major depressive episode. It was awful. I lost a lot of weight. I finally was diagnosed by a psychiatrist with OCD. It made so much sense. I was relieved that I was not crazy. She put me on medication and it was helpful with the depression but not so much with the OCD.
She has confirmed to me time and time again that no one in the history of OCD has ever actually acted on these intrusive thoughts
Like many, my OCD reared it’s ugly head when I was a teenager in the form of Pure O, or harm OCD. At the time I had no idea what OCD was, there certainly was no Google back then, and sincerely thought I was losing my mind. I certainly didn’t want to talk to anyone about the intrusive thoughts so I kept the torment to myself. I remember in the late 80s being in our kitchen with the Phil Donahue show playing on the tv and only half listening until I realized there were people on this show discussing exactly what I was going through. It was like an elephant being lifted off my chest and I cried many tears of relief as I listened to other stories and finally understood what I had was just a horrible condition that affected many.
I have thought at the worst times that I would rather have terminal cancer than this disorder, because at least only myself would have the chance of being harmed in that scenario. The cruelty of this illness seems to me to be one of the worst illnesses that can affect a human, but I know there is hope in the form of reaching out for help.
You have been around for quite some time now for my son (now 22yrs old)…… I first noticed when he was 13yrs old, I thought it was just little fad he was going through. Bending down touching the floor, or the top of a fence or not walking on the cracks on the pavement.
You did that for 3yrs then on a holiday weekend it all came pouring. You could not cope anymore, you thought you were gay, a bad person, a really really bad person and would go to hell, you cried with fear. OCD gave you a breakdown! You were admitted to hospital and diagnosed with OCD…. You had continuous intrusive thoughts, sexual, violent, religious thoughts…. Your head was full…… I could visibly see your worry, your pain, your fear!!! But I was helpless and did not know what to do….. I cried with you, I tried to re-assure you….. I did the best I could.
Others may not be quick to understand but have hope.
I’ve probably suffered from OCD since I was around 8 years old. My earliest memories of feeling self-conscious and hyper-aware of things that just didn’t matter to other children stem from that time. When I was 13, I asked my parents if I could speak to someone, maybe see a therapist, because I felt different and disconnected from my peers. But they didn’t see a problem until I was 16, when I was misdiagnosed with depression. At 17, I began obsessing over my school papers, and that was the first sign anyone picked up on. I was always a straight-A student, but I began having difficulty turning in assignments on time. I pulled all-nighters perfecting essays, reading and re-reading the same paragraph, the same sentence, until it sounded and looked “right.” My English teacher warned me that my perfectionism might become a real problem in college. He was right.
Freshman year of college: I had gotten into my “dream school,” a small liberal arts college over 500 miles away from home, where I knew I wanted to study art history. Well, as an Art History major, you spend most of your time memorizing names and dates and writing papers. I was spending twice as much time as other students on each assignment, constantly making up excuses and asking for extensions from my professors, and staying up all night to reach some level of perfection that existed only in my head and that I couldn’t define. My professors were impressed with the quality of my writing and I had no trouble taking exams, so they granted me an extra few days to submit papers—that is, until I became incapable of finishing a paper; until I couldn’t get past the introduction for re-writing the thesis over and over, obsessing over how a single comma changed the meaning of an entire sentence, over how synonyms are a myth since each word has a unique meaning and there is always one perfect word for what you are trying to convey.