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OCD

OCD

OCD or Recovery: The Choice

One way is recovery and the other is OCD. It is awesome to have that choice!

Growing up I used to worry a lot. About everything. I never told anyone though. I’m not sure if this was because I thought ‘If I don’t say it its not real’. Or maybe I didn’t want to seem weak? Or perhaps I didn’t want people to worry themselves? Probably all of those. It does not matter too much now. The fact is I had a load of anxiety taking a ride on never ending waltzers in my belly and, despite having a wonderfully supportive family, I never felt comfortable vocalising its existence.

So where does this anxiety go? How is the pressure relieved? Unfortunately the natural mistake any child, teenager or adult can make is to try to work that feeling out. To try to think themselves out of that feeling. It can work briefly. But if that anxiety pot is always on the verge of brimming you have to keep thinking of more ways to reassure yourself that everything is going to be okay. Throw a frightful “intrusive thought” into the mix and its not too much of a jump to see what can happen next. The individual starts to dedicate their whole lives to convincing themselves that thought was not real. But the issue is the anxiety made it FEEL real. And so the cycle continues. OCD is born.

I remember in my early 20s I used to say to myself “I will NOT have that thought today” and manage about 5 minutes at best. That track got stuck more than the NOW 54 CD that I used to use as a tea coaster and frisbee. And was even shitter. I was so desperate to have a ‘pure’ brain without ugly thoughts. But anything from a pair of scissors to a dark BBC News story would be enough to set me off into dreadful doubt and reflection. Of course all of this reassurance, coping and avoidance made things much worse. I had got to the point of planning how to ‘hand myself in’ (for crimes against the thinking world I suppose) and researching online to see if I had the same brain as the Moors Murderers. All was not well.

Then, whilst training for a new healthcare role at the age of 24, a little miracle happened. The woman taking the group mentioned “some people with OCD have repeated unwanted thoughts about hurting people”. I sat bolt upright. Straight after I raced home and jumped on Wikipedia and started reading about OCD, intrusive thoughts and compulsions. The relief I felt that day is still something I marvel at fondly. That there could be a reason for all this confusion and fear felt something close to being reborn.
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OCD

Transmuting Pain into Art

A lot can happen in an hour, so I focus on minutes and good moments.

I woke up one morning after getting my wisdom teeth pulled, bombarded by an inordinate amount of UNWANTED OBSESSIVE INTRUSIVE THOUGHTS that I found myself incapable of ridding. We all have thoughts, but these thoughts were like none other I had ever had before. Racing through my mind feeling as though someone had lit the tip of my brainstem on fire….I was debilitated. Suddenly I was checking if the stove was off, flicking light switches up down up down up down, blinking a certain number of times until “it felt right,” tapping my fingers into numbers into counting….repeating sentences…..what happened to my mind?  I didn’t know why nothing filtered out. I didn’t know why I could not let these thoughts go. I didn’t know how I was going to successfully enter my first year of college at UCSB with such bizarre obsessive worries. I was concerned about absurd topics like whether or not urine was sterile. I wanted to know that semen was not air-borne. I wanted to make sure my zipper was properly up or else something bad might happen to a family member.

August 2002, my sense of homeostasis was taken from me.

After 7 months of living in clandestine and being tormented by my own mind, I finally saw a psychiatrist who explained to me that I had a very severe on-set of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. How could my brain drastically change over night I thought? Also, from the stigma that I heard regarding OCD, it was a disorder of hand washing and cleaning. I didn’t do either, so how could OCD be my diagnosis I thought?

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OCD

The Rise and Fall of OCD

As an OCD sufferer myself, it’s only really gotten to this point of overly obsessive and compulsive behaviour in the past two years. I realised it was OCD last year, after constantly beating myself up about being obsessed with embarrassing things. I experienced very mild OCD when young, with “do this or that would happen”, but it faded and I never really took notice. It’s only when it took the form of disturbing and distressing thoughts did I realise something wasn’t right. Even though the thoughts didn’t instigate any compulsions at first, the compulsions eventually became a way of relieving the distress brought on by these thoughts. And as you know I’m sure, as soon as I thought I was over something, the OCD has already jumped to another part of my life. For one period I didn’t want to sit on the tube, the next period I couldn’t get out of bed because I couldn’t rid a thought. Often the thoughts are hard to shake because they make me doubt my beliefs. Which is the hardest part to overcome.

Over the past 2 weeks I discovered The OCD stories on the podcast app, and it’s changed my life. I can’t even list the positive messages here as there are so many. The guests who share their experiences – from onset to recovery – really have brought this way of life into perspective. For some time now, to get my mind away from thoughts and compulsions I have written poems at times that my mind would usually wander (the underground, buses, a queue etc). They’re really true to what I go through, and now I know what many OCD sufferers go through as well. Sometimes there’s a light, and then there’s a slump. But it’s all about focusing on long term recovery. While small steps to start with are hard, the most powerful thing is to know that beneath all the OCD malarkey I know who I am and what I believe in. It’s then up to me to use that power and stop the compulsions.

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OCD

On The Road To Recovery

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.

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OCD, Uncategorized

Early Memories of OCD

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.
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Anxiety, OCD

Pit of Despair

Self-pity is easily the most destructive of non-pharmaceutical narcotics. It is addictive, gives momentarily pleasure and separates the victim from reality.”- John W. Gardner

As someone who suffers from a mental illness—I can tell you right now how easy it is to fall into the slippery slope of self-pity. It becomes almost second nature to compare your own brain function to how you perceive everyone else’s to be. You begin to make excuses for yourself, followed by self-loathing due to the realization that “other people have it worse,” or “at least you don’t have to face ____ issue.”

At least you don’t have to face the issue of the Syrian Crisis.

At least you don’t have cancer.

At least you don’t have financial complications.

At least you don’t have a poor relationship with your family.

At least you don’t have to face the darkness of unemployment.

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OCD

From OCD To University

Just know that you are not alone and you will be able to live a very happy life!

It all started when I was 15 and suddenly I realized I was living with rituals and having very horrible thoughts about my family. I have had a feeling of anxiety all my life since I was 7 years old. I remember having a nightmare and the monster from that nightmare pursued me my whole life until I turned 17. I remember having terrible thoughts of death because I was sure that one day this monster was going to hurt me. So when I was 15 I realized I was living in a cage. I was doing rituals for 20 minutes before bedtime and in the morning before school. I had contamination OCD as well. I remember myself hating everybody and having no desire to be anywhere but at home. Home was the only safe place for me to stay and when I was 16 I didn’t even have the strength to go to school and I was sure that I would not be able to enter university with my anxiety.

My OCD was associated with the protection of my family and I from danger. I was checking the doors, going up the stairs, turning off the light in a certain way, I was washing my hands many many times a day. After that I started doing rituals even at school because of my fear to communicate with others. I was like an actress and I was always playing a role of the ‘happy girl’ who has no problems. Weekends were the only days when I never left the house and did rituals so I was the happiest person in the world.

I was depressed for about 2 months and could not find purpose in life. I was so scared. I was faking illness to stay at home and could spend 7 minutes to put a blouse ‘right’.

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OCD

It all started when I was 3 years old

I am nowhere near completely recovered, and new compulsions arise as I treat the old ones, but I am certainly closer each day to being OCD-free.

It all started when I was three years old and my family was going on a three-day road trip. My older sister was eating a brownie, drinking apple juice, and reading all while the car was moving. So, she threw up. I had no idea that a person could do that, and I didn’t know if she would live. That was the first time I remember having a panic attack, and from that point onward I have been terrified of vomiting or having anyone vomit near me.

When I was younger, my main compulsion was to control what I and my family ate. I couldn’t eat chocolate at all, and my family could only have one dessert item each day. No one could eat more than one snack between lunch and dinner, and if anyone tried to break that rule, I would forcibly steal the food from their hands and put it in the garbage. I could not (and still struggle with) eating in any restaurant that is too dirty or dark, and I cannot go through a revolving door, drink a whole glass of water (especially after 8:00 pm), ride a roller coaster, or use a public restroom without anxiety and intrusive thoughts about vomiting.

As I got older, I became more aware of my surroundings, and I was introduced to the concept of alcohol. The idea of not having complete control over my executive function completely petrified me from the start, and as I had more experience being around drunk people, I decided that I would never drink alcohol. That, coupled with the reality that drinking too much often makes you throw up, caused a new obsession to surface for me. This obsession is with coming into contact with alcohol, getting drunk or addicted, having to interact with a drunk person, driving drunk myself, and being in the car with a drunk driver.

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OCD

OCD, trichotillomania and my success story

I am more than happy to announce that this is a success story I am writing, and that means the world to me.

Hello!

My name is FotinI Charalabidou, I am 23 years old and I live in Athens, Greece. I have been wanting to share my story with you for a while, but in this present period, actually for the very first time, I caught myself, being in a place where I feel a lot more comfortable to do so.

To start with, my OCD came up for the first time when I was 12 years old. It was the time when I was about to leave my school and attend a new one and I was quite stressed about all the unpredictable changes that were about to follow. I guess that made an ideal condition for my OCD to occur. As a result, first of all came a constant worry about my sleep. My sleep became more and more difficult and while facing that difficulty I started having many stressful thoughts rising in my mind, so I ended up being trapped in a vicious circle. At that time, I also became afraid of a certain kind of music and I constantly had these thoughts in my head telling me that I must always listen to it and that it would be unacceptable to think about or listen to anything else but this specific music. The thought was that if I did, that would automatically make me a completely “wrong” or “bad” as a person. And I recall desperately telling myself “These thoughts cannot be rational. I need to shed these thoughts of my mind. What is wrong with me? Why am I troubled once again about a thought that earlier I have decided not to take seriously again?”… But it seemed like no reasonable thinking could calm me down and I was deeply ashamed to talk about these thoughts to my parents, because I could not show how much I was troubled by this “nonsense”, so I needed to find on my own a way of fighting this unknown and huge problem.

When September came and I started on going to my new school, I gradually lost weight, I sometimes vomited and I even remember having fever every now and then, because of all this unbearable anxiety. Every day, from the moment I woke up until the time I went to sleep I was afraid that I might not have studied well enough before attending a class, which led me to spend an exhausting amount of hours each day on studying to be prepared well enough for school.

That was the main reason why I did not find enough time to relax a bit and, of course, at the end of the day, that proved to be a habit that worsened my anxiety and my OCD. So I would definitely say that such a condition dragged me down to another vicious circle. I reached a point, where I asked compulsively again and again the same questions in the classroom, which made many of my teachers complain and let the other students think and tell me that I was “stupid”. This whole situation was the reason why my trichotillomania symptoms appeared. Of course, at that period of time there were plenty of other devastating obsessions and compulsions during each day. For example, I used to tap things compulsively, in order to avoid something really terrible from happening and I excessively checked the windows, the doors and the oven before going to sleep. Honestly, I clearly remember not to be able to stop crying and I have also kept in my mind the image of my skin, that had gone bad in my hands, because of all this suffering from anxiety.

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OCD

Meditation and other methods. My OCD Recovery.

It’s not your or someone else’s fault that you have OCD

I noticed my OCD for the first time when I was 14 (now I am 27), but now I understand that it actually started much earlier, it just didn’t spoil my life yet that much.

It was a very hard experience for teenage me as I knew nothing about this disorder, that’s why I was thinking either my soul was captured by demons or my mind just went crazy. I was afraid that something horrible has happened to me that never happened to anyone else in this world, so I didn’t tell any person, even the closest ones, about my condition and my fears, and it was a huge everyday stress that was making my OCD only harder day by day.

After a few years, I got to know about OCD from some film on TV and I told my boyfriend that I have the same thing. For sure, he didn’t react aggressively or in any other negative way, he just asked me, why I didn’t tell him about this before, as we talk about everything. I was so relieved by telling someone about my rituals and other things and by knowing that I am not the only one in this worLd with this disorder and it even has a name.

So I started trying to cure it with doctors and without them, I’ve tried a lot of different methods and I am happy to say that now I feel free from OCD. I still have my favourite and hated numbers and there appear some symptoms when I get stressed or tired but they are very easy to cope! I am not sure which of the methods worked actually, I think that it’s the result of a combination of many of the methods.
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