Telling someone isn’t going to ‘fix’ the problem, but it is the first step.
For me, the scariest moment as a person with OCD is when I didn’t know what it was. It was a time I wasn’t even very aware of mental health itself.
Like many others at a young age, I had heard the word depression in various conversations, and on the television. I had even heard of OCD, but my symptoms were nothing like those I was aware of.
My room was untidy, my clothes did not have to be in a specific order, and my desk did not have to be arranged a certain way. My obsession was all in my mind, it was all thoughts, and worries. Constant buts, and what ifs?
Eventually these thoughts subsided, they no longer sat at the forefront of my mind. They were not the first thing I thought of when I woke up, and I no longer dreamt they were true. But that didn’t mean they were gone. They reappeared in new forms, in new obsessions, coming and going as they pleased. During both the most stressful times, as well as the happiest.
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.
I’ve started to realize I shouldn’t take these feelings and thoughts as gospel.
With OCD, certain questions and doubts can become addicted to answers, creating even more questions and doubts. Answering is like tossing water on a grease fire. It’s a paradoxical and insidious disorder.
When I was younger, I’d spin in specific circles as if a string were wrapped around me. Working in tandem with my tics, my mind would repeatedly flip and spin imaginary metal contraptions until they fit together correctly. I’d lick my hand whenever it brushed up against someone, and even worse, I would actually consider this my own form of hoarding other people’s germs (Yeah, I know how weird that one is). I’d spend hours and then years wondering and checking to see if my lips were resting strangely or my arms were too thin or my jaw were too weak.
I’d also repeatedly rest my fingertips in the edges of my eye sockets and pull at my jaw and press my temples because I feared and questioned how vulnerable the human face was and whether I actually wanted to pull mine apart. I’d routinely check my thoughts to see if I were capable of incest or pedophilia or murder. I’d picture my own death quite literally a thousand times a day.
My experience with OCD has been long and bizarre and even debilitating, and the list of obsessions and compulsions I’ve had is endless. I’ve gone through almost every subset apart from pop culture’s stock representation of OCD as a “cleaning disorder” (I’m filthy). Some have been temporary and some have stayed with me to this day, but they all come from the same place. I avoided getting help because it all felt too strange to put into words.
So to everyone out there fighting, welcome to the team. We’re all in this together.
I’ve always loved writing. There’s something great about getting your thoughts down on paper (or on screen as the case may be).
Unfortunately, my OCD has infused writing with a great deal of anxiety. This is because of my fear of plagiarism. When I write, my mind can become flushed with a major, blown-out-of-proportion, completely irrational fear that I am stealing someone else’s words and ideas. I could literally be typing down something that happened to me this morning, and part of me would doubt that it was my idea. Anytime I think of something super clever, a big part of me doubts that it was really original and often I am afraid to share it as my own.
This fits in with one of my main OCD worry themes: dishonesty. I hate the idea of stealing, cheating, or otherwise misrepresenting what is mine. This fear easily flows into the writing process. If I find an article that sparks an idea, I wonder if my idea is too close to what I had read.
Sometimes, unfortunately things have to get worse before they can get better.
It is currently late Saturday night, 10:45pm to be exact. I’m sitting at the desk in my dorm room, surrounded by posters and phrases encouraging me to “Take Courage!” and “Embrace Uncertainty!” I have been reading my medical entomology textbook for the past hour and a half, all the while with the weight of needing to write this essay pressing for my attention. So with my medical entomology reading now done, English reading done, dinner eaten, emails answered, and no longer a strong excuse of something else I could do first to continue avoiding, here I am at my computer at 10:49pm. I am now trying to force myself to finally start writing this essay I told myself I would absolutely write yesterday. This is after I had told myself I would absolutely write the essay a week ago. Oh to live life with OCD and anxiety.
I can remember having OCD my entire life, but I didn’t always know a name for it. I have one strong memory from Kindergarten of insisting that I needed to redo my painting because it wasn’t “perfect,” even when the other kids in the class moved on to a new activity. I remember in elementary school staying up later than an 8-year-old should having to “knock on wood” repetitively because I worried if I didn’t do this or did it the wrong number of times my family would die.
Though I have always had these symptoms of OCD, I quickly became a master at hiding my compulsions (of course I didn’t know yet they were called compulsions) and keeping my fears to myself. At this point in my life, the obsessions and compulsions were annoying but not debilitating to the level that I felt I needed to share them. So I didn’t. These first few years my OCD would focus on one theme at a time, and the theme would gradually change over the years. My obsessions changed from fearing causing my family member’s deaths to fearing causing fires to fearing suffocating. If a compulsion was particularly annoying I would just figure I could wait about a year and it would change into something else, hopefully something less annoying.
Anxiety & OCD are difficult to understand, for some people. Reality is we all deal with it! One way or another we get anxious at some point in time. I have struggled with OCD & Anxiety for the past 5 years. It was a really big discomfort in my life, but I have such great parents to give me support and love.
There are many ways to overcome OCD and anxiety, my way was being around and feeling loved by the people I want to surround myself with only, and also by Praying. I prayed a lot and also had many people praying for me too. God helped me in many different ways to overcome OCD & Anxiety. But Of course patience is KEY! Now only Good Energy, good vibes! Now I do not get anxious anymore and my OCD is gone!
What I would like for you to know is, if you are struggling with Anxiety or OCD. There is Help! Keep yourself busy and maintain good thoughts. I hope this short post will help some of you, and remember always, have HOPE.-Haydee-
She told me how she wanted to show those above her that OCD can be fully managed and not something to be drugged up and forgotten about.
Oh The OCD Stories, what a pleasure it is to be writing for you.
I spend most days browsing through the stories written by those little beans struggling with the terrible thing that is OCD.
I guess I should introduce myself, I’m Jessica. Pleased to meet you! I run a little space over at littlestlady.com detailing my struggle with abuse and various mental health difficulties right through to recovery. I spend my days between a busy nursing schedule trying to teach others that they can recover just like I did.
See, that’s what I did. Got rid of it all! Gone, goodbye, au revoir! Well I say ‘gone ‘but it’s under management anyway. Considering my OCD took approximately 5 hours out of my days, had me trapped inside my house and unable to complete day to day tasks, to living a normal life, I think you could call that pretty much good and gone.
I am coming to terms with the fact that thoughts are just thoughts
I have had OCD for 40 years.
In 1973, when I had my first intrusive thought (to stab my mother with a kitchen knife) up until 2005 (checking and rechecking moles to see if they were cancerous), I assumed I was just a weird worrier. After all my mother did it too so I figured it couldn’t be that abnormal.
But by 2005 the fear became so loud and the checking became so time consuming that I knew something wasn’t right. And the obsessions became more and more bizarre.
As most people do, I did research on the Internet. It appeared as if I might have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. There wasn’t a description of my specific obsession (and that worried me) but my behavior seemed to fit the OCD pattern.
I started seeing a therapist. I started seeing a psychologist. With their help I began to get better. Prozac helped too.
I hope that all of you reach the path of loving yourself
My irrational anger, frustration, and thinking
I feel like I am drowning into nothingness. Like all the efforts in the world are worthless, and that I will be a nobody forever. I feel like I will be forever unhappy, I will be forever failing in every single goddamn thing that I do, and that whatever I do will never be worth it. I want to just run away from people, tell them that my mistakes, my failings don’t define who I am. I really, really really wish I could be anybody but myself. I feel unhappy, but I don’t know why. I feel lonely, but I don’t know why. I have everything in the world that I could want, and yet I am unsatisfied. What is wrong with me? Why am I not happy? I am studying at least 5 hours a day, needing to make sure that every single grade of mine is great, and it’s only in the 80’s range. Why, why, why, can’t I be perfect. All I want is to be perfect and to be like everybody else who just gets 99 by studying 2-3 hours a day. I really, really really really wish I was like everybody else. OCD is a very common anxiety disorder. Sometimes, when people talk to me, I literally, can’t concentrate on what they are saying because my mind is filled with these thoughts. I feel like I need to stab myself, or do something, anything, to make myself perfect.
Every freckle on my skin tells a story,
and not just about the time I forgot to wear sunscreen.
The latest freckle,
three finger widths from the inside of my left elbow is a sad one.
It’s a different story than what the freckle directly under my right shoulder blade tells. That one is from the outdoor folk festival last July.
On that day my brain wasn’t loud enough to interrupt the music.
This latest blemish is from the rooftop barbecue yesterday where I was under water (in a figurative sense, it was surprisingly scorching hot).
Yesterday I had nothing to contribute to the conversation.
My presence didn’t feel enough.
Taking up space and simply smiling like I always used to do wouldn’t cut it.
That’s the thing about experiences— once you’ve pushed the limit to what you think you’re capable of time and time again, you can rarely sit back and be satisfied.
Like Ariel the mermaid, my brain was singing, “I want more.”