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).
OCD sufferers can make significant progress towards recovery.
The first time I realised something wasn’t right with me was in my first year at University, I was smoking a lot of weed and had been since I was 16. The weed only added to the confusion, I was having problems sexually and the only reasonable explanation at the time seemed to be that I was gay. Perhaps a more rounded conclusion may have been the fact I was smoking weed everyday or that dabbling quite regularly in cocaine and ecstasy wasn’t helping the situation. However, as sufferers know deep down, their irrational doubts are exactly that, irrational.
So there it began, I had just broken up with the girl I was seeing, due in part to my unwillingness to talk about the problems I was having, and out of nowhere came the desperate urge to prove my sexuality one way or another. Every waking moment was spent ruminating about whether I was gay; searching google for answers, watching porn to prove my sexuality, comparing myself to friends who were gay etc. All aspects of my life began to suffer, from sports where I had played to quite a high level to relationships with friends and family. My studies also suffered immensely, I would sit in the library desperate to take in the information that I was reading, unfortunately, the tape I had running in my head would give me no respite. The only logical solution at the time, was to smoke even more weed which as you might imagine, contributed to the disorder snowballing.
I was in a constant state of anxiety throughout that summer, I had failed an exam and was absolutely terrified of the prospect of a resit in August 2012. I knew how difficult it was going to be to even scrape a pass, my family were worried about the extent of my drug use and tried on many occasions to help me. I responded by shutting them out, too scared to talk about what was going on inside my head and perhaps still unaware of the fact I was experiencing a mental health problem. I was still golfing and playing rugby, however, I was starting to lose my love for the sports which I was once so passionate about. I continued to socialise with friends, mainly to take drugs and escape the internal struggle I was experiencing.
Of course, these are just a couple of minute benefits on a long list of disadvantages and difficulties, but to me, they matter.
Since early childhood, I have been living with a monster in my mind. To me, this is the most accurate way to describe OCD, as it, quite simply, feels like a separate and conflicting being that lives inside of me. When I was a kid, the monster had a face but never a name. A middle aged vampire. A young guy wearing a back to front baseball cap. Sometimes I could have sworn I’d see the vampires shadow on my bedroom wall, haunting me. But, in reality, it left no trace of its existence. It, and all of its weapons designed to hurt me, were simply a figurement of my imagination, I told myself. My brain being bad. It was only years later that I learnt there was a name for my suffering: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
My struggle started around the age of seven or eight. My struggle with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder began when I was around seven or eight years old. Back then, it was more irritating than anything. I began to feel unignorable urges to touch and stare at things until they felt ‘right’ and, after a while these compulsions helped ease the anxiety I felt about childhood phobias. From this age, I was already beginning to feel different from the other kids. I felt stuck in my own little world most of the time, trapped in a battle with the urges. By the time I reached ten, the obsessional side of my OCD developed majorly, keeping me up all night and leading me to spend every night in the bathroom, carrying out compulsions. At this point, I remember two obsessions being present; the phobia of losing my hair due to the condition alopecia (which my mum’s cousin had suffered from) or by being diagnosed with cancer, and the fear that something bad would happen to my family if I didn’t carry out a series of ritualistic compulsions. I remember feeling a crippling sense of anxiety in the middle of the night, when everyone else was asleep, convinced that my hair was going to fall out, and brushing it compulsively until I became sure that it wasn’t. I remember feeling ashamed and disgusted about the unusual and bizarre compulsions the monster told me to participate in, or else, my family would be in danger. It was a scary and confusing time of my life, but back then, it was bearable, and I was unaware that anything was really wrong.