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Checking

OCD

Punching OCD in the face

It doesn’t have to control you, you can be free.

I’m Chelsea and I’ve been living with OCD since as early as I can remember. My earliest memory of OCD was being in my room, I was probably three, and I’m having an image of a dog attacking me repeated over and over in my mind making it impossible for me to sleep. My OCD grew and changed with me as I got older, but because it was only intrusive images and no obvious physical compulsions it was hard to identify until was 30 years old! 30 years of living with OCD with no help… until this year. This has been a transformational year for me, to say the least, and I’m excited to share my story with you.

So as I was saying, my OCD changed with me as I got older. Since I was about seven I had an ongoing obsessive image of someone stabbing me at night when I was trying to sleep. I would check under the bed and in my closets multiple times a night to see if anyone was there. Every night I had to sleep with the light on and most nights I ended up in my parents bedroom because I couldn’t sleep.

When I was in my senior year of high school I had images of a tsunami hitting Long Island, where I’m from, every night. I would try to fall asleep but my OCD would start and I’d have to turn on the TV to see if there was news of a tsunami hitting Long Island. I remember knowing it was not a real fear but it felt so real to me that I had to check! I’d run outside at night to listen to see if I could hear a tsunami coming toward my house only to come inside and still feel unsettled. 

I went to college, specifically in an area that wouldn’t be impacted by a tsunami, and pushed myself hard, graduated, became a producer but kept finding myself in relationships that were unhealthy for me. I was attracted to people and situations that were dramatic and hard, and let’s be honest, I was a drama queen! But drama was a good distraction for me. I drank a lot, smoked way too much weed and was living as far from the moment as I could because the moment was way too scary. 

About a year ago I broke up with a boyfriend and started realizing I had not found a relationship that was good for me because I had not really figured out what was going on inside me. I was running and hiding from something I didn’t want to listen to. My OCD about a year ago was terrible. I was probably drinking 5-7 nights a week and smoking about everyday just to escape reality, or the reality that I thought was real. The images were terrible, they could be triggered by a horror film or a scary idea and they could ruin full days of my life. 

It wasn’t until I was listening to a friends mental health podcast, Call Us Crazy, that I realized I had OCD. It was my ah-ha moment and I was so excited. I compulsively researched OCD (typical) and immediately felt less alone. All of these scary thoughts that had been haunting me were experienced by tons of other people to! And the best news was there was help. Mt. Sinai’s OCD program seemed like the best so I called them the next day. Talia, the Clinical Research Coordinator, heard my story and was so kind and helped get me into the program as soon as possible.

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OCD

How do you know it’s right?

You can expend precious energy chasing the holy grail of 100% certainty, or you can choose to settle for 95%, or 70%, or even 20% certainty.

When I was a graduate student, I worked for months to prove the main mathematical result in my dissertation. I struggled with this proof. I churned out pages of chicken scratch calculations. I manipulated equations in my head while I ate, showered, vacuumed, and exercised. I had math dreams.

Finally, I thought I’d nailed it. It was a large and hairy beast that sprawled over many pages. I showed it to my adviser and declared, “I’m 95% sure it’s correct.”

He raised his eyebrows. “Well, you’d better be 100% sure,” he replied.

That’s when I realized that he wasn’t planning to check it himself. He was just going to trust me. And then I started to worry. What if there was an error in my proof? What if the central result in my dissertation turned out to be wrong? Could they take away my PhD? And if I got a job based on work I’d done in my dissertation, could they fire me? Would my career be ruined?

I checked my proof carefully many times. But I still couldn’t be 100% sure it was right. I knew there could be a glitch in my logic that I simply wasn’t smart enough to pick up on, no matter how many times I checked. After all, how many times had I turned in math homework – confident that my answers were correct – only to find out later that there was a major flaw in one of my solutions? And the stakes were much higher here. I asked a classmate – someone a lot smarter than me – to check my proof, and he thought it was correct. But I knew it wasn’t his dissertation or his responsibility, so I couldn’t completely trust his assurances.

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OCD

The OCD Burglar

I would urge anyone that has identified with anything I’ve spoken about to seek advice and talk to someone.

MY OCD STORY

I’ll set the scene. I’m sat here in bed, slightly intoxicated, listening to Celine Dion. I’ve just read my best friend Joe’s ‘coming out’ story. Scrolling through – there is a section about his mental health and suffering with OCD. I knew that he’d had OCD when he was younger as we’ve discussed it before – we’ve joked about what our symptoms and triggers were. In his story, Joe describes OCD as a mental health disorder. I have never considered my OCD as a mental health issue because I was so young when I had it and it was never referred to in that way around me. During a time when mental health is being discussed much more openly, I feel like sharing my OCD symptoms and triggers may help other people that have also found themselves involved in it.

DISCLAIMER – WHAT YOU ARE ABOUT TO READ IS COMPLETELY TRUE, HOWEVER UNTRUE IT MAY SOUND. THESE WERE REAL EXPERIENCES AND ACTUAL THOUGHTS THAT HAPPENED IN MY ACTUAL HEAD.

THE BEGINNING

I don’t remember the exact age when my compulsions started but I remember it being at the end of junior school and the beginning of high school (around 10-11 years of age). I have always been terrified of being burgled. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to think back to where that fear has come from but it’s a struggle to pin point a particular event that may have triggered it. I remember watching the Danny Boyle film ‘Million’ which features a scene where a burglar comes through an attic hatch into a boys bedroom. This could very well have been the start, but I can’t blame Danny for the whole thing, I’m sure there was more to it. We also had our garage broken into a couple of times, which scared me witless, but never our house. I think the fact that it had never happened made me even more scared that it was still to come.

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OCD

From Abuse and OCD to Travelling the world and inspiring others

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.

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Anxiety, Harm OCD, Intrusive Thoughts

OCD is not a disease that bothers; it’s a disease that tortures

For all the turbulence OCD brings, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to fully describe its impact, you never get a better opportunity to learn about the mind and indeed yourself.

Crouching down in the corner of the pub, my back to my group of friends in a bid to conceal my strange behaviour, I focused my eyes intently on the cigarette-end lying on the wooden floor. Squashed flat, it couldn’t have been further extinguished, but still I reached down and picked it up, holding the cigarette-end at eye level and slowly rotating a full 360 degrees, pausing to check at every angle for any signs it was still alight.

Satisfied it was dead and posed no danger I hauled myself to my feet, pausing to mentally replay the sequence of events to ensure all bases were covered and any possible dangers averted. The situation is dealt with, I told myself, repeating it over and over again in the hope the mantra would eventually stick. My increasingly lively mind had other ideas, urging me to just run through the inspection one more time, just to be absolutely sure.

As I stood frozen to the spot, I tried desperately to ignore the urges, pleading with myself to head back to the bar and forget about it. The obsessive and catastrophic trail of thought grew in intensity, quickly overwhelming me and attacking my ability to think rationally – years of obsessive thinking had gnawed away at the line between rational and irrational thinking anyway. Just check the situation one more time, the mind urged me, put the matter to bed and get on with my night, and my life! Powerless to resist, I bent down, resting on my haunches and once again placed the cigarette-end carefully between my thumb and index finger, rotating it 360 degrees, pausing again at each turn to ensure every angle was covered – this time longer pauses with more intense scrutiny. A couple of minutes later, I finally placed it back down in exactly the same spot I found it and turned away.

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OCD

Ineke Suffers From Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

With this fallback prevention my OCD is still at a livable level

I have OCD and I check everything 4 to 16 times.

I could no longer work and reported in sick, had suicidal thoughts and led a completely isolated life by my OCD. I checked everything  2, 4 or 16 times. If someone or something disturbed me,  then I had to do it again.

During an obsession I get anxious, tension in my muscles and I perspire a lot. Sometimes I start to cry and shake. I know it’s hard for others to empathize, but it felt sometimes as if the world was ending. Then I had to check everything and ask others to confirm if things are correct several times. In the past this checking and asking for confirmation was going on all day long.

I am now 50 years old, I’ve had OCD since I was 18. I started checking and asking others to confirm, after I had recovered from Anorexia.

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Contamination OCD, OCD

From Contamination OCD To The BBC

I was recently interviewed for a BBC Horizon documentary on OCD and I was asked if I would get rid of my OCD if I could.  I think my answer surprised a few people..

Up until the age of 19 I was a very happy, easygoing, confident individual.  On reflection I was possibly a bit selfish and didn’t think about other people as much as I should have done.  This all changed suddenly towards the end of my first year at university.  I noticed that I became very concerned with making sure my lights were off in my bedroom and sometimes would make excuses from social activities so that I could go home and check they were off.

At the start of the summer holidays I returned home to spend time with my Mum.  She went on holiday for two weeks and I would normally have been fine staying in the house on my own and working part time.  However, by the time she returned from her holiday I was in the grips of OCD and a couple of days later my diagnosis was confirmed.

In the two weeks that my Mum was away I had become convinced that I was HIV positive.  I was showering for hours at a time, constantly washing my hands and arms, frequently changing my clothes throughout the day and was hardly eating.  What I did eat I couldn’t make or touch because I was afraid that I would contaminate it.  My ultimate fear was that I would infect and thus kill my friends and family.

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