Hypodermic needles were my first fear. The doctor’s office became home to my nightmares. Sharp objects—knives, spears, and swords—became my first obsession. My first compulsion was to hold a sharp object against my chin—GI Joe’s scuba knife, a Fort Apache spear, or Galahad’s tiny sword—grit my teeth, and count.
When I was 13, I needed a booster shot. In the weeks before it happened, I developed a new obsession: glass. I collected sharp pieces of glass from the roads and sidewalks. I collected rusted bottle caps. I collected sharp stones. It had never occurred to me before, but what if a sliver of glass gets caught in a car tire, gradually sinks deeper and deeper into the tread, and finally causes a blowout on the freeway? If I didn’t keep filling my coat pockets with the dirty little “hazards” I plucked from the ground, someone might die in a car accident.
When I was 19, I rolled out of a moving car and ran as fast and as far as I could. It probably saved my life. If it hadn’t been for the two black eyes, the gravel embedded in my back, and the two painful head wounds beneath my bloody hair, I would not have recalled anything but a chilling scream. I desperately wanted to remember more. I wanted to remember more when I panicked without reason and pulled my car to the side of the road, when I turned and chased the images that lurked along the dark edges of my brain, when I told the story of how I’d rolled out of a car and mysteriously wakened entangled in an electric fence.
I remembered being alone.
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’.
“It’s not me, it’s the thought”
In episode 22 of The OCD Stories podcast I interviewed Mary Samson. Mary has been an OCD advocate since 2006. She is a co-facilitator with Paula Kotakis of the San Francisco OCD Mutual Aid Support Group. At the 22nd annual OCD conference last year in Boston Mary facilitated a support group called “Overcoming Obstacles During Treatment and Beyond” with Dr. Joan Davidson, and she is a contributor to Joan’s latest book: “Daring to Challenge OCD”. Mary recently participated in Dan Fenstermacher’s photo exhibit “Overcoming Challenges Daily”, a photo series featuring a variety of people with OCD and their personal stories.
In this episode I chat with Mary about contamination OCD, emotional contamination, the importance of finding a therapist that gets it, practical advice for leaning into the fear, how flow helps her cope, finding the resources to beat OCD, and how your brain is creative enough to find a way out of OCD. She also shares the importance forgiving yourself. Enjoy…
All I can say to anyone who has OCD is you can overcome it no matter what it tells you
I was diagnosed with OCD threes ago when I was 19. I was receiving Cognitive Behavior Therapy for my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I wasn’t shocked that I had it because I had known to myself for years that I had it from my own research.
It all started when I was five years old. I started school and due to issues at home. I felt scared about being away from my mum. I was standing in the playground worrying about back at home and a thought came into my head saying, “If I fill my pockets up with lots of leaves mum will be okay” So I did. I felt a relief from the anxiety and carried on. I would also have to run into the class room every morning and draw my mum a picture of anything and give it to her. I thought if she walked home with this photo she would be okay. I was asked why there were leaves in my pockets and why I had to draw and I just told them I liked them. I didn’t understand to say that I was doing it to save someone’s life.
Growing older it got a lot worse. I would have to perform rituals to make the thoughts not happen. I would have to keep the back door locked at all times. I had to make sure my bed sheets didn’t get un-tucked and would wake up non-stop all night and some nights I wouldn’t sleep I would just lie there still so they wouldn’t move. I grew slightly out of these obsessions but new and stronger ones formed.
it is possible to gain your life back
my name is Melanie, I’m 23 years old and a Master of Arts student in “Ancient Cultures”, “Old Testament” and “Near Eastern Archaeology” with a lot of interest in the New Testament, Afterlife myths of the Antiquity and languages (I know 17) and I suffer from OCD and Emetophobia.
The first symptoms of OCD started at the age of eight. I went to the cinema with my aunt and cousins, we ate popcorn, sweets and MacDonald’s food. During the night I woke up and had to throw up, which was obvious, I had overeaten. Suddenly I became all careful, every evening I asked my mother whether I ate too much or in a false order, it was important to me to not mix up different types of bread, soft drinks and more. When I was invited at childern’s birthday parties I refused to eat sweets shortly before dinner. I hated to throw up and I set myself a goal: This should not happen again. I was also haunted by brutal thoughts which I considered to be bad and blasphemic, but this is a part of my OCD struggles which I’d like to keep private.
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.