I feel recovered from my OCD.
I am a medical doctor and have had issues with anxiety probably for the past 20 years. My anxiety went through the roof about 2 and a half years ago and I began experiencing panic attacks. I didn’t know I had OCD at that time. Eventually I saw a psychiatrist and began the process of diagnosing what is going on with me. I wanted to get help but I didn’t know how to describe what I was feeling inside. I was feeling ashamed of the thoughts that I had in my head. I had lots of harm and violence related images. I was feeling ashamed because I am a doctor and I had tons of intrusive violent images, I was getting scared with thoughts like: “What if I do that? What if I harm someone?”. I was beginning to feel disgusted with myself for having such thoughts and images in my head. And I didn’t know how to tell my psychiatrist. I thought that I probably just belonged in jail. Because I was feeling miserable and I wanted to get help I gathered all of my strength and talked to my wife and one of my friends, who encouraged me to talk to my psychiatrist. That is what lead to my diagnosis of OCD. I was started on a medication- clomipramine. And it helped with me become able to accept what is going on in my head. I began my own research on the internet and came across the book “The mindfulness workbook for OCD” and also the “OCD workbook”. I really liked the mindfulness workbook and read it few times to learn the concepts and start applying them. I also read through the OCD workbook mainly on the topics of ACT and ERP. I noticed a significant improvement with doing my own ERP. My OCD gradually quietened down and began to be just part of me but not controlling me.
My name is Eric Ray Kupers. I’m 44 years old and live in Oakland, California with my husband and our 3 dogs, Doodle, Bubbles, and Abe. I’ve had OCD since I was a child. And even though I have been in therapy with a steady stream of therapists for over 30 years, both my parents are therapists, and I’ve done extensive experimenting in countless personal growth modalities I wasn’t diagnosed with OCD until I was 19, and didn’t find out about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) until my early 30’s.
The pain of OCD has at times felt unbearable, and I’ve tried just about every kind of therapy and spiritual practice I could find. And yet, through it all, I’ve managed to build a life that I love. I’m in a deeply fulfilling long-term relationship, and am a dance/theater/music artist, a tenured professor of dance at Cal State University East Bay, the director of a professional, experimental performance company, and part of a community of soulful artists and loving friends & family.
OCD has been so deeply interwoven into my life and my sense of myself, that it seems I can’t really write my OCD story without writing my whole life story. I started working on my entry for The OCD Stories website, and am already on page 10, and not even out of my teens! So, I decided to share a summary of my OCD journey. I seem to have a lot to say, as now my summary has also gotten quite long. My sense of this is that I’ve kept my OCD a shameful secret for so long, that as I start to share my story more publicly, it’s like a dam is breaking down and layers upon layers of experiences are flooding forth. So, please feel free to read or not read as much as you’d like. I’m going to continue writing the full story, and will make it available for anyone that’s interested, as soon as it gets a little farther along. Maybe it will become a whole book one day!
So if a thought came in, I would embrace it and say “oh is that it ocd, is that the best you’ve got, bring it on“
My ocd story: Pre-diagnosis it started around the age of 6 where I would spend a lot of time at night ensuring that the pillow on my bed was a certain distance from the wall, to prevent myself from hitting my head on the wall and harming myself. This compulsion, like any compulsion simply never satisfied the ocd, so I would often sleep on the floor as another compulsion which made it more “easier”, so to speak.
Moving onwards, I would go many months symptom free, only to be hit by new variations, so in retrospect my ocd, looking back often waxed and waned over the years, pre diagnosis. Health obsessions, relationship obsessions, was I supposed to be a girl obsession, checking on the kids when they were babies eg are they breathing properly, what if the blankets go onto there faces etc, which was very exhaustive.
Into my mid 30s I had horrid thoughts that I may have harmed the kids when they were babies, and these thoughts were so strong I actually started to believe in them, what ever compulsion I carried out, they just came back stronger and more powerful. Compulsions were ruminations, drinking water to try and flush them away, drinking alcohol also was used as a compulsion as it had the ability to eradicate the thoughts, until the next day of course, where it was back with vengeance and of course the dealings of a hangover too.
The good things in life are hard
In episode 3 of The OCD Stories podcast I interviewed YouTuber (Shalom Aleichem) and OCD blogger Katlyn Nicole on her journey of recovery from OCD.
Kat is remarkable young women who is passionate about changing the lives of those with OCD. She does this through her YouTube channel and her blog. Kat has struggled with harm OCD, Scrupulosity and Sexual obsessions. She bravely talks about her recovery and shares some wonderful tips you can use to improve your mental health. I enjoyed speaking with Kat, I hope you enjoy it too!
I try to share my story at every possible opportunity through my writing or through talks, such as my TED talk
What do I write?
This should be an easy question, because as a writer, I should be bursting with so many ideas that I would never be able to complete all of them. But when someone asks me about my OCD, or I have to write a piece on it, I wonder…what part am I supposed to talk about? How am I supposed to convey the enormousness of my experience into whatever little space or time I’m provided? How do I talk about something that has been with me for as long as I can remember, that is as natural as breathing yet as unnatural as that choking, stifling loss of breath that occurred every time the obsessions became too much.
I was a very emotional kid, and being emotional and constantly absorbed in forms of escape that didn’t involve hitting any kind of ball was looked down upon when you were a boy. The OCD started out then, and grew with me. I was terrified of everything, constantly on the watch; filled with thoughts I had no control over, having to suppress urges and desires that were repulsive and destructive.
I don’t have OCD anymore. It is gone, gone. Of course, that wasn’t simple. Many different factors went into getting rid of it: working with a couple of therapists, practicing Exposure & Response Prevention, learning Acceptance & Commitment Therapy techniques, experiencing so much anxiety it felt like my brain was going to jump out of my skull, etc. But now that I’m much more involved in mental health communities, there’s two factors from my recovery experience that I don’t see discussed very much, so I thought it would be useful to share those.
And the first is very simple: Nobody told me OCD is chronic.
I didn’t know I had OCD. Even when the symptoms were worsening in severity and I would be stuck in front of my stove watching it to make sure it didn’t spontaneously turn itself on, I didn’t think there was anything weird about that. I had totally rational reasons for all of my compulsions. So I never went online to research OCD or join a support group or anything like that. I didn’t know anything about OCD. But that also meant I didn’t hear this myth that often gets mentioned online or in groups that OCD is chronic.
There are so many benefits of having OCD
Haley, has bravely shared her story in video format. We found it very inspiring and educational, we hope you do too.
In Haley’s story such topics and advice that come up:
- Haley struggled with OCD since she was 5 years old
- OCD affects Haley’s ability to write
- Counting compulsions to stop harm obsessions
- Religious OCD – compulsive and structured prayers
- OCD has been dynamic for Haley. It changes guises.
- Having a mother who suffered from OCD
- The helpfulness of living in a household free of mental health stigma
- The importance of getting help sooner
- Through therapy and medication, Haley is considerably better and on the road to recovery
- Haley is focused on breaking the patterns of OCD
- Not relying on medication solely. To use medication if needed but still putting forth the necessary work in therapy.
- There are silver linings to having suffered from OCD. Look for them.