Sunday morning church service is a time of quiet reflection to draw nearer to God…to God. To God. To God. Stop it.
But for myself, and the rest of the one in forty adults with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, that quietness doesn’t come on Sunday. Or any other day. There is no real quiet with OCD. But it seems church would be a place to alleviate the intrusive thoughts and the uncomfortable compulsions for an hour a week, right? Not so much.
Being dressed up for church is helpful. It affords me the chance to open the door to the rectory with my necktie thereby avoiding the germs of all the dirty souls who have come before me.
Churchgoers are creatures of habit. They like to sit in the same place every Sunday. This also works to my advantage. Familiarity and consistency are like armor against those serotonin rebuking demons living in my brain.
I write this to tell My story. To let others know they are not alone.
When I was young I’m not sure of the age but little. I used to kiss everyone of my beanie baby animals at night. It sounds sweet right? Well it wasn’t for me– I would kiss each one the get into bed. After I’d get into bed I would wonder did I really kiss each one? What if I didn’t- I would start to feel heavy in my chest and my body uneven. I would get up and kiss them all again (I had a lot), crawl back into bed. Sometimes I could be ok with just that but often times I would kiss them until my lips hurt and I was crying, or until someone in my family said to go to bed. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I would wake up thinking it all was silly until I would do it again the next night. I remember certain rituals. Feeling like one of my fingers was “bad” I would have to touch something with my other finger Two times for every one time I did with my bad finger. I would get stuck in one place for so long touching back and forth. I’m unsure anyone noticed. Maybe they did. Maybe they worried or joked about how I was just a weird kid, maybe OCD wasn’t a topic back then. But I remember feeling stuck in my head a lot.
I was fine a lot of the time, no one would of noticed, as I am now pretty functional outwardly. My teenage years were hard. College harder. I had an eating disorder in high school that I can see now was based entirely on OCD. I would pick out certain foods and amounts that were ok to eat. If I didn’t eat them at a certain time of day or I ate more than allowed I would get panicked. Would I get very fat? Would everything fall apart? Everything about being a teenage girl seemed to revolve around my OCD. Much like when I was little I had a ritual every night of doing sit-ups. 100. But if I miscounted I thought I would start over. I see so clearly the color of the carpet in my bedroom, feeling dizzy, upset- thinking if I could only get through this it would be ok, I would feel even. College is when I finally realized what was wrong with me. I started having weird thoughts. Worried I would stab someone I loved with a knife at night. I would get physically ill over it. I’d tell my then boyfriend at the time. He was a good guy, he would laugh it off say it’s ok. I would tell him so much it felt like sweet relief to say something until I thought it again. I looked up these thoughts online— intrusive thoughts. A glitch in the brain. It helped me to know it didn’t mean I wanted to hurt someone, in fact it meant quite the opposite I was so sickened by my thoughts I couldn’t let them go. I went on Zoloft. It failed, I felt sick and zombie and fat. I always said I could get through anything by walking. And honestly I think I did. When I met my husband he use to say I was in my “hole” when I got down. I couldn’t get out he would say unless I went outside or got out of the house. God he pulled me out of that hole so many times. The man is a saint really, he doesn’t hear it enough. And he prob didn’t know when he married me that he would deal with my mental illness so heavily.
To this day I still get Intrusive Thoughts, but I’ve learnt to pay them less attention
We all have them – little explosions in our minds catching us off guard. Thoughts that are out of character, unusual, maybe even a little disturbing, “Where did that come from?” We ask.
Estimates vary, but the average person has between 50,000 and 70,000 thoughts a day. Our minds are complex beasts and it can feel like we’re at the mercy of some of these thoughts. We’re not good at controlling our minds either; a familiar test – for the next minute you’re not allowed to think of a big pink elephant no matter what. Go… Wasn’t easy was it? And that’s what OCD Intrusive Thoughts can be like. When your mind fixates on a thought or a particular idea and just won’t stop going over it. It’s beyond your control. It’s in control of you – at least that’s how it can feel.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder was fairly well portrayed by Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets. His character, Melvin Udall, had to bring his own plastic cutlery to a restaurant because of a fear of germs and has to use a new bar of soap each time he washes his hands. Hand washing, flicking light switches, counting, avoiding cracks in the pavement… These are almost anecdotal ways that OCD presents itself. Certainly not to be downplayed, for sufferers at the mild or extreme end of the spectrum, these obsessions and compulsions can be one of the most horrible experiences to go through. According to the charity OCD UK, the World Health Organisation has listed OCD as one of the top ten most disabling illnesses of any kind, in terms of lost earnings and diminished quality of life.
I think the biggest piece of advice I have received over and over again by my therapist is that to beat the doubt disease you have to trust and have faith.
First I would just like to say thank you to Stuart and The OCD Stories website/podcast for helping me feel less alone during some very hard times. I have had OCD my whole life but it wasn’t until this past year that it has really incapacitated me. My earliest memories of OCD are from my childhood where I can remember feeling extremely guilty for small things that most other little kids probably wouldn’t even think of. I would have some thought like “maybe I love my mom more than my dad” for example and then I would spend hours dwelling on it and crying and confessing to my parents and begging them to forgive me. Another example is that sometimes when I was walking through the grocery store with my family I would see the cover of a swimsuit magazine or a pretty girl and I would feel interested in it (which is obviously very normal for a kid who is curious about the opposite sex) but that simple feeling of being interested in pretty girls would produce so much guilt and disgust inside of me that I would spend days on end thinking about what a terrible person I was and how I was going to go to hell. I come from a big Irish-Italian family so we went to Catholic church a lot when I was a kid and it was something that was important to my family so I bought into the whole idea of guilt whole-heartedly and it caused me a lot of anguish even though the things I was guilty and ashamed of were very normal. But I had no idea. I simply thought I was evil and that I had to go to confession every time I did something I considered bad. Despite these early feelings of extreme guilt and shame, I was still a pretty happy kid and it didn’t keep me from becoming a popular kid who was a very good athlete.
As I went on to become a varsity captain in baseball and basketball in high school it seemed like those early feelings of guilt and shame about weird, small things subsided a bit but what I didn’t realize was that my OCD had just transferred to a different theme. I got a girlfriend my Sophomore year in high school and we stayed together for three years. While there were good times with her, I was in pain for a lot of the relationship and often for very small reasons. I would see her talk to one of my friends and then get a thought like “what if she likes my friend” or “is she cheating on me” or “we’re not right for each other” and I would dwell on these thoughts for days and we would fight all of the time because of my doubtful thoughts. The relationship caused me so much pain because for some reason I could never trust her because of my thoughts and it looked like I was just an insecure guy but what nobody (including me) realized was that I was suffering from OCD.
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.
Hello My Name is Martin Garcia and I’m 20 years old (College Student). It all started in January of 2017. I was watching the show “The Excorist” and I remember in that show there was a daughter killing her mom and it was a cliff hanger and I finished the whole season of that show. After watching that show, an hour later I was watching some wrestling and I got hungry and I go to the kitchen and now it’s like 2 in the morning and I didn’t want to get yelled at by my parents so my plan was to get something to eat and run to my room. I go get an orange, since I don’t have nails, I took a knife because I didn’t know how to peel it. I’m going to the hallway and I see my parent’s room because it’s rarely closed and I was thinking “why is it closed?” and I just had a thought, one of me killing my mom and I had this feeling where I only get it when I want to do stupid stuff like jumping from couches and doing wrestling moves, and I got that daring feeling to do that to my mom so then I got scared because I first thought I was possessed but then I shook it off because I thought it wasn’t real, so next I called my girlfriend and she tells me it’s real. That’s when it really started because I didn’t sleep that day and it just was in my mind. I was waiting for it to go away but it didn’t and it lasted a while before I told my parents, it literally lasted a week before I told my parents and then the next day was the worst ever. I ended up in the emergency room and I talked to the crisis team and they helped out a little. There were days when I couldn’t take it because I had the urge to do it and I would cry at times because my life went through hell, I would still go to school but there is times when I couldn’t because of my head hurting and thoughts but I toughed it out.
So after that I went to Psychiatrist and had offered Prozac and Olanzapine and Honestly that made me feel worst, so I told him to change it to zoloft and he did. I felt a lot of better but I ended up changing psychiatrists and she put me on zoloft but more dosage. Its been better lately because I have the support of my girlfriend, she got me through it and gave me hope.
A lot can happen in an hour, so I focus on minutes and good moments.
I woke up one morning after getting my wisdom teeth pulled, bombarded by an inordinate amount of UNWANTED OBSESSIVE INTRUSIVE THOUGHTS that I found myself incapable of ridding. We all have thoughts, but these thoughts were like none other I had ever had before. Racing through my mind feeling as though someone had lit the tip of my brainstem on fire….I was debilitated. Suddenly I was checking if the stove was off, flicking light switches up down up down up down, blinking a certain number of times until “it felt right,” tapping my fingers into numbers into counting….repeating sentences…..what happened to my mind? I didn’t know why nothing filtered out. I didn’t know why I could not let these thoughts go. I didn’t know how I was going to successfully enter my first year of college at UCSB with such bizarre obsessive worries. I was concerned about absurd topics like whether or not urine was sterile. I wanted to know that semen was not air-borne. I wanted to make sure my zipper was properly up or else something bad might happen to a family member.
August 2002, my sense of homeostasis was taken from me.
After 7 months of living in clandestine and being tormented by my own mind, I finally saw a psychiatrist who explained to me that I had a very severe on-set of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. How could my brain drastically change over night I thought? Also, from the stigma that I heard regarding OCD, it was a disorder of hand washing and cleaning. I didn’t do either, so how could OCD be my diagnosis I thought?
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.
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.