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Anon

Stories

Living with a monster

“Its on an odd!” I screamed from the backseat of the car. Leaning forward at a stark angle, I impatiently slapped the soft cushion of my dad’s driver-side seat. 

Silently and without much thought, he calmly turned the radio dial up one notch so that the number on the sleek, black surface would read fourteen rather than thirteen. Feeling the wave of equilibrium rush over me, I settled back into my seat and enjoyed the Shania Twain lyrics that were flooding back into my focus.

This was my normal. And it had become my family’s normal too. Odd numbers, uneven lines, cracks on sidewalks–these were no-gos. Counting in fours, even numbers, the sign of the cross, and spelling out each word said on my favorite television shows–these were musts. 

It was early on in life that others recognized these odd games and patterns. Family members often joked that my brother and I–him with his ticks, and I with my games–were OCD; however, none of them knew how true their tongue-in-cheek comments actually were. That is, until things started to become much worse. 

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Stories

My OCD Journey

My journey with OCD started long before a proper diagnosis. Since my early teenage years I’ve cycled through almost all of the subtypes of OCD, the most prominent being somatic OCD. In my mind so far I’ve had Cancer, Meningitis, Rabies, HIV, Stomach ulcers etc. Currently my Illness based OCD thoughts center around development of Schizophrenia. I have been worrying about this for months and months. It seems that this is a somewhat common theme to have, but I rarely ever hear it talked about. I’ve read pretty much every symptom and examples of symptoms including paranoia, hallucinations and delusional thinking to the point where I cannot go a day without thinking about it. 

I’ll rewind to about two years 4 years ago when I started worrying that I had hit a pedestrian while driving so I would have to loop around multiple times turning a 5 minute commute into a 30 minute one. If my wife or friends were in the car, I’d just ask for reassurance and keep moving on. I had not yet been diagnosed with OCD at this point I just thought I was be extra cautious. This is when the story gets progressively worse.

About 9 month ago I was gearing up for my honeymoon to Switzerland with my wife, but had massive deadlines to meet at work which was causing me a great deal of stress. I was sitting at my desk when suddenly my surroundings seemed a little weird and I started to get an impending doom feeling. My chest got tight and started breathing heavily. Next was the tunnel vision. Was I dying? Nope but I was having a massive panic attack. I asked my co-worker to walk me downstairs because I was freaking out. The panic attack eventually passed and things were back to normal. Somehow with all the hustle and bustle of traveling to Switzerland and Italy for 3 weeks, I managed to enjoy my time there and take in the beautiful sights. Things seemed pretty alright. 

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Stories

My OCD Story: Irrational and ‘Rational’ Themes

When you have lived with OCD for years, and it has manifested itself in a variety of ways, or ‘themes’ as they are called, it becomes difficult to distinguish a ‘real’ and ‘rational’ worry or effort, from one propelled by your obsessive nature. Yes, I know, part of therapy involves learning to not ask those questions, whether this is real or that is not, but it’s not always easy.

Growing up, I struggled with Pure ‘O’, and ritualistic behaviour. When I was fourteen, during summer vacation, I suddenly had this thought, how can I be sure I’m not a cannibal. I don’t think there was a specific trigger, it was just something that occurred to me, and I could not shake it off. My mother was lying next to me on our bed, and I felt scared, that I would harm her. I could barely sleep that night. The next morning, I got up and started reading up on cannibalism, to assure myself my thoughts are wrong, that I cannot be, of course I’m not. However, the more I read, the uncertainty grew, from narratives of cannibalistic communities to a particular story about a group of expeditioners stranded in snow capped mountains, without food, who started feeding on the corpses of their fellow expeditioners, to survive. This, scared me. People could become cannibals. I could become one, maybe I’m one, and just haven’t been pushed hard enough. I got increasingly terrified of becoming, quite literally, a monster. This was bad as it was, and soon enough, my obsessive thoughts and consequent attempts to reassure myself by reading up had acquired a newer theme – which was of sexual in nature. I visited websites, trying to hide what I was reading, whenever my mom or dad would enter the room. I felt miserable, and dirty, and like a pervert. Soon enough, I could not take it any longer, I broke down in front of my parents, I told them everything – they were puzzled, but supportive and took me to see a psychiatrist. I live in India, and mental health is a taboo topic in most families, and awareness, even amongst those educated, is grim. After navigating through three shrinks, two of whom did not offer anything conclusive, I got third time lucky. Actually, being diagnosed was a relief. It meant, this was not me, I was not this pervert, this monster.

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Stories

There is hope for me, and for you

I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t anxious. As a kid, I worried about small things, big things, even existential things, for as long as I can remember. Two early examples, from when I was probably about 5-6 years old, that come to mind are:

1- When I realized that one day, the 1990s were going to end. I sobbed to my mom, wondering what was going to happen when we weren’t living in the 90s anymore.

2- I had a terrible thought that I didn’t love my dad as much as I loved my mom, and in my head, this was very, very wrong. I, again, sobbed about this to my poor mom, who did her best to comfort me as I then began to list off every person I didn’t think I loved enough in my life.

Growing up, my parents loved watching Law and Order, and other TV shows revolving around murder and other terrible crimes. I began to worry that something like what happened on these shows would happen to me, or worse, that I would somehow become the bad guy and be responsible for one of the awful things that always happened on those shows. Horror movies and books gave me similar worries. I saw The Omen at around 11 or 12, and worried that maybe I was a child of the devil.

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Stories

OCD, existential questions and treatment

My ankles wobbled. My quads ached. My mind raced. What’s the point of this, anyways? Why am I here? Why are any humans here on Earth? My mind bombarded me with these questions on a loop while I was out on a run on an overcast, fall day my senior year of college. These questions had been quietly nagging at me for a few weeks, but without any distractions on a run, they became shouting and unbearable. With each passing day, I found myself out on runs trapped with existential questions that seemed to only grow more important, and my world started to shrink. What had previously been an activity I could turn to for solace quickly turned into a prison for my intrusive thoughts to run wild.

At the time, neither I nor my therapist recognized these symptoms of repeated, obsessive, distressing thoughts or the ritualistic behaviors that followed as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. After all, these are big, philosophical questions that everyone faces at some point in their lives, right? And being on the cusp of a major life transition, of entering my last year of college and starting to apply for jobs, it made sense to many around me that I would ask some of these questions and want to understand what my “purpose” is in life. However, the extent to which these questions controlled my life quickly eclipsed the range of what would be considered normal or healthy. Every time I’d hang out with my friends, I’d probe them on their religious beliefs. I’d call my parents multiple times a day and ask them for reassurance that my life mattered. I’d spend hours awake at night googling the “meaning of life” and I’d find myself deep into the weeds of existential arguments on online chat boards, trying to make sense of it all and find bulletproof, irrefutable, 100% certain answers. While some of these behaviors provided temporary relief, my brain was so adept at coming up with follow-up questions. For every “answer” that I provided my brain, it was able to generate ten more questions that would restart the cycle all over again.

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Stories

OCD Land (Creative Writing)

I am far from home even though my surroundings seem vaguely familiar. How did I get here? Was I tempted like Eve in the Garden… possibly persuaded by a serpent to eat fruit off of the wrong tree? Or did I follow Alice down a rabbit hole searching for answers? I don’t remember making this choice. I don’t remember a clearly marked entrance, but somehow or another I am stuck here without a compass. My thoughts and feelings suddenly can’t be trusted. In OCD land you can’t distinguish up from down, right from left, or wrong from right. It’s all a trap… an endless maze.

Welcome to the mind fuck. I will be your tour guide for the remainder of your stay.  I will whisper the most compelling things into your ear, get you to perform all sorts of tricks, and make you retrace your steps. I will be here every day to remind you to go back and do again because we all know it wasn’t right the first time or even the hundredth. Nothing in OCD land is ever enough.

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Stories

…THIS is OCD.

I see a little girl sitting on her bed, writing in a journal that has stolen her freedom. She writes, “I will praise you and love you always.” To any reader it seems cute for a little girl to be so devoted, but she has written that same phrase at the end of every entry for months. Forgetting to write it means she has forgotten God and forgetting God means damnation. She is chained to that phrase.

After closing the journal she forces herself to stay awake for hours at night because she can’t seem to get the final prayer just right. 

The next day she comes home from school and sits on her bed for hours instead of doing homework. Maybe enough time begging for forgiveness would prove that she is in fact saved. She failed to tell anyone about God that day, and wonders if she still knows him since she couldn’t muster up the courage.

…THIS is OCD?

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Stories

A Worthwhile Struggle for Freedom

This post is not a step-by-step guide to get rid of OCD. No, I’ve found that, just like life itself, there is no concrete solution. And that’s what scares us who suffer from this disease the most: the terrorizing fear of uncertainty. I hope this post sparks ideas for other sufferers on how to cope. Maybe someone will be able to relate to the many, many obsessions I have. Oh boy, is OCD diverse.

At this point, I have now wrestled with OCD for the past 22 months. It has caused me to be physically present yet mentally absent with friends and family, to miss out on getting a career right out of college, and to lose passion for my hobbies, amongst other things.

My life growing up was filled with comfort and certainty. Any trying situation was taken up with God, who gave me quick reassurance. I graduated high school with honors and went to a liberal-arts school in North Carolina. My first 3 years of school came with great friends, and a healthy balance of work and play. I lived a virtually care-free and fulfilling life throughout this time, experimenting and taking on different tasks with relative ease.  

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Stories

My “No Googling Symptoms” rule

Even in the most emotionally traumatic moment of my life, obsessive thoughts flowed through my mind.  Although, at the time, I just called them my “hypochondriac thoughts” or, more generally, “my anxieties.”

My OCD diagnosis was still four years away.  

But on that day. That grief-stricken day. Those obsessive thoughts still clouded my brain.  

I had just received a phone call from a sheriff’s deputy that would change my life.  My parents had been in a terrible car accident. My dad had been airlifted to a nearby trauma center.  

And my mom was dead.  

Within minutes though, my body started to react to this news. I started sweating. I was suddenly so thirsty. My heart was pounding. And I felt like I was in a strange, dream-like state.

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Stories

Toughness and beauty in OCD recovery

It was my 7th or 8th Christmas when my first intrusive thought came to my mind. I was in my grandparent’s living room with my mum and suddenly the thought popped into my head: “you want your mother to die”. I remember having my first panic attack and telling my mother what I just thought, to what she concluded it was just a silly thought, something everyone had sometimes. After that first contact with my dear life companion, I experienced a period where I had a lot of those thoughts, which caused me to freak out. I remember being at church and thinking: “Jesus is an asshole, God is an asshole”, and then feeling extremely guilty and asking for forgiveness. However, I just labelled those thoughts as silly thoughts, something that everybody had.

That period passed, and I experienced a normal life until I hit high school.  At age 12, I started opening and closing the bathroom tap before going to sleep until it felt right, if I wouldn’t do that a member of my family would die. If I was writing and a letter wasn’t perfect, I would try to round it up until it was completely perfect (you can imagine how many times the letter would thicken until I felt it was right). If I didn’t do something perfect in an exam I would have to reproduce perfectly in my head what I wrote in order to convince myself that it was right and that my teacher would read it as the right answer. If I didn’t reproduce it without hesitating I would have to repeat it again or it would be automatically wrong and I wouldn’t have a good mark. This last one could include variations, doing it while getting up of a chair, where the movement should be perfect too, etc. If I didn’t complete the rituals successfully, a wave of anxiety swallowed me.

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