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OCD

OCD

That is progress. And that is a good day.

As of writing this, I am about two weeks away from turning twenty-one years old. I am finishing my last semester at Michigan State University, from which I will graduate with two degrees: one in Comparative Cultures and Politics and one in Professional Writing. I will also have a minor in Spanish and graduate with 4.0 GPA, assuming I can finish this semester.

In addition to classes, I balance three jobs that help me pay for my education while getting professional experience. I have an incredible family, with two beautiful little sisters, loving parents, and the sweetest dog named Junie B. My boyfriend and I have been together for over five years, and our relationship is healthy, fun, and always mutually supportive.

I have to type the previous two paragraphs because they represent the surge of guilt that consistently accompanies my severe OCD, anxiety, depression, and panic disorder. I have not experienced trauma, nor have I ever been treated by my friends and family with anything but love. For this reason, I have difficulty justifying the seemingly ever-increasing instability of my mental health.


My story starts when I was four years old and starting kindergarten. For the first several months of the year, I vomited before leaving the house with my parents. At first it was because of nausea – yet it soon became an irresistible compulsion that led my parents to take me to the doctor.

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OCD

We are not the only ones with these thoughts

Here I am finally going to share some of the thoughts that I have struggled with the past four years. I have shared them with my psychologist, parents and some peers. I have not shared all of them, and neither in the detail that I am going into now. 

Before I realized that my intrusive thoughts were caused by my OCD, they had already caused a lot of damage. I developed a general anxiety disorder due to my intrusive thoughts.

These thoughts started 4 years ago, after I smoked a joint with friends. I was walking towards the supermarket and I was high as a kite. But then, in the supermarket, my first panic-attack ever happened. I had no idea what was going on and decided that I had to go home as fast as possible. So all alone in an alley I stood there, anxious as could be, thinking that I was going to die from a heart-attack. I managed to get home and there I lay in bed for the rest of the hour. I have never been so afraid in my life. I thought I was going to die. That was of course, before I knew what a panic-attack really is. But because I was high, the panic-attack was 10 times as intense as normal. 

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OCD

My acceptance of its permanence

I know these stories are are almost specifically meant to inspire through stories about progression. I have progressed through the 20 or so years that I have been dealing with this illness. I’m 29, I have a family I made my own and I am stable on the surface. However I haven’t progressed past OCD itself and beyond the surface I’m just doing my best to improve and enjoy my life as much as I can. It’s work. Oh boy it’s work. So a heads up, my story isn’t going to inspire you in the same way all of the other brave writers on here do. My inspiration is meant to be drawn from my sheer defiance of this thing. It has won by all accounts, I’m almost 30 years old and I have wasted so much time and so much potential dwelling on this. I was a weird kid and I had a weird upbringing. I noticed my OCD and at first I kinda enjoyed trying to create all these little connections. Whether it was trying to count to four using cracks in the wall or the seams between bricks, but having to use only where the crack has a point. So like connecting four points was a pattern and it again, was kind of stimulating.

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OCD

I’m getting there

I have felt inspired to share my story about OCD, in part because I have finally realised how much it helps me to share and listen to others’ stories (while trying to fight the guilty feelings which surge up when my OCD tells me that I should not be using my problem and others’ to gain relief, but instead I should be looking out for others’ safety and well-being). So hopefully my story might resonate with someone out there, whilst getting it out in the open will be cathartic for me!

I am 51 years old and have struggled with OCD since age 13 (though I now see I showed signs of it way before). I remember the exact moment when I first had extreme anxiety: at that time, my Mum was the most important person in my life and she had suffered from poor health and had been in and out of hospital quite a lot while I grew up. Anyway, this particular time, my Mum had just got out of hospital following an operation. I overheard a conversation which basically said how lucky my Mum had been and if she’d waited much more she’d be dead. My world fell apart and the first thought that crashed through my head was: “How could I have been so selfish as to be having such a good time at school and all this was going on?!! I am one bad person.” The compulsions began immediately. I began to draw imaginary circles around my waist with my hands and my index fingers of both hands had to touch. I would hold great store in numbers, and odd and even steps. I would never step on the cracks in the pavement and I began to touch objects once, twice, three times, four times….  And I would say to myself: “Ok, one more time”, but it never was one more time – it was never enough.

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OCD

I stepped onto the road to recovery

My OCD story doesn’t have a start date. I can’t reach back through my memory and pinpoint a day, a time or an event where OCD showed up and barged into my life. OCD has been a guest at the table of my mind for as long as I can remember. It’s woven itself into the fabric of my awareness and experiences so seamlessly that, for a long time, I didn’t even realize it was there.

CHILDHOOD

I was born into a home full of Love.I learned to walk and talk and play and dream in the security of my parents’ warmth, steadiness, and Faith. To grow up in the world my mom and dad created together was, and still is, God’s greatest gift to me. 

But no matter how secure and safe we may be, life is not perfect. One way or another, OCD found a way to rattle the windows of my mind and plant fear in my heart.

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OCD

Yesterday I couldn’t. Today I could.

Yesterday I couldn’t. Today I could.

This year, I gave my mom tickets to see one of her favorite bands with me for Christmas. I did it without thinking much about the logistics – I saw that they were coming and I knew it would be a perfect gift. What I didn’t know is that we’d basically be in a mosh pit, and that there would be a lot of alcohol around.

A few years ago, my story with emetophobia and fear of getting drunk was published on The OCD Stories. I talked about how I had trouble walking through the grocery aisle where alcohol was sold, and how I feared getting drunk by absorbing rubbing alcohol from shots at the doctor’s office. When I wrote that, going to a party with alcohol all around me would have been unthinkable.

At first, I wondered what I’d gotten myself into. The venue was dark, and there were lots of people, many of whom were drinking. Towards the beginning of the opening act, I asked my mom to switch places with me so I didn’t have to stand next to a girl who seemed drunk. Eventually, though, I relaxed into it and enjoyed the opener.

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OCD

I assumed that this OCD was too weird

It was June 27, 2018, and a Wednesday almost like any other. I had just gotten back from the gym, and I decided to sit down in front of my computer and watch The Joe Rogan Experience with dinner. He was talking to his guest about the new God of War game, and I was preparing to eat a new veggie burger I hadn’t had before.

I took the first bite, and my throat immediately went sore. I have pollen allergies, so I thought that the fresh ingredients in the burger must have triggered my allergies that, up until this point, had caused no serious problems for me. So I took another bite, and I took another bite, and I took another bite. My throat progressively felt  funnier, as did my eyes. This had happened once before, and Benadryl made me feel better, so I figured that was the solution here too. I ran to the nearby supermarket and went to the medicine section.

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OCD

Questioning Yourself, and Hubristic Overthinking

When I was eighteen, I started this relationship with a plucky, punky, quite typically teenage angst fellow eighteen year-old. Like a lot of teenage relationships, it was a questionable match, we had little in common and it was short-lived, the pair of us calling it quits shortly before I moved away to London for university.

Coincidentally, brought on by the unfamiliar surroundings of a daunting new environment, and having moved four hundred miles away from my home town, it was in these initial months that OCD began making a cameo in my day-to-day life. By the start of my second year, it had a leading role in my story.

However, after a few years of reflection, it’s finally occurred to me that the source of my OCD was not solely a substantial social, or academic shift; the people we meet and the interactions we have with others through our “outside lives” play a huge part in how we process, perceive and think about ourselves in our “inside lives”.

Around two to three weeks before I moved away for uni, I get a text. It’s from a close friend, we’ve known each other for countless years throughout school and college, and she’d been encountering her own severe issues with mental health for a number of months. As a rule of thumb, if a friend with mental health problems contacts you at one o’clock in the morning and says that they’re feeling “a bit off”, you should give them your full, undivided attention. We agree to meet up the following evening to have a chat about what she’s going through, and after a few drinks, she makes a tipsy, ill-advised pass at me. I tell her that, even in my own woozy and blurred state, it’s a terrible idea, we both in turn laugh it off, and I leave.

The following morning, I woke up in what felt like it wasn’t my body.

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OCD

I am growing, and so are you – Finding beauty in OCD growth

My story makes me a little frustrated to think about, being that I didn’t get diagnosed until I was 19 years old.  I have struggled with cleanliness OCD, HOCD, harm OCD and currently ROCD.

I grew up doing all kinds of physical compulsions, but didn’t know it was OCD. For example, I would check under my bed and in my closet every single night until I was 14. I knew nothing/no one was in there, but for some reason I felt inclined to keep checking. There was something about the unknown of a door and a sheet that kept me checking. I went through a season where I would wash my hands so many times that they would bleed, and my parents had to make me wear gloves with Vaseline in them to stop the bleeding.  But these weren’t the things that made me think something might be wrong. They just seemed like normal kid things to me.

When I was in high school I always thought I was just too focused on what people thought of me, but in reality I was obsessing about it. I would get fearful of opinions, and go to great lengths to make sure people liked me or that they approved of what I was doing. I would spend hours every night scrolling through comments on Facebook, or tweets on Twitter to make sure no one was talking about me, even though there was no reason to.  I knew something was off. It was like I couldn’t stop. I knew other people worried about this kind of stuff, but for me it would get stuck. I knew it went way past the normal self-esteem issues, but I did nothing about it until I went to college. That’s where it escalated.

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OCD

A human mental health issue

My parents shunned any type of conversation about sex. In fact, I have never seen my parents kiss even and probably saw them awkwardly hug a handful of times in my life. I lived a very sheltered upbringing. In fact, I’d purposely take off my contacts in High School health class so I wouldn’t see the board or occupy myself in a book in the back of the classroom. I didn’t want to know anything about sex. As a Muslim, Pakistani American born and raised in Connecticut and a Hijaabi (I wore the head scarf out of peer pressure from the girls at the Mosque) at the time, I had no intention of engaging in sex because it was shunned. Even at the mosque, we were separated from the men and if I saw a boy, I would lower my gaze and he’d do the same. My only interaction with boys were my cousins. And in Islam, we are allowed to  marry our cousins. When I hit puberty, I started falling for my cousin. I looked forward to weekend family gatherings just so we could chat. I felt intense emotions for him that I can still remember feeling. A handshake was everything. Perhaps this is why sex has been the biggest taboo and the biggest part of my OCD in my life.

When two lesbians were invited to be guest speakers in my 10th grade health class, I got curious. As I listened to them talk about coming out, it hit me. I looked at the girl sitting in front of me. She had a tight shirt on and her small waist looked beautiful. I fixated on that waist and it was my very first trigger into my HOCD. From that moment, the entire world flipped upside down, like I was really in the upside down (Stranger Things reference). Every woman, even my own mother made me spike. A spike is a strain in my body, like in my stomach and vagina (I still don’t know what it really is). My favorite Bollywood actresses made me spike. A beautiful voice singing, siri, an operator, the Doctor’s secretary all made me spike. What was going on? I was surrounded by women everyday and it felt like hell. I couldn’t look at them. I was analyzing them. Do I like them? Do I want to be with them? So I wanted to avoid them, isolating myself and wanting to stay home and not even go out in the world.

Before this, I only ever imagined to be with my male cousin. I thought I was in love with him. And this whole time I felt so alone, unable to express any of this to anyone. It was so embarrassing. So, I called a gay hotline that I found online and asked them what was going on with me and they made it even worse. Their triggering words were ‘You just haven’t let yourself like a girl yet, just try it.’ I remember playing badminton with my sister and suddenly fell to the floor in a massive panic attack. I told her everything. She comforted me, telling me that even she thinks about women sometimes. These words gave me ease. It was my first compulsion. I don’t remember when it disappeared but it did. Probably because my OCD content shifted to ‘weight OCD.’ I then fixated on my body. But I’ll get to that in a bit.

My HOCD came back in full force at 19. It was like the devil. I started googling ‘gay Muslims’ to find out if this was even okay as a Muslim. I found Faisal Alam, a gay Muslim activist who founded an organization for gay Muslims. I started to talk to a gay muslim man on Faisal’s forum group, and he told me that I wasn’t actually gay. Again, a sigh of momentary relief. I finally found a therapist. I don’t even know how I had the money for it. He was in Connecticut. He was an old white man. My first thought was, ‘how is an old white man going to understand a young, South Asian Muslim girl?’ I was so nervous that he’d tell me I was a lesbian and my life and my dreams of a husband and kids would be shattered. He gave me reassurance instead. He told me being gay or straight was a choice and that reassurance helped for a bit. I would continue seeking reassurance from him and he kept giving it to me, unable to truly resolve my real problem, OCD.

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