Looking back on my life there are times when I don’t remember my OCD – though it was there, I just don’t carry those memories – and others when my OCD experiences are the only memories I have. There are two periods in my life that I would say are the most relevant to my story of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
The first was when it all started when I was 10 years old. I guess a lot happened all at once in my family: we moved house, my Mum went back to work, I started a new school. My Mum had to go into hospital and I worried (incorrectly) that it was my fault. That’s when it all started, all at once. Most of my thoughts revolved around keeping my family safe and healthy. I was unsure and afraid and I was looking for some way to gain certainty and control. I had compulsions both mental and physical that I would feel compelled to perform and I was convinced those rituals were the sole thing keeping my family out of harms way. The only time theses thoughts were almost bearable was when we were all at home, together. Safely, healthily. I still had rituals to carry out but they lacked that same sense of urgency I felt when we were apart.
The mental compulsions made it hard to focus during school and to have a conversation when trying to make friends and the physical compulsions made it hard to take part in my dance classes which I loved and again, when you’re at a new school and you don’t know anyone, hard to make friends. I don’t remember ever being made fun of but I know that the other kids, even the teachers and other parents, even my parents, would have thought that I was weird. One of my “things” was that I would go about my day with one of my hands (preferably my dominant hand) completely flexed. Which was obviously incredibly physically restricting, but also very mentally draining as it required so much focus to keep my hand so tightly stretched. In OCDs all to familiar way, the hand stretching provided temporary relief and at the same time induced so much more anxiety which came when I had to swap hands or if my mind strayed from the thought of flexing as I worried incessantly about whether or not there was a brief second where my hand wasn’t stretched and what the repercussions might be. The hand flexing was just one on a long list of compulsions, which seemingly took over my life overnight. Too be honest I don’t know how I did manage to learn anything at school, make any new friends or continue competitive dancing back then. My mind was constantly preoccupied with monitoring my hand and I don’t know how my head had any room for anything else. I would avoid certain activities which I couldn’t do with my stretched hand or I would participate while juggling the constant distraction and feared consequences of a slip. An outsider looking at me would have thought I was fine, perhaps labelling my behaviour of avoidance and distraction as laziness or self absorption but inside I was frantically clinging, believing I was looking after the health and safety of not just myself but the three people I loved most. Each day that I ritualised, I was attempting to gain certainty and in exchange, bargaining away more and more of my mental health.
I am currently working my way through what could be called an OCD relapse.
For the last few years I’ve felt a steadily increasing sense of wellness and confidence. My ability to interrupt my obsessions and compulsions has grown, and I’ve felt more and more at home in my body, my life, and even my mind. I’ve been practicing Exposure Response Prevention techniques, mindfulness meditation, and lots of movement forms. I felt like I was beginning to move beyond my OCD as a defining feature of my life.
And then, seemingly out of the blue, a wave of turbulent OCD thoughts, behaviors, fears, and intense anxiety overwhelmed me. I unraveled. I felt right back at square one, and like I had to basically start over. It was a huge struggle just to get through each day. I was devastated. It had felt so good to be expanding beyond my fear and mental vigilance. And now that state of expansion felt a million miles away.
And this has happened before. Many times. Periods of expansion and strengthening have given way to sudden OCD relapses over and over. And each time it’s happened, I feel like I’ve done something wrong.
Part of that feeling of wrong seems to be the OCD talking, as my particular obsessions are all about how I’ve done the worst thing imaginable and will be punished for it—usually after death. That part of the feeling of “wrong” I’m going to label as my OCD thought and not engage with it. But there’s another side to the feelings that the relapses are my fault. This side has to do with how I understand growth over the long-term in living with this disorder.
I’ve been anxious since before I can remember, but I vividly remember my first obsession. I was 8 or 9, and on the first day of school, our teacher excitedly told us we would be taking a class trip to an amusement park in May that year for some sort of science day.
Almost immediately, all I could think about was dreading and avoiding the trip. My thoughts started to fall into an obsessive pattern that’s now so familiar to me: What if I fall off a roller coaster and die? What if I don’t go on any roller coasters, and I become some sort of social pariah? What if I vomit on myself or someone else? What if someone else vomits in me? What if I pee my pants?
I became obsessed with roller coasters and roller coaster accidents. There was no internet back then, but I remember checking out books from my school library about roller coasters to research the probability of their failure even though I’d never been on one. I asked my science teacher all sorts of crazy physics questions. It’s funny to me now, but at the time, I was terrified.
My obsessions continued through middle and high school. I was mostly Pure O at that time, but I was on the debate team and knew how to research, so I used my skills to feed my worst fears. One year, our debate topic was Russian foreign policy—I became obsessed with the kind of treatment resistant tuberculosis that was prevalent in Russian prisons at the time. I live in Texas.
If I got a sore throat, I was suddenly dying of TB—I vividly remember asking my family doctor for a TB test. She looked at me like I was insane, but she never said the word “anxiety.”
Simultaneously, my debate partner and I started dating, and my STD and pregnancy fears began there. We never had sex, but making out was enough for me to feel like I had been infected. A girl in our class was diagnosed with herpes around this time, and I couldn’t shake the idea that I was going to get it. I still struggle with these fears despite over a decade of marriage.
My OCD started when I was a four year old child. For some reason,whenever I touched something, a door handle, a light switch, I had to lick my hands to ‘clean them’. Strange, as now I know it was doing the opposite than cleaning them, but for some reason I had to do it, or I’d be left feeling cripplingly anxiety for the rest of the day. From there, everything turned into a compulsion. By seven, I spent hours repeating phrases to everything I looked at in a room, I checked my bedroom door dozens of times a night to check it was closed until it felt ‘just right’.
As much as this was distressing, it wasn’t half as bad as what was to come. At nine years old, I developed a form of OCD called ‘pure O’ , a type that has no visible compulsions, which eventually sent me into a breakdown when I was thirteen. Pure OCD made me question everything I did. If I moved my hand a certian way, it had meant I’d sworn at someone, if I’d had a dream where I’d said something mean about someone else, if I said something mean about someone else, OCD would grasp onto this and morph it until the only way to get rid of the thought was to tell someone exactly what had happened.
I was misdiagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder at first, so by the time I was twelve, I was completley consumed by OCD. It made me believe I was a dangerous criminal. I was certain I was a dangerous criminal. I could go into details about these thoughts but you’d be reading this for hours. By thirteen, the intrusive thoughts got so bad, I attempted on my life. I spent the next year in a cycle of self destruction and self hatred. I was utterly consumed by my OCD. It controlled everything I did,or didn’t do. I was trapped. I spent a year in cognitive behavioural therapy, but I was so ill that I couldn’t properly engage. I started to get nightmares. I was put on medication which reduced my anxiety a little but didn’t make that much of a difference. I tried to hand myself into the police multiple times. By fourteen, I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital for treatment.
I don’t wash my hands a hundred times a day. I don’t clean obsessively, or need things to be “just right”. I don’t count numbers, or switch light switches on and off. But I have OCD. Dear old OCD has been with me for a quite some time, and is always finding new ways to terrify me. Thanks again for that OCD.
For me, my OCD is mostly around intrusive thoughts and reassurance seeking. I remember my first intrusive thought, when I was just 9 years old, I couldn’t fall asleep, because I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was suffocating my dog with the blanket. I keep looking and checking on her, until I was certain it was off her and she could breathe. I felt if I didn’t keep checking, she would die, and it would all be my fault.
As I grew older, my GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) and OCD symptoms grew larger and larger until they overflowed, and my parents knew it was time to take me to a therapist. My intrusive thoughts, or “bad thoughts” as I called them, revolved mostly around hurting myself, or killing myself. I was terrified that I would somehow manage to kill myself, and that because I thought that, it was going to happen. I avoided the kitchen, and couldn’t do anything dangerous in fear it would be me trying to commit suicide.
Let me make it clear that I was not going to do these things, but this is the nature of OCD, to make you doubt, doubt, doubt, fear the worst things, think the worst most “blasphemous” thoughts. Everytime I heard the word suicide, alarm bells, no freaking air raids go off in my head. I went into full panic. I write “were” because it used to be much worse. Although, this is still something I experience on a daily basis, it is much better than before.
I’m Jake, now 24 and no longer a severe sufferer of OCD. I battled OCD from as young as I could remember, although at the time I had no idea it was OCD. My friends in primary school and my family used to just says (it’s just jakes way). Thinking back now for other kids to react the way they did is very positive because I was never bullied or made to feel like a freak about it, it wasn’t until I got older and started secondary school when it got so bad I would be late for school most days and even had to afford P.E. in school sometimes…next paragraph you will understand why.
My OCD thoughts would taunt me and make me do near enough most things repeatedly, to a point where I was putting boxer shorts, trousers, socks, trainers you name it any item of clothing I was taking on and off 20 or more times before I was happy enough to leave the house or go onto the next item of clothing. I would also get in and out the bath multiple times when they got to a point I made the bathroom so wet with bath water we had to get a shower installed to help the situation. I’m going into this much detail because at the time I never thought I would be where I am today or writing about my experience. Now having my OCD controlled so much where I don’t even notice I have it (apart from being clean and tidy) I feel I can speak out and hope to help other sufferers that trust me it gets better and yes you can live a normal life.
My OCD story started in childhood. I remember walking and counting, and walking and counting. I made up complex rituals around even numbers and sets of three. I always had to end my steps on a certain number, or with a set of three. When I was with my family or my friends, we would arrive at a destination or a stop at a crosswalk, and I would continue to take tiny steps in place to complete my ritual.
I also made up rituals about colors. I became convinced that it was imperative to avoid certain color combinations. I would move my toys, my books, my clothes – anything to avoid seeing certain colors together. Many of my childhood friends made up games or sang songs about avoiding cracks in the sidewalk, but I took the game to another level. I would avoid an exact number of cracks, tiles, or objects on the ground, or I would step on every single one and end with a set of three.
I would say that my childhood OCD was almost purely behavioral. I had no obsessions, very few “what ifs” and no idea why I felt compelled to do these things. However, I did have the beginnings of one emotion I believe is ubiquitous among many OCD sufferers: shame. Even as a child, I remember being aware that my behavior was not “normal.” I was afraid adults would laugh or scold me if they knew about my behavior, so I kept my rituals secret.
I’ve shared my story before. Back when I was suffering and didn’t know much about OCD. But it’s been a year with severe ocd. It’s been a year and I’m in recovery. So I’ll share my story in more and better detail.
All I did was have a off day, I walked into my kitchen and thought “what if there’s no spark in my boyfriend and I’s Relationship?” I panicked. “What if I lose feelings? Is this losing feelings? But I love him. Why would I?” My first OCD attack. I’ll never forget it. For weeks after that I was okay. I didn’t have obsessions or compulsions and life was well. Until I began to fall for him more. My anxiety spiked and peaked to new levels, I was having more thoughts about us which I didn’t quite get. I’d time myself on my phone and reassure myself for that amount of time. The thoughts still returned, rookie mistake. After that I’d google things like “am I lying to myself?” And one night I had an anxiety attack so big I almost left him from having intrusive thoughts . The day after it happened, I was anxious. I couldn’t stop it. I didn’t know why. It progressed and got worse and I realized.. I had ROCD.
I remember wanting to seek treatment the day I found out I had it. I could resonate with some of the symptoms and found that the deeper I got into it, the more and more I could relate to this little diagnosis I put on myself. So fast forward about 2 months and I’m struggling deeply with various obsessions. A thought popped out of nowhere. “What if I’m gay?” I freaked, and took an online test. It said I was straight, I knew I was. I couldn’t understand the deal! I was just worrying if I loved my boyfriend or not the day before, why the sudden sexuality issue? So I obsessed, the same way I did with my partner. And uncovered my HOCD the day I began obsessing.
Hi, my names Joe and I have had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder since I was four years old.
I am now twenty and still suffer with the condition. My story started when I faced a few traumatic experiences around illness and contamination when I was four years old. I won’t go into exactly what happened as I find it very hard to talk about but I will say that they were serious enough to leave me scarred for life.
Before I continue my story I would like to point out that my OCD now is not all focused around contamination and illness. I very much see what happened to me as a child as a seed for my OCD. Over the years as I have grown my OCD has turned into this ginormous tree, and every brach is a different strand or worry that I may have.
I have been in and out of therapy and counselling all my life and some things have worked more than others for me. I have also been prescribed two kinds of drugs by my GP over the years to combat both extreme levels of Anxiety and Depression that was as a result of my OCD.
Even though throughout my life I have had a lot of help and support, I suppose in my mind I think “how can I get rid of this, when I don’t know a life any different?” as I have had the condition for longer than I can remember.
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.