She has confirmed to me time and time again that no one in the history of OCD has ever actually acted on these intrusive thoughts
Like many, my OCD reared it’s ugly head when I was a teenager in the form of Pure O, or harm OCD. At the time I had no idea what OCD was, there certainly was no Google back then, and sincerely thought I was losing my mind. I certainly didn’t want to talk to anyone about the intrusive thoughts so I kept the torment to myself. I remember in the late 80s being in our kitchen with the Phil Donahue show playing on the tv and only half listening until I realized there were people on this show discussing exactly what I was going through. It was like an elephant being lifted off my chest and I cried many tears of relief as I listened to other stories and finally understood what I had was just a horrible condition that affected many.
I have thought at the worst times that I would rather have terminal cancer than this disorder, because at least only myself would have the chance of being harmed in that scenario. The cruelty of this illness seems to me to be one of the worst illnesses that can affect a human, but I know there is hope in the form of reaching out for help.
I now embrace uncertainty
I’ve been battling with OCD for as long as I can remember, though now it’s not nearly as bad as it once was.. I’m 21 years of age.. Have been on and off medication as an early teen…. Some of the compulsions I struggled with include, stove top, door locks, lights, driving a certain way, being obsessively aware of my breathing 24/7, intrusive thoughts (pure o), that’s just to name a few.. These compulsions seemed to be ruling my life at the time I was about 18 and finishing school, I always had rational reasons for acting out the compulsions the way I did… All the things I did value in my life became to much and I lost interest in all my hobbies, sport, socialising, reading..
This went on until half way through being 20, when I found some interesting videos Mark Freeman put out on his YouTube channel, basically the opposite to what your taught at therapy.. ERP and ACT, this literally saved my life and my relationship with my partner as well as killing off those horrible OCD monsters in certain areas of my life.. Since applying ACT and ERP I cut out all my physical compulsions. I no longer check the stove or door locks and I no longer question my relationship or seek reassurance from my partner… Applying ERP and ACT are not easy and may be some of the hardest things you do in life but as you practise it and get better at it you show your brain it’s okay to feel whatever your feeling..
I’m writing this with the hope that, if we openly speak about that which we so often mention in hushed tones, we can begin the process of helping those who suffer in silence.
I am a son, a brother, an uncle, a friend, a boyfriend, and a writer. I am also a murderer, I’ve contaminated people with infectious diseases, I’ve seen my cat die in a horrific house fire, I’ve run over countless people with my car, I’ve committed the most heinous moral, ethical, and sexual sacrilege, and at my worst… I believe these accusations my mind has concocted against me. I’m writing this for myself. I’m writing this for every person affected in some way, directly or indirectly, by the beasts that are OCD, body dysmorphia, and depression. I’m writing this with the hope that, if we openly speak about that which we so often mention in hushed tones, we can begin the process of helping those who suffer in silence.
I’ve had what can only be considered the most trying year of my life. No, I didn’t endure some sort of traumatic loss of a loved one, I wasn’t on the front-line of a war, I still have a decent paying job, and my limbs are all intact. But sometimes everything is awash in gray. Existence loses its color. Purpose is indefinable. I’m merely a vessel that’s physically here but emotionally and spiritually dead. That short story I wanted to write and submit to hopefully kick-start my writing career? Absolutely no interest—I’m the most uncreative, talentless person to ever live. Driving the thirty or so minutes to go visit my parents? Maybe next weekend—I’m a terrible, lousy son. Cleaning the apartment? I just can’t be bothered—Man, I’m such a slob. Breathing? Christ, who thought a basic physiological function could be so hard—I’m so lazy. My boyfriend hasn’t texted because he’s busy? It’s no wonder—You’re an inadequate partner and he doesn’t really love you. You don’t even love yourself… Most of the time, at least. When did your self-worth train derail? Did it ever leave the station?
I was finally going to be able to live my life instead of just fantasizing about living it
When my older brother pointed out more than five years ago that we both show symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder, I immediately dismissed the idea. At the time, the only knowledge I had of OCD came from bad TV. I’d never experienced contamination-based anxiety, and so I didn’t understand where my brother was coming from. When he explained that there are many manifestations of the disorder, I felt defensive. After all, I’d always harbored fantasies of winning the argument against my mind; why did he have to bring logic into this?
While my compulsive behavior is pretty fluid and has allowed me to enjoy a variety of the various different themes over the years, the one constant source of anxiety for me has been “Pure O”. I get feelings that my life is going to be somehow incomplete or even outright meaningless, and this train of thought causes me to constantly perform mental checks to ensure I’m living the “correct” life. I have to keep in mind what I perceive to be the official meaning of existence, and in moments when I fail to do this I feel like my actions are “unofficial”, that they don’t count as a part of my actual life. Because of the nature of these thoughts, I assumed for years that this was some sort of ongoing philosophical/spiritual crisis; it never crossed my mind that I was ill in any way.
Accept anything and you can transcend everything.
I can describe and give an in-depth, detailed account of the intricate ways OCD affects my mind all too well. My mind and the mechanics have always fundamentally been the same. Never once do I remember my mind being any different than the way it already is, was, and always has been. However, I’ve discovered focusing on this path too much ultimately only causes more confusion…and more problems. I’ve experienced how it leads you “down the rabbit hole” into an endless cycle of a game you can’t win. And I know, because I’ve played. Endlessly. Sure, you might win some battles, but it’s never long lived. Eventually, after each loss, you’re left more damaged and confused than the last time.
Not long ago, I was so focused and obsessed on figuring out my mind that I refused to quit, to a fault. No matter how much distress or added suffering it caused me I pushed on. Even though I’ve lived with these conditions my entire life, I had never actually stumbled upon anything tangible until a handful of years ago. I had become obsessed with the intrusive and unwanted thoughts plaguing my mind everyday. Once I discovered these “impostors,” I couldn’t leave them alone. I needed so badly to comprehend the entirety of these conditions. It was like I needed to know almost more than I needed to breathe, quite literally.
Ultimately, I have found that to truly grasp the totality of these conditions on a constant basis is impossible. Even if I could, to always have an answer for every unanswered question is literally hopeless. It’s draining and defeating. However, once I learned that OCD is largely hereditary and biological, it provided me with a figurative sigh of relief. I think it really helped to know that no matter what, these conditions are here to stay regardless of my attempts to fully understand them or not. In other words, it is irrelevant if I am able to understand the ins and outs of OCD if I’m going to let it completely consume me.
It is what it is and you can have a meaningful, happy, wonderful life even though you have a mental illness.
My name is Nelly. Well, not really, but that is the name I use to blog about being an OCD survivor for over thirty two years. When I first started showing symptoms, there was no actual treatment for children. I had no idea that anything was different about me except that I seemed to really have issues leaving my home (anxiety attacks) and washing my hands (to the point of them cracking and bleeding). I didn’t even realize that touching things repeatedly until they felt right, was not something that other children do. I was taken to a doctor at the age of four but the doctor said that if my parents ignored it, it would probably go away on it’s own.
He was wrong.
I am now thirty six years old and I have struggled with OCD for most of my life. Over my thirty two years of struggles, I have had many symptoms. I have read up extensively on my disorder and have had several therapies. I have tried and been prescribed several different medications over my lifetime. All of that has helped me immensely with dealing with my severe OCD and learning how to cope with intrusive thoughts, triggers, and panic attacks. I am not saying life is a breeze and I no longer have times when my OCD really bothers me. I am just saying I am now able to cope pretty well when things do take a turn for the obsessional, guilt inducing, stomach turning, fear invoking OCD triggers.
What is important is that they will very likely find a well of strength inside themselves that they never knew existed.
I remember exactly when my “Pure” OCD became a problem for me. If I think hard enough, I can remember having mild symptoms of anxiety and some intrusive thoughts before then, but they never affected my life. My first big episode did, and that was what tipped the scales from “I’m a little high strung” to “Something is wrong with me.” I was incorrect about just what was wrong with me, and still am a lot of the time, but I was correct in thinking it wasn’t normal to be as distressed as I was by the thoughts that raced through my head.
I was lucky in that I was able to make it to about age 25 without huge mental illness problems. I was a little depressed as a teenager. I had dealt with the stress of an increasingly mentally and physically abusive marriage with a man suffering from PTSD for about five years by then, and I definitely had rocky moments. What I also had was a general sense of control. I could pull on my big girl undies and get to work. When OCD barged into my life like the Kool-Aid Man bursting through walls, I felt like I lost that control.
I was going on vacation to see a friend on the other side of the country by myself. I’d made the trip several times before, as I had lived in her area for a few years prior to this trip. I was happy and excited, but I got sick literally on the way to the airport. I got a nasty stomach virus that had me kneeling in the bathroom at Logan Airport for several hours. I called my then husband and told him what was happening. His reaction was “I’m not turning around now. There’s too much traffic. Just get on the plane.”
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.
OCD has been such a big player in my life. It has taken much. As I recover, I realise it has also given me much. This is my story!
Ah man, where do I start. I’ve had OCD since I was 7 years old (or at least, in hindsight that is my earliest memory). I remember being on holiday in Florida. There were two key instances on this trip that stuck out to me. The first was the night we landed my Dad wasn’t well. So he stayed in the hotel, while my brother, Mother and I went out to get some food. I remember being at the restaurant and feeling anxious about my Dad being bitten by a tarantula. My visions would go in all weird directions, like him dying from the bite or us coming back to the room to find him in that state. I just remember going over and over these scenarios in my head – involuntarily. These visions stayed in my mind, and I remained anxious until I saw my Dad. Of course, my dad did not get bitten by a tarantula. The second instance I can remember is being by the swimming pool. I was petrified to go in. Why? Because I was certain there were ‘sharks’ in the pool. And as soon as I went in I would be attacked. Deep down, I knew this was rubbish. But something in the back of my mind told me ‘what if’. I would jump in and swim across a corner going diagonally. I was swimming about 2 metres, I would then propel myself out of the water and away from the edge, making sure no sharks could reach me. My family and everyone around me found this hilarious. For me however, being in that water shot my anxiety levels up. In hindsight, I see the funny side.