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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Podcast

Kim Vincenty – A worried mother does better research than the FBI

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In episode 148 of The OCD Stories podcast I interviewed Kim Vincenty. Kim is Vice president of OCD Jacksonville, an IOCDF affiliate. She has worked alongside the clothing brand Natural life to create the fearless collection, a range of products that target stigma and fear of anxiety disorders – as well as raise money for OCD Jacksonville.

Kim Vincenty

In this episode I chat with Kim about being a parent of a child with OCD, running a support group for families, advice for parent’s of newly diagnosed children, advice for parental self-care, how a family can fight OCD together, OCD Jacksonville, the Natural Life “Fearless” collection and much much more. Hope it helps.

podcast

To listen on iTunes click the button, or go to iTunes and search “The OCD Stories“. If you enjoy the podcast please subscribe and leave a review. It helps us reach more people who need to hear these remarkable stories of recovery!

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Podcast

Story: Robin Roblee-Strauss (What If?)

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In episode 147 of The OCD Stories podcast I interviewed Robin Roblee-Strauss who has kindly agreed to share his OCD story, and talk about his film “What if?”.

Robin Roblee-Strauss

In this episode I chat with Robin about his OCD story, separation anxiety, the power of hearing other peoples stories, therapy, goals and values, journaling, finding the right therapist and his documentary “What if”. Hope it helps.

podcast

To listen on iTunes click the button, or go to iTunes and search “The OCD Stories“. If you enjoy the podcast please subscribe and leave a review. It helps us reach more people who need to hear these remarkable stories of recovery!

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OCD

My post partum OCD

It’s a girl! A little girl, she only weighs tiny even after being a week overdue. That long awaited week of doing everything I could possible to get her out because I was so eager to kiss her!

My husband was asked to leave the hospital room that night and I was petrified. But had no idea why. Due to my birth and baby coming out so quick, she had ALOT of reflux. So with her laying in her bassinet, and all I felt like was sleep after an 18 hour labour and a birth that could have potentially been quite scary that’s all I wanted, was sleep. Yet all I could hear was my little baby spewing up this yellow reflux. So I popped her on my chest in the hospital bed to try and get some rest. Then within an hour I have a nurse coming in so abrupt ‘we do not sleep with babies on our beds because they can roll off and die”.
I would say this was the beginning of my Post Partum OCD hell.

The next day, I checked myself out with my husband, my first baby and my sister in law.
The first week is such a blur and I still could hardly sleep. Fearing that if I went to sleep I may die, or that I have this new baby and I could kill her. Not on purpose. Or maybe on purpose. I don’t know?

I remember all I wanted to do was to get back into my routine, taking my dogs for daily walks around our beautiful reserve which had a lake, cooking dinner, driving with my new girl in the back seat, being so happy just like I was before I had her. Instead I was riddled with intrusive thoughts 24 hours a day. They were the first thing I woke up to and the last thing I thought of before I went to sleep.

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Podcast

When OCD affects you at work (with charity OCD Action)

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In episode 146 of The OCD Stories podcast I interviewed 5 members of staff and volunteers from the charity OCD Action about when OCD affects you at work.

OCD Action

In this episode I chat with Olivia, Leyla, Liam, Nick and Charlie about OCD in the workplace. We cover topics such as finding a work environment that understands OCD, how being a volunteer helped, OCD Action’s advocacy service, self care in the workplace, having people around you who can support you when times are tough, employment rights, advice for HR staff/employers and much much more. Hope it helps.

podcast

To listen on iTunes click the button, or go to iTunes and search “The OCD Stories“. If you enjoy the podcast please subscribe and leave a review. It helps us reach more people who need to hear these remarkable stories of recovery!

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Podcast

Story: David Murphy

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In episode 145 of The OCD Stories podcast I interviewed David Murphy who has kindly agreed to share his OCD story with us.

David Murphy

In this episode I chat with David about his OCD story, his recovery journey, OCD in Ireland, getting the right treatment, the importance of seeing a qualified therapist who understands OCD, mindfulness and meditation, being in nature, exercise and connecting with others. Hope it helps.

podcast

To listen on iTunes click the button, or go to iTunes and search “The OCD Stories“. If you enjoy the podcast please subscribe and leave a review. It helps us reach more people who need to hear these remarkable stories of recovery!

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Podcast

Chrissie Hodges and Jess discuss OCD

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In episode 144 of The OCD Stories podcast my guest interviewer (Jess) interviewed Chrissie Hodges. Chrissie is a Mental Health Advocate & Public Speaker, Peer Support Coach, Author of ‘Pure OCD: The Invisible Side of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder’. Chrissie was awarded the Hero award at the 24th IOCDF conference.

Chrissie Hodges

In this episode Jess talks to Chrissie about an her story (an update on it), working through trauma, dealing with emotions beyond anxiety, breaking down stigma, how friends and family can support their loved one with OCD without giving reassurance, tips for starting advocacy, peer support, handling the “What if this is not OCD?” intrusive thought, raising awareness in schools, feeling self-compassion, and much much more. Hope it helps.  

podcast

To listen on iTunes click the button, or go to iTunes and search “The OCD Stories“. If you enjoy the podcast please subscribe and leave a review. It helps us reach more people who need to hear these remarkable stories of recovery!

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Podcast

Lori Johnson – OCD and Substance Use Disorders (Ep143)

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In episode 143 of The OCD Stories podcast I interviewed Lori Johnson. Lori is a therapist based in the Denver area who specialises in OCD, anxiety and addiction. Lori runs a private practice called In Focus Counselling.

Lori Johnson

In this episode I chat with Lori about her therapy story, what getting life into focus means to her, we discuss ERP (Exposure and response prevention) therapy, substance use disorder alongside OCD, what her clients that recover much quicker do, self-are and much much more. Hope it helps.

podcast

To listen on iTunes click the button, or go to iTunes and search “The OCD Stories“. If you enjoy the podcast please subscribe and leave a review. It helps us reach more people who need to hear these remarkable stories of recovery!

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OCD

OCD is a superpower

Many of those living with OCD can trace their mental health lineage back to a moment, or at least a vague, indiscriminate period, when Obsessive Compulsive first became a problem for them. It makes its grand debut in a loud, emotional, difficult to navigate, and all-round shitty opening number.

Perhaps not a specific point in time when Obsessive Compulsive reared its ugly head and strode with confidence and swagger as an unwelcome guest into their lives, but at least an inkling in retrospect of how and why those three letters came to leave such a stamp on how they live today. I, however, am not one of these people. I can’t tell you why I am obsessive, there is seemingly no explanation why I have to satisfy my compulsions, other than the unnerving feeling that aspects of my environment need to be “just right” in order for me to feel comfortable. “Just right” – I feel like OCD sufferers should have that slogan printed on business cards.

While I can’t explain where, when or how I’ve found myself where I am today and as a proud member of the mental health community, I am very aware of the social factors which have lead me to this point in my life.

At the age of six, every child in the UK is dressed in a formal shirt and tie, top button tightly done up, backpack buckle fastened, shoes polished, blazer ironed and generally made to look like they’re sweaty, middle aged businessmen commuting into work on the tube. We then spend the next ten years teaching children, teenagers, young adults what success looks like. We explain that hard work leads to good grades, that academic excellence then leads to a well-paid occupation, that job leads to career ladder progression, which all in turn leads to money, friends, family and happiness. We tell students to sit up straight, to stand up straight, do their top buttons up, adjust their ties – we even give them a uniform.

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OCD

Wedding Bells or Alarm Bells

I thought I wouldn’t write this until I was recovered, but I realized that “recovery” isn’t an end point; it’s learning to manage every day. For anyone wondering, I will state, up front, that I still don’t have “answers” to my OCD questions. But recovering is being able to accept that fact.

My OCD didn’t come to a head until I got engaged. It was supposed to be the happiest time of my life, right? And yet, I felt trapped in a nightmare for months.

But before that happened, I believe my first signs of OCD were in high school, and I had no clue that’s what it was. I was a lover of romantic comedies and silly romance novels. I felt a desperate need to be in a relationship and probably thought about boys constantly. You see where this is going right? Of course, OCD latched onto relationships.

Despite the fact that all I wanted was a boyfriend, dating brought on intense anxiety for me. What if I was awkward? What if I didn’t know what to do? What if he wasn’t right for me? What if our friends judged us?

This continued through college, obsessing about boys and relationships constantly, but also being overwhelmed with anxiety when anything became slightly serious. If my compulsion was breaking things off, I gave into it every time.

I also spent inordinate amounts of time thinking about what was wrong with me that I couldn’t make a relationship work. I agonized over it, cried over it, and seriously questioned myself worth.

Then my OCD took another turn. What if I couldn’t make a relationship with a guy work because I was actually gay?

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