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.
I have very regular intrusive thoughts over many things however there are two main factors (branches of my tree if you like) that cause me the most amount of grief. Which is what I am going to go into now.
The first being my fear of contamination that started when I was four years old. I am petrified to say the least of germs, Sickness, diarrhoea etc. and have had to give up three jobs because of this. I used to work in a school as an apprentice teaching assistant but had to give this up because there was a bad bout of norovirus that got passed around, however when the illness left the school the panic attacks and extreme level of anxiety never left me. I realised that I had to find something new and that I could never cope in this environment when I calculated that I spent over £300 a month on: Anti-bacterial spray, wipes, hand sanitiser, soap, body wash and cleaning detergent for my clothes, as I was mortified at the thought of getting ill.
The second being relationships, which started when I was about 16 and continued to get a lot worse util I was about 18. I found that In my adolescence I landed myself in a range of people that were untrustworthy, un-loyal and all round not very nice people, some of which were liars. Some of these people I considered friends and a couple of them were girls that I dated.
I now have very sensitive trust issues and get intrusive thoughts about my family, friends and my relationships even though deep down I know they are not true. I often find myself thinking “what if they are lying”, “what if they don’t like me”, “what if we fall out”, “what if they want to leave, because I’m to hard to deal with”. You could say I am very insecure and that I now obsess over this, which Is true. but what I have learnt over these years Is that when someone thing in my life, to of my control becomes repetitive, my OCD feeds off of this and thrives on this bad information.
My mind convinces me to the point of where I am certain, that bad things will happen even though most of the time now they do not and I often seek a lot of reassurance from people and make them promise me things when I am having bad days.
The thing that helps me cope with this is my “Shovel analogy” which is: I know these thoughts aren’t true deep down, but my shovel just isn’t sharp enough to reach that far down yet. And I can keep asking for reassurance (like borrowing someone elses sharper shovel) which helps me to reach that place deep down, but at some time everything you borrow has to be given back… what I really need to do is find out for myself, and look at the evidence in order to sharpen my own shovel which will always be mine, meaning I can always access the truth that I know lies deep down.
I don’t think I will ever be completely cured from my OCD and I often have relapses but I like to think that one day I will sit on of my OCD as apposed to it sitting on myself, Another way of describing it would be that I would be controlling it, instead of it controlling me, and I am happy with it being at that level.
Another coping mechanism that I adopted was actually something that my sister once said to me as a joke. She told me I should name my OCD and talk about it like it was a person in my life that was getting on my nerves, and that it should have an innocent name like Brian. We laughed about it at the time but now I literally refer to my OCD as Brian. This makes me feel comfortable because I feel like with people who know about “Brian” I can say in a group of people “Guys I don’t want to do this, because Brian doesn’t agree with it” which I find much easier than to say “Guys I can’t, because its badly effecting my OCD.”. This doesn’t mean I am ashamed of my OCD because Im not, but its a way that I can get across that I’m uncomfortable in a soft gentle way which helps my anxiety levels not to build up.
My advice to people suffering from any form of OCD would be “Just know that you are part of a community… your community understand exactly how you feel.. we’re in this together and we will help each other through.” and that really is an amazing thing.
Many thanks, and I really appreciate your time.