My journey with OCD started long before a proper diagnosis. Since my early teenage years I’ve cycled through almost all of the subtypes of OCD, the most prominent being somatic OCD. In my mind so far I’ve had Cancer, Meningitis, Rabies, HIV, Stomach ulcers etc. Currently my Illness based OCD thoughts center around development of Schizophrenia. I have been worrying about this for months and months. It seems that this is a somewhat common theme to have, but I rarely ever hear it talked about. I’ve read pretty much every symptom and examples of symptoms including paranoia, hallucinations and delusional thinking to the point where I cannot go a day without thinking about it.
I’ll rewind to about two years 4 years ago when I started worrying that I had hit a pedestrian while driving so I would have to loop around multiple times turning a 5 minute commute into a 30 minute one. If my wife or friends were in the car, I’d just ask for reassurance and keep moving on. I had not yet been diagnosed with OCD at this point I just thought I was be extra cautious. This is when the story gets progressively worse.
About 9 month ago I was gearing up for my honeymoon to Switzerland with my wife, but had massive deadlines to meet at work which was causing me a great deal of stress. I was sitting at my desk when suddenly my surroundings seemed a little weird and I started to get an impending doom feeling. My chest got tight and started breathing heavily. Next was the tunnel vision. Was I dying? Nope but I was having a massive panic attack. I asked my co-worker to walk me downstairs because I was freaking out. The panic attack eventually passed and things were back to normal. Somehow with all the hustle and bustle of traveling to Switzerland and Italy for 3 weeks, I managed to enjoy my time there and take in the beautiful sights. Things seemed pretty alright.
It was time to go back to work at this point. Within the first 20 minutes of being in the office I had another major panic attack. At this point I knew something was wrong so I decided to see a doctor.
My first attempt at this was to see a Primary Care Physician. She put me on the standard anxiety/depression medications. I had a reaction that made the anxiety 100x times worse with every try.
During this time, I started having what turns out to be Pedophile OCD thoughts. I felt like I was going insane. I didn’t know why this was happening to me. Why are these thoughts here? I avoided looking at children on TV shows as well as in public. I confessed this to my wife because I couldn’t keep it inside. I needed to know that I wasn’t a pedophile. Initially she did not understand and was very concerned. I decided to start seeing a psychiatrist and CBT therapist.
During my first appointment with both I just burst into tears barely being able to get a few words out about what I was going through. It was so acute at this time. They suggested that I may have intrusive thoughts stemming from OCD or OCD with Bipolar disorder. This didn’t make sense to me as I thought OCD was about being tidy. I was given a book titled “The OCD workbook”. A few pages in I start reading patient stories and it was like someone had read my mind. I felt a bit of relief knowing why this was happening. At this time the pOCD thoughts changed to Harm OCD. I started to decline further into a hole. I wouldn’t touch knives, wouldn’t be around my dog alone because I feared I may hurt him. My wife as well. Every time I had the thoughts I would have to confess them immediately. I told my psychiatrist about this so we started trying new medications. I kept having bad reaction after another. The thoughts started getting worse. Harm started to fade and Existential OCD started moving in. Oh boy this is a truly horrific type of thought. Do I exist? Is the world around me real? What’s the point of this existence? At this point, my depression started to worsen. Crying all of this time, not being able to go to work, wanting it to be over. During this time I experienced derealisation quite a bit. Super scary to me. I reached out to some online support groups to see if anyone had experienced this as well (classic reassurance seeking). Of course I get the reassurance (not that it matters because it only made the thoughts worse).
One night I am scrolling through the message boards and come across a post pertaining to schizophrenia themed OCD. At this point I had no idea what Schizophrenia was. I wish I had never learned.
I started researching what schizophrenia is and I started to panic. What if I get this? What if I go insane and hurt myself and others? Oh god what do I do?
I started taking online tests about 10 times a day to confirm that I didn’t have schizophrenia. It wasn’t enough. I asked my wife for reassurance on every little noise that I heard confirming that it was actually real. I started getting anxiety from the floaters in my eyes thinking that I was hallucinating. I brought this up to my doctor and she told me that I haven’t shown any signs of schizophrenia at all. I thought this would help but it only made it worse.
I didn’t know what to do. I felt lost. Will I ever feel okay again? Every therapy session became a reassurance platform for me and I was getting nowhere. I knew I wasn’t supposed to seek it, but I could not help myself.
I checked myself into a PHP/IOP program to see if intense therapy would work. It did teach me quite a few things and I met some really great people who I am still in contact with today, but did little for my OCD.
My mood was levelled enough to start thinking a bit more clearly. I told my CBT therapist that I wanted to take a break to find an ERP specialist.
I’m not sure if I’m just so exhausted with thinking about becoming schizophrenic or the ERP is actually working, but it’s not racing through my mind 24/7 anymore. I feel hopeful again. I’m not feeling as numb as I felt 6-8 months ago. Things are starting to get better. I realize that things will never be perfect and I cannot control or prevent everything bad from happening. Uncertainty is a hard thing to accept and I still struggle with this a lot, but letting the anxiety happen while continuing to do it anyway is success. I hope this story helps anyone struggling with OCD. I’ve been completely hopeless at times but things can always get better so be kind and patient with yourself.