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it is possible to gain your life back

Dear all,

my name is Melanie, I’m 23 years old and a Master of Arts student in “Ancient Cultures”, “Old Testament” and “Near Eastern Archaeology” with a lot of interest in the New Testament, Afterlife myths of the Antiquity and languages (I know 17) and I suffer from OCD and Emetophobia.

The first symptoms of OCD started at the age of eight. I went to the cinema with my aunt and cousins, we ate popcorn, sweets and MacDonald’s food. During the night I woke up and had to throw up, which was obvious, I had overeaten. Suddenly I became all careful, every evening I asked my mother whether I ate too much or in a false order, it was important to me to not mix up different types of bread, soft drinks and more. When  I was invited at childern’s birthday parties I refused to eat sweets shortly before dinner. I hated to throw up and I set myself a goal: This should not happen again. I was also haunted by brutal thoughts which I considered to be bad and blasphemic, but this is a part of my OCD struggles which I’d like to keep private.

I set up a record of 14 years (I know it sounds silly that someone’s biggest aim is not to vomit, but for me it is the absolutely worst body reaction). It was the 7th May 2013. I was at the University and had lunch with a friend. Everything was fine except for my back pain which is kind of chronic, so I decided to take some medicine in order to relieve the pain. The medicine I was taking back then was very strong and it wasn’t the first time I had stomach problems afterwards, but I was used to it. The train ride back home was pretty shaky and I started to feel uneasy. As soon as I arrived at home the uncomfortable feeling disappeard and I thought it was just because of the rough travelling. In the evening this unwell feeling started again and eventually I had to throw up around 11 pm. It wasn’t that bad for me because I felt immediately better afterwards and I even went to school the next day. So far nothing changed.

Four months later I was working at a factory who produces buttons for trains and other public transport. It was a five weeks summer job and I met a lot of people, that ‘s when I started to worry about my health and used to clean and wash my hands more than the last 21 years of my life. Suddenly I started to be afraid of getting infected and avoided social contacts. One day a woman came up to me and started talking about her dogs. I had observed her earlier on that she was swalloing meds so I had  to find out what kind of meds they were: she took them for body dehydration, I calmed down a little. After a couple of hours she was talking to her daughter on the phone. I asked her what was wrong with her girl and she told me that her daughter was throwing up and suffered from diarrhea. I got panicky and wanted to leave the building and instead of leaving me alone this woman and her friend came up to me and started hugging me and told me to chill out, I was convinced she was already carrying the same disease as her daughter did. That was it, I ran out of the building and never turned back. My mother had to call the boss and told him that I suffer from Emetophobia and that I was no longer able to work at his factory. The next thing I did, ruined my life. I took my smartphone and checked how many hours needed to pass before the stomach flue would outbreak: 4-60 hours. It was the 12th August 2013, the day my OCD began…

I visited many doctors and psychologists, no one could help me. I was a mess, I didn’t talk to people, I was sitting far away from anyone in trains, I took my food from home and I tried to survive every single day with counting from 4 hours up to 60 hours because I was permanently convinced that someone had just infected me with stomach flue. My boyfriend and I cancelled our long awaited USA-trip and I felt guilty having ruined his holidays. We decided to fly to London and Gran Canaria instead and it was pure horror for me. I couldn’t enjoy one second of our trips. I was constantly counting or crying and I feared everything and everyone.

Back home I decided to take some meds, they calmed me down a little bit but they didn’t help me to ignore the intrusive thoughts of my brain. I went to innumerable psychologists but only one woman was able to help me. We set up contracts, because back then I was washing my hands about 50 to 60 times a day, in those contracts we recorded “achievements of the week”. I learned to wash my hands less than 50, 30, 20 times. Nowadays I wash my hands like a normal person (after going to the toilet, before eating and when I come home from the university or the mall, whatever). She was great and I could tell her almost everything that discomforted me. Together with all the hygienical obsessions I started to become really jealous of a girl from my boyfriends past. Although he didn’t know me back then and I had no right to be mad at him or insult him, I couldn’t stop yelling at him and make him feel guilty because of his faux-pas… This is still a problem today. I’ll be visiting the psychologist again, because this is not a life anymore. My boyfriend was, next to my parents, the biggest support I experienced during the worst two years of my life and I really hope to manage my anger and jealousy, although I’m not sure if it is really OCD-related or simply my lousy character (you see, there is no self-esteem)…

Anyways, there are a lot of ways to handle a day without worrying too much and if anyone is interested in tips I’d be glad to help.

As for the medication: I need to take Cipralex (which is often prescribed in Switzerland) and Zyprexa which helps me to gain weight (and it works, I’m so glad, because I avoided eating certain things or way too big meals in my opinion in order to not throwing up) and it also helps me to sleep better without terrible nightmares, which haunted me the last couple of months.

I hope my OCD story might give some hope that it is possible to gain your life back.