…there is a lot of comfort and support to be gained from knowing that somehow we are all in the same ship.
I want to remain anonymous, because I have a story which is still difficult to tell. (I hope I can make myself clear as I am not a native speaker.) I am a 41 year-old male living in Europe, and have been dealing with OCD symptoms from a very young age (3rd grade). Like many others, I have come to know its different types (contamination, sexual orientation, pedophilia, harm, relationship) and all of them were and still are equally nasty to me. I have been lucky enough to receive professional help (since I was 22) and with medication I function reasonably well. What I want to write about here is an OCD variation I did not read about yet, on the web or in books, but one that has been bothering me since I was 16. It is an embarrassing type because it is focused on racism and antisemitism. In fact it is so embarrassing, that I almost feel compelled to stress here that I am not a racist or an anti-Semite (as I used to promise and swear to myself when I was younger).
I grew up in a progressive Christian family (I am non-religious now), and my parents always taught us to do the right thing and be there for others. They also showed this in their own behavior: Our family lived in Africa for a couple of years where my father was a tropical doctor, and my parents are still very active in helping refugees. As a kid I learned that racism and prejudice were not acceptable, and in school I learned about the Holocaust as the ultimate evil. And then, as a late adolescent, I started to get these unnerving thoughts. It is very difficult to put them in words, because they were vague and not very outspoken. But somehow they made me doubt the wrongness of antisemitism, and racism more generally, which I found shocking.
You have been around for quite some time now for my son (now 22yrs old)…… I first noticed when he was 13yrs old, I thought it was just little fad he was going through. Bending down touching the floor, or the top of a fence or not walking on the cracks on the pavement.
You did that for 3yrs then on a holiday weekend it all came pouring. You could not cope anymore, you thought you were gay, a bad person, a really really bad person and would go to hell, you cried with fear. OCD gave you a breakdown! You were admitted to hospital and diagnosed with OCD…. You had continuous intrusive thoughts, sexual, violent, religious thoughts…. Your head was full…… I could visibly see your worry, your pain, your fear!!! But I was helpless and did not know what to do….. I cried with you, I tried to re-assure you….. I did the best I could.
Sometimes, unfortunately things have to get worse before they can get better.
It is currently late Saturday night, 10:45pm to be exact. I’m sitting at the desk in my dorm room, surrounded by posters and phrases encouraging me to “Take Courage!” and “Embrace Uncertainty!” I have been reading my medical entomology textbook for the past hour and a half, all the while with the weight of needing to write this essay pressing for my attention. So with my medical entomology reading now done, English reading done, dinner eaten, emails answered, and no longer a strong excuse of something else I could do first to continue avoiding, here I am at my computer at 10:49pm. I am now trying to force myself to finally start writing this essay I told myself I would absolutely write yesterday. This is after I had told myself I would absolutely write the essay a week ago. Oh to live life with OCD and anxiety.
I can remember having OCD my entire life, but I didn’t always know a name for it. I have one strong memory from Kindergarten of insisting that I needed to redo my painting because it wasn’t “perfect,” even when the other kids in the class moved on to a new activity. I remember in elementary school staying up later than an 8-year-old should having to “knock on wood” repetitively because I worried if I didn’t do this or did it the wrong number of times my family would die.
Though I have always had these symptoms of OCD, I quickly became a master at hiding my compulsions (of course I didn’t know yet they were called compulsions) and keeping my fears to myself. At this point in my life, the obsessions and compulsions were annoying but not debilitating to the level that I felt I needed to share them. So I didn’t. These first few years my OCD would focus on one theme at a time, and the theme would gradually change over the years. My obsessions changed from fearing causing my family member’s deaths to fearing causing fires to fearing suffocating. If a compulsion was particularly annoying I would just figure I could wait about a year and it would change into something else, hopefully something less annoying.
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.
My personal opinion on the OCD treatment is find a therapist and if medication is suggested give it a go, you will save a lot of time and feel much better
My name is George
This is another OCD story, I’ve been diagnosed and receiving cognitive and medical therapy for one year now. My ocd adventure is not a success story (apologies if I have disappointed you). I’ve been failing at everything my whole life and had the worst of luck, I didn’t developed any social skills due to my social phobia and the fact that from the excessive criticism I got from my friends, family, teachers, relatives etc. had caused me to be bothered with the life of others and often compare my-self to them as me the dysfunctional human specimen and them having the greatest physical features and achievements that I could never reach. My school grades were awful and yet for the very few A’s I got I again got criticism for not having many and only on easy subjects.
My first panic attack happened when I was 16 years old when I had my GCs and more specifically the day of the speaking exams, I was trembling from the time I woke up till a few hours after I left the examination room. It was the same time when my compulsions with door handles were manifested. I finished high-school with almost no recollection of good times and then I joined the army for 2 years a duty that was mandatory but also a period of my lifetime which damaged and scarred me for life due to the strict rules that we had to follow and on the first year intrusive thoughts were manifested. As soon as I got out of the army I went for auditions to an undergraduate music course where I failed and my parents forced me to take the exams for becoming a policeman and when I failed on purpose they forced me to join a university following a computer engineer course where I again failed from the 1st semester. On the following September I started a course on environmental sciences after having a test on professional orientation which pointed the type of careers that I could follow with my skills.
For those who deserve an explanation
In episode 9 of The OCD Stories podcast I interviewed David Adam. David is an editor and author of the book “The man who couldn’t stop”.
I had a good conversation with David, he’s a good lad (as we say in England). We talked about his book, how it came about and his OCD story. He talks about overcoming his HIV obsessions, how to do ERP effectively, accepting uncertainty and stigma. There is a lot of good advice in this interview for anyone struggling with OCD, but specifically “Pure O”. Enjoy!!!
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 hope people can relate to it and realise they’re not alone.
20 months ago I was diagnosed with OCD. It was something I could always relate to. Growing up, every time I saw a documentary on TV about OCD it all seemed uncomfortably familiar. I remember seeing a man who couldn’t go to bed until he had arranged the pots on his fireplace in a way he felt comfortable with. He was in agony. I could relate to him but because my OCD wasn’t the stereotypical type of OCD the public are familiar with, I too, never saw my condition as being OCD. I’ve always been tense and sensitive. Never a confrontational kid and always, generally, well behaved at home and at school. I never have liked to rock the boat so whenever things came up in my life which did just that my fight or flight response, I now know, never worked properly for me. I bottled it up and carried it round with me. I was quiet and shut down. People often have referred to me a the ‘quiet one’ or ‘sensible one’ amongst my group of friends which to the outsider it must look like that. However, I did recently hear a quote which said that sometimes the quietest people have the loudest minds. I can relate to that as well. There have been times I can feel myself slipping into my head and becoming anti-social. I dont want it to happen. I want to project myself and show my true self, but sometimes I get lost in thought.
My first real involvement with OCD was when I was 10. Around that time me and friends were making prank calls, sending pizzas to people’s houses, silly stuff, harmless really but no doubt annoying to the people we were doing it to. Then one day I made a prank phone call to the 999 operator. This came back to haunt me, as later that day the operator called back and spoke to my Mother who was furious. “What if someone who was in a burning house couldn’t get through to the operator because of you” or something along those lines were said. Also, I was told my Grandpa, who was my best mate growing up and who died when I was 6 (and also a phone operator for the fire brigade!!!) would’ve been ashamed of me.
I can acknowledge that I am not my thoughts. I am not my obsessions. I am not my compulsions. I am NOT my OCD.
I’m *so* OCD.
No, really, I am. Not like that Target sweater. Not like Monica from Friends. I mean, have you seen my room? It’s a war zone. I hardly have the mental fortitude to organize items by type, let alone by color and alphabetical order. Not like Billy or Suzie who claim they’re *so OCD* about X, Y, or Z when what they really mean—and lack the eloquence to articulate–is they’re human. Because as humans, well, we have quirks.
OCD has been my beast of burden, my shameful monster, since childhood. Back then, I had absolutely no language to pinpoint what these weird obsessions or compulsions were that dictated the real estate of my brain. Swallowing a certain number of times. Knocking on my head as a substitute for wood when I felt superstitious about something; that act would in and of itself become a new compulsion. Checking my heartbeat to make sure I hadn’t been scared to death (after reading a ghost story aptly called, “Scared to Death.”) Playing the same piano chord after every piece I practiced. Just to feel right. Looking behind me at my, um, rear end, to make sure I hadn’t sat on any mud lest classmates think I’d pooped my pants. LAUGH all you want! Ha. I do in retrospect, too! But these were real, very real, compulsions and obsessions that I couldn’t break away from. And, twenty + years later, I still get locked in my brain.