I was diagnosed and put on medication for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) when I was nine years old. Yes, you read that correctly, I was put on medication at age nine. But it wasn’t exactly easy. See, once we got the medication, the OCD kicked in, and like a tiny whisper in my ear, it convinced me that the medicine was going to kill me.
That’s the running theme behind most of my younger years- doing certain things or not doing things a certain way were going to kill me or make me die. Irrational? Completely.
Such is the life of one with OCD.
See, it’s not just about tidiness (I’m actually walking garbage) or hand washing (this one I did do — so badly I developed black-rimmed red sores on my hands, because of the germs I was concerned would, say it with me, make me die), but it starts in the brain.
My brain is an organ, and like any other organ, it can get sick! My serotonin is all wacky, causing OCD and a plethora of other things. It starts off with a thought, called an obsession. It’s always a thought, like: ”if you eat that, you’re going to die.” (of course, not everyone has the “make me die” thoughts, and some people ARE complete germaphobes). Then come what are called compulsions- the acts we do to try and alleviate the obsessions, OCD can include things like intrusive thoughts, as well. I remember times when I would say to myself (in my head) “...what if I stabbed that person? What if I killed that other one? What if I killed myself?” These are all intrusive thoughts, straight from my own life.
One big problem I can remember is waaaaay back in third grade when I was diagnosed. As homework, we had sheets to fill out about — gestures vaguely — I was having problems writing on it. You see, my brain told me I would get hurt or die if I didn’t write perfectly, and if I deemed something imperfect, I had to erase it and COULD NOT write on that spot again, or else, guess what? I would die. I drove my mother crazy, she thought I was just being difficult, and it ended up with me in tears and her absolutely raging, but I digress.
Sometimes the obsessions require you to do something a number of times or count. A really good example of this, at least for me, is chewing equally on each side of the mouth. That was a thing for a while.
I think the worst problem I ever had was, again, when I was little. I was convinced my parents were aliens and were going to poison me with dinner. I didn’t eat until about 8:00 that night. That was a trip.
As I grew up, I switched psychiatrists and psychologists, was put on various medications and tried to figure out the best way to deal with my condition. The therapy-and-medication portion is EXTREMELY crucial. Even if you are totally against medication, at least see a therapist. I have the firm belief that everyone needs to see a therapist. We all have something that bothers us.
It’s been 12 years since my diagnosis, and MAN, have I come a long way. I went from crippling thoughts and actions to being somewhat independent. I found my “place” in high school in band and choir, and my OCD only got bad, mainly intrusive thoughts, during the summer. College was...interesting. It was a very good experience, but I had a crisis at least once a semester (and I was there for five years) and sometimes I had to go home because of it.
Now, at 31, my days look kind of like this: I wake up sometime between 6 AM and 8 AM and take some of my medications (I’m on seven, for various things). I go back to sleep and wake up anywhere from 10 AM to 2 PM, depending on how I’m feeling that day. (Oh, I didn’t mention that. Obsessive thoughts make you extremely tired. So do the medications. Each one of my medications has a “may make you drowsy” sticker on it. Naps are required.) Some days, I can’t get out of bed at all, and that’s okay. If I can, I shower (cleanliness is a THING for me unless I’m so tired I can’t function) and put clothes on. I take my noon medication when I can. By this point, The thoughts start. This could be anything from “oh God, what if I can’t do the laundry today?” to “This person hates me, I’m going to text them 100 times to make sure we’re okay” (another big problem, especially when dating. People want one simple text or a small block of text. What I give them is about 20 texts of worried nonsense).
The thoughts cycle in my head and I try to quell them with distractions and cognitive thinking (one of the many ways to try to alleviate OCD in a healthy way) and go about my day until night time (guess what? More medication).
There are other symptoms that I don’t have, sexually explicit thoughts, focusing too hard on a religious or moral code, being afraid of not having things you may want or need. Someone might constantly check if the oven is off because what if they forgot? The house could burn down! Some people DO keep a neat and tidy workspace/house/car/what have you, and EVERYTHING HAS ITS PLACE, and you DO NOT DISTURB that place. Some people are scared to throw stuff away. They might need it later! (They probably won’t, but it’s a mindset.)
One final point: you CAN get “OCD attached” to PEOPLE. This is highly unhealthy and needs to stop as soon as you figure it out, whether it be talking to that person less or straight-up blocking them. I have a couple of people blocked and it’s the best thing that’s happened to me.
Overcoming OCD is a process, but it CAN be done, and if you don’t know how to ask questions to your primary care physician, ask them to friends and family (side note, a lot of this stuff is genetic!), ask a therapist, ask people online (hi!). Everyone is here for you. You just have to take that first step.