I was invited to write my OCD story by Stuart, who administers the blog, The OCD Stories. This is a great blog to read about how it is to deal with OCD everyday by those who endure it. It is also a positive blog as it focuses on recovery and improvement as well as giving you a small glance into the world of chronic sufferers. Every OCD sufferer is different.
I personally found the blog encouraging and it helped me realise I’m not alone. I wish I had discovered it sooner and I recommend becoming a subscriber to anyone with OCD and those who support them.
I would like to share the unedited version of My OCD story:
I have wondered many times when my OCD story started and I have to conclude I always had a propensity to over-analyse and fixate on things from a young age, but instead of growing out of it and becoming more confident and learning the crucial art of letting issues go, I let my feelings hang around and fester. I learned to live in fear with the expectation of the worst outcomes.
I don’t ever remember not being afraid. I was always terrified, I felt I never fitted in and I was socially isolated. I stuck to routines in order to preserve a feeling of security; when I was at school it involved arriving at the same time every day, using the same routes to get to lessons etc. As an adolescent my symptoms were the worst, I felt extreme anxiety in doing things my peers did, like going to the cinema, shopping, going on holiday and doing anything without my parents. My feelings of depression and worthlessness started at an early age and continued to grow with me.
I had a brief period between the ages of sixteen to eighteen, when I felt more optimistic, confident and I felt accepted by new friends at a new school where I took my A-levels. This was not to last and ended abruptly in the summer of 1992.
What most people in hindsight would consider a minor set back in my career path at 18 has derailed me ever since and I spent a year living in shame, more isolated and in total embarrassment. I went to medical school when I was nineteen but took my shame, self-loathing and my sense of never quite being enough with me. Subsequently, I was ruled by compulsions to avoid getting hurt and to keep my shameful imperfection away from others. I was basically implementing avoidance strategies to such an extreme I was missing out on everything.
My time at university was not one of happiness and discovery, but fear, isolation and despair, which I kept to myself and battled alone. However despite this I somehow passed finals first time, contrary to what I’d convinced myself and took on my first post with excitement. As an adult my compulsions involved using the same route to get anywhere, isolating myself to avoid being out in public and not coping well with any level of deviation from the norm. I kept up appearances for 3 years before unravelling.
My coping mechanisms were limited and I felt dangerously alone and vulnerable. Instead of seeking help I spent years telling myself to get a grip and simultaneously nurturing the avoidance which lead to me going into a crisis where I avoided everything. I was diagnosed with OCD in 2009, when I was suicidal and beyond coping anymore, approximately 20 years after I first had symptoms. I was discouraged and too afraid to seek help until my symptoms reached an extreme crisis point, by which time I had put my career aside permanently and life on hold indefinitely.
Three years after I was diagnosed I underwent CBT group therapy for 10 weeks followed by 6 weeks of individual psychotherapy. However, acceptance of having an illness is hard, you are led to believe you have a choice when it comes to having mental health symptoms, like you choose not to walk out the front door and to have fear shadow your actions and thoughts. There is no pleasure in my symptoms or compulsions. Why would anyone want to live this way? I was unable to control my anxiety to leave my home without my husband for 9 years and its only now after a year and a half of psychodynamic group therapy that I have regained some limited independence.
The fear of bad things happening to me or my husband never leaves, but I have begun to feel a level of optimism that has been absent since I was 18. I spent a week by myself, while my husband was away on a course. I tended the cats and myself as well as driving myself to my medical appointments, which is quite a victory for me. I am still a long way from regaining total independence and fully understanding why I feel such fear and lack of personal security, but I am beginning to see the damage that years of hiding, compressing my feelings and living with anxiety and depression have done to my confidence and my life as a whole.
My therapeutic journey has barely begun but now I can talk about it and I feel more positive than I have in years.