Aug 1, 2018
This content contains explicit and sensitive information that may not be suitable for all ages.
My struggle with mental illness began at the age of nine.
My first debilitating affliction was with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. People often mischaracterize OCD, and I feel as though that’s understandable considering most people don’t have a firsthand experience with it in its most severe form.
Following an experience of childhood sexual trauma, I found myself being insanely neurotic. It manifested at first as washing my hands frequently and changing my clothes more than other kids. But as the years progressed, so did my symptoms. It got to the point that by the time I was twelve, I was washing my hands so frequently they would crack and bleed. In order to touch things in my house I had to wear gloves, and there was almost no furniture I could sit on without feeling as though I had become contaminated.
I became more and more debilitated.
As my OCD progressed, I became more and more debilitated. People in the public, and especially students at my school, started to realize that I deviated from the norm. This was more than mild neurosis; this was the genesis of something much more severe. I started having to bring wet wipes on the school bus with me, so I could disinfect the seat before I sat on it and I couldn’t touch anything.
By the time I was fourteen my entire life was controlled by these obsessive thoughts of contamination.
The most frustrating part of it all was that I knew it was irrational. I could observe the people around me and realize none of them were engaging in these mal-adaptive behaviours I was superfluously indulging in, yet I couldn’t stop. It progressed to the point that I felt as though even the air was contaminated.
Part of my ritualistic compulsions ended up resulting in me having to cough and exhale to prevent the contaminants from entering me. I would shake while I coughed and exhale in an attempt to get the contaminants away from me. By the time I was fifteen I could no longer attend the school I was going to. I had become fully convinced that the entire school, including all the people, and the air in the hallways, were contaminated. During that summer I was completely housebound. I was confined to my bedroom for the majority of the day, and I would have to crawl through the house because I felt the air at head level was full of contamination.
I felt like there was no way out.
I spent those months extremely suicidal. I felt like there was no way out. While my friends were able to enjoy LIFE I was utterly debilitated and felt completely demoralized. I was defeated by this illness. This period of being trapped by my OCD this severely lasted for five years. In my final year of high school, even after having switched schools, I would wake up at seven every morning, and be lucky if I made it to school by one. I was spending over five hours every morning washing my hands, showering, changing my clothes, and I would repeat this over and over. I couldn’t stop. Usually around the third hour I would have a breakdown and cry. I just wanted to escape this mental prison, I just needed a break. All my thoughts were consumed by contamination, and I felt the only way out was suicide.
I would spend hours in tears, washing my hands and showering, knowing logically that there was no reason, but still unable to cease the behaviour. The obsession and compulsion were stronger than me, I was powerless.
Drugs and alcohol became my escape which led me down an equally hellish and devastating road. Finally I surrendered and attempted suicide. This absolute devastation, and complete and utter desperation, left me at a crossroads — fight or die.
I am proof that there’s always hope.
I was worn out by my life and realized to survive I would have to try a different type of surrender and take up a different fight. I would have to surrender any facade I had and it all started with the truth. I opened up about the childhood trauma. It was such a freeing experience. To be quite honest, it was miraculous. It sounds surreal and totally unbelievable, but after delving into my childhood trauma with a therapist, I was able to fight against my obsessions and compulsions that very day.
It gave me the freedom and strength to realize my life didn’t have to be like this, there was another way. My mental illness had completely rendered me to a state of powerlessness and worthlessness. Through this gift of desperation I was finally able to see that I was worthy. My hope is to let anybody suffering realize that they too are worthy, that we are all worthy. I am proof that there’s always hope.