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OCD and me

Guest Author: Sarah

This content contains explicit and sensitive information that may not be suitable for all ages.

My OCD began to develop at the age of seven, around the time of my Grandma’s death.

I have been very lucky with my upbringing as I have a very loving mother and father. I have always had a strong relationship with my Mum, she is my best friend and my main support network – she has been and always will be my rock. I have very faint memories of this but I am told that once my Grandma passed away I used to order the coats on the stairs every night. My mum’s would be at the bottom I presume so she was the safest, and then mine in the middle and my dad’s at the top protecting us.

I have fond memories of Primary School, although there is one that sticks out. I remember needing the toilet, I had my hand up asking for permission to leave my seat, the teacher at the time refused and asked me to wait. Before I knew it I had an accident.

I remember feeling so embarrassed and ashamed of myself. I cannot remember how quickly it developed but for a long time after this, I was obsessed with going to the toilet. Before leaving the house, I would go to the toilet at least three times to prevent this from ever happening to me again.

Everything there was to worry about I worried about.

It got to the point where I would sit on the toilet to just see if I needed to go, long car journeys with my parents meant frequent stops at service stations. There is nothing else poignant for me that happened during this time. I remember being on holiday with my Mum, Dad and younger brother in Spain, and there were people on the streets selling drugs – whether or not this was due to anxiety I hated it – I remember thinking what if my dad took them? I think it was at this point I started to develop a fear of harm coming to my family.

Whilst studying for my exams, I had increasing anxiety, about everything.

Everything there was to worry about I worried about. I worried about war, death, situations in the press, my family, illness, disease – although everything was great, I felt like I was waiting for something bad to happen. When I left high school, I started my A-Levels at a nearby college. I only managed to complete the first year of AS levels, which in a way I resent myself for, I loved to write and I kick myself that I never made it to University.

I did not understand what was happening.

As I remember, my intrusive thoughts began properly at the age of 16. At this point in my life, I did not understand what was happening; I thought I was a bad person for thinking what I was thinking. My fears came from the media, newspapers, stories I heard or events I had made up in my head. Little did I know at this point the more I was doing my compulsions the more I was feeding into my illness. I cannot quite pinpoint when my rituals began, but at one point I could not go into the bathroom without physically licking the taps – as this was the only way I knew they were completely off. I would go into shops and start restocking shelves ensuring everything was facing the same way.

If one side of my body was touching something, I had to ensure the other side touched it too. I tapped window locks, door locks. Light switches had to be symmetrical. Plugs had to be out of the wall. My hands and feet were constantly tapping and moving always in a number of four. I had constant thoughts running through my mind ‘What would happen if my mum died in a car crash’ – ‘it would be my fault because I’ve thought about it.’ One single thought would spiral my mind out of control. I was left exhausted. I felt trapped within myself. My feelings were like crashing waves in my head. My thoughts were like a river cascading through my mind distorting my reality. My rituals and compulsions were short-term relief, until another whisper came into my mind – what if I have not done it properly. I need to do it again. My mind was flooded with worry. I could not function properly. I had no energy to fight the urges.

At any point, my OCD would suddenly come up with a new fear or a new compulsion out of nowhere. My Mum took me to the GP and from there I was taken to CAMHS. I was diagnosed with OCD; I was put on medication and started CBT Therapy.

I find sleeping a quick cure because it takes the pain away.

The years that followed, my OCD was up and down. I was holding down a job and relationships. I was still getting on with every day, but OCD was always in my mind, always picking at me, always having the upper hand. I was a victim to a bully in my own head. I constantly doubted myself – always seeking reassurance. I did not trust my own thoughts. I was constantly scared of what was coming next. I slept a lot of the time and even now, I find sleeping a quick cure because it takes the pain away.

My head was a sky full of dark and dirty clouds. I was compelled to count in numbers. I counted my hands, my fingers. I had to make sure everything was right. I could not cope with the uncertainty – but everything about life is uncertain. That is what I had to overcome.

But my greatest tool is support.

Over the years I have had my medications changed and dosages upped, I have taken beta-blockers, I have tried ACT and CBT. I have bad days and good days. OCD is still there, like it will always be but my greatest tool is support.

Without the love and support of my family I do not know where I would be. In a way, I see myself as lucky to have a family with such a wide experience in mental illness, we stick together and we always will do. We support each other, we are proud of each other and we love each no matter what. We can tell each other things that you would not dream of saying aloud. We find a way to laugh through the bad days; we do not cry we smile. I understand I have a debilitating mental illness but I will not let it define me.

I am not lazy, I am a warrior and I wake up every day to fight my thoughts

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