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Eight years ago, I was so depressed I considered committing suicide. My obsessions had completely taken over my life—not only were they daily distractions from work and friends, they were terrible. These obsessions, the fear that I might harm a child, didn’t just consume my free time. They consumed me. Nothing about life was enjoyable anymore. Not my wonderful boyfriend, Peter, who’s now my husband. Not visits with my parents. Not my favorite TV shows, or books, or dinners out.

Not even shoe shopping! On St. Patrick’s Day weekend in 2006, Peter and I went to visit a friend in New York City, and we all went shopping. Peter wanted new shoes, so we headed into a crowded Puma store to browse. I felt a small jolt of panic when I saw a little girl with her father. It was the middle of the week, a school day, so all of the other shoppers were adults, but this one child threw me into a cold sweat. She was sitting on one of the large, square benches where shoppers could try on shoes, minding her own business. To my dismay Peter stopped right in front of her.

I kept my back to her as Peter checked out shoes and asked me what I thought of each pair, but it was as though there was a force behind me. This girl’s mere presence made me feel anxious and I felt compelled to turn around every few seconds to see if she was still there. I felt like I was fighting a magnetic force as I tried desperately to keep my mind on the task at hand, which should have been at the very least simple and at best enjoyable. I finally turned around after a few minutes and saw that the girl was gone. “Thank God,” I thought, exhaling a mental sigh of relief.

This wasn’t normal. It wasn’t right. I knew I couldn’t live life as I was living it, but I didn’t want to ruin the lives around me by taking my own life. Peter would never get over losing the love of his life and never knowing why I committed suicide, and my mom would be devastated. I broke down every time I thought of her—losing me would destroy her, and knowing that kept me going.

Although having a reason to carry on was a good thing, crying every time I thought of my mom was not. Crying at work, at home, in the car, at night, in the morning, in the shower, in front of the bathroom mirror to make sure it was really me and not a stranger—this was not a life worth living.

I got help as soon as I got home from New York City. Being so miserable on a vacation drove home how badly I needed it. You can get help, too. No matter how low you may feel right now, there is hope for a better life. There were several times of my life when I thought I would never feel happy again. I would have settled for neutral. Depression is cruel, but it doesn’t have to win.

Don’t go through this alone. Tell someone how you feel. See a psychiatrist. Talk about the possibility of an antidepressant, and therapy. Exercise. Eat well, to nourish your brain. Hug your friends and family. Journal. Call 1.800.442.HOPE (1.800.442.4673) or 1.800.273.TALK (1.800.273.8255). Do whatever it takes to push past this.

My life is worth living now, and it has been for a long time. That didn’t feel possible eight years ago, it really didn’t. I thought that even if I stopped obsessing I could never forgive myself for what I’d already thought. But I did both. I was able to gain control over my obsessions, and I’ve realized that my bad thoughts were never my fault—OCD tortured me. I was the victim. Now I’m the victor.

Keep your chin up. Write to me if you need someone to talk to, someone who understands.

You are worth it!

49 Comments

  • Linda Weller

    Hi Alison, I’m the mother of a 10 year old boy with OCD. We are doing behavioral therapy and working with a psychiatrist. Problem is he doesn’t think he has a problem so it’s hard.

    Reply
    • Alison Dotson

      Hi, Linda! I’m sorry; that must be so frustrating. I imagine 10 is a hard age for that. By the time I got help I really, really wanted it. I hope he sticks with it and things get easier for your family!

      Reply
      • Linda Weller

        Yes extremely frustrating but staying positive!

        Reply
  • Dee

    I’ve had OCD for about 20yrs. now. It was like a rollercoaster, ups & downs. First antidepressant worked perfect for 2yrs. Then it stopped. Then I tried different ones. Some worked ok. Did therapy which helped a bit. Last yr. I had a seizure. About 5 months after OCD was horrible, my Doctor suggested CBT. I was determined to feel better & normal. It’s working!!! Never knew it would work this well. It was hard at first but I stayed determined not to give up! Now I’m feeling great! Busy! Babysitting, going to see movies, shopping, about to volunteer at an animal shelter!! Thank you for sharing your story!! Glad you’re doing well!!

    Reply
    • Alison Dotson

      Dee, that is great! I’m so glad you’re doing well. Staying busy definitely helps (of course, having time to relax and unwind is good, too!).

      Reply
  • Dianne Smith

    Thank you for your blog post, Alison!

    To Linda Weller – who’s son has OCD – my daughter was diagnosed at age 8 and we followed the same approach. Just keep going and do what they suggest, it will get better!!! She is almost 15 now and is doing very well but it was a long tough road to get here.

    Reply
    • Linda Weller

      Thank you Dianne. Can you recommend any online support groups or anything similar. His OCD is very taxing on our household as it’s geared towards his sister and anything she touches or is near so it’s affecting her alot as well.

      Reply
      • Dianne Smith

        Hi Linda, I don’t know of any. I never could find any other parents while I was going through this with my daughter. You can email me dmdsmith3@hotmail.com and I can certainly help, I am sure there are some online groups now that I couldn’t find back then. If you click on Janet (ocdtalk) ‘s name it takes you to her blog where it looks like there are a lot of followers!

        Reply
  • Thank you so much for continuing to share your story, Alison. You are giving others the best gift there is………hope!

    Reply
  • Pam

    So many blogs and I thought I was original. I have been a therapists for 15 yrs. I discovered I had a chemical imbalance called OCD when I was 31 yrs old. That knowledge changed by life and how I saw myself. Knowledge is power! I commend those who share their stories.

    Reply
    • Alison Dotson

      You’re right! Knowledge is power. For me just knowing what was going on, and being able to name it, helped tremendously. I hope I’m helping others figure it out, too.

      Reply
    • Alma nunez

      Hi! Pam
      I my self suffer from ocd, iam a 26 yr old. Mother of two kids right now iam on zoloft I’ve heard it gets worst before it gets better. But I have hope I will be my self again!! Thanks for sharing xoxo

      Reply
  • kdm1992

    I almost took my life my junior year of high school. I had a plan and I was about to execute it. Fortunately, a teacher found me in distress before I could act. People think that OCD is something to joke at. It’s not. When you see someone in distress, don’t laugh.

    Reply
    • Alison Dotson

      Wow, I’m so glad your teacher intervened. It can be so hard to tell people how low we feel, and you’re right–people joke about OCD to the point that it doesn’t seem like a big deal. It is a huge deal. That’s why I’m writing about it now that I’m doing so well. It’s still hard sometimes, but if I can help people understand what OCD really is it’s worth it! Thanks for sharing part of your story here.

      Reply
  • This truly shows that OCD/depression is beatable! You are really inspiring to have pushed yourself through that and one day I hope to get to where you are right now. I feel, at this point, that my OCD is taking over me, but this really gives me motivation to keep fighting and never give up. Even though I really don’t want to sometimes. Keep going with your journey, you will and have inspired others by doing so. : ) xx

    Reply
    • Alison Dotson

      Thank you! OCD is beatable, even though there are times it doesn’t feel that way. Keep on keepin’ on and have faith in yourself.

      Reply
  • Mary Jeffers

    Hi Allison –

    I am happy to have found your blog. Thank you for sharing your encouraging story.

    My dd is 14 & struggling terribly with OCD. This illness reared its ugly head when she was 7 & has grown to debilitating proportion. She has been self harming – very superficial – thinking about suicide – not attending school – not doing any type of school – seeing her friends less & less. Last night I read her journal (bad snoopy mom) & her last entry was that she wants to die & she has a plan. She is begging to be hospitalized.

    Here is our unbelievable situation. We live in the Seattle WA area. We have Seattle Children’s Hospital which is a teaching hospital with University of Wa medical school. One would think they offer premier healthcare. Well much to our disappointment they offer nothing for OCD. There are very, very limited resources here. She has asked to go to Children’s hospital & her ERP therapist & psychiatrist do NOT want her to go there. Their concern is that they do not treat OCD & that they will push very hard to change her meds. I get it.

    On Oct 21st she was admitted to Rogers Memorial Hospital in WI. She was in their residential OCD program for 3 mos then ins stopped coverage. Her Dr told us she is very slow to habituate. Her tx team plus we (her parents) considered this a premature discharge. As you may know or assume this facility is crazy expensive & very far away from us ( big added expense for us to visit her). We are on their waiting list – 2-3 mos wait at this point.

    I was talking with a nurse with our ins co about her 3 mo stay @ Rogers & that ins stopped cov & that her discharge was premature. She told me our ins does not cover long term residential care. But our school district likely does. WHAT???? This is a healthcare matter & we should get financial coverage from our beleaguerd funding coffers for education let alone healthcare? This makes absolutely no sense!

    She is so depressed & wants to go back to Rogers desperately. Even though I don’t know how we’ll afford it.

    I am baffled by mental healthcare in our country. There are so many desperate people – not only OCD sufferers. I want to stand on a mtn top & broadcast that mental illness is as life threatening as cancer or diabetes, etc.

    One day at a time – all the while I’m on suicide watch.

    Thank you for listening.

    Em

    Reply
    • Alison Dotson

      Oh, I’m so sorry! That must be so frustrating. I know Rogers has a great program, and I didn’t know it only accepted certain types of insurance. If your school district might cover it, does that mean she’d be able to go to Rogers even though it’s out of state, or would it have to be local?

      I hope everything works out for you, and at the very least I hope your daughter’s symptoms improve over time, even as she gets older. I think having OCD as a teenager is a double whammy. It’s hard to deal with everyday issues, and adding a mental disorder to the confusion, hormones, and so on is just piling it on. She’s so lucky to have supportive parents like you, and to have an ERP therapist, too.

      Does Rogers have any ideas on how to make it affordable for you? I’m sure you’ve probably exhausted every option so far. Tell your daughter she can email me through my blog if she wants to talk to someone who’s been through it. (alisondotson.com).

      Reply
  • OCD HAS STOLEN MY MOTHER FROM ME !!!!!! She is on many medications, she sees a therapist weekly and sees a psychiaitrist. Its been 3 years at its worst. She is not getting any better. I NEED TO FIND OTHER RESOURCES TO SAVE HER FROM THIS HORRIBLE SICKNESS.. I WANT MY MOM BACK…

    Reply
    • Alison Dotson

      I’m so sorry, Sonia. Have you looked into any support groups for family members? You might want to email info@iocdf.org and see what suggestions they have.

      Reply
  • Alison, I’d love to talk to you about living with OCD. I’m in the middle of one of my hardest crisis and with no one to talk to. I’ve also got a copy of your book and will start to read it today; Thank you <3

    Reply
    • Alison Dotson

      You’re welcome! Go ahead and email me through my website: alisondotson.com.

      Reply
  • Hi Alison,

    Great blog here. I’m from Nepal and I’ve had OCD since I was a kid. I have always suffered but have gotten much better after having received therapy sessions.

    My problem is, I recently found a loving girl who has OCD too. We never get into fights and get along well, and she accepts me completely for the way I am. The problem is, I keep having obsessions about my kid having severe OCD in the future since we both have OCD. This obsession of mine has put significant strain on my relationship and I feel so frustrated because she understands me so much.

    Therefore, I would like to ask you if you know of any OCD couples (both having OCD) and whether or not my fear is worth worrying constantly about. I would really appreciate any level of help.

    Regards,
    PG

    Reply
    • Alison Dotson

      Hi, there!

      Thanks for writing. I think it’s great that you’ve found someone who really understands what you’re going through–it can be hard to explain OCD to someone who doesn’t have it. And I understand your concern about OCD being passed on to your children someday. There is some research that shows genetics may play a role in OCD, but there’s no definitive answer. Just because you have OCD doesn’t mean your child will.

      This is what I think: If any of your children do end up having OCD, they’ll be so lucky to have you and your partner as parents. Who better to raise a child with OCD than two people who already understand what it is, how to recognize symptoms and work through them?

      I would treat this worry as any other fear or obsession. It’s holding you back, and that’s not fair. If you need any further support or information, feel free to email the experts at the International OCD Foundation: info@iocdf.org.

      Take care!

      Alison

      Reply
  • deep

    hi alison……..i inspired by your story…i also have OCD in 22…..it affect me again after 2 years.but now after reading ur story i have got a HOPE

    thank you……

    Reply
    • Alison Dotson

      Oh, I am so glad you feel hope! It’s so important to remain optimistic, even when OCD symptoms come and go. Take care!

      Reply
  • Angela Blanchette

    I have just your bio Alison and was moved. My 12 year old daughter is struggling with OCD and I am just wanting to reach out to someone. She has saw a psychiatrist and is on medication. Our daughter watched a movie that too has caused her all kinds of anxiety and OCD thoughts. She has thoughts of killing herself even though she knows she doesn’t want to do that. It causes her so much stress. She cries how she hates OCD. I just want to talk to anyone who understands.

    Reply
      • Dianne Smith

        Hi Angela, my daughter was diagnosed when she was 8 and is almost 15 now, you can email me if you want to talk: dmdsmith3@hotmail.com – I can assure you, I totally understand!

        Reply
    • Dianne Smith

      Hi Angela, my daughter was diagnosed when she was 8 and is almost 15 now, you can email me if you want to talk: dmdsmith3@hotmail.com – I can assure you, I totally understand!
      (posting again since I replied to Carly below and I wanted to make sure you got the notification)

      Reply
  • Allan Coffey

    Hi Alison and all others who struggle with OCD,
    I have been married for 7 years with a step son sometimes bonus son who has causes so much stress that it is tearing my family apart. I believe my wife has it also. There are huge battles between all family members. My 4 yr old, stepson 14, step daughter 15 and my wife and I are desperate to find peace again. My wife will say, “Hasn’t he been so good lately”, and then it hits. Today I got a call from my parents who live below us to tell me what was going on with my stepson. Jumping up and down so hard, putting his foot through the wall and throwing his sisters phone, were just a few of the outbursts. My wife can’t handle him anymore and she has asked me to reach out to find some answers. We have been praying for him and our pastor began taking him out to dinner to talk. I need to know what tools I can use to help me, my wife and step son during these times.
    Only the Best,
    ARC

    Reply
  • dan

    hi- glad you got better. Funny how I found this blog as I am sitting in the psychiatrists office due to the depression from my ocd. i had treatment for 7 weeks for my ocd everyday and now without rituals i am lost. every waking moment is torture, every waking moment is crying. im a 35 year old man who never experienced any depression until after erp/cbt treatment. atleast i recognize that my state of mind is that i dont want to live and im doing everything to change that. you inspire!

    Reply
    • Alison Dotson

      Thank you for writing. I’m so glad that you’ve recognized your thoughts for what they are and you’re seeking help. That’s so important! Keep up the hope that your life can turn around and get better. And you’re right–the timing is funny! I hope the timing is GOOD. :) Take care and good luck.

      Reply
  • ram

    Sounds just like me (in a sense) or what i was a few months ago. I have pure O and tourette’s syndrome, and yes suffer from bouts of depression. Great post though, gave me some hope. Thanks

    Reply
  • India

    Thank you, Alison. I have been struggling lately going through Exposure Therapy. It sounds like we have some of the same obsessions. I feel so hopeless at times. It helps to read your article. Thank you. :)

    Reply
  • A concerned sister

    I can’t explain to you how much this means to me. My 21 year old brother just got diagnosed with OCD. His confession of a few of his thoughts (which scared him) have gotten him out of his college because the security suggests he is a “risk”. He was doing so well for 2 years but now this has eaten him up. I don’t know what to do or how to help him and support him. He thinks he’s causing too many people trouble and that he needs to apologize all the time when he doesn’t! Please contact me. I really need help through this with him. I have my Masters to start this semester and I can’t be home all the time to help him. But I need to know how. I’m getting him involved for a voluntary job or a paid one somewhere here, but please help!

    Reply
    • Hi Fatima- Please contact us at the IOCDF office so we can help you find resources for you and your brother. You can reach us at info@iocdf.org or 617-973-5801.

      Reply
  • Victim of OCD

    How did you overcome the guilt and shame that comes with OCD thoughts to talk to a therapist or psychiatrist? I find it excruciating to talk about what plagues my brain. I don’t want to say these disturbing things outloud because I don’t want them to be a part of me.. I feel very suicidal these days because the thoughts have gotten so bad. I feel so sick

    Reply
    • Alison Dotson

      Hi, there. First things first: If you are feeling suicidal, please get help. You can call a hotline anytime: 1-800-273-TALK.

      My first appointment with a psychiatrist was hard! I didn’t have to tell him every detail, though–I had read an article that finally made me feel less alone and feel that I might not be judged, so instead of detailing my obsessions I said, “Let’s just say I really identified with an article called ‘Thinking Bad Thoughts.'” He understood immediately that I was having taboo obsessions, and he took the lead and asked me if I had had religious, sexual, or violent obsessions, so I could give yes or no answers. In the beginning it is so hard–I remember sitting there thinking “What if I can’t bring myself to say what I’m obsessing about now that I’m here?” So don’t feel like you have to spill your guts the first time–just get enough out so your doctor knows how to help you.

      The funny thing about obsessions is that they start to lose their power when we allow them in and when we don’t fight them. It’s taken several years, but I’m finally to a point where I can talk about my very worst obsessions without feeling guilty. You know why? I now understand that it was never my fault for having them and that they were no reflection on who I am! OCD is separate from us. We are people with a disorder that makes us feel terrible–we are not the disorder! OCD doesn’t define you, and you can blame it for everything. You don’t have to take on this burden alone; there are people who can help you face your fears and feel better.

      This is something I tell everyone (including myself when I’m feeling low): Everyone has bad thoughts. Everyone! But not everyone has OCD, so other people will have a disturbing image pass through their mind and they think nothing of it. So the fact that you have disturbing thoughts doesn’t make you unique–it’s the fact that you overreact to those thoughts and dwell on them, and try to push them away, which makes them stronger. I highly recommend the book The Imp of the Mind by Lee Baer. Reading it made me realize I was definitely not the only person who’d had terrifying obsessions AND that there was help and hope.

      If you need further guidance, email IOCDF at info@iocdf.org or call 617-973-5801.

      Reply
    • You need to bring these thoughts and feelings to a therapist, particularly if you are feeling suicidal. We would also strongly recommend you contact someone via a hotline (as Alison mentions below: 1-800-273-TALK) and look into treatment immediately. Please call our office and we can help you find someone who understands OCD — you can reach us at 617-973-5801 or info@iocdf.org. You should also consider joining the yahoo OCD online support group where many other individuals with OCD are sharing the same struggle: https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/OCD-Support/info

      Reply
  • Hi, i am so overwhelmed by guilt. I feel like such a bad person and dont deserve to live. I’m thinking if i should take my life or not. I just dont know what to do. :'( i wish i wasn’t so tormented. I’ve been fighting against this but my ocd is somehow still winning. Especially with guilt. I dont know who i am sometimes. I feel like i havent lived my life for such a long time. Like this is a nightmare. I have to judge myself for everything i do. Im always seeing the worst in myself. I dwell on past things and ask myself why did i do that. Its just taking up my days.

    Reply
    • Many people with OCD are consumed with guilt about the thoughts their minds show them. The point of treatment is to help you see the difference between you and your OCD. You need to see an OCD therapist immediately. Please consider contacting a hotline (1-800-273-TALK) to discuss your current suicidal feelings and call us at the IOCDF to help find you an OCD specialist — you can reach us at 617-973-5801 or info@iocdf.org. Many people get better from effective treatment. Also consider joining the yahoo online OCD support group where others can offer you more support and perspective: https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/OCD-Support/info

      Reply
      • India

        There is a group specifically for pure obsessional ocd also. It sounds like that is probably what you have. This is the link for that one. https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/pure_o_ocd/info
        Those of us with pure obsessional ocd know how it feels to feel guilty all the time.

        Reply

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