This story is part of our blog series called “Stories from the OCD Community.” Stories from the community are submitted and edited by Toni Palombi. If you are interested in sharing your story you can view submission details at www.iocdf.org/ocd-stories.
This author has asked to remain anonymous.
It all started on the last day of 4th grade when a classmate accidentally sprayed 409 cleaning solution into my mouth, or at least I imagined it entered my mouth. Either way, it was the starting point of my lifelong journey with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). That afternoon I was terrified that I would get sick, and thus began my obsessive fear of becoming ill, which would shape the following years of my life in extreme ways.
Soon I started obsessing over anything that could potentially make me sick. In 6th grade, I really hit my low point. My obsessive fear began to control my life. I had such intense anxiety about becoming sick that I would give in to compulsions that would temporarily relieve my worries. I felt compelled to check things repeatedly, to count to a certain (and ever increasing) number, to repeat words and phrases, and to touch things: the light switch, couch, desk, doorknob, table. Not only did I have to touch them, I had to do so in a specific order and a certain number of times. If I messed up, I had to start all over until everything was done “just right.”
Everything was a struggle because I had developed such an intensive routine; I dreaded even beginning my endless rituals. Eventually, things were so bad that I was pulled from school. My days were a blur, stuck in the prison of my own mind. At one point, I even said that I wanted to die.
My turning point came amid this storm when my grandmother found a pamphlet about OCD at our church and gave it to my mom saying, “This explains it.” I thank God that she picked up that pamphlet because it was the first step on a long and very difficult journey toward overcoming OCD. Thankfully, this awareness led me to become connected with a great counselor, who helped me to stop giving in to my obsessive fears.
The battle was tough. There were countless nights filled with crying and screaming. I still remember one morning when I was trying to get dressed, screaming and bawling because I was stuck in my rituals; my mom was on the phone with my psychiatrist so he could hear how bad things were.
I also remember the time I won my first tiny victory against my obsessive thoughts and routines. I was in the bathroom, convincing myself to skip just one portion of my endless nighttime routine. It was scary. I was tempted to give in to my anxiety and complete the compulsion, but for the first time, I didn’t. This moment was monumental for me. This first personal victory in my battle with OCD started the ball rolling, and I slowly began to reclaim a hold on my life.
It is all thanks to the grace of God, the support of my family, and my counselor (plus a little help from my friend, Prozac) that I was able to overcome my battle with OCD. For this, I am forever thankful.
This doesn’t mean that OCD has disappeared from my life forever. But I can manage it. It has taken me a long time to be open with my story, but if it can help just one or two people who are struggling then it will be worth it. From my own experience, I can confidently say there is freedom from the prison in which OCD can hold you captive. It’s not easy, but OCD does not define me. OCD does not define anyone.
There absolutely is freedom. There is also help, hope, and healing.