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By Mitchell

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.

We’re all taught from a young age that the secret to a happy and fulfilling life is to love yourself. It is common to hear: “Love yourself and the rest is easy” and “To eradicate self-doubt, just think positively!” While they are nice notions, my experience with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) has contradicted all of them. How can I love myself if my own mind traps me in a constant state of chaos? As for thinking positively – it is ineffective in the face of sneaky obsessions, terrifying intrusive thoughts, and exhausting compulsions.

Only when I was diagnosed with OCD at the age of 20 did I discover that what was going on in my head wasn’t just a distorted personality trait, but an actual identifiable disorder. As a teenager, I spent years locked away in my room due to my depression and social anxiety around being at school. The counting while putting on deodorant (and my raw, scratched armpits) as well as the constant worry about the uncertainty of basically everything just seemed like, well… me. Besides going to therapy for the intermittently angry outbursts I experienced as a teenager, everything seemed to be fine.

Listening to friends talk in the hallway at school, mental disorders seemed to be an adjective for everything. “The weather today is so bipolar, can the sun just come out?”; “I’m so OCD when it comes to my shoes, they have to be clean.”

Everything became far worse after I turned 18. The angry outbursts became more frequent, and I felt constantly on edge because the intrusive thoughts were infecting parts of my personality. Thoughts like these flowed through my mind multiple times a day:

What if I didn’t blow the candle out? What will happen to my dog? Does my boyfriend still love me? Do I still love him? What if the violent intrusive thoughts actually happened; what if I really hurt this person? What if I killed them? How will I survive in jail? How will I pay for a lawyer?

Although I love my partner very much, at one point I experienced intrusive thoughts of cheating on him and ruining our relationship. Consequently, I stopped looking people in the eyes terrified that I would fall in love with someone else.

Everything around me became a trigger. The thoughts became so constant and worrisome that I stopped sleeping. I fell into a depression that was so isolating it felt like I was in a sustained state of darkness. All of this interfered with my schooling, which has always been a top priority for me. Crying during presentations and being half asleep at the wheel became the norm.

Being a psychology student, I’m quite aware of the benefits that result from social support. My partner and I have been together for almost five years, and the support he has given me has helped me tackle the OCD and make my life worth living. When I was 20, he advocated for me and found fantastic doctors that completely changed my life, thus beginning the journey of finally learning to love myself. Finding the right doctors has been a crucial part of my treatment. Starting an antidepressant while in therapy made everything a tad easier, as it lifted a curtain on the sadness that was interfering with the exposure and response prevention therapy. While I am not completely free of my fears, dealing with them and coping with the anxiety has been so much easier.

I must admit: two years out of therapy and I still haven’t learned to completely love myself, but I now admire parts of myself. I admire my persistence after the many ups and downs. Through dialectal behavioral therapy, I’ve learned how to manage my anxiety and cope with OCD symptoms, and have embraced mindfulness as a practice. It’s important to be mindful and remind yourself that you are not the stigma; seeing a tiny ray of light even in the darkest of places is important. My personal ray of light that has paved the road to (partial) self-acceptance has been the people around me, especially my partner. I do not know where I would be without his love, acceptance, and understanding.

I would hope that those who experience OCD or any mental disorder have their own support system and if unattainable, be their own light in their life.

Mitchell is a 23-year-old New York native working towards a B.A. in Psychology. He aims to undertake research and pursue a PhD in Clinical Psychology.

 

15 Comments

  • Palani R

    very inspiring.. thanks for the encouragement.

    Reply
  • Inma

    Thank you for sharing with us. It is undoubtedly encouraging for OCD sufferers. This is really hell and honestly, your comment give me some hope. You have been my ray of light for some time.

    Reply
  • Andi

    “I’m so OCD when it comes to my shoes, they have to be clean.”

    Isn’t that super annoying, as if OCD was a cute little thing to joke about instead of a life devastating disease?

    Thanks for the great piece and good luck to both you and your wonderful and wonderfully supportive partner! 🙂

    Reply
    • Jane

      It is – many times over the last few years I’ve said that it seems to some people, including celebrities that to ‘have’ OCD is fashionable. I can’t believe the ignorance – surely they must know that it’s one thing being tidy or whatever but they don’t believe that something bad will happen to someone or something if they don’t place something in a certain way or touch something for a number of times which makes it ‘comfortable’. They also don’t believe that they’ll be truly contaminated if they don’t clean something ‘to within an inch of it’s life’ like some OCD sufferers do. Blo*dy annoying and disrespectful to be honest.

      Reply
  • Robert Stamey

    I know some of what you’ve been through. I struggle everyday with Pure OCD, complex PTSD, ADHD, bipolar 2, and Tourette’s. I suffered sexual, verbal, emotional, and physical abuse repeatedly from 4 years old through my teenage years. I’m an ordained minister. I mistreated myself for many years after I got saved. The word of God is my hope for my recovery.

    Reply
    • Nick

      Your not alone, I deal with OCD every day. Sometimes every second. I’m also a Christian, so dont feel alone.

      Reply
      • Amanjot Virdi

        Thanks for sharing that . I m in the same boat .

        Reply
      • Johnnyra

        Same, I have OCD but sometimes I question whether it is OCD or not. I question whether I’m using my faith as a compulsion to not live a life I don’t want to live 😢

        Reply
    • Recognizing that the Word of God is your hope for recovery is a huge step. A believer has the greatest support that is possible–God. Sessions with the Lord that involve meditating on His Word and memorizing it; praying; dwelling our thoughts on Him instead of on fear–these are the weapons in our arsenal that a Christian has that the world lacks. This is what equips us to conquer through Christ. Confiding in understanding Christians can also be a huge help. Not everyone will be helpful, but you will find some people who are gifted with empathy who will be willing to encourage you, mentor you, and help you deal with your OCD. People like Nick take the injunctions of Scripture literally–the caring helpfulness that especially wants to help a fellow believer conquer inner compulsions that interfere with total trust and reliance on Christ. The prayers of fellow believers can be of tremendous help. We are more than conquerers through Him! (Romans 8:37)

      Reply
  • Djronak

    Ocd is not about being organized or clean it is a dark truth about yourself

    Reply
  • Djronak

    Sorry to say this does religion has to do anything with this?

    Reply
    • For a Christian it has everything to do with it. It is our support system. My comments aren’t for everyone, but Robert and Nick clearly made a profession here of their faith, so as a fellow believer I am talking about their own struggles with OCD at a different level from many who drop into the discussion. I understand what they are saying and can empathize with them out of a common trust that we share. Thanks for asking.

      Reply
  • Dee

    I can relate to these..I get negative thoughts n with that get panic attacks…Have been in depression n still over coming it by keeping myself occupied but at times its really difficult to cope up with things.Its difficult to make my family n friends understand as why I m feeling like that..

    Reply
    • Jessica Price

      Hi Dee, thank you for sharing your story, and I’m sorry to hear about your struggles. Please email us at info@iocdf.org so our resource specialist can help you.

      Reply
  • Robert Stamey

    My name is Robert. Stamey. I’m an adult survivor of sexual, verbal, physical, emotional abuse. The abuse. began at the age of three years old and continued throughout most of my teenage years. And as the result of the abuse, I have Pure OCD, C -PTSD, bipolar disorder. I was born with Tourette’s and I’m blessed with being a Highly Sensitive person. I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior 5/31/1987, and I’m an ordained minister. For 33 1/2 years, The Pure OCD and the complex PTSD has wreaked havoc in my mind. For many years I had believed something was terribly wrong with me, but not so. All those years as a child I was being abused repeatedly caused me to develop the conditions I have suffered from. The most important thing for us to remember is for us to be patient with ourselves. The worst thing I’m dealing with is perfectionism. I was never taught to love me. Actually it was completely the contrary. My God has been so good to me and patient and long suffering. The key to all freedom is truth!

    Reply

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