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.
Like many people in the world, I struggle with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). I was first diagnosed with OCD by a doctor when I was 11 years old. My OCD made it hard to go to school and live my life as I lived in constant fear. After trying many different medicines, a perfect combination was finally discovered; this enabled me to live my life with minimal OCD interference until I graduated high school in 2014.
During my first year of college, my OCD worsened despite the medication. I engaged in typical washing rituals, taking up to five showers a day. For almost a year, I performed OCD rituals every day. No medication was helpful during this period.
Eventually, my parents helped me to find Rogers Behavioral Hospital where I was admitted to outpatient therapy. This helped to control the OCD for a while; however, after some months, the OCD once again worsened. I was missing classes at university and calling in sick to work. My compulsions took over my life: I washed my hands and arms so much that my arms looked like fish scales; my fingers were so dry I could not bend them without breaking skin. I slept all day and even took sleeping pills to fall asleep as this was the only way to not perform the rituals. I could no longer keep up with my studies and had to defer for two semesters.
I attempted suicide twice during a two-month period. After my second suicide attempt, I spent a week in an intensive care unit; during this time, I agreed to get help. Shortly after, I was admitted to a residential program at Rogers Behavioral Hospital.
During the residential program, I came to realise how many others were suffering just like me. I was fortunate to receive treatment by amazing doctors and therapists and meet other wonderful residents whom I shared a house with for five weeks. I am still in contact with most of them through social media. I became best friends with one of the women my age. We talk to each other every day. She is my best friend and one of my biggest supporters. The residential program changed my life as it has for many people with anxiety disorders.
For the following two years my OCD was mostly under control, enabling me to function. However, it then began to flare up again; at this point, my parents contacted Gerry Radano, the author of Contaminated: My Journey Out of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The author, who underwent gamma knife as treatment for her OCD, suggested we look into brain surgery.
Consequently, we contacted Butler Hospital (OCD Department) in Rhode Island and submitted all my medical records, prescription history, and all the necessary information to meet the criteria to be considered for surgery. This was an extremely lengthy process (one year) and the criteria was very strict. After speaking with doctors who assessed my case, they suggested a new form of surgery for OCD: laser ablation — a minimally invasive surgical therapy. I was the first patient in 2019 to have the surgery.
Post surgery, my OCD is very much under control and I feel like a different person. I am now a senior at my university and plan to work as an art teacher after graduation. I would not be writing this if it were not for my family, the staff at Rogers Behavioral Hospital, the doctors at Butler Hospital and a great neurosurgeon. I am so grateful to Dr Greenberg and Dr. Mclaughlin from Butler Hospital for their tireless dedication to OCD research.
Chandler lives in Florida, where she attends university and works part time. Details of her OCD journey can be found via her Instagram account: ChandlerGray95.