By Nicholas Meyer
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.
For as long as I can remember, I always preferred being alone. I was not a social recluse by any means, but I was certainly not entirely comfortable in group situations. At parties I would spend most of my time checking my phone repeatedly in the bathroom and standing by the snacks stress-eating. While an introverted nature has taken on a sort of hipster cool, it was never something for which I was striving.
This inward-focused nature carried over to other aspects of my life. I was independent and self-sufficient, and I was proud of my ability to solve problems without asking for help from others. I always felt like I did my best work by myself and thus loathed any type of group project, whether it was in school or through an extracurricular activity. I loved my family and we had a good relationship, but I rarely shared anything of significance with them. I was never vulnerable emotionally with my family or friends.
Three years ago, when I turned 22, I began to experience terrifying thoughts involving serious topics such as murder, rape, self-harm, and my own sexuality. I believed that sharing these thoughts would give them some sort of validity; the last thing in the world I wanted was for these thoughts to be true. On top of that, I was worried that if I did share these thoughts with another person, they would believe I was losing my mind or that I was a danger to society. Consequently, I chose not to tell anyone about my experiences.
I tried everything I could to get rid of the intrusive thoughts, but I made little headway. In fact, my efforts seemed to exacerbate the situation as the thoughts appeared more frequently and increased in severity.
Finally, after about three months of struggling alone, I could no longer take it. I broke down. At that point, I decided to reach out to my mom. Despite feeling worried about her reaction, I told her everything that was going on in my mind. She listened, and while I am not entirely sure she understood exactly what was going on, she said she would do everything she could to help.
A few weeks later, my mom sent me a podcast in which people living with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) shared their stories and discussed treatment. This podcast was revelatory for me as it led me to an amazing therapist (from the therapy center featured on the podcast) who diagnosed me with OCD and gave me hope by telling me it was treatable.
Perhaps more importantly, the experience taught me that opening up emotionally could be a positive experience.
The next few years of therapy were far from easy. While I constantly struggled with my OCD thoughts, this time I had someone to talk to and a plan for improving my mental health. As I was going through therapy, I regularly communicated with my family about the experience and how I was feeling; this led to an increased willingness on my part to share other aspects of my life with my family. I gradually became more open to communicating with others outside my family, a development that would prove important after I started to gain more control over my OCD.
Looking back on it now, I liken my struggle with OCD to being adrift in the center of the ocean: all I wanted was to reach the safety of the shores.
Once I reached the end stages of my therapy and finally wrested control of my life away from OCD, I found that I wanted to help others free themselves from OCD’s tenacious grip.
So, I, a lifelong introvert, started speaking about OCD to many different groups of people, ranging from schools to private companies. I also spoke to OCD support groups about my experiences and how I found a road to recovery.
It feels wonderful to share my story with others, especially when it has an impact on their lives. It is rather odd that it took OCD, a disorder that occurs inside one’s own mind and encourages an insular nature, to unlock my desire to speak and share with groups of people. While I am certainly not overjoyed to have gone through this struggle with mental illness, I am thankful that I have been able to discover new, fantastic communities and develop better relationships with the people who matter most to me.
Nicholas Meyer works for a small business in Arizona. He enjoys playing intramural sports, reading sci-fi fantasy, and volunteering with local mental health organizations.