by Kathryn Blalock
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.
I was born with a rare genetic disorder: Bardet-Biedl syndrome (BBS). It affects about one in 100,000 people and can affect numerous functions of the human body. In my case, BBS most greatly affects my vision and my obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). I am legally blind; I have no peripheral vision, and I see basically through a “pinhole” in my central vision.
At its worst, my OCD has been more severe than portrayed in the movie As Good as It Gets. I would describe myself as a sassy ray of sunshine; however, for 13 years, I allowed OCD to cloud my fun personality.
In 2019, I attended the Neurobehavioral Institute where I spent several months completing intensive treatment for my severe OCD. It was extremely hard work, and there were days I thought about throwing in the towel. However, I am so happy I kept going because my life has changed for the better. The Neurobehavioral Institute was my glimmer of hope. I had applied to other programs, but no one was willing to take the leap of faith with me because I was blind and I refused to use a cane. Numerous treatment facilities across the country had informed me they could not accept me because of my vision disability, refusing to take a chance on somebody desperate to take her life back. But all I can say is someone chose to take a giant leap of faith as the program in Florida took me on and to them, I am forever thankful.
Before starting treatment, I spent my days locked in my room doing nothing but repeatedly cleaning and showering until it felt “just right.” I let OCD run my life: I would miss meals and skip taking my medicine because I was so absorbed in the vicious cycle of completing rituals. I let OCD get in the way of relationships. Also, I let it take away my freedom. Before treatment, I could not be in the same room as raw meat or chicken being prepared, but now I am able to cook a meal start to finish with much less worry as I simply wash my hands after handling the raw protein. I used to freak out over raw eggs and sought reassurance that everything was cleaned up properly; these days, I crack an egg and may not even wash my hands. I used to spend up to eight hours a day in the shower; however, I have reduced my showers to once a day.
Prior to treatment, I was absolutely addicted to Lysol, Febreze, and hand sanitizer as I emptied multiple bottles a day; now I have learned that these products were a “fix in the moment,” reinforcing the OCD every time I used a cleaning product. In addition to the temporary good feeling the products gave me, my OCD also associated them with having “magical cleaning powers.” I learned that the magical cleaning power my OCD gave to these products was just a lie and I am fine without them. I have made leaps and bounds in combating my contamination fears.
Another major accomplishment is that I have taken back my freedom. Before the Neurobehavioral Institute, I was very reliant on others. I was ashamed of my disability and tried to hide it but once I started letting people in — as I completed multiple exposures — it became easier over time and I eventually used my cane. While exposure therapy is very difficult, it was very effective in my case. I went from never wanting to touch my cane to demonstrating an instructional video on how to use it for my clinicians.
Since starting my life-changing journey I have come to accept that I am legally blind; I now use my cane every day. I no longer have to rely on others to get around. In being more independent, my confidence has increased. I never believed beating OCD was possible; however, I am here to tell you that with determination, dedication, and a willingness to “be comfortable being uncomfortable,” it is possible to manage OCD.
OCD will never go away completely and I have days where sometimes it seems like an impossible task to stand up to the bully on my shoulder. However, I just have to remember that I am stronger than those lies.
The most important thing is: I now control my life, instead of allowing OCD to control me.
Kathryn Blalock is 25 years old and lives in Edmond, Oklahoma.