By Chris R.
Warning: This blog includes graphic content.
I’ve been reading a lot lately about my fellow OCD sufferer's experiences with OCD; particularly the first time they felt it come on.
It seems that nearly everyone can remember it quite specifically. I certainly remember mine. But before I get to that, I wanted to say that I’m writing this because my OCD, which I’ve had under control has come charging back in the past two months.
The intrusive thoughts and worse: the anxiety/empty/lonely feeling it causes. I guess I’m writing this in the hope that it will minimize what’s happening. And of course, my experience will help anyone affected by OCD, reading this.
It was 1984. It was my freshman year of college. I was 18. I was working in the evening at “Telefund” which was the university’s alumni donation call center. It was just another night of dialing the phone, smoking, and trying to get people to open their wallets. When we went on break, I can remember standing, chatting with people under the fluorescent lights and I had the thought: The Exorcist. Like, the title of the movie. I had seen the movie on TV and it had scared me. The word came again and I felt a pit drop to the bottom of my stomach. It was like I knew, somehow, that something had clicked inside me and it wasn’t right. Then I started to have images of the movie come into my head (thank God I had seen the edited version on TV!). This movie and its imagery flooded my thoughts and I couldn’t shake it. It wouldn’t pass. The night turned into the next day. And the day after that. And then a week. A month.
I was terrified. Why was it happening? Was I going crazy? Then, I started to have the thought that I might harm my family by stabbing them. Maybe at the table. Maybe while they were sleeping, which was even more terrifying. I avoided the knife drawer. So it bounced back and forth between those two themes.
Also that I might become possessed myself. Or that I would start hearing the voices of schizophrenia. But it was all in my head. I never had compulsions. I’m what is known as a “pure OCD.” This went on all through college. I somehow managed to keep it together through my senior year. I graduated. I think a huge part of the “keeping it together” was through alcohol. I drank a lot. Out at clubs. I commuted to school, so when I was at home, I would sneak my father’s scotch and put it in orange juice, to help me get to sleep.
I kept it hidden. I told no one for years. How can you tell anyone you’re having thoughts about killing people you love? People, you would never want to hurt in a million years? One night I finally couldn’t take it anymore and told a friend about it. Not the worst parts; but that something was wrong with me. They were supportive, but didn’t really know what kind of support I needed.
I went on pretending I was okay. Luckily, there were some patches where the thoughts weren’t as bad: like when I had to concentrate on a new place or a new job. But it was always there, lurking.
One day I was watching “The Sally Jesse Raphael Show” and she was talking to this boy about his problems. The boy started describing his OCD. He was describing me!
It was a eureka moment. I finally had a name for what I had: OCD. I did a little research. Just finally knowing what it actually was and that I wasn’t insane was like having a boulder lifted off my chest.
I worked at a bar for three years and kept it at bay with a lot of partying…but it came back. I moved to Los Angeles in the early 90’s and it backed off. I read somewhere that Zoloft helped with not just anxiety but the OCD itself. I got a prescription. I was never officially diagnosed. A physician’s assistant prescribed the Zoloft for the anxiety with almost no questions. I’ve been taking it for over twenty years and it truly has kept the monster at bay.
That is, until Covid and a couple of months ago. I’m a night owl. I also have “delayed sleep phase syndrome” which I think is also connected to OCD. I was staying up too late. Mixing Zoloft with a lot of wine and melatonin and sometimes other stuff. So bam, last October I was in a stressful situation and it came slamming back, knives out. Now it wanted me to strangle people, stomp my beloved cats to death, kill my husband in his sleep…you name it.
The other night I met a dear friend for dinner and he sensed something was wrong. He asked, and I told him.
“You know I have OCD…” He nodded his head. “Well, I’m having thoughts…” And of course he asked: “What kind of thoughts?” I just said, “Violent ones.” I just blurted it out. “Am I in danger?” Not what I thought he would ask; but then, he has a different way of looking at the world. “Oh, God no…” I said. After freaking him out we went to a nearby hotel to look at the Christmas trees. He bear-hugged me in the lobby and said, “You can tell me anything.” I almost started crying. I’m about to turn 57. He is 33.
I went to church tonight and had tears streaming down my face.
There is hope. I got in touch with a professional for the first time too. Because the time has come.