Ivy is an aspiring writer and artist. She is very passionate about spreading awareness and hopes to make a difference in someone’s OCD journey.
I won’t lie. My story is difficult for me to share,
but I don’t want anyone else to go through what I did. I hope that the next kid with false memory OCD and moral scrupulosity will know that what they are experiencing is obsessive compulsive disorder. As I write this, my heartbeat speeds up and I feel a disorienting wave of dizziness.
My OCD journey began when I was very small. As a young child, I worried about stealing. When buying groceries with my family I felt an urge to ask if the cashier had scanned everything. Little me, terrified of breaking the rules, confessed every mistake. One day, magical thinking OCD manifested through my toy dinosaur. I remember, at six years old, staying up until midnight to watch a show called So Weird. I placed my little sleeping bag in the living room and forced my tired self to stay up. The show terrified me, but I worried that if I didn’t watch it something bad would happen. Then, at one in the morning, I watched a show called The Jersey to “cool down”. I’ve come to believe that OCD and I have always coexisted. I don’t know life without the never-ending cycle of obsessions, anxiety, and compulsions.
The older I got, the more severe the moral scrupulosity became. In fifth grade, I experienced a terrible intrusive thought. I woke up from a horrifying nightmare which quickly became a false memory. I began to worry— “What if I had hurt someone in my sleep?!” Over the next several years terrifying false memories plagued me. I worried that I had done something bad or that something bad had happened to me. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. At night, on my way to the bathroom, I clung to the wall. I repeated over and over again, “You’re only going to the bathroom. Nothing bad is happening.”
While out on walks, I worried that my arms were unusually long. This made me believe that my hands touched the sidewalk. I felt contaminated physically and mentally. Laundry became difficult, because I feared that one of my cats was in the dryer. Terrified to start it, I checked over and over again. I became increasingly withdrawn. At school, I rarely, if ever, talked. Days passed in torturous silence. One day, I left school altogether.
Somehow, I survived all of this. I spent many years inside my head — Maladaptive Daydreaming. These fantasy lands saved me. To survive, I constructed a makeshift dam inside my head.
Until, one day the dam broke….
An intrusive thought in a coffee shop made me question everything. Within a week, the intrusive thoughts took over. My daydreams became daymares, my life become a nightmare. In a panic I texted my mom— How do I know what room I’m in? How do I know I’m really in my bedroom? At night, I cried and screamed in my bed. How do I know I’m not doing something horrific? How do I know I’m in my bed and not at the scene of an accident? Or worse? When I wasn’t having a panic attack I ruminated about everything. Due to guilt and scrupulosity I treated myself horribly. I remember sobbing when I ate because I thought I didn’t deserve food. During one panic attack, I fell off the couch and spit Xanax and Dr. Pepper all over the living room floor. In public, I wore sunglasses over my red, crying eyes and clung desperately to my family. Being alone terrified me. I didn’t trust my mind.
The first OCD specialist I saw told my family that I needed to go to Rogers Behavioral Health in Wisconsin. On June 1st, 2017, my 22nd birthday, Rogers called. They had a bed for me! My family drove fifteen long hours to get me the help I so desperately needed. We passed through many states, but I was sadly too sick to see any of it. Instead, I played Clara Oswald videos over and over again on my phone.
I’m very thankful for the exposure therapy I received at Rogers and the spectacular friends I met along the way. I still struggled a lot after Rogers, but I gained so much knowledge and an incredible support system.
In January 2018 I finally managed to sit in my living room completely by myself. Over the years, I’ve gradually made all sorts of progress. I recently tried driving again and applied to college. I still struggle with false memories when I leave my house and even sometimes when I’m inside my home. Some days just getting the mail feels terrifying. I try to challenge myself. For example, when I’m out shopping with family I walk around the store by myself and I kept my lovely kitten despite the intrusive thoughts.
With the help of exposure therapy and medication, I am trying to resist compulsions and grow. A lifetime of OCD has been difficult to treat. This adventure hasn’t been easy. I wish I could thank my younger self for continuing on, so that the next kid will feel less alone.