By Anahid Mantl
PLEASE NOTE: This blog post includes mention of suicidality. If you are in a crisis, or you are ever feeling suicidal or unsafe, please go to your local emergency room, or call 911 or the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by dialing “988” (you can also access online at www.988lifeline.org.) Hope is available for all members of the OCD community, only a call or a click away.
My name is Anahid Mantl and I’m 16 years old, I have dealt with my OCD from the age of eight and forward. I’ve been through ten therapists and several medications to stabilize my life. I had and still have panic attacks, during which I sweat profusely, have shortness of breath and lightheadedness.
The biggest fear I’m trying to control with my OCD is throwing up. To manage this fear, I take sertraline an antidepressant (SSRI) and risperidone, as prescribed by my doctor, and regularly attend cognitive behavioral therapy. In 2017 in Washington DC, I was at the OCD conference and enjoyed it because I realized I wasn’t the only one having a hard time with OCD, since there were so many people, sharing their own experiences.
This is my story. I’ve always been an anxious child. This might sound absurd but by the age of two, living in Egypt at the time, I was debilitatingly afraid of water, therefore showering, and with the age of five of pooping in the toilet. This became a huge problem in my everyday life. It was very unclear, as to why I was so afraid of these two particular things, as nothing bad had happened to cause them.
These fears took several years to overcome. At the age of seven, then living in Vienna, I developed an intense fear of germs and started washing my hands multiple times a day, until they were hurting because of how dry they became.
At that point, my parents started to send me to therapy because they were very worried about my developing trust issues. Eventually, I overcame the fear of germs, but it was replaced by another one. I was eight, it was a Sunday, in the cinema with my friend, eating popcorn and gummies, and wearing dress.
Later that night I got a stomachache and then I threw up, it was a moment of shock and it felt like a trauma. That’s when my OCD as well as my anxiety got severe. I quit eating sweets and salty things, even though I was craving them, because I connected them to throwing up. My OCD saw the dress to be one of the reasons why I threw up. I started to fear Sundays because it became my ´´dangerous´´ day. I would sleep in a sitting position in fear that something would come up my throat. I would write everything perfectly and if it wasn’t, I would erase it. I wouldn’t wear green because I associated the color with throwing up. The more my OCD went untreated the worse it got. It made all these connections that made sudden sense in my brain.
Only then was I diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder. I went through therapist after therapist, that didn’t want to accept me because I was so young. When I was twelve, I moved to Washington DC, I got suicidal thoughts and didn’t see a reason to live anymore. The therapist that did accept me, gave me the medication sertraline and clonazepam. The medication helped me but unfortunately, I got streptococcus, a viral infection, due to which I threw up, which led to my mental health worsening again.
My parents thought it would be best if I went to a therapist who was specialized in OCD. This therapist was able to explain and give us the information we needed. The therapist advised us to reduce clonazepam as it was very addictive drug and carried with it severe withdrawal symptoms not suitable for a twelve-year-old. We replaced the clonazepam with risperidone which made the OCD manageable. We did exposure therapy with the pajamas I wore on the night I threw up from the viral infection and after that, I was able to put it back on.
I’m now sixteen years old, currently in Italy, and have been living with OCD and the fear of throwing up, for so long that I don’t even remember how my life would be without it. I soon will graduate and need to deal with my OCD on my own when I go to university.
Needing to deal with the OCD showed me how strong I can be, fighting with my brain every day, and it made me interested in studying psychology.
This is the reason why I wanted to tell my story. I’ve learned not to be ashamed of it and although it took a long time until I was able to talk about my OCD, now I might be able to help someone feel better by sharing my story.
OCD is not rational. It will come and go, and you will need to fight it. It seems ridiculous to fight with your own mind every day but you’re the only one who has direct access to it therefore you are the only one who can actually change things.
Keep fighting and be proud of what you have already accomplished.