I have never told anyone about the exact details and history of my OCD, but here goes. I suppose I’ve had OCD since I was around 10, I can’t remember exactly when it started. But I do remember my first issue (ocd related or not I’m not sure) was with food. Between 5 years old and 11 years old I simply refused to eat and meal times were a nightmare. It got to the point where my sibling would tease me that I was anorexic and my mum nearly took me to the doctor. This stopped when I was 11, and then between 11 and 15 everything seemed ok. I do however remember having a fixation to touch objects in a certain way around this time but it was nothing major and I just put it down to a quirk I had.
At around 18 I began to suffer panic attacks. MAJOR panic attacks about my parent’s house being robbed. I didn’t realise they were panic attacks, I just thought I was over cautious. This involved me staying up until 2am with my phone in my hand ready to dial 999 in case someone broke into the house. My parents still don’t know I did this. My head would buzz with images and scenarios and I often only had six hours sleep. It was around this time that I also started to begin rituals, at night to ‘stop’ the house from being burgled. I was only allowed to sleep in one position in bed, I could only breathe a certain number of times and in a certain pattern. I would also like to add that I think I was suffering with depression at this point.
I began showering twice + a day, and would go through phases of avidly collecting certain items; trolls (early 90s), stamps, coins, artwork and imported CD’s, anything. I used to get the metrolink to work and was TERRIFIED of travelling on it. I had a fixation that I was going to be robbed and murdered on the tram, specifically that I would be stabbed. I would sing songs repeatedly in my head, and I had to finish a specific verse or chorus line so that I wouldn’t be stabbed to death. Each phase like this would last around a year. During this time I had no idea I had OCD and anxiety disorder and just coped.
I moved out of my parents and my OCD disappeared again until I was around 28. My cousin died very suddenly of a brain tumour, and even though I wasn’t close to him at all, I think it was a trigger and everything crashed around my ears. I stared becoming paranoid that I had a brain tumour myself, whenever I had a headache I would panic and think I was going to die. These brief anxieties turned into full blown panic attacks. I would have one within 5 minutes of waking up, around 2 during the day and then another one immediately before I went to sleep. I was living one never ending panic attack.
It was at this time that the depersonalisation started. I think depersonalisation is worse than panic attacks, as you can control panic attacks but depersonalisation makes you feel like you’re on drugs, or drunk. I began touching items again, like I did when I was 15, only this time I would have to count, in multiples of 4, 4 times. I have a particular problem with lids and toilet flushes, and doing things in a certain order. I also began to be afraid of certain objects, and my fear was so great I had images of myself wearing gloves so I didn’t have to touch them. At my worst, I imagined tying my hands behind my back as I didn’t trust myself to accidently touch them.
By this time I had researched my behaviour and every result came up with OCD. I had always associated OCD with cleaning and contamination so I was shocked. I went to a counsellor, and I told him I thought I had OCD so we arranged some sessions. A few days later I just couldn’t take it anymore. I was at university as an older student at the time, and I had to leave a lecture because my depersonalisation was so bad. I told my boyfriend (who I lived with) that I was going mad. I had a major panic attack and went to A&E as I thought that I was a) having a heart attack and b) I was crazy. When I got there they were very understanding and gave me some valium, which was a god send I can’t tell you enough. The very next day I had an appointment with my doctor who put me on anti-depressants there and then, the strongest dose. I’m ashamed to say this, but walking from the doctor to boots to get my first prescription I held my boyfriend’s hand so tight. Not because I needed him, but because I thought I was going to do a runner if I didn’t. This is so hard to write.
I left university and spent the next 6 weeks getting used to the Citralopram. I was still on valium so I came off that and after around 8 weeks- things turned a corner. A MASSIVE corner. I was a completely different person. Half of my rituals stopped overnight. I had had a huge fear of dogs, particularly bulldogs. Instead of crossing the street to avoid one, I was actually approaching them and stoking them! I started CBT on the NHS and used exposure therapy and cue cards to help stop my rituals. We went through what rituals I did in each room of the flat and I couldn’t believe it but the list was as long as my arm. But I needed to face my problems head on. The CBT really helped and reduced a lot of my rituals but I’d really like to try ERP.
What else happened? Well……within two years I finished with my boyfriend (who treated me badly), got a tattoo and nose job, passed my driving test, and finally had the confidence to be myself. I haven’t had a panic attack in three years, and I have got rid of my rituals apart from three, reading, lids and the toilet flush.
I wrote this to help other people to realise that they are not going crazy and to encourage people who are in a similar situation to seek help. Don’t live in this nightmare- it CAN end.