Tuesday, February 24, 2009

My OCD Story: How I Found Out I Had It

Day by day I'm working on turning my OCD story into an OCD success story, but there was a time when I didn't think it could be done. When I was 13 I got my diagnosis (I call this my first OCD crisis, mentioned briefly here), but finding out wasn't really a eureka moment. It was just the answer I got when any answer would do; suddenly I wasn't myself and I wanted to know why.

"What Happened at Kerry's?"
My best friend invited me to her 14th birthday, and while I was there I didn't really feel like being part of the group. Friends were hanging out in her bedroom, watching TV, and in my mind I was somewhere else. I felt bummed.

When I went home my parents wondered what was wrong. "What happened at Kerry's?" they asked. Nothing did...I just couldn't stop worrying.

It Started with a Pen Pal
It was the 1990s and the internet was blossoming but I didn't have a computer at home. In junior high I used to spend my time at the library. I visited chat rooms, talking to people all over the world. I found a few pen pals; one in Chile and one in New York. They were both boys.

After a few months talking to them and exchanging packages through the mail, I think I got bored. So I moved on. But that afternoon at Kerry's I worried that my pen pals weren't who they said they were.

My parents were new to computers and the internet, so they weren't privvy to what went on in chat rooms. It wasn't their fault, though--the world wide web was flat earth to them! I am certain, though, that I spoke to internet predators during my time at the library, and I was afraid these were two of them. I couldn't stop thinking about what would happen if they tried to come and get me. They might hurt me. My parents would be so mad. I wouldn't have any friends. I was certain that I deserved whatever I got for being so risky. The worries took over so much that I thought sure some day I would see a dirty old pickup truck waiting at the end of my street until my parents left the house. It was scary.

Knowing I Needed Help
Mental illness is not a stranger to my family. Since my mom saw a therapist, I felt comfortable asking to see one, too. It was my idea. Still thinking I was depressed as a result of something that happened at Kerry's, my parents were convinced that this was serious. What insight for a 13 year-old!

While I was in therapy, the OCD continued to set in. My worries shifted, of course, and it was always a relief when that happened, because I could finally have a break! No sooner than the kidnapping fear subsided, the realization that another fear was near sent a sickened feeling to my stomach. One worry after the next. Even though I had been diagnosed, that's how it was, and that's how it would be until I got a hold of my first OCD crisis.

Sometimes I think back to that point in my life and realize how much better off I am now. I'm older, stronger, more independent, more mature, and wiser. I certainly haven't mastered OCD, but with each year I'm strengthened by the very fact that it hasn't conquered me yet!


  1. I, for one, am looking forward to you turning your OCD story into an OCD success story! I liked this optimistic post!

  2. Yeah us "ocders" are in a "fight." we can win. We are about the same point in the fight, just don't let your guard down. When I feel the thoughts or anxiety I deal with it immediatly. This doesn't mean it's so easy just that it has to be done. I know where it can lead.

  3. Yeah, I see a lot of similarities in us, Panama.

    And thanks, Robert!

  4. You are so positive yet you are still obviously suffering with symptoms severely. How do you manage to keep the positive attitude? No matter what it is, keep it up. The symptoms will slowly fade away and you will feel normal again. Never completely normal but pretty darn close. Thanks for joining my blog.

    The addict

  5. Hi, Addict.

    I wouldn't say that I'm always suffering with symptoms severely. I have everything basically under control--it's just a matter of watching the little things that could develop into big things if I let them get a hold of me.

    My OCD can be described as general day to day OCD that,on a SUDS scale of 1-10, really only makes it up to a 2 or 3 at the worst. Then there are periods of crisis (humps, maybe?) that are very debilitating and take control of my life for months to years. I have had 4 of those such episodes, and each one I have I get over quicker than the previous. They usually come when I try to stop my meds or when something serious happens in my life. (The last one happened when my grandfather died and I had been unmedicated for 9 months.)

    Sorry for the longwinded answer! I think I'll post about this subject soon, just for a state of the union-type post.

  6. Hi guys,
    I've just realised over the past few days that my intrusive thoughts had anything to do with OCD. I've always thought that OCD was just the repetitive checking (I've had this for about 15 years now), although its the bad images and thoughts that I can't seem to get to grips with. Although when I stummbled on a website the other day that said these thoughts were actually a part of OCD I felt a bit of relief, as I thought I was actually going crazy. I've been dealing with these thought for over a month now, some days all day. I'm trying hard to keep them at bay and keeping my mind occupied. I'm thinking of going to CBT - any opinions on this?

  7. Anonymous,
    I'm glad you had that realization. You are partly right about the checking, but it's often the intrusive thoughts that lead to the checking. You might just not have realized that.

    I have a friend who deals with intrusive thoughts all day, every day, too.

    CBT is one option, yes, but I have had more luck with ERP, Exposure Response Prevention.

    In short, this is the other school of thought that says to combat OCD, we should expose ourselves to our triggers/our fears, so that with time, we minimize the body's response to them. Maybe look into that online.

  8. Some call it Exposure and Response Prevention.

  9. Hi there, I have just become aware this week that my 9 year old son has OCD. He is yet to be officially diagnosed, but he has had obsessive thoughts for some time now, and looking back I can see the worsening of the symptoms over time. Over the past week he is constantly checking, won't step on cracks, has to repeat etc. Has to rewrite, go over his school and homework. It is constant....all to avoid his obsession that the chucky doll is going to assassinate him during the night. We see the doctor tomorrow to discuss what next. Any suggestions or feedback you can offer would be well received. All the best to you all.

  10. Hi, OCD Parent.

    I'm sorry it has taken me so long to reply! My goal is to get back into blogging regularly so I can be more available for questions like yours.

    From a parenting standpoint, the best suggestion I can offer you is to learn as much as you can about OCD. Go to conferences, read books, talk to doctors to get the clinical input you need--take it all in so you have a good understanding of how you can help him. I don't have kids, but I know that if there's a lot for ME to learn yet, then there's a lot to know! The more you do know, the better equipped you'll be.

  11. I have recently found out that I have OCD. I have known that something was wrong for about 11years now. I am constantly dealing with obsessive thoughts and senseless irrational rituals. I thought I was going crazy and did not want to tell anyone about it.It has become such a part of my personality. Really feels like a long road ahead and Im really confused about how to handle and treat my ocd. Is there a right way?
    my anxiety is so great but it makes the decision as to whether to get therapy and medication even more difficult and stressful.
    Thank you for posting. Only others with OCD can truly understand what OCD is and what it feels like to live with it.It makes me feel less alone to know that other people are going through the same thing.

  12. Hi, Anonymous.

    Only you and your therapist can decide the right way to treat your OCD. It sounds like you don't have a therapist; getting one is a good place to start. He or she can help you come to that conclusion and give you the support you need, and together you can tackle the medication question. Personally, my therapist is really helpful for me. I've had the greatest success working with a therapist who specializes in OCD treatment.

    I'm glad you can identify with the other OCDers here! You are definitely welcome to stick around for as long as you want! :)

  13. Anonymous--sorry, one more thing.

    Visit www.ocfoundation.org. On the homepage, under the "Find Help" tab, you can do a search for therapists and support groups in your area. Hope that helps!