I will begin by writing a few home truths regarding OCD, more importantly what OCD is not. OCD is not someone who likes their desk a certain way, or someone who has a clean house or all their books in alphabetical order on the book shelf. OCD is much more complicated and debilitating than that, believe me I know.
I am part of various online support groups for people affected by this complicated disorder, and if you see the devastation this illness causes you may think twice about making a joke of it.
I will begin at my earliest memory of having what I now know as OCD, it was around the ages of 8/9 perhaps younger. I was an obsessive hand washer, often to the point where they would bleed, my hands were often red raw and cracked from the handwashing on a daily basis. I can remember washing them, then getting the thought ‘’they are not clean enough’’ so I would clean again and again, obviously my fears at the time were contamination, germs, diseases etc. As well as hand washing I was a checker, or to be more specific constantly checking to see if I had left the cooker on or light switches etc. These daily tasks were time consuming, needless and pretty much caused severe anxiety, sleepless nights, worry and untold amounts of problems.
My fears of germs got so severe I began refusing to use the toilet, mainly so I would not have to go through my ritualistic hand washing regime, sadly though this only led to more problems down the line. At this young age my ‘’obsessions’’ which is OCD terms for ‘’thoughts’’ surrounded the themes of harm, contamination, cleanliness, order and checking, all common OCD afflictions. Looking back now I was a chronic worrier, and I mean chronic, almost every single thought that entered my head as a kid was analysed over and over, what did it mean, where did it come from. I somehow always felt responsible for the safety of others, one particular thought which caused me anxiety was the thought my mam would be killed in a car crash.
For someone so young it’s a pretty rough worry, to alleviate the anxiety the thought caused I would have to repeat a mantra over and over again to make sure the thought was ‘’gone’’. Usually it was something like ‘’I do not want this to happen’’ or ‘’ I didn’t mean to have the thought’’ I now realise all of that was needless and time consuming for the thoughts were not the problem, my reaction to the thought was the problem, something I have now been treated for thankfully. My OCD also took on the role of praying for forgiveness for having such bad thoughts, or for having bad thoughts in Church or School. Pretty much every night when I was young I would keep repeating my mantra, ‘’I did not mean to have the thought’’.
Those are my earliest memories of my OCD. As I went into my teenage years my OCD decided to abandon all the hand washing, checking, mantras and cleaning obsessions and begin to attack my sexual identity, something I am still not sure of to this day. This in my opinion is where OCD needs to be understood. Yes I was someone who cleaned a lot and wash my hands obsessively, but OCD is much more than that. Sexually intrusive thoughts is another common theme of OCD, around 6% of sufferers have sexual thoughts. These are intrusive thoughts that you may be gay or be a child abuser. Both are equally horrendous for the sufferer. I began my battle with homosexual OCD or HOCD when I was around 13/14/15.
I somehow believed I was gay; (I am not nor never was) every single male person I saw I asked myself am I attracted to them, or have I sexual feelings for them? The more I checked the more certain I was that I was gay. I kept asking for reassurance that I was not gay or going completely mad. Sadly this only fuelled the problem. Every young person experiences sexually intrusive thoughts, be it bad or good, they do not obsess over them, they let them come and go, people with OCD cannot, thus OCD is known as the doubting disease.
Purely Obsessional OCD
My OCD changed themes through the years, which is quiet common, from the early days of hand washing to sexual obsessions, I have had it all but the one which terrified me the most was the horrific fear I could somehow be a child abuser. People with OCD I must point out are NOT dangerous; they are generally morally good people. This particular obsession was the most harrowing and disturbing, the idea of being someone like this was just too risky to shake off, I needed absolute certainty that I was not, I constantly questioned every single thought, my mind could never be certain, in response I spent hours, days and eventually years mentally ruminating.
I was suffering from a form of OCD called purely obsessional OCD or Pure O; this means basically you have an obsession (i.e. fears of being a child abuser) but no noticeable compulsions. So this made it very difficult for anyone to know of its severity. It was all mental, my mind was awash with horrendous sexual and violent intrusive thoughts daily, and it was never ending. After years of this horrific obsession, I came to a conclusion, I had to be stopped, I needed to kill myself, the fear was too great, too big and if there was any doubt I could commit such horrendous acts I must be stopped.
Eventually holding in the fear was too great, so I decided suicide was the only option, but after one failed bid I had to confide in someone, I went to my GP certain I was heading away to be locked up, and after months of A and E visits, I was finally assessed by a Mental Health team who finally diagnosed me with OCD, a welcome relief, my recovery began in earnest.
Today I am a hell of a lot better, I have not been cured of OCD but with medication and therapy I can now move on in life to a better future. OCD is not a death sentence, it is a mental health condition that is nothing to be ashamed of, and it is treatable. As I said it is not just about cleaning or having things organised, it is much more severe than that.
That is my battle, thank you for reading.