The beginning of my OCD to the current state 2012-2022.
In case you don’t know what ocd is or how it works I’m gonna give a brief overview. It is categorized as a disorder where one has obsessions or intrusive thoughts that are unwanted and often disturbing to the person experiencing them. They then begin to complete the compulsions their brain is telling them to do to stop the thoughts. These can be as simple as turning a doorknob five times to stop your family from dying or as extensive as avoiding anything and anyone to restrict the thoughts. Ocd comes with many different subsets that you may or may not fall under: harm ocd, postpartum ocd, suicidal ocd, contamination ocd, existential ocd, relationship ocd, pure ocd, religion ocd, etc. Normally a person facing ocd will have one or more of these subsets throughout their lives. If you want to learn more about each individual themes, it really helps to get the overall picture of what happens.
My ocd is under contamination ocd which is often either physical contamination or emotional contamination or both. The fear that most people have with this subset is that they are going to get sick and die or that the people closest to them are going to contract it and die as well. These fears are so strong that the person will do whatever their brain tells them to do to keep them safe and stop the thoughts from progressing. The main issue with ocd is that the more you give in to the thoughts and perform compulsions you are actually feeding ocd and telling your body that you were in fact in danger and now next time you have to do more and more and more to remain safe. In my type of ocd this can be going from putting hand sanitizer on my hands after touching something and then a week later I’m putting hand sanitizer on five or six times in a row but the anxiety isn’t going away. That’s how easily you can get into the trap of your compulsions. Emotional contamination is a little different where the person fears that contact with a person or place such as their family will contaminate them and put them in danger.
There is many resources and research that can go in more depth for each theme and how they present as they all involve obsessions and compulsions but can vary greatly on what about.
My ocd started quite quick and drastically in the seventh grade. Granted I don’t have very many memories from prior to then to determine if I might have had it prior to this time. My sister used to and still is afraid of getting sick but when I was 11 or 12 I came down with the flu. As we all know flu can travel through contact with saliva and for some reason that day my mind kept telling me I was going to get her sick. I avoided everyone in my family as much as I could while I was sick to hopefully prevent it and at the time I didn’t really know why I was worried. I mean I wasn’t worried two days ago about getting anyone sick so why did I care so much now. That’s how quickly it started. I began to have a bottle of hand sanitizer next to me on the couch and any time I spoke or sneezed I would feel the tiniest amount of saliva on my hands or arms and I would lather up in sanitizer to stop the spread. This got worse and worse over the days I was sick and I thought it was fine and once I was no longer sick I’d be fine. Only all it did was get worse. The next thing I can remember is that every time I washed my hands it didn’t feel right, it didn’t feel like enough. I would wash my hands in the bathroom and then I would sneakily go to the kitchen and wash them again. At this point I was embarrassed by this so I tried to do it without anyone noticing because I didn’t want them to question it. In my mind there was no harm to rewashing your hands right because it was so little. The issue is is that it just kept going, I would start washing my hands 3 times 4 times 5 times until it got to the point that I was standing at my kitchen sink scrubbing myself up to my armpits sobbing because I couldn’t get clean. I didn’t know why I didn’t feel clean and obviously my family had no clue what was wrong with me. My hands and arms were cracking and bleeding. It got to the point that clearly something was wrong because I washing my hands for hours at a time. At this time I also started taking multiple showers throughout the day that would be upwards of an hour long. I just couldn’t get clean. I stopped using towels to dry off my body after showers because they themselves felt contaminated so every morning I would shower and then stand there until I was dry, then I would proceed to spend 45 minutes rewashing my hands. This whole process very quickly took over my life. I could barely go to school, I couldn’t really go anywhere. I was needing to be as clean as possible at all times. I had one bathroom I would use in my house and my mom still had to clean it after every use or I wouldn’t use it. I started showering every single time after I went to the bathroom because it was too much. I stopped using any public restrooms which absolutely destroyed my body going 12 plus hours every day in a row without being able to use the restroom. I could go on and on about what my compulsions were and how I did them but at the time I was doing everything I could to avoid my disorder. My mom was giving in to every demand that my mind made which only made me worse. It ruined my relationship with my family because I began to fear them as a whole, they were dirty to me which meant interacting was nearly impossible. Ocd is called the doubt disorder, it doubts everything you believe in and previously knew. It’s so strong it can sit there and tell you something happened when it didn’t. This got really hard in that no matter how far away I was from something I felt that I touched it, and in my mind touching it meant I was now contaminated and afraid. It wasn’t logical by any means but it’s how it works. You could be five feet away from me and I will sit there and stare at the space between us until my mind convinced me that you are touching me. To this day this is still one of the hardest things for me because it leads to hours of me rewalking by something to figure out if I touched it. It isn’t until I’m certain I didn’t that I can move on with my day.
Well that was the start of my ocd and at that point I thought I was just insane but at the same time I was so certain that if I didn’t do these things I was going to be in danger of being contaminated. I began cbt therapy which is just regular talk therapy with any ol therapist. Now for the next ten years I did not know that this type of therapy was actually hindering my recovery rather than helping it. I also around six months later got on an anti anxiety medication. I don’t know whether the medication worked or that the therapy was helping but into early highschool I was able to mask and manage my symptoms as much as I could. This meant that technically I was avoiding all instances that would trigger me and giving in to most of my compulsions. For the four years of highschiol I lived the life of: get up, take so long with compulsions that I’d be late to school, leave class often to wash my hands or use the office bathroom, come home, either shower or go to work, then come home and shower. In between all this I was constantly thinking about being contaminated especially at school and work because I had no control of the people around me. I was severely depressed during highschool and pushed most people away through the sheer anger I had towards living. I was barely living at this point because 8+ hours of my day was spent worrying or completing compulsions that only gave me temporary relief. By the end of highschool I was able to pretty much manage my ocd and just live in this constant state of fear. The issue was is I was still giving in to it, I even chose the only college in the state that had your own bedroom and bathroom because I knew I wouldn’t be able to live in a normal dorm. Now the first two years of college were alright, I was still managing my symptoms but I was still very angry with everyone and everything because I was constantly in fight or flight mode, constantly at a high level of anxiety and stress. At this point I was no longer in therapy and wasn’t on any medication because none of them ever worked enough to make the side effects worth it.
The majority of my life from age 12 to age 19 was pretty much a blur over going back and forth between being okay for one minute to absolutely wanting to die the next because I stepped on a piece of trash. Granted therapy made it so I was no longer spending hours washing my hands and could somewhat function but I didn’t know that the reason I was “ok” was because I was living in my safety bubble of my home and I was getting exposed to the things that trigger me every single day which is actually helpful for ocd as I later found out.
Now 2020 was a shit year for everyone but I had no idea what it was going to do to me and my disorder. In June of 2020 I moved in with my boyfriend at the time in a little condo in rancho Cordova. Now this place was definitely not the cleanest by any means and was also in a really bad area. Because I had been doing good with my ocd I thought it was going to be fine but from June to November I spent every single day laying in bed. Now most people were doing this so I thought it’s okay it’s fine. But this meant Dylan was doing everything for me, he cooked all my meals because the kitchen for me was a huge trigger and I couldn’t use it, I didn’t leave the bed because I couldn’t sit on the couch and I deemed it unclean. At my moms I was always able to at least feed myself while continuing to wash my hands five or six times during the process but the point was I could do it. Now I couldn’t do the basic function of feeding myself. This meant dylan would wake up make me breakfast and then go to work. I would then proceed to starve and get sick until he would come home at 10 pm and be able to feed me again. This went on for months and during this time I turned 21 and started drinking heavily. Alcohol is one of those things that greatly reduced my symptoms so I’ve been addicted to it ever since. I got a job in November and to be honest I thought I was going to start feeling better. I now was leaving the house and somewhat functioning in daily life and at least able to eat the days I worked. The thing is over the course of working there, more and more things at work would trigger my ocd and the main thing was cross contamination. I am always thinking five steps ahead of how touching one thing is going to lead to contamination of hundreds of other things.
Anyway after about a year of working me and dylan were about to move into an apartment in Folsom. At this point I was no longer able to go to work so one day I just up and quit on the spot and never looked back. I was going to focus on my health from the safety of my new home and all would be good, right? We had just leased our very first apartment which was brand new and considered luxury and I thought perfect and clean. Well I laid in bed for at least a week once we moved in because like I said my symptoms had gotten pretty bad again at this point. For several days I couldn’t stop thinking about the floor and wall in my living room because the man who set up our new phones was sitting against that wall. So I got up and ordered some cleaning supplies and a mop because I was going to fix what I thought was the issue. Who would’ve known that this would lead to the next worse year of my life. My order came and I had the box sitting in the middle of the kitchen. The next day while dylan was at work I opened this box and as I was about to take out the mop a roach crawled out of the box and at my hand. I obviously screamed because as someone who is terrified of germs I had never came in contact with something so terrible and dirty that is also considered dirty to the average person. Well I smacked it with my shoe and I sat on the ground 10 feet away from this roach and cried. I completely broke down because I knew that there was no getting past this, I mean for god sakes there was a roach laying on its back wiggling it’s legs in my fucking kitchen of my brand new apartment. Now I sat there on the ground and stared at it for over 4 hours until dylan was able to get home from work. He helped me take it out and then scrubbed the floor because at this point I thought it came from inside the package, right? Well after spending several more days in bed trying to get over what had happened after I bleached anything and everything I was laying there and looked over to the bathroom. Dylan had just gotten out of the shower and was standing in the hallway as I saw something crawling towards him. I asked him what it was and I didn’t even need to hear his answer because the look on his face was enough. Now this is where shit really took a turn. At this point I was able to realize they were coming from somewhere inside or right outside the apartment. We contacted the office and got set up for pest control. A week went by and I came out in the middle of the night to find my cat playing with another one. That was it for me, I turned on every single light in the apartment and never turned them back off again until we moved out. I cleaned every single thing I could think of and then had exterminators come to spray. Now they sprayed twice in one month and this is when we found out they were coming in through a crack in our back door. Now because we didn’t know this it was too late, somewhere in the apartment there was an egg sack because after we sprayed the whole apartment months went by of us finding dead baby roaches everywhere on the ground. Thank god tho we never saw another adult one in our apartment but it was too late for me. I did wake up one night with one crawling on my arm, something I’ll never forget. I already was going through so much that this was kinda the final straw. I saw no out, I knew that everything in that apartment had been contaminated. There was nothing I could do. I spent months staring at every little dot or fuzz on the ground terrified it was a roach or roach feces regardless if it was. Sometimes babies would come up the shower drain so we had to make sure it was always closed. Basically living became a huge hassle for both me and dylan. He had to proceed to do literally everything for me as I couldn’t even leave the bedroom except to very carefully leave the apartment using a glove and drive over to my moms house or the park. We would be dodging roaches outside every day and night. During this time I had started TMS therapy which I can go into detail later but basically it’s like mild electric shock therapy. My Insurance didn’t cover it so I spent two months doing this therapy every day and spent 13,000$ for it to do absolutely nothing. This was the same time that I got on a new anxiety medication called Clomipramine which is specially designed for OCD. It “worked” in the sense that I was no longer sobbing for hours on end incapable of moving an inch from where I stood because of a minuscule spec of black on the ground. Instead I was only sobbing for a couple minutes then was able to occasionally leave the house lol. Winter came and the roaches were gone for the time being and I started to be okay in some ways. I didn’t have to look at every little thing I came across and examine it to see what it is. The thing was though is I was numb, I was numb to how I felt, the fear, pretty much anything. I had basically accepted that I was never going to be able to recover from this apartment and I was going to kill myself. This was what I said every single day to dylan, I was going to kill myself and he needed to move on. I knew he’d be okay because he doesn’t have ocd so he’d be able to clean his belongings and move on. I knew it wasn’t in the cards for me anymore and I was tired of fighting. Roaches were now going to be my contaminated obsession whether I liked it or not. I spent months just sitting in bed or my car crying figuring out how I was going to do this. I lost a lot of weight at this time because I wasn’t eating anything. We made a plan that we would move back into my moms when the lease was up but in may of 2022 the roaches had started to appear outside the complex. It felt like how I felt when we moved in all over again. I contacted the office and told them I was leaving whether they were going to let me or not. I couldn’t do it and I couldn’t take the chance that I’d bring them with me. We made our plans and got everything ready to move and the closer it got to June the more I realized I wasn’t going to be able to do it. Anything that came from that apartment was tainted and if I brought it I was never going to recover regardless if there was anything on it or not. Keep in mind we never had an infestation and all we had was three roaches on the floor in one year but in my mind every inch of everything I owned had roach on it. I told Dylan that I was sorry but I was only going to do this if we sold everything and I mean everything. The only thing we brought with us to my house was our clothes, freshly washed and his computer. I threw out or sold every last thing and spent about 5,000$ replacing it for our home. The only thing I brought with me is my laptop which is still to this day in a bag never been touched since June.
So we moved right, everything just got worse and worse but at least we didn’t have to see or deal with roaches. And that was true, we didn’t. But the absolute fear that I had of them remained. Any tiny thing at my moms became a roach or roach feces. I was still contaminated. Now I was afraid of anyone and everyone because I didn’t know who and who hadn’t been around a roach. I haven’t made physical contact with my family without showering in over two years. My lack of control over everyone in my house made it that much worse. After a couple months living at my moms and realizing I couldn’t have a job in the state I was in I decided to get new help. I learned that ERP therapy was what I needed to do which is the opposite of CBT which I had done previously. What this type of therapy involves is physically putting you in that fear and anxiety. They expose you to what you are afraid of and don’t let you perform any compulsions until your body naturally lets go of the anxiety. Because every time you perform a compulsion you are extending that time period that it would take for your body to naturally destress. With this they also tell you not to perform any mental compulsions such as thinking about when you can clean yourself, what you’re going to clean, or self reassurance. You can’t tell yourself you will be okay you actually have to tell yourself you won’t be okay in order to learn to live with the uncertainty. This type of therapy is extremely uncomfortable because who would want to be placed in the position they fear the most. We started with simple things like standing in the kitchen or touching the fridge but it wasn’t helping. We learned that I had trauma from the apartment and what I really needed to focus on was that fear. I’ve spent weeks now staring at pictures of roaches and touching fake ones to try to expose myself to the idea of being around them. I also have to sit there and tell myself that everything I’ve ever touched is contaminated with what I fear and that I might die because of it. There is no reassurance that you will be okay and that your fears are not logical because OCD doesn’t care. It’s never going to work if you tell yourself it’s not true because that’s just not how your brain is wired. It’s wired to doubt everything you think.
Right now I am currently 23, living at home, still unable to feed myself or leave my room without showering. I usually leave the house and try to walk at the park before coming home, eating something and then immediately showering and waiting for dylan to get home from work. My weight has fluctuated like crazy because lack of food and then large amounts of food when I can eat as well as extended alcohol use. I don’t wear clothes in my house cause I’m terrified anything that isn’t stuck to my body is going to touch something like the wall or doors. I walk with my arms strictly holding my chest to force them as close to my body as possible. I walk slow and with complete precision anywhere I go. In the shower I use on average 36 pumps of body wash and go through a bottle a week. After showering I need absolute silence so as I get out of the shower and walk across the bathroom I can hear and see if I touched anything. It takes me 20+ minutes from when I’m done showering to get out of the bathroom because I repeat the process over and over again until I am sure I didn’t touch anything. Then I walk upstairs and begin to ruminate and think “did I touch it?” for the next couple hours. I continue to wash my arms to my armpits with every single wash. I am miserable and I still don’t see a way out of my OCD because roaches will always exist and it’s not something I can fully avoid or escape. I have continued to tell myself that if I ever am in the situation where there is roaches or anything else severely dirty in my future house I will immediately kill myself because the last two years is nothing I ever wanna go through again as I still can’t function in my daily life. I now have no future because after everything I can’t imagine living in an apartment or house again unless I build it from the ground up. I also can’t live in any town that has a roach problem so my places on future homes is very limited and out of reach. I want to eat what I want, I want to not take 20 minutes to use the restroom, I want to be able to work out, I want to not be so afraid of every little thing around me but for now I just have to continue.
The one thing that I think hurts me the most is the time I have lost to this disorder. I am nothing but my disorder as it takes up all my thoughts throughout the day or about the future. I wasted 10 years getting the wrong treatment when I should’ve been in ERP the whole time. I have wasted every last dollar I have because the moment something is slightly contaminated it gets thrown out.
I am going to keep writing on the things I experience whether it’s intrusive thoughts or compulsions I need to complete. I’ve read a lot about OCD but I feel like the inner working of what people think and feel when they have OCD isn’t that commonly put into paper. I want people to know they aren’t alone despite how lonely this disorder makes you feel. OCD is one of the top most debilitating disorders and is classified as a disability.
Just to show how often I have these thoughts, I waited until 8pm to shower and then when I got into my room I sat down at my desk without first looking at it and after a few seconds I noticed that there was a smear of something on my desk. Now I clean my desk quite often so I had no idea what this was from and I instantly started crying because I had already touched the desk so I didn’t know what else I had touched since touching the desk or did I touch my shirt or the door handle or my hairbrush, etc. I got wipes and cleaned the smear then I washed myself repeatedly until I sat in bed and cried until dylan came home. I then had him reclean every single thing on my desk and promise me it wasn’t anything bad even thouhgb how would he know. Now I’m sitting in bed thinking about if I touched my hairbrush after touching the desk. I feel dirty and the fact that I don’t know what caused the smear is going to make it so I keep thinking about it for days until something else happens. It’s a never ending thing I have to clean. I know it doesn’t make sense because why would something that small cause so much de stress and I wish I knew exactly why but all I know is the intense feeling of being afraid.
2 thoughts on “Growing up with OCD”
This post inspires gratitude and interest. Sometimes I have the same suggestions that I have OCD the same way you do, but you’re very brave for sharing. Thank you.
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