My first memory of OCD began at approximately age 6. Although, the disease has not been acute it has been chronic throughout my life, the disease has taken a few different flavors, if you will, until my adult years where it settled in as only violent obsessions. (My psychiatrist told me this is very common for OCD). Violent obsessions involve both mental images and impulses to act.
These images included hitting, stabbing, poisoning and shooting people, even the people I loved the most: my family, myself and our pets, but the disease knew no boundaries so strangers were targets as well. I was paralyzed with fear, not leaving my house some days, wishing I could go blind so I could not view people or objects. You see I believed many of these violent thoughts were associated with objects, such as knives, scissors, pencils, screwdrivers, chemicals, guns, just seeing these objects caused a spike in my intrusive thoughts. There were more ideas and objects but thankfully I am not able to recall all of them today.
I spent years suffering because of shame, guilt, and the fear of what might happen should I actually tell someone these crazy thoughts that were destroying my life. Fear that talking about my OCD would label me as insane, a psycho or worst yet, take my children away! I would cry endlessly because I was afraid and ashamed, and I truly wanted my life to end but the thought of my children without a mother was enough to keep me going. I would work hard to reason with myself, assure myself, and pray to my Heavenly Father for forgiveness and healing. However, I would continue to suffer until one day, I could take no more. I was now 32 years old.
This is where my disease began to change; the day I checked myself into the psychiatric unit at my local hospital. It was here that I began some talk and medication therapy. It was such a relief to know I was not crazy, that someone actually had heard of these symptoms before, and that other people, other than me had had these same scary and intrusive thoughts! In the beginning the anxiety was so intense and disabling that I just wanted the medication to work, at least this way I could take care of my children and be a Mom again. The medications are NO miracle, but 4 months into this and some hard work daily ignoring the images and impulses I was determined to recover and I did. However, OCD knows NO boundaries and when you least expect it, it is back to torture you again.
In recent years I have worked so hard using Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) to get rid of this monster. ERP was very hard, facing my worst fears, developing scripts of images and ideas that I tried so hard to get rid of or ignore. I had to chase away my most intense fears by facing these fears, and repeat these images daily over and over again. It was horrific at first. I believe people who suffer from OCD are physically, psychologically and emotionally stronger than the average person. I believe someone who spends a lifetime suffering a mental illness has greater hurdles to overcome than the normal human being. I have found most people to be compassionate to physical, broken or crippled limbs but pain and suffering without physical deformity is hard for the average human to grasp. I think society and the medical community has come a long way in its understanding and acceptance of mental health issues comparatively speaking to when I was 15, but I believe I would much rather suffer physically then mentally. Today, I am 50 and still have struggles with OCD, even recently, but my coping skills are much better than when I was 32.
I know that my life will never truly be empty of the monster I call OCD but I do know that I can work hard, take medication and try to eliminate the stresses that are in my control to keep my OCD at bay. For all the years I suffered in silence I have always wanted to share my story to help someone else. Please don’t wait for help, please don’t suffer in shame, please don’t feel guilty, it is not something you have done to yourself nor can you make it better on your own. You cannot wish, pray or miraculously get better. It is hard work, but it is worth the effort. Believing you will get better is also a big part to recovery. When you accept your OCD, work hard to get better, then you can pass your ultimate knowledge onto others, you never know who is suffering, OCD is a silent disease. I have shared my disease and symptoms with so many people and I am no longer ashamed, I did not ask for this and I have done nothing to deserve OCD!
Please spread the word! Anxiety and OCD are real and life was meant to be lived to its fullest. Please do not suffer alone there is better help today than ever before thanks to organizations like NAMI and the International OCD foundation. Thanks for all you do.