Infuriatingly these days you often hear people say, ''oh, I think I'm a bit OCD!'' I am truly fed up of hearing this statement because having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is NOT people liking things neat and tidy. OCD is cruel, is suffocating and it can ruin lives. I know this because I have suffered with severe contamination OCD for twenty-seven years and it has nearly ruined mine!
I can still remember that fateful day at my local doctors some eight or nine years ago, when I unknowingly sat in a seat of vomit. You see, I did not realise until the day afterwards what had happened. By then it was all too late and I had spread the smell of sick all over my mum's house. All my clothes smelt of sick, all the furniture smelt of sick and all of my personal belongings did too. I tried to fight the OCD, but back then I wasn't strong enough to stand up to it. OCD is a vicious bully and so I just recoiled myself from life.
Ever woken up and been sad that you've woken up? Ever woken up and wondered how you are going to get through the day without panicking terribly? Ever woken up and been scared to breathe in because you are absolutely petrified that once you do, then you might breathe in that smell that you just can't cope with? I felt all of these things back then and had a life that was not really a life, it was just an existence.
I self-harmed for the first time since I was a teenager because I was bereft of any useful coping strategies. I really thought about suicide because I could not get peace of mind. I needed to feel uncontaminated again but the harder I tried then the worst it got. I was truly enslaved to my OCD like never before. I could not go anywhere because I was frightened that I might smell sick anywhere that I went. I could not sit down anywhere because I was so worried that I might sit in sick again. My Mr Irrational side (one part of me) was completely bullying my Mr Rational side (the other part of me). Therefore, do not ever tell me flippantly that you suffer with OCD too, because quite simply I won't care or believe you.
Two things kept me going though, even in the darkest of times. The first one was the loving support that I received from my dear mother. I could never have ended it all due to all what she has done for me in life. Second, was believing in the extraordinary power of a thing called hope. A hope that things would improve in time. A hope that I wouldn't always be suffering like I was back then. The hope of getting my dream career and the hope of meeting somebody and falling in love.
About two years ago, I got referred to see a new mental health team and it is one of the best things that I have ever done with regards to my recovery. The new Psychiatrist sympathised with me that I struggled to take any form of tablets, so suggested I try fluoxetine and aripiprazole in oral solution form. They are no cure, but they have now enabled me to do the all-important CBT exposure work without feeling too scared (with the support of my new Psychologist).
Therefore, in the last twelve months, I have been taking baby steps forward. No, I am going to be bolder than this and say that I've taken some GIANT leaps forwards. I have sat down on buses and trains. This is a huge thing for me when you consider as little as twenty-four months ago, I couldn't even go on public transport never mind sit down in them. I now go and shop in supermarkets regularly. I go to a gym, have recently eaten in unfamiliar restaurants and I sat down on a chair for my latest diabetes eye-screening appointment. Regarding the latter triumph, this was the first time I had done this in over EIGHT years, i.e. rather than insisting I stand up to have it done.
My OCD has not been this good for years but I don't want you to get the wrong impression here. My tale is hopefully an inspiring one but at the same time, my life can still be very tough suffering with OCD. I wonder whether or not the intrusive, irrational thoughts will ever completely vanish?
Recently I went on a day out with one of my best friends. This is a best friend that the OCD had robbed me of seeing for the last eight years. Firstly, we went for a coffee at a cafe and as my friend popped off to the toilet, I noticed I had put my bag down on a chair that had some brown stains on it. Instantly, I ruminated and the irrational part of my brain was triggered into action once again. Could these be stains of sick I panicked to myself? If not sick, then could these stains be poo of some kind? I had to fight these anxieties all night long. Much later than originally planned, I got the last tram home with all the drunks and silently I was pleading for nobody to be sick. Finally, I got home with tears in my eyes because my anxiety about that tram ride had been so strong.
To suffer with OCD can be so exhausting because as in my case, just as I start to get on top of one phobia (vomit), then another one distressingly pops up. Before that awful incident at my GP's surgery, then a worry about standing in dog excrement on pavements was my main issue. I can feel this phobia getting worse at the moment now that I am getting on top of this vomit one. It is like I always have something to worry about. I now know though that I have to confront this dog dirt worry head-on before it gets a firm grip of me again, i.e. not letting this fear stop me from doing things like walking to various places.
What I have tried to illustrate in the above, is just how traumatic it can be to suffer from OCD. If you are debating whether you have it or not because you like things done in a certain way, then I would politely suggest to you that you do not have it. This is because to suffer from this mental health illness is all-encompassing. At its worst, it never gives you a day off and is a bully of the most brutal kind. Recovery is possible though as I am proving, but you really have to want to get better from it as I do now.
I will not let my OCD beat me. I am a fighter and I will not let my Mr Irrational win!