Uncovering OCD: The Truth About Obsessive Compulsive DisorderJun 06, 2021
To me, OCD is having a graveyard in your brain of the things you once loved, that OCD waged war against and it just decimated. OCD is a nightmare of a mental illness that has derailed my life. OCD for me has been an evil and paralyzing monster. monster in your head i.e. I helped and then Crime Alley influenced and mostly motivated to target and kill everything you love which is OCD for you sometimes you feel like you are treading water but you can't reach at the bottom or at the top. It's like that middle part where you feel like you're drowning and you can't really get out of it and you feel like a bunch of bricks on your shoulders and you'll never be able to get over it except once you do and do you see that light?
It's a little different and you see things differently. I think to me what the LCD is is that your brain is just overactive and it's constantly looking and scanning for things that are constantly telling you that something is dangerous in your environment and that's why you're. Always on the edge, always trying to protect himself and he comes up with these behaviors and evasions to keep himself safe. OCD is a
disorderwhere you are obsessing and composing for at least an hour or more a day and your life is literally restricted. like a boa constrictor is killing you, it's like it's a feeling of oppression, in essence, suffering from OCD is like being in hell and it's a hell that you are aware of, which makes it really difficult, unlike many
disorders mentalities that exist.
This dual existence between this healthy part of your brain and OCD and their simultaneous existence, so the healthy part of your brain doing everything you're thinking about and everything you
compulsively want to do is illogical and doesn't make sense. whatever, but then the OCD part of your brain is going to go, you have to do this or this is going to happen fine and you listen to the OCD part of your brain knowing that it makes absolutely no sense, but you just want to get rid of it. If someone had asked me if I thought I was mentally ill, I would have said no.
I just had no idea, so it took me a while to really come to terms with knowing something was wrong and wanting to do something about it. I was very private and I think as I got older I became more transparent as a mother. What does Chris's OCD mean to you? I had no idea if he would get better I had no idea if he would have a normal life if there was a treatment that could help him, so it was a very scary moment to think that a totally normal person had become almost like a little child.
One thing about disorders is that they don't just hit you all at once, but rather that they slowly consume you until you come to a standstill. Point that is overwhelming, there are so many times when I was younger, especially in high school, full blown OCD, but at the time you just don't realize what the definition of OCD is, they are obsessions, so the thoughts , the images, the feelings in a loop that we do not know. We don't want to be made to feel uncomfortable, they give us anxiety, a really uncomfortable feeling and then to relieve that feeling we engage in a compulsion, washing our hands, tapping, praying, a variety of things, that compulsion relieves the anxiety of the thought.
The vicious circle is that it only relieves the anxiety for a short time after a while the thoughts return the fears return the emotion and anxiety return and you re-engage in the compulsion and over time if it adds up it relieves the pain each time. shorter and shorter and shorter and shorter until your compulsion is constant because you're just trying to get that feeling of relief. I think people also assume that OCD is just OCD and that you don't have anything else, but along with
compulsivedisorder comes a reign of anxious emotions. depression intrusive thoughts suicidal thoughts and people don't really know it because people don't talk about it.
I first noticed OCD when I was 8 years old. I have had symptoms since I was 5 years old. I first noticed OCD when I was 12 I had it all through college I had it all through high school I had it all through high school I first noticed my OCD when I was in 8th grade when I was 13 I had it massive intrusive disorder I thought that sent me into a panic attack, emotional breakdown, it was a groundbreaking fear that stopped me in my tracks one day I was fine and then the next day I was obsessed and I couldn't stop being obsessed, so what?
When did it start to appear? your life as soon as I could form words and speak and make complete thoughts. I think it was present when I was in kindergarten there was an eclipse of the sun and the teacher told us that if we wanted to see the eclipse we had to do it. Do it this way because otherwise you can't turn on the Sun because you will go blind and I became obsessed that my mother was going to look at the Sun and she would go blind so I came home and told her you can't look at the Sun.
Sun , you can't look at the Sun, you can't go outdoors. I didn't want to leave her side. I wanted to protect her to make sure she didn't look at the Sun and go blind and we went through everything. Do you know what her sign will be or can you call me? I ended up not going to school the day of the eclipse to stay with her and make sure she didn't look at the Sun. She was 11 and I was in the cafeteria and we ate sausage-like pizzas and everyone ate one and I remember someone grabbed the sausage from the pizza and squeezed it and it exploded and I got on top, a normal kid would be like, "Oh my God, but I was." like there were definitely germs on me and I was probably going to die from a sausage pizza and as crazy as it sounds that's how I knew something wasn't right junior year of high school and that's when I started having thoughts about men because I've been dating a girl for a few years so we broke up and then I started having these thoughts towards the same sex and I would obsess about them because I didn't want to have them so I started obsessing about everything if I had a bad thought about someone.
I would have to tell him and apologize for having that thought about him when at the end of the day it's just a thought. It was in high school when it really started to hit me. I just felt like I had to do it. These rituals to say sure were something that I can't always explain to people, but my instinct, my brain, everything in my body had come to an agreement that I had to do all these ritual things, so I started whitewashing everything I had. I started doing all this cleansing and separating and isolating what was sad is like with my sister, who I'm also close with, and then with my mom, like we were really close, but I kept pushing them away because these rituals started to become more important. and I think that was the hardest part is that I didn't really have a name or understand what it was, so that's where a lot of the anger and frustration came from, as well as thinking that I had to do these things, but no one was telling me. , like, hey, you.
Isn't that a disorder and that made me very angry? I turned to alcohol and drugs to self-medicate and I think my mom treated him like a bad teenager so we really lost our relationship and we're fighting a lot and our relationship was really just yelling and screaming and punishing. I went to see my first therapist in 2009 but got my actual diagnosis in 2011. I would wake up and think my eyes were bad, my nose is swollen, my ears are upside down and I knew it wasn't natural and I was scared to death. . I really thought I had almost every illness I had heard about religious OCD, so I was really afraid of offending God.
I was afraid of going to hell. I was afraid I wasn't a good Christian trying to be perfect. I also suffered from incest OCD, so I was afraid of being attracted to my family members and felt like I couldn't be close to them. Homosexual OCD thinking I might be gay and not wanting that like In my mind, when I was 12 and 13, I really believed I was being punished and that I had done something wrong, which is why most of my compulsions or around peace religious with repentance and prayer, but also a lot of avoidance, rumination and mental review of intrusive sexual thoughts.
One of my compulsions was to stay home from school because I thought I was sick and no one really understood what was going on because I kept saying something was physically wrong with me. I counted to one hundred and five every time my mom was away. I counted to 105 thinking that would keep her safe I washed my hands over 500 times a day and I knew something was wrong but I didn't know why she washed my hands so often. I just knew that you had to clean them and they were never clean enough, it's very difficult for the brothers because my daughter would stay quiet so as not to cause more problems and you know she did that for many years and she just faded away so that all the attention was on Chris and us.
We were just trying to get him through without getting arrested or doing something horrible, just getting him through his teenage years. You know, it's funny because I don't always think that, you know, we talk about this period and I know obviously that's when it was. just a lot of selfishness because I felt like I had to do these things I was in danger but take my mom what I'm talking about I'm knowing the payoff I put my mom my sister you can I just don't remember that You were in a place of confusion and anger and turning to alcohol and drugs, which is not going to help the situation, and you know what to make my mom feel good, how am I a parent and what do I do to put someone through hell?
That's like a regret that I've always regretted and obviously I didn't know it, but just knowing that I put my mom and my sister and my family through that first second third fourth grade that were very difficult, I mean, I was constantly afraid of everything I was afraid of. swallow every day, going to school was a massive battle, crying, screaming, I would fake illnesses, I would fake it, I would do anything to stay home from school because of all these fears and thoughts and constantly bombarding my head if I am being really honest, I denied it if I don't want to be different, I don't want to be like the normal kids at my school, where you know they could do whatever they wanted when they got out of school, but instead, I had to go wash my hands ten millions of times until my skin fell off because I was contaminated I had a public face and that was I went to school I worked as a waiter I had friends but behind the scenes I was just spending hours and hours doing all these
obsessiveand compulsive behaviors and then it became too overwhelming.
I couldn't do it anymore. I couldn't show up at certain times at work. I couldn't attend at certain times. That's when everything went away. downhill because now I didn't have a job to go to I didn't have school to go to I was living off my savings and every day I woke up I had rituals I had to do all day obsessive compulsions and then I get so tired and exhausted and finally I fall asleep. I had a terrible fear of getting sick in high school. I carried three thermometers with me every day and took my temperature 80 to 90 times a day.
The headache was a brain tumor and the fever was meningitis. and it was all this extreme anxiety about my health. I couldn't leave the house on certain days, my anxiety would skyrocket to the point where sometimes I couldn't even say my names in a public setting because I had a count of how many people were in the room. How many people could it hurt? How many people would be around me if I fell dead on the ground? Who would help me? And those are thoughts I was thinking, but when I talk about them now I think: how could I have done that?
I thought those things, but they are just as normal people as me. The time from diagnosis to treatment. The actual treatment was 17 years, so I did not receive proper treatment. Exposure response prevention and other treatments. Cognitive behavioral therapy tells me he was 30 years old. I kept OCD a secret. From day one until I was 20 years old I kept my OCD a secret for a long time. I kept it a secret from my mom. I kept it a secret from my friends. I unintentionally kept it a secret for a long time because I didn't understand what was happening, yes, a big secret for almost two decades, even after my diagnosis.
I kept parts of it a secret thinking you might abuse a child, how do you tell someone? Thinking you might be attracted to your own mother, how do you tell her? Someone who kept OCD a secret for 20 years because the content of my obsessive thoughts was so scary and so intrusive that I didn't think anyone would understand what was going on in my head. I thought if I had to talk about what was going on in my head they were going to lock me up misunderstood I got so sick with OCD that I became completely bedridden it was very very dark I was doing OCD things I had never done before like washing my hands I had afraid of being Accidentally poisoned What would happen if I hit my head?
What would happen if I had a brain hemorrhage? What if you were to die from V-spot scans in one week at five different hospitals? I had to go to an acute psychiatric facility and they diagnosed me. as a psychotic they didn't even knowsuggested that I contact my parents I contacted my parents and we started sending emails We started talking on the phone, they came to visit us. August arrived. I thought: I won't stay here anymore. I can go live my life and follow my dream with everything I want. I went home for two weeks, visited my family and moved to California to follow my dreams.
I was first treated with evidence-based treatment when I was 15, so that was three years after my symptoms started and two years after I was diagnosed. I first started evidence-based treatment when I was in my twenties. I had many attempts at evidence-based treatment that were unsuccessful because of how scary it was, but it was in my mid-20s that I really struggled with my first bout with evidence-based treatment. It was my first experience with therapy, sorry, so my first time in therapy I got evidence-based treatment, so I got my first dose of new symptomatology when I was 10 and it wasn't until I was 32 that I was successfully and properly diagnosed with OCD, so it was 22 years, yes, that's OCD, that's what you can treat.
I can do a lot for you. Do you ever want someone to wait as long as I waited and to wait as long as so many people wait, that is my goal, that is why I share my story. I know, for me I think of all the wasted years if someone in my inner circle or family would have realized, oh, something's wrong and maybe pointed me in the right direction. It's hard not to live up to suing those who could, yes, and I always wondered how far down the road it would be, I don't want to I understand most no, it's someone, they just told me or if I was polite I had no idea about anything .
I think for us it always helps people, not me, make the same mistakes that we made and then there's also a part of me that always says, well, why can I? I wasn't born like 15 years later because the hell I went through what you went through, what advice would you give to someone who might find themselves in your shoes and your parents' shoes? Yes, I wouldn't be alive without what my parents did and I can tell you that my parents did what they did because they had good education and good therapy OCD is very much a family illness your parents are not raising you their parents are your OCD your mother and father are not married to themselves they are married to their OCD they live for their OCD to enable them and soothe them and all of those things are literally the worst thing they can do for OCD, but as a mother, father and father, That's all they know how to do. parenting we don't want our child to hurt we don't want you to suffer.
I think if you put it in the context of a father not hurting his child, he is hurting his OCD and that is a very important differentiator to know. that if you enable it, if you calm it down, if you control the OCD, it's going to make it worse when you put something on your face and you deal with it, it's going to get easier for you as time goes on and that's what I'm doing with ERP, okay? ? it certainly helped me and made me deal with like I had to touch under a table, which normally would scare me, but now I can just touch the underside of a table and say "okay, okay, and that's directly because of the ERP , Yes Yes".
Because I expose myself to germs and things like that every day through ERP, so I can do that in my life now, so it's interesting when you're doing all this work with the exposure response and you feel like it's not like that. get somewhere Do you think that was really working? You just didn't know. It was in person. It's fine, without a doubt. There's no way it would have gotten better without everything that had happened before. Good. So when I was going through that. things on the street when I was living alone when I was surviving if I didn't have that background I wouldn't have made it so let's put this on the table yeah for anyone at any point in life to say oh I'm OCD or oh I have a lot of OCD about this and that, that doesn't connect, that doesn't say, oh we're similar, that's minimizing, you don't understand, yeah, that's the worst thing you can say, okay, so if someone turns it around or oh you're just a bit OCD, all that kind of narrative would be a huge turn off so I'd like to be respected you know I just feel like I'm accepted like every other disorder out there, you don't know there's no difference just treat us with some respect.
People with OCD crave certainty, we have to know certainty and this singular key to overcoming OCD is accepting uncertainty, being okay with uncertainty, not trying to feel better, not trying to stop thoughts, not trying to stop feelings, not trying to be happy all the time is just being okay not being okay it's very important to remember that you are not your OCD I have been on so many medications that I don't actually remember them all I take paroxetine, the generic for paxil, I still take it Many people have to try several medications, sometimes a cocktail of medications.
I feel like I was lucky. What will your future be like from this moment? I think the biggest happiness about my future is that OCD is not a factor. OCD had such a conversation with every choice I made, whether it was where I lived or who I talked to or when I left the house and I think the most important thing for me is freedom, just having that freedom to make whatever decision I want and it's hard. to explain. but you know, almost feeling like you're being held captive for so long and getting to a point where you mess up and control yourself is a level of freedom and free choice that I never thought I had and that's why I've done really well if I can.
I say it myself to change things up, I mean, I was able to get an advanced master's degree, you know, get all A's in grad school and become an OCD therapist and now treat people who go through the same thing and my Mom and I do a lot. of advocacy, together we run a free support group for families and loved ones, so we share our story and our ideas to help other people and today I can sit here and tell you that it's not easy, I'm not okay, but I'm doing it. I'm getting over it. I'm breathing deeply when I need to breathe deeply.
I'm going to therapy. My OCD is better than urban even before I relapse. My bones are much better now because I know I have them. tips and tricks up my sleeve on where, if I have a day where I wake up and my anxiety is bad, I can say: okay, take a deep breath, take a step back, you can do this what you've been through before to stay well OCD, no. Relapse is not about not having the thoughts and it is not about not having the feelings, it is your response to the thoughts and feelings, it is about not being compulsive, it is about accepting discomfort and uncertainty, and when you do, when you don't give. oxygen to that fire the fire goes out very quickly there is such a lack of diversity within the world of OCD the community called me the lost faces and for me it is very important to bring that awareness of diversity to mental illnesses thank you because someone is going to see this and They will see you and they will hear you and they will feel less alone, it's okay, and what they feel is not crazy, you know, talk all over the world with patients, families and doctors in an effort.
To educate and D stigmatize and make sure no one has to go through what I went through, the only way I can make sense of it is to give back because otherwise what was it all for? And I don't take the days for granted, I just don't allow myself to, so if there's something in my life that I'm really interested in or that I really care about, I embrace it and make it happen because I know what it was like to spend so many years where that It just wasn't something. what I could do and make my mom proud, she better be proud that my work is part of people being diagnosed earlier and getting the right treatment sooner, it's definitely about raising awareness and just making sure everyone knows what it is LCD, everything we can discover to help people live.
Living better and being diagnosed and treated sooner, new research is critical to our survival and continued well-being. The continued stigmatization of OCD is crucial, it is very important. I mean, these are people's lives and I would definitely tell anyone who is struggling with this not to do it. giving up and accepting the fact that you're a little different, but that doesn't make you any less of a warrior than you already are, so being able to participate in life no matter what's going on, I feel this tinge of gratitude. it doesn't matter because at least I'm playing at least I'm in the game at least I'm not on the bench and I'm grateful for that and I'm grateful for that I'm very excited about where he is, I'm very excited about who he is, I'm very proud of who he is and how hard you've worked, you make changes in people's lives, you really help people and wow, to go to work and say you really changed.
Someone's life is great and I'm proud every time they tell me about it or people come up to me all the time and say, "Wow, I'm glad I found your son." and how are you now? How do you feel in life right now? It would be great if you asked me a couple of weeks ago. You know it goes up and down, but I have never felt better in my recovery than I do now. I know it's just working and being an advocate that has really helped me, but then there are those people that you meet and a community that you create, where you learn that you are not alone, that you can get through this, you can understand. more about yourself you can educate other people and that is definitely a silver lining that I have found and a blessing in disguise for this whole storm.
I want everyone to know that there is hope because we didn't have that, the first thing we did. They told me he would never get better, that was the first thing and I can't even describe how devastating it was to be told I remember sitting on my bed looking at a picture of him and crying like I had lost my son. Do you mean there is no help? So I'd like to dispel that right away. There is hope. There is treatment. There is hope. And there may be times when people feel that giving up words can never happen.
Our trip was not pretty. There were definitely some missteps. but we always recover and manage to move forward, so there is hope and help and people can get better we deserve to be happy we don't ask for this is a challenge for me it is always present somewhere but the days are Well you also know that it is not always bad. Did you enjoy this? Yes, I do. I was a little nervous but you're great. I'm proud of you. I will never stop going to therapy. I will go to therapy every week. Probably. for the rest of my life because I know that's what helps me do it right and finding out is really super rewarding and reaching out and educating yourself and educating the people around you you're the best thing I could give someone advice and go out to those communities and ask for help ask for help no no it's not a bad thing right ask what it's like how do you get to places where you're happy with yourself do you know how to get to those places of happiness I don't know, a lot of people can say they remember the first time They felt joy, but I actually remember the moment and the day and what was happening, it happened because I don't know, I never felt it before and I was walking down the streets of Boston and I was walking home from work and the sun was setting and I looked up. up and it was just a beautiful sunset and I liked the colors, but I think I felt what I felt, I was supposed to feel my whole being. life, but you never knew the beauty of nature or whatever.
I felt more than just functioning throughout the day. I felt joy. I felt happiness. I felt connection. I felt serenity. I felt all these things that I had never felt in my entire life. and at that moment I thought: that's what life is about, that's what it's about, it's not about functioning, it's not about getting over it, studying, it's not about going through the motions, it's about this moment, right here, in this feeling, and I will always remember it. That moment and I will always be very special but what is even more special is that I have had thousands of moments like that since then.
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