I am a twenty four year old who leads a fairly average life. Things on the outside look entirely normal; I have recently bought my first house with my brilliant boyfriend, I have a good job and we enjoy nice holidays. As I say, life looks normal.
Behind closed doors I have meltdowns for no reason, I make my other half drive me the exact same route as the one that I have just taken to make sure that I haven’t somehow ran anybody over and I even make him count tablets with me to ensure that I haven’t taken more than I am supposed to.
When you say ‘OCD’, most people have one of two reactions, either: ‘so how many times do you wash your hands or count cracks in the pavement’, or, ‘we’re all a little bit OCD’.
Many people even go as far as joking ‘I’m so OCD’, as if it’s glamorous and trendy. Trust me you wouldn’t think that if you lived with the debilitating illness.
It all started eight years ago, when I was sixteen. An only child, I come from a very supportive and loving, stable family but I had real problems at school. All because I was carrying some ‘puppy fat’. My life was made a living hell, and it turned into the worst five years of my life, I felt physically sick at the thought of going to school and it made me anxious. Gradually over time, I started having reoccurring, obsessive thoughts. I was doing my GCSEs at the time and I just thought that this was normal and would eventually go away -a symptom of exam stress.
I then started sixth form. I could not get over the difference in attitudes, not one person made jibes about my weight and everybody was very welcoming and friendly, the OCD would be gone now, right? Wrong.
I had regular thoughts like ‘If I do this the world will come to an end’ or that one of my loved ones was going to die. It made me tearful and I’d often cry myself to sleep, and then I would often have thoughts whilst I was asleep, it would never, ever go away, no where was safe from the thoughts.
One evening, I went out with my friends, just for a pizza, and my heart did not feel right. No exaggeration, I could physically see it pounding out of my chest, I could not get it to slow down.
Like most OCD sufferers, I despised hospitals, but it got so bad that I had to be admitted to my local hospital. I bypassed the long A&E queue and was rushed into cardiology; my heart was going 180bpm (the average persons is somewhere around 60-80), and that was when I was asleep…
The hospital’s first reaction was that I had taken some sort of drugs – which I had not and would not ever do – but as soon as blood and urine tests came back negative, and my heart looked healthy, the doctors were stumped.
I knew exactly what it was: it was an OCD induced panic attack, I had had smaller ones before, and my legs would shake uncontrolably for hours but I did not tell the doctors for fear of being locked away in an asylum somewhere.
I then started a new job, and the OCD progressed. I became convinced me that any food or drink that I consumed contained bleach and my throat would burn every time that I ate or drank.
I also convinced myself that the only thing I had control over was my body, not my mind, so I started calorie counting, but to an extreme. I dropped from 12 stone to 8 stone in a month, and my clothes were falling off of me. I would buy a pair of work trousers, and the next week, they would be falling down.
I still thought I was ‘fat’.
People would comment saying that I looked gaunt and too thin, but I didn’t see it. I would faint in public, caused by anaemiam which I had brought on myself by not eating.
I would ask colleagues to check their bags when they got home to check that no tablets were missing, and ask them to keep an eye on me at work.
I convinced myself that I had HIV (a common OCD phobia), I got tested, and as thought I tested negative.
There were genuine times when I thought to myself, I should not be here, I would be better off dead, I need to end it all. I had developed a real phobia of bleach and aerosols and continually thought that I had ingested something harmful after having bad thoughts.
It got to the point, where I would have to video myself in the toilet, just to check that I had not touched the bleach, and I would have to bite my lip, so that I knew that my mouth had not been open. I couldn’t even put petrol in my car for fear of the chemicals.
Despite all of this, I was a bubbly, confident girl. I now had a very slim figure, had lots of friends at this point and received lots of male attention. I had always had trouble with relationships, be they romantic or friendships, I would always push people away and lose those closest to me; I put this down to the OCD or some form of undiagnosed autism. I did not have a romantic relationship until I was eighteen – men would never look at me in that way, and only saw me as a laughing stock. But once I lost all the weight things soon changed, until I eventually realised that I was only being used for one thing, and if I did meet a nice genuine man, I would not treat him well, sorry to say.
After having a meltdown at home, and an argument with my mum, I confided in her that I had OCD. At first she told me that I did not want to be labelled and that I was fine, but as soon as my weight started falling off and she saw me repeatedly counting tablets, she knew something was wrong and I went to see my doctor.
I felt that a huge weight had been lifted when my doctor told me how ironically ‘normal and common’ the way I was feeling was, and that I wasn’t a weirdo who was going to be locked up.
I felt great.
I started taking some anti-depressants for my OCD, but found that they made me angry and aggressive. I was mixing them with vast amounts of alcohol on a weekend (a really silly thing to do), and found that I was behaving very recklessly, and getting myself into dangerous situations.
I came off of these tablets and tried some different anti-depressants, which, again did not work for me.
Fast forward five years and I am now on my third type of anti-depressant which I have been taking for approximately two years now. My OCD has practically cured itself (touch wood) and the bad thoughts I was having before have now practically vanished. I have put the weight back on (and a lot more, which I’m sad to say!), but I am in a very good place.
My other half and I are even talking weddings and babies!
I am looking forward to what the future has in store, but I am worried about starting a family. OCD is hereditary, so it can be passed down through the bloodline, as much as I would love to be parent, I will need to consult with a doctor first, to check that it is safe to come off of the tablets for my baby’s sake, or whether I have to keep taking them and what potential damage this could cause to the baby.
I really hope that by opening up like this, anyone who feels that they are in a similar position can get the help and support that they need. There genuinelly is light at the end of the tunnel, you are not alone, there is support out there, and you will come through this the other side a much stronger person.
Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I wish you the very best in your personal journeys.