Living with obsessive-compulsive disorder
Posted Wednesday 25 May 2011
When I was 14 my friends and I got caught stealing money from my school tuck shop. It had seemed a bit cheeky but the reality of what I had done floored me. I was absolutely devastated. My friends were upset for a while but then carried on, but I became extremely depressed. I started punishing myself, pulling out my hair and forcing myself to sleep on my cold bedroom floor. I became obsessed with what I had done, confessing to people, crying endlessly and going over it every day with my mother.
At the same time I turned to other things I had done as a child - normal things children do, but I perceived them as disgusting and I was a bad person. Looking back, I think this was the start of my struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Then four years ago I was renovating my first house with my now husband. I had a stressful job as a journalist and I was working on the house every night. A throwaway comment my husband made during a silly row over something I had done five years earlier hit me like a freight train. I became obsessed with this one incident, picking it apart, going through it in frantic tears every day, until I became suicidal. The suicidal thoughts frightened me so much I went to my GP. I had time off work, constantly searching on the internet to discover what was wrong with me, not understanding my problem, why I needed to confess to my husband my actions, conversations and even thoughts I'd had during our eight-year relationship. In my search to find out what I "had", I went for Reiki, learnt transcendental meditation, took antidepressants, and had acupuncture, 18 months of talk therapy, and hypnotherapy - even a past life regression.
Then about year ago I Googled "obsessive thoughts without compulsions". This brought up "pure obsessional disorder", a form of OCD where both the obsessions and relief-seeking compulsions are internal. I felt as if someone had shone a light on my entire life. Armed with this knowledge I went to my GP - who said OCD was about "hand washing and stuff" - and demanded cognitive behaviour therapy. Six months into treatment I am starting to understand my thoughts and my behaviours. I never trusted my own thoughts. I doubted everything about myself, even down to what music I liked - did I really like it, or was I just telling myself I did?
OCD makes me the person I am today. My dogged determination to succeed in whatever I choose is because of my illness. It has given me my darkest days, ones I would never wish on anyone - but I am learning to embrace it as part of me.
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