I never pictured myself as a person who would struggle with OCD. When I started treatment, it was because I was at my breaking point. Here is a brief synopsis of my path to recovery (which I am still on), and I hope my words can reach someone who needs to hear them.
For 3 years, I struggled with terrifying intrusive thoughts. It started a few years ago, after some stressful life events, with a thought I had about taking a knife and cutting my wrist. I was terrified. But I couldn’t get it out of my head, and when I tried, I’d become more obsessed with figuring it out. Was I a suicidal person? No. Did I have any reason to want to hurt myself? No. I felt crazy. I started avoiding knives and having anxiety attacks and googled about it until I started getting other instructive thoughts. Thoughts about sexuality, assault, child molestation, leaving the gas on when I made tea, germs, you name it. My major “compulsion” was reassurance seeking - I spent hours googling the thoughts, and I asked everyone that knew me if they thought I was going to be okay. It was taking over my brain and I could not believe the person I had become. I was sure I was going insane and would end up in a mental hospital. It was rock bottom for me.
I had struggled with anxiety for years, but OCD was different. OCD feels like a personal attack that you can’t control. It feels like something horrible is in your brain, making you think or imagine terrible things that don’t align at all with your morals or beliefs. Yet you have no control over it. It is the WORST feeling I’ve ever had. However, there is a silver lining to this story.
When I started going to treatment, I never thought anything would help me. I was ready to give up and live in this anguish forever. OCD had taken my independence, my confidence, my relationship, and any positive beliefs I had about myself. I was DONE letting it take over. I started therapy, accepted an OCD diagnosis, and eventually began ERP (exposure and response prevention) therapy. I won’t sugar coat it - it was torture to face my worst fears head on, but...slowly, IT WORKED. I was amazed. It felt so freeing and empowering to take back my mind. Little by little, I regained my confidence, I stopped googling, I began thinking in a healthier way, and I stopped fearing the intrusive thoughts. I also did an intensive program with PBS for a week, which seriously tested my patience and my endurance, but which rid some of those thoughts for good (or at least for a while).
Now, I have rebuilt myself and feel stronger than I have in YEARS. I truly never thought it could happen. I got on medication, faced the horrible thoughts coming from this disorder (over and over and over again), took care of my self, and worked extremely hard to separate myself from OCD. I may have lost a few people along the way, but I am better for it and now know how much support I have in my life from others. I can honestly say I feel amazing and I am so proud of myself. I have my life back! And I couldn’t have done it without my treatment providers. OCD does not have to take over - and for what it’s worth, it made me realize how strong I am and how resilient we all can be.