A Fathers Journey with OCD

Posted on: January 13th, 2023

In this week’s blog Michael Smith shares his OCD story.


My name is Michael Smith. I’m a twenty-nine-year-old film camera dealer and musician from Portsmouth. I’ve suffered on and off with anxiety since the age of sixteen. During that time I’ve jumped onto medication during difficult periods and come off again when the anxiety subsided. However, following the birth of my son, my anxiety reached new heights. This time the medication did not help and it was this experience that led to me eventually being diagnosed with OCD.

Becoming a father, as any parent would attest, is an enormous shock. Everyone will tell you just how much your life will change and then that baby arrives and the reality thunders into you.

Six weeks after my son was born, I went back to performing as part of a high-end function band, which gig across the country. I was eager to get back out to work. Yet beneath the surface I knew things were not right. June arrived and with it a packed calendar of weddings and corporate events. It was then that I heard the voice of OCD.

‘You’re getting worse. You’ll never get better. One day, you’ll kill yourself,’ it said.

Upon reflection it was not my first experience with OCD. Indeed, I can now see that I have been living with it for years. But this was my first experience with suicidal-themed OCD. At the time I tried to lean back on what had got me through previous episodes of anxiety, mindfulness practice, plenty of sleep and a healthy diet. Soon enough the thoughts became so overwhelming that I was unable to work. Each night I’d get into bed and hold my wife tight, as a barrage of thoughts crashed through my head.

‘Tomorrow morning you will throw yourself in front of a train.’ – ‘You’re going to hang yourself.’ – ‘You’re going to jump off a motorway bridge.’

I was still gigging and had somehow managed to get through half of June’s dates. However, I was at breaking point and my performances were cancelled. Despite a now free calendar, my symptoms continued to worsen. I was a new father but I was blind to my son. I stopped changing him and effectively left my wife manage alone. All I saw was doom, fear and my impending death.

By the end of June, the intrusive thoughts had convinced that I was suicidal, despite the fact that I did not want to die. I remember pleading with my wife and parents.

‘Please don’t let me die. I don’t want to die.’

This was my lowest point. I still remember the look in my wife’s eye as I sobbed into my parents arms. My dad booked an appointment with a psychiatrist and I was initially diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and prescribed a new medication. Yet what I did not see, what I was unable to show the psychiatrist, was just how addicted to reassurance I had become. I read everything I could find on intrusive thoughts and listened to podcast after podcast to try and make sense of what I was going through. The content I found was initially reassuring. Yet the reassurance soon waned. I gave the new medication six weeks, but things were still not right. So I booked a follow up. This time, I had my wife and mum on the call with me. They were able to offer insight I could not. They highlighted my reassurance addiction and repeated calls, where I sought validation that I was not in fact suicidal.

The diagnosis was immediate. OCD. I was prescribed a new anti-depressant and my family implemented a cold-turkey ban on reassurance.

The initial transition from one anti-depressant onto another was bumpy. Yet as the medication started to settle and I refused the compulsions, I noticed a significant change, as the amount of obsessive thoughts dropped drastically.

Days out at the beach and time with friends became a regular in my diary. Best of all, I truly felt like a father again. As my wife was still doing the nightly feed, I offered to get our son up each morning. It was in those quiet moments that I really came to know my boy. To know his quirks, his sense of humour, what he liked and didn’t like, what his favourite shows were and what time he went down for his nap.

Eight weeks before, I had been racked with fear. Now, I was being the father I’d always wanted to be.

        

At the end of October, I decided to the time was right to start ERP therapy. During treatment, I was encouraged to face my worst fears. Initially I had two sessions a week, but after five weeks that dropped down to once weekly. Therapy was difficult and not something I particularly looked forward to. My exposures included staring at pictures of suicide memorials and reading articles about people who had taken their life. However, after four weeks of treatment I noticed that I did not fear the thoughts as I once had. I was also able to recognise other compulsions I was not aware of.

It’s now been seven months since my breakdown. If you were expecting me to say ‘and OCD is long gone’ you’d be mistaken. In fact, December was a challenging month. However, what has changed dramatically is my response. In the past, an OCD or anxiety spike would cause me to panic.

Therapy has shown me that these thoughts and these feelings will pass if I let them. And yes, I still get the thoughts. I will probably have them for many years to come and have to make peace with the fact that I might always experience them. However, that does not mean to say that I will always suffer with them. That is the future I am working toward, not the eradication of intrusive thoughts but rather the ability to sit with the discomfort and let it pass.


Thank you so much Michael for sharing your story!

One thought on “A Fathers Journey with OCD”

  1. Avatar Ollie says:

    You should be so proud of yourself with how far you’ve come in the last few months! Well done for sharing your story.

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