Biyi’s OCD Story

Posted on: April 7th, 2023

In this week’s blog Biyi shares his OCD story:

OCD is oftentimes seen as an interesting personality quirk, someone who just likes things organised or spends a bit longer cleaning up their kitchen. When I was a child I probably would’ve thought the same way, at least when my mind wasn’t dominated by intrusive thoughts that made me constantly question my very identity.  

Looking back now I know I had some form of OCD from probably around the age 5 or 6. My first memory of it was being in primary school, as it was a boys school we usually played quite rough taking the our inspiration from WWF. This day we played cops and robbers, as I aggressively threw my ‘robber’ into prison he hit his head on a rock and blood started to trickle down. He had to be taken out of school for the day so I faced 24 hours of not knowing what happened to my friend. In my mind I had killed him and a started playing out all the possible scenarios that could happen, ‘will I face the ironic fate of being the play cop that would now have to go prison’, ‘what about his family, what if he dies’. These thoughts were with me for the whole 24 hours, I couldn’t stop thinking about it, I felt shame and guilt, ‘why did I have to be so rough?’, ‘Am I evil?’, I repeatedly asked myself these questions. My mum noticed my distress because the next day she came with me to the headmaster’s office to find out what happened to my friend. The headmaster told us there was nothing to worry about, he was fine, just had to wear a bandage for a couple days but he’ll be back at school today. ‘Phew’ I felt relief in that moment but this was only the start of a 30-year struggle with these thoughts.  

The themes changed over the years, when I was young it was more about the fear of getting in trouble as I got older it evolved into thoughts about myself image, I felt my chest was too big at one point which even led to me calling a plastic surgeon at the age of 14. Then they finally settled on this unshakable thought that I was gay, from the moment I woke up till I went to sleep this thought would always be in the back of my head. Even when it was quiet it felt like it was there, almost like a predator waiting for me to engage with it. What I now know kept it going, was the energy I gave it, I would constantly try and ‘get rid’ of the thought. I would ruminate constantly, try and outsmart it, use logic with myself, this resulted in battles every day of my life in my mind. These battles made my external life worse.  

One of my theories about OCD is that it can strike you when you don’t know how to deal with life, when you feel out of control. As a young boy growing up in South London without a good support system I felt completely out of control. OCD almost gives you something to focus on, but it’s like doing a deal with the devil. It causes so much pain with the promise of ‘if I can just work this thought out everything will be ok’, Its never OK, even if you do drop a specific thought another thought is following right after just like buses.  

The worst feeling is feeling alone and that no one will understand you. In my head I was gay, I was just fooling myself that I wasn’t. I would look at males and try and work out if I was attracted to them and then I would look at females and think ‘I’m not attracted enough to them’. It was constant, I would look online for answers, trawling through forums, asking whether you could just be gay all of a sudden. I wanted a solution, I just wanted to know either way, but no answer was ever satisfying. A couple times I considered just coming out, but that never made sense because I didn’t actually want to be with a man, I’d never fantasised about a man but that made it even more confusing as to why I thought I might be gay, this argument between me and the OCD thoughts would go on and on indefinitely never actually coming to a satisfying conclusion. 

One person I did confide in was my girlfriend at the time and although she didn’t understand it and it made no sense to her, she was very supportive and did try to understand which actually helped me a lot just to be able to get some of this stuff out of my head.  

Eventually, I worked out this must be OCD after looking online. I felt relief hearing others stories because it was exactly my experience. Just knowing didn’t stop the thoughts but it did give me an important perspective. I learnt that this was something that can be improved and worked on, and my choices were basically give up or do the work and try and get myself out of this, no one was coming to save me I said to myself. So, I signed up for CBT on the NHS.  

It took a little while, if I remember correctly about 6 months on the NHS waiting list but eventually I was offered 10 sessions with a local CBT therapist. She taught me how to deal with thoughts but even in these sessions I never actually talked about the theme, I still couldn’t do it, which shows the hold OCD had on me. It took until the very last session where I knew I hadn’t tackled my theme and I had to tell the therapist because it was no or never, so I took a deep breath and most likely mumbled that I thought I might have OCD and that the theme was worrying about being gay. I watched for her reaction, maybe she would say ‘of course you’re gay that makes sense’ or maybe she would try and hide her reaction because it was true. Her actual reaction was kind of no reaction, she just seemed to understand what I was saying and let me know that I could have further sessions if I needed. I took her up on this and had 6 more sessions that revolved around the theme. Straight I felt relief as I could actually be honest with how I felt, in a way I almost felt like someone who was actually in the closet and had this huge secret to hide because I felt that I couldn’t tell this to anyone.  

Probably being open about my thoughts helped more than the actual sessions but they were helpful nonetheless and set a good foundation for my recovery.  

Over the next few years I would oscillate between intense anxiety and relative calmness. I became a student of OCD and read books, watched YouTube videos and documentaries about it, I wanted to know everything, mostly because I felt that would be the way out for me. I tried to install good habits, like exercise, good diet, speaking to friends and family more.  

When I was 25 I got diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, which is an auto-immune disease where your immune system attacks your colon as it sees it as a threat. This made life very difficult and gave me almost an excuse to not do anything, I could probably claim benefits and just avoid everything and everyone and have a good, justifiable, reason. My belief, although the doctors can’t confirm or deny, is that the illness was brought on by stress and most likely bad diet. With UC there would be times when it would flare up and be severe, some of the symptoms were not being able to digest food, bleeding when going to the toilet, extreme diarrhoea, fatigue, all in all you just feel terrible. There was an occasion where I lost about 20kg in two weeks, which was nearly a quarter of my body weight.  

Luckily, I got put on a medication a few years in that basically put me into remission, but having UC and OCD was really tough but I didn’t want either to beat me, especially not the OCD.

This could be because I had already gone so far in the journey that I just needed to look at root causes and have someone else’s perspective on the whole thing. Through this therapy I realised that I had never vocalised a lot of how my childhood was or even how I was internally. I’d always had a shield around all of that, so to actually get all that out felt cathartic. I realised that the OCD had developed as almost a protector of my internal self or child self. As long as I was focused on the OCD I wasn’t focused on how bad and out of control I felt inside. I had not learnt how to accept and honour my feelings, everything was about how I needed to change. This was so key for me because ultimately you can’t cure OCD, the same way you can’t ‘cure’ your thoughts. What you can do is learn how to accept every thought and feeling that arises within you and this is the journey I took even though up until being confronted with it, I didn’t know I was on the journey.  

Now I do occasionally get thoughts but I know that they will just come and go I don’t hold any importance to them. When somethings not there you don’t tend to dwell on it, it’s kind of like if you have the flu it’s all you can focus on but once it’s gone you don’t really think about it. But I do like to think every so often about how grateful I am that I had this journey and how much improved I am than before. Also, I really want to help others who are going through a similar story and let them know how my journey was and that there light at the end of the tunnel. Because when you’re in that tunnel it can just feel like all there is, is darkness.  

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2 thoughts on “Biyi’s OCD Story”

  1. Avatar Marvin T says:

    Bro, great read. Very insightful. I look forward to hearing more about your journey and understanding more about OCD.

  2. Avatar Paula says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. My son Joseph has been suffering with acute OCD that truly has always been a part of his ADHD, and processing disorders, but the compulsions came on in an “acute” phase that has lingered now well over a year…I think he could truly benefit from talking to you. Would you be willing?..He is 22, and is really struggling, as most of his day is riddled with compulsions.
    Your story and his has a lot of similarities, and all the therapy and pills only slightly have improved his condition…He does feel very alone….Thank you for reading this, and if you can connect with him that would be great!!…I’ll give you my info and then I will share his if your willing…Thank you ….Paula

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