Anonymous OCD Story

Posted on: June 17th, 2024

My Journey with OCD: Daring To Hope

I’m a 27-year-old musician from North London. My journey with OCD has been an incredibly confusing and multifaceted one, shaped significantly by what could be called ROCD. My ROCD extends beyond romantic relationships, affecting my connections with friends, music, art, geographical places, memories, and even emotions themselves.

The earliest memory I have of OCD dates back to when I was around 8 or 9. At age 11, I had what I now know are clear signs of OCD, with comorbidity of symptoms of anxiety and depression, and when I think back to those times, they seem impossibly emotionally bleak. Although these symptoms reduced around 13-15, they resurfaced with a vengeance during my first romantic relationship at 16. The isolation, fear of madness, unexplainable turmoil, confusion, and repulsion at my own mind is something that I will never forget. Within six weeks, I had gone from being in the most confident period of my life, to having suicidal thoughts.

In 2014, a year into that relationship, I really was reaching a breaking point, and was starting to fear that I couldn’t survive the onslaught of horrendous thoughts much longer. In desperation, I dared to search online for “fear of being a paedophile”, half-wondering if GCHQ were monitoring me as I searched. I was stunned – there were thousands of results about OCD. Reading the symptoms list on the OCD-UK website felt like someone had written a book about me. As many of us OCDers know though, realising that you are not alone, is absolutely life-changing – but it does not solve the disordered thinking.

The relationship ended shortly after that discovery – we were both troubled teenagers – but my mental health issues persisted. After moving out to university and being in a generally turbulent mental state in London for 1.5 years, I talked to a university counsellor, who urged me to immediately seek help. I was surprised by that – I’d never taken my problems seriously. My perception of what constituted a legitimate mental health problem had been unintentionally skewed by having psychiatrist parents who met in a high secure psychiatric hospital, bless them. As doctors, I might add, not patients.

And so began many years of talking therapy. It provided really valuable insights into my past, and connecting those times to what I was currently feeling – but it didn’t directly address my OCD, or give me the tools to deal with it as it was happening. In 2019, after OCD decided to try and crash and burn my brain again, I really stepped up my recovery efforts. Apart from listening to countless hours of the OCD Stories podcast (Stu I love you), and reading as much as I could about my disorder, I had a brief course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) in 2019 and subsequent therapy with NOCD in 2021. Both of these therapies offered further insights, but nothing seemed to really be sticking.

When I found myself in an unending moody, depressive, and incredibly angry depressive fog in the summer of 2021, I felt like my brain had to be reset, so I began taking Sertraline. It has helped alleviate my depressive symptoms and facilitate the work I had done in therapy – and also makes me less unbearable to live with (much to my partner’s relief!). However, if you are thinking of taking anti-depressants, please research thoroughly. I researched a LOT before taking Sertraline, and I had done a lot of other therapeutic work prior to taking it. There are no magic bullets that I know of yet, but there is definitely a pre- and post-Sertraline me.

Something that remains unchanged through all of this is the automatic, knee-jerk perception I have of my OCD. It has always felt like a foreign body, an alien invader intruding on my life, like a monster from an absurd bad dream. Conversely, when I’m feeling really low without much conscious OCD activity, everything around me seems to slow down into what I call ‘dead-end pain’. I can feel the intense urge to binge eat and can get very angry and difficult to be around. And yet, as horrible as this is, it doesn’t feel foreign. For some reason, my brain accepts it, perhaps because it is less ‘bizarre’, and society would probably understand that feeling and the overt causation for it more than OCD.  

Put it this way, if you say to someone that you are really sad because your dog died, you would anticipate that they could understand that right? But if you told them that you’re in utter turmoil because of your hyper-fixation on a specific component of your best friend’s voice, or something equally bizarre, it might be pretty difficult to trust that someone would understand. So, accepting OCD is a long and challenging journey.

At 27, I am currently receiving proper OCD treatment at a high-quality treatment centre for the first time. Learning about Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) has proven challenging and helpful so far. Additionally, I am increasingly interested in the potential of psychedelics, particularly psilocybin, as a treatment for OCD. Inspired by Rose Cartwright’s “The Maps We Carry” and keen to learn more about Professor David Nutt’s research on psychedelics, I am cautiously optimistic about the future of treatment for this disorder.

My journey with OCD is ongoing. Despite all these hardships and my tendency towards turbulent emotional states, I have experienced times of incredible happiness in my life and continue to have hope every day. I want to live a life with the ability to feel connected to people, be a decent person, and to find pride and profound emotional meaning in my and other people’s creative work. It is not a coincidence that all three of these goals are the main targets for my OCD. The courage to love and experience joy is a very underestimated strength.

“There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” – Leonard Cohen

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