Seb’s OCD Story

Posted on: February 24th, 2023

In this week’s blog, Seb Joyce shares his OCD story.

My name is Seb Joyce, I am a 37-year-old British Army Officer, husband, and father of two girls. I enjoy running, climbing, reading, board gaming and spending time with my family. I also suffer from OCD.

The evening of 26th August 2021 changed my life forever. It’s when OCD first decided to show how cruel it could be. Out of nowhere as my wife and I were getting ready for bed, a thought popped into my head ‘what if you put that pillow over your wife’s face?’. I felt sick, what was that? Sickness turned to terror, and I had to leave immediately. Without explanation I got up and left, spending the next few hours walking around in the dark trying to work out what was happening. Eventually I came home and fell sleep on the couch, hoping to wake up and never to think of it again.

Unfortunately, the opposite happened and my obsessing over those horrible thoughts only got worse. What I now know as rumination took over; my days were consumed with thinking and analysing – what was that thought about? Am I a psychopath? Do I have a harmful personality? Each thought required thorough checking, for example – combing back through memories of my life to uncover ‘signs’ that I was a bad person. Along for the ride with the rumination came anxiety, a loss of appetite and brain fog, I couldn’t concentrate and steadily withdrew into myself.

At this point, I still had no idea of what OCD really was and I went through a couple of months of talk therapy and beta blockers to try and ‘fix’ what was going on. Suffice to say, neither helped. Throughout, the intrusive thoughts continued, gained strength, and shifted themes on me. Harm remained front and centre, but increasingly were joined with thoughts about cancer, was I losing my mind, was I dying and then finally, the one that stuck for a long time – was this schizophrenia? I made accommodations to keep myself and others safe; don’t be near knives, don’t be with the kids alone, in fact, don’t be alone with anyone. I didn’t know at the time, but I was simply making myself sicker by treating the thoughts so seriously.

By mid-December I hit rock bottom. I had lost almost 6kg and looked gaunt, I had constant anxiety and I lived in a nightmare world of horrible intrusive thoughts and mental compulsions to get rid of them. On a trip with a friend, I went to the toilet and heard a song my daughter and I used to dance so carefreely too; and burst into tears. A thought popped up ‘you’re probably going to kill yourself’. I had no intention of doing that, but a new fear was born – what if I did it even if I didn’t want to? I was so scared all the time I could barely function as an adult, let alone a father.

Thankfully, around Christmas time I found a link to NOCD – an online OCD therapy service. They said they could do an assessment and get me started with a therapist quickly and I am so glad I did. Looking back, I don’t know where I would be if I hadn’t met my therapist, Brian. Without judgement, without surprise or shock, he listened and calmly confirmed that I was showing the symptoms of OCD and delivered the bombshell… they would never go away – there was no going back to pre-26th August 2021 Seb. Instead, the objective would be to reframe how I reacted to these thoughts and the tool to do this with would be Exposure and Response Prevention.

Meeting Brian and starting ERP marked the turning point for me, but by no means has my recovery (so far) been a straight line. I have had OCD change themes on me, I developed depersonalisation and derealisation for a time and often forgot to apply the principles I had painstakingly learnt when OCD thoughts arose. While OCD has changed themes on me, the core Harm and ‘losing my sanity’ fears remain its go-to topics.

But I am better.

So much better. I still have the same intrusive thoughts, but I deal with them differently. Rather than being an important, urgent revelation that requires my attention, I try to see them more as something that might grab your attention but means nothing. I am aware I am lucky; my wife has been a rock throughout, and I have a hugely supportive wider family and group of friends. I found an OCD therapist and with help, was able to afford it. This is not the case for everyone

I have found tremendous support and value from knowing that I’m not alone and that my OCD is not unique. OCD makes you doubt everything, it is insidious, smart and relentless. But it can be managed. Had I known more about OCD in August 2021 perhaps I wouldn’t have spent a few months adrift, terrified that I was a bad person, terminally ill, or psychotic. It is so important we share our stories so that others know they aren’t alone, so we can raise the collective understanding of OCD and break the myth that this disorder is simply just about germs and straight lines.

Tags: , ,

One thought on “Seb’s OCD Story”

  1. Avatar Lindsey says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your story. I too started suffering from painful ocd in my mid 30s, with two young kids in two. Same worries about losing my mind, dying of cancer or other terminal illnesses. It’s so difficult. I’ve learned so much and ERP and insight about ocd has helped me tremendously. Also leaning towards my values and what matters. Someone told me that ocd can’t live in the present. And that helps me reset. I’m glad you got the help you needed when you did. That for many is a big part of the battle – figuring out it’s OCD.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *