I was sitting on the steps of the psychology building at Georgia Southern University with a dark, terrifying poem I had written in my hands about my OCD. But this time, I had a smile on my face while reading it. Smiles had been hard to come by these last eight weeks of my HOCD relapse. But, I felt different today. I read through the tear-streaked poem which reflected the darkened hole I occupied with no signs of hope. I wanted to tear the paper up. But I thought I should hang onto it to remember. To never forget the torment I had been through. I may need reminding someday.
Today though, I felt optimistic. I was four weeks into Exposure Response Prevention therapy and I was finally feeling bouts of relief lasting more than just a few minutes. I had gone an entire morning without the bad thoughts, the bad groinal feeling, and the crippling anxiety. I couldn’t believe life could feel like this. The tears began to fall onto the poem for a much different reason this time than usual. They were tears of joy. I felt actual optimism. Those feelings were foreign territory for me. But, now I could hope.
I looked up into the sky and said out loud, “One day I hope to be able to tell my story of living with these horrible thoughts, surviving a suicide attempt, and learning to live and be okay with this debilitating disorder’. As soon as the last word came out of my mouth, a dark feeling of shame came over me. It was as if OCD was speaking back to me saying, “No one will ever believe you. No one will accept you. No one will love you if they know.’ And I lowered my head to obey the command of shame. I will never tell.
I lived for the next 14 years in silence and in shame. I told only glossed over details of my experience if I had to. I believed the lies OCD told me that ‘if anyone knew, they would not believe you. They would judge and leave you’. I lived a life simmering in anger and sadness, harboring a secret I felt would expose me as some kind of monster. While I knew that I had OCD and none of my obsessions were a reflection of my character, my wants, or my desires, there was still the ‘what if’ fears surrounding other people. I couldn’t control whether people believed me or not, but OCD assured me they would think horribly of me.
That silence ended for me in 2011 in the midst of a terrible relapse. As I worked my way out of the paralyzing symptoms of harm and relationship OCD, I had an incredible realization. I had a choice. I can either be angry, sad, and keep living in silence about my experience, or I could take the risk and tell my story out loud and try to help others living in silence as well. I knew there were others like me, I just didn’t know who or where they were! I wanted to find them. So, I joined Toastmasters and learned how to speak publicly.
For the next five years, I took any speaking engagement I could, started a podcast, and branded myself as someone not afraid to speak about the unspeakable type of OCD that is Pure O sexual and violent intrusive thoughts. It was scary but liberating! As I became more confident in my speaking ability, I began sharing more details about my story. Each time I would go into detail, my OCD would caution me about the repercussions of my actions. But each time, just like ERP therapy, I would ignore OCD and face the fears of rejection and judgment. An amazing thing happened. I began meeting people all over the world with Pure OCD. They gave me more hope, more courage, and more drive to speak even louder. It is all of the wonderful people who encouraged me that helped me attain recovery, speak my truth, and rid myself of the embarrassment and judgment that comes along with having OCD. I will forever be grateful to our community of people who live with OCD.
The culmination of all the suffering from Pure OCD and the personal stigma and pain that followed has paid off. I have been able to finally publish the story of my life with emetophobia, HOCD, and scrupulosity without fear. This has been the ultimate goal of mine that OCD has always given me pushback on. But, I have won. I beat OCD.
Today, I revisit that girl so long ago who sat on the steps of the psychology building as tears roll down her face. I look at her and I say to her, “You have a long road ahead of you, but you will speak out. You will tell your story. You will overcome OCD. And you will help those who are unable to find hope just yet, see that OCD can be defeated.’
My hope is that you can find solace and comfort in knowing you are not alone. You are not a monster. You are not the one person that can’t be helped. You won’t be judged or rejected because of your obsessions. And you are worthy and deserving to live a good life.
If you decide to read my memoir, I would love to hear your feedback and how it relates to your journey of living with Pure OCD.
Thank you for your continued support. Keep fighting!
Mental Health Advocate, Peer Support Specialist, ERP Coach; Effective OCD Treatment, Author; Pure OCD: The Invisible Side of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder