My first experience with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) came at the age of 7 years old, with severe intrusive thoughts. As I got older, my OCD progressively became worse. I began a battle with hand-washing when I reached my teen years, and I’d be stuck at the sink for over an hour washing my hands repeatedly until they “felt clean.” Eventually, I had to get medication to heal the bleeding, cracked and raw skin because of all the rubbing.
I tried to keep my compulsions hidden, but ultimately, some of them were seen by other people. It’s not easy being in high school with compulsions because other kids made fun of me, including my brothers. Siblings always have their conflicts growing up, but having them tease me for my OCD-related behavior and compulsions was especially hard on me. Of course, they didn’t know any better, and why should they? My brothers didn’t know what I was going through.
In fact, no one in my family or at school recognized what I was going through, because OCD was neither a topic of discussion nor a condition that adults understood. Because of the lack of awareness surrounding OCD, I never received treatment or a proper diagnosis. Even if my family did recognize my OCD and wanted to get me into treatment, finding an OCD specialist that treated teens and adolescents would have been an incredibly difficult task.
When I reached adulthood, my OCD manifested into different subtypes, including relationship, religious and contamination OCD. Managing life became incredibly tough because I worked as a dental assistant, and I lived in constant fear of being contaminated by patients and work equipment. I loved my job, but eventually, the anxiety caused by my OCD became too much to bear. I had to quit.
I eventually lost friends for a time due to my OCD, because I wasn’t able to see how my need for control and reassurance were affecting others around me. I wasn’t able to care about people the way I needed to because I was spending an incredible amount of time dealing with my unwanted OCD thoughts and obsessions. I finally hit a breaking point . Life hit me hard and I had a choice: Fight or flight. I was finally choosing to fight.
Join our supportive OCD communityDownload our app
Things got worse during the coronavirus pandemic. Given my contamination OCD, I did what many people found themselves doing — spending a lot of time browsing online — except I was on a mission to get help. The experience was disheartening, given that I had seen different therapists in the past but I never came out any better. Plus, the high cost of therapy that I was expecting was bringing me down. But I kept going, kept searching. I was at the end of my rope, and I had to find treatment that was going to be effective.
I came across the NOCD app in the app store, and decided to give them a call.
I spoke to a NOCD care representative that understood what I was going through, and they convinced me to sign up for therapy. The treatment I was given is called exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy, which puts you in front of what you fear so that you sit with your anxiety while you learn not to rely on compulsions. I had to do things that scared the crap out of me, over and over and over again. And then I had to take treatment a step further. I had to confront all the things I was avoiding and all the inner voices I was listening to instead of logic. I had to be willing to risk my temporary “comfort” for permanent success.
Slowly, I started to gain my life back. I started washing my hands less, using chemicals that always freaked me out and letting go of my need for relational control and reassurance.
I can now say that after 19 years of having OCD, I am in full recovery. Doing teletherapy took a session to get used to, but once I got comfortable with video sessions, I loved them. Thanks to my therapist, multiple subtypes didn’t make the sessions more challenging because we were able to address each subtype at the proper time. By advocating time for each of them, I was able to handle my sessions without added anxiety
Even though my therapy with NOCD has ended, I check in with my therapist, touching base from time to time if I have a question. The best part is that NOCD invited me to become a peer advisor. Having gone through therapy, I can help others with OCD who are hesitant to get the help they need by sharing my story with them directly. The most rewarding feeling? Hearing someone on a call tell me, “Wow, I feel like I can do this.”
My life now compared to last year is a night-and-day difference. I feel “normal” for the first time since I was a kid. The voices are still there sometimes, but I finally have the tools to shut them up. I have a successful relationship now. There is nothing holding me back from school or jobs. I have no need to ask my family reassurance questions or use an entire bottle of soap in one sitting.
Being a part of the NOCD family has been the biggest of blessings. I get to take something that negatively took over so much of my life and use it to help others find positivity and light in theirs. I get to talk to people starting their own journey to recovery, letting them know that they are not alone. I can support them, empower them and make them feel like there’s real hope for them.
Take it from me, someone who suffered from OCD for almost their entire life — freedom from OCD is attainable, and I’m happy to say it holds me down no more. Trust me, if I can put in the work and change, you can too.
Get effective ERP therapyBook a free call