I have always had obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). I remember my first intrusive thought at the age of 8. It started with religious scrupulosity, where I would have thoughts about going to a “bad” place: “am I sinning?” and “am I doing things right?” I consider myself a Christian so I was always very worried. At the time, I didn’t know it was OCD, because I thought OCD was just about wanting things symmetrical, wanting to clean all the time, or about things needing to be just right. My obsessions later evolved into existential OCD, which led to thoughts like “what’s the meaning of all this? Is it someone controlling us? Do we even have a choice? Is anything even real?”
It scared me, and I even had panic attacks, but I was never able to share that with my parents since I didn’t know what was wrong. If I said anything at all, I would explain these thoughts as if they had occurred in a dream, even though I was wide awake when I had them.
In my teenage years, I started having sexually intrusive thoughts, with thoughts, images, and urges that I felt were inappropriate. False memories became tied to these obsessions—I actually thought I might have done something inappropriate with one of my siblings, although I had not. My subtype later became sexual orientation OCD, and I’d always think, “Oh my gosh. Am I living a lie?”
OCD caused me to hit rock bottom—until I found the right treatment
For years and years, I struggled with OCD without knowing what it really was. It terrified me, but all the while, I continued suffering in silence. It was very painful sometimes, but I felt that I could continue living my life. Then everything changed for me in 2020. When the world halted due to the pandemic, every single thought I had ever had because of OCD presented itself at the same time. Thoughts that had been a frightening distraction before became more aggressive, frequent, and overpowering.
That’s when I started experiencing suicidal ideation. I was so scared that I hospitalized myself. Unfortunately, even in that hospital setting, they still didn’t understand OCD. I saw a psychologist and psychiatrist and was given medication for Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Of course, neither worked because I wasn’t properly diagnosed.
I left the hospital no better than when I got there. The suicidal ideation and intrusive thoughts continued: “I don’t want to do this anymore. Maybe I don’t want to wake up.” My son was going away to college, my 10-year anniversary with my husband was coming up, and I had two little girls that were growing up before my eyes—but because of these thoughts, I could not enjoy any of that. I could not be intimate with my husband. I could not be affectionate with my younger children. I could not celebrate my son’s accomplishments.
Instead, I worried I didn’t really love my husband, and whether I would do or had done anything to harm my children. So many everyday things triggered OCD: being around my children, hearing songs, watching TV. I could not even write the word “children.” It was just so overwhelming. I saw five different providers over a three-month period, but I still didn’t know what was wrong. They didn’t know how to help me. I felt like everything in my life was a lie, and this time, I locked myself away from everything and everyone.
I became housebound, staying only in my master bedroom and away from my family at all times. I wouldn’t leave my room or let anyone else in. Out of desperation and extreme fear, I started desperately researching online to figure out what this suffering could be. Although I was worried about my search history being found, I still searched in hopes that I wasn’t the only one going through this, and that I could be helped. When I typed in my obsessions related to pedophilia OCD—my worst fear at the time—I found NOCD.
I immediately downloaded the app and saw a community of people going through the same thing I was. I couldn’t believe it. Then I realized they offered exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy and decided to try it. At this point, I had nothing to lose. Unlike other providers I had seen in the past, therapists at NOCD specialized in OCD, so I had some hope.
Still, before my very first session, I was scared out of my wits. I feared my therapist would have me arrested once I opened up. Instead, she told me that I was in the right place and that she could help me. I immediately felt relieved and broke down. I felt validated. Of course, OCD was still in the background telling me “This is not going to work for you.” But I persevered and did it anyway. My NOCD therapist was non-judgmental, asked the right questions, and wasn’t fazed in any way by my obsessions. She knew how to help me.
After only a month of therapy, I already felt like a new person. I met with my therapist weekly, and I did my ERP homework consistently. My therapist and I had a lot of conversations in between sessions, which was invaluable to my recovery process. I attended Dr. McGrath’s weekly Q&As. After three months, I knew for sure that ERP was working for me.
Life after conquering OCD
Going through OCD therapy was a life-saver. I learned how to handle those terrifying thoughts. I learned how to implement tools and exercises anytime I needed them or was triggered by new obsessions. I was finally able to beat OCD. But getting treatment has actually helped me in all areas of my life, not just with OCD—it helped me truly become present and not live in the land of “what if.” It strengthened me. It helped me gain intuition and it broadened my horizons. I learned how to live and not just exist. Before, my life was about my routine each day—wake up, brush your teeth, take the kids to school, go to work, come home, and repeat. Now, I’m able to live with purpose.
OCD caused me so much suffering it made me feel like I didn’t want to be on this earth; now I take every day as a blessing. I enjoy every moment. I take in the colors around me and the birds singing each morning. I became in tune with myself. I’m noticing that I feel like I’m more deserving of good things than before. Conquering OCD gave me back my self-esteem. Now I no longer feel like a monster—I feel worthy.
Being able to manage OCD has even changed the course of my life’s work. Before I sought therapy, I was a personal assistant and owned a business cleaning homes, where I had 40 clients each month. OCD had affected my work, too—I got to a point where I couldn’t go into people’s homes without being triggered. Upon completing therapy, I decided I didn’t want to go back, but for different reasons: I realized that what I enjoyed was taking care of people, and that there were many ways for me to do that. I liked to help people feel comfortable in their own environment and in their own lives. I’m a caregiver and an empath. So after treatment, when I started to feel better, I began thinking about what else I could do to help others.
I connected with NOCD again and became an advocate in the NOCD Community. I loved doing it but had a yearning for more. Then, I joined the Care Team and eventually became a Member Advocate, where I can help others who are beginning their own treatment and recovery journeys at NOCD. I finally felt I was in the right place.
I know firsthand how OCD wants us to feel embarrassed, ashamed, and alone, so for our members to be able to speak to someone else who not only understands OCD, but who has been where they are before, is life-changing for both of us. I am able to take this very personal, negative experience that I would never wish on anyone else, and make it into something that I’m grateful for every day. I’m grateful to be able to talk to others who live with this condition just like me, and to be at a company that’s willing to hire people with this condition. As our members heal, I’m able to heal more, too.
I also want to help people in BIPOC communities and from other cultures and countries, where mental health, in general, may not be spoken about, much less conditions like OCD which can bring shame and often include taboo, disgusting, embarrassing, or aggressive intrusive thoughts. I’m proud to be able to share my story and help others feel less alone, too.
Getting to this point has been a roller coaster, but now, every day is full of new learnings, and I’m a better person for it. I’m happy again, and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.