As a child, I always felt that I was different. I thought that I was alone. I secluded myself from others. I didn’t have a lot of friends. I was bullied and spent a lot of time in front of the television and on video games. I disconnected myself from the world around me. I think I was trying to protect myself.
I hid these feelings for a very long time. I didn’t think anyone would understand, that anyone could understand. I didn’t even understand what was happening in my mind.
Growing up, I was smart, and my parents knew it. I always felt I “knew too much.” I never felt comfortable around people my age. I felt everything they did was “childish”. I was always scared of something bad happening when I was around other people, this may have played into the reason that I never got close to people.
My Mom always tells me that as a child I didn’t like getting dirty, and this is something that I still experience today. When I was a child, I noticed that I had odd thoughts that I am now able to see as intrusive thoughts. They were sexual in nature even though I didn’t know much about sex at that young age. I also had a fear of my mother and grandmother possibly dying, this would bother me for a long time. Initially, I did not think too much about it and I thought it was related to me being a child.
Throughout my childhood, I began to develop trust issues. I had difficulty trusting even those close to me. I had experienced a lot of hurt over the years. I had strained relationships with various family members. My father was not present in much of my life, at least not in the ways that I would have liked. The only two people that I felt comfortable around were my mother and my grandmother. They were my biggest supporters, they guided and taught me everything that I know today.
Not having much of a social circle to turn to, I found that my outlet for my emotions was through video games. Due to a very active imagination, I pictured the world in a cartoonish way. I was able to use my imagination to escape the sometimes painful reality of my experiences. I loved playing video games. I liked being brought into their world, and just going along with the story regardless of whether or not I understood it. I was able to be sheltered away in my room playing these games, and that was my life for a long time, I found comfort in that. I never felt comfortable in social settings.
The teen years
I felt like as I became an adolescent I began to struggle more and more with my mental health. My active imagination led me to overthink many things that took place. I had so much pain over things that had happened to me growing up. So many of my family had disappointed me. Everyone kept saying that high school would change things and that it would be the best years of my life, and with how high school was always portrayed in television and movies, I truly believed it would be.
Unfortunately, high school only brought about more turmoil. My depression worsened. I felt like I was spiraling. I felt alone and isolated. My view on relationships had become very negative. Everything seemed to fall apart and I believe that this is where my mental health took a massive turn for the worse.
As time went on, I became more argumentative. I found myself always angry. I started to become more of a recluse. I felt like my life was passing me by. I didn’t understand what was happening in my brain. I was not experiencing what I wanted to out of life. At my darkest moments, I experienced suicidal thoughts.
One night, I was frustrated and found myself unable to fall asleep. Around this same time, there had been some horrific news stories that were popping up and I found myself always saying, “I hope I don’t become like that.” On this particular night, after hearing a news story, I began to have these horrible, awful thoughts of harming my loved ones. I did not know where it came from and up until that moment I had never had these thoughts. It scared me and I felt this urge like pressure come over me, I felt anxious. I wanted to do something to get rid of these feelings. This is when I began having what I call “dark thoughts”. I wanted these thoughts out of my head. I have had bouts of these types of thoughts throughout my life.
I was becoming more emotional, and moody and my irritability was increasing. These thoughts and compulsions were taking up so much of my time and energy.
As time went on, more thoughts became apparent. I struggled with suicidal thoughts back during my earlier years of mental health issues, but this was different. These thoughts were popping up randomly, even when I was in a very positive mood. The sexual thoughts were becoming more present, I already had problems with incestual thoughts, but these were coming up again and now following me into my dreams. Some of my dreams were becoming horrific and gory, usually with me fighting to save my family. Sometimes they were of a sexual and incestual nature. I started to become aware of religious debates going on online and this made me question my own thoughts and started giving me intense anxiety.
Like many teenagers, I looked up things online that I thought would help make me like everyone else. I wanted desperately to not feel so different from them. The content that I searched was dark and twisted, and sexually traumatizing. There was a turning point when I looked up something that triggered me and my life hasn’t felt the same since then. My mind felt “stuck” on that one thing and before I knew it, it seemed that the thoughts were latching onto many areas in my life. My chest would hurt and anxiety would overpower me. My sense of identity felt like it was fading, and I felt intense sadness each day. It was difficult to find the motivation to do anything. Suicidal thoughts rose to the surface, once again. Finally, I told my mom. She questioned what was happening to me. I had told her previously what I had searched online for, as a way of confession or seeking reassurance.
Both my mother and grandmother were there for me. They stood by my side and showed me compassion and support. They thought that if I was more social that I would feel better. We made plans to get me on track in that area, something I really wanted and was happy about. But then COVID hit, and this knocked me down even further. My harmful thoughts worsened. Every single thing that I was already struggling with became more difficult. I began to verbally lash out at my mother and was crying over things that I normally wouldn’t. Certain movies and games were now triggering, I tried to keep it all together.
I finally succumbed to what I was experiencing. I let my mother know just how bad things had gotten for me. We made an appointment with my primary doctor and he diagnosed me with Anxiety, Depression, and PTSD. Eventually, I found out that I had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and was referred to NOCD. I am now working on addressing the OCD symptoms as well as looking into getting treatment for PTSD.
If I were to explain what OCD is, I would use Spider-Man 3 as a way to explain it. In that movie, Peter Parker obtained a black suit and as time went on, he began to slowly turn into a darker, monstrous version of himself devoid of all of the morals and ideas that he stood for. In the movie, there is a quote, after he had hit MJ, she asked him, “Who are you?” and his response was, “I don’t know.” What I experience feels like that. That is what OCD makes me feel like. It can make me feel like I am unsure of who I am and what I believe in. It causes doubt and uncertainty.
I’m constantly reminded of the poster they had for Spider-Man 3, where he looks himself in the mirror and sees the dark side in the reflection. It is everything that isn’t you, like a dark side that you want to get rid of, but every attempt to rid yourself of it, only makes it stronger. Every compulsion only serves to hurt you more. It is slowly destroying you, but you don’t know how to be free of it. Each and every day feels like a constant fight and one that you are losing. It is toxic and you find yourself pushing away from everyone so that you won’t hurt them. It is like a monster you feel unable to control.
I call what I experience, the darkness, like a superhero who has a dark reflection of himself that everyone is ashamed of. It’s something that manifests into shame. It is everything you don’t want. It is something that compels you that you want to expel. It’s like the character in comics or movies who struggles with a dark side, only these are not things I want to do. It is the evil that doesn’t match who they really are as people. You don’t want it. You are desperately trying to fight against it. It’s a toxic thing that needs treatment.
As I go through this journey, I find myself now being disgusted by the depictions of OCD in the entertainment industry. One of my favorite shows has a character who is supposed to have OCD. This character is made into a quirky joke. It is not a joke, and I would implore that whatever idea you, the reader, may have about OCD, erase that from your memory immediately. As someone who suffers from it, it has consumed my life for a long time. It has led me to feel like all of my positivity has been pulled out of me. If you are experiencing this, talk to someone who suffers from it to get a better idea of what it is like living with such a disorder. There is so much information online and in OCD communities. OCD is not comical or quirky; it’s way more destructive, way more debilitating, and stigmatized. OCD has an ugly side. Mental health is complex and cannot fit neatly into a prescribed box.
Where am I now? Fortunately, I and my NOCD therapist are starting to move into ERP practice and we are working towards getting me treatment for PTSD. I am heading back to school next month to pursue a degree in Computer Science. Even better, we are looking into getting me back into acting as I used to go on auditions back when I was a child. I would like to get back into it and pursue a career in voice acting. It has been a struggle, but things are slowly moving forward; I hope my story will help those who need to hear this.