My OCD journey began when I was a teenager. I remember watching the OCD true life episode on MTV and thinking “I can’t imagine having something that is so isolating.” Shortly after that is when my OCD started to present itself. I had to touch something 4 times, or more but it had to be in an even number before I could go onto something else. I had to have the TV on an even number. I had to stir my drinks an even number of times. The loop was constant and endless. One day, it seemingly got better. I thought it was just a weird time in my life and that it was something I could look back on.
The pandemic changed things
Then 2021 rolled around. During the pandemic, I began to have intrusive thoughts again. It started the way it always does, small, but kept growing. I was able to brush the thoughts off in the beginning, but then they became sticky. The thoughts became so intrusive and invasive, I couldn’t fully function properly. I shut myself off from my family whenever possible, out of fear, that I was going to harm them.
I can’t remember what exactly I looked up or how exactly I worded it, but Google came back with a search result: Pedophile OCD, or POCD for short. Honestly, reading it at first gave me a huge sigh of relief. I’m not a monster! I must have this condition. It seemed that I wasn’t alone. I was not in treatment yet at this time, so I wasn’t truly diagnosed. It was more of a really good guess.
So I continued on and it became this thing with me. A thought pops up, it’s definitely POCD, move on if you can. The problem with this was that I wasn’t doing ERP. I was just guessing and hoping that would make it better and make it go away. It didn’t. Not fully. I would cry at work. It would torment me. It would tell me I was a terrible person who didn’t deserve to live for having these thoughts. How could a MOTHER have these thoughts about her own CHILDREN? What kind of MONSTER thinks these things? Why won’t it stop? It must mean something. It must be true because it won’t stop.
Treatment at last
Finally, at the end of May 2022, I contacted NOCD. I had known about NOCD for months but did not take the leap due to financial reasons. I did what I could to make it so it was affordable for me because I knew I needed help. From June 2022 to January 2023 I was in therapy. ERP taught me that I can handle these things. I am stronger than I give myself credit for. I am not a terrible person for having a thought. A thought does not mean anything. Feelings do not mean anything. Urges do not mean anything. At the end of the day, you are in control of yourself, even when OCD says you’re not. I got my life back, but that’s not to say that I don’t struggle still at times. I still have thoughts, feelings, and urges. I still go through the waves of OCD.
The biggest thing I’ve learned with therapy is that you cannot unlearn all that you have already learned. OCD will always come up with one more “What if?”, “You HAVE to”, “I demand you do this or XYZ will happen”. You will have the tools in your toolbox to know how to deal with it. You will know how to be one step ahead of it. If it trips you up, it’s not a failure.
You are not a terrible person and even thinking about wanting to get better shows how strong and courageous you really are. OCD will always want to keep you stuck. ERP is how you become unstuck. The most difficult part of therapy was the very beginning. You’re messing with OCD’s cycle and not giving it what it wants anymore. Those first few months can be difficult while you’re unlearning all of those behaviors that you believed kept you safe. OCD does not want to keep you safe. It wants to keep you stuck. It is extremely helpful to have a therapist to help guide you through ERP because what works for one person may not be what works for you.
How ERP worked for me
A few examples of the ERP that I did was to spend time with my children. I know how simple that sounds, but to have OCD constantly telling you that you must want something or that you’re going to do something makes it very tricky. It was uncomfortable at first and there was a lot of anxiety. But the more I was able to just see how happy my children were to spend time with their mom, the more I started to get myself back. Other examples include writing out a script in the NOCD app, doing a loop tape, looking at clothing catalogs with kids’ pictures, and watching kids’ movies. A good script example is “What am I doing, what am I afraid of, what is the worst case scenario”. And I would keep reading this over and over again until it just turned into words on a page. You can add more detail as well when you’re going along to prove that they are just words and to take the power back from OCD in terms of something feeling fearful. The loop tape is helpful because it is your voice saying the words or phrases that might be upsetting. I would record a 30-60 second loop tape and then go for a walk while listening to it.
Recovery is possible: I am living proof
I love my kids very much and want the absolute best for them. OCD attacks our morals and values, so of course it would attack the one thing I love most in this world. If you are a parent, grandparent, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, cousin, friend, or anything in between and you are having these thoughts, you are NOT alone. The worst thing about this subtype is believing you are alone because of how terrible it is. It is taboo for a reason, but you are not awful for having these thoughts. I remember how terrified I was. I remember being convinced during that first session with my therapist that I would be locked away forever. To my surprise, my therapist didn’t even flinch when I told him my thoughts, my feelings, and everything in between. NOCD is truly the best place to receive your treatment if you’re stuck. Recovery is possible even if it seems impossible. I hope to see you on the other side.
If you are struggling with OCD, my advice to you would be to reach out to a therapist for help. NOCD therapists are trained to deal with OCD and how nuanced it is. The first time I disclosed my thoughts to my therapist, I was expecting him to tell me I was a monster, or that I was terrible. My therapist didn’t even flinch. I would recommend booking the free 15-minute phone call and seeing what they could do for you or reaching out to a local therapist. If that is not feasible, there are other resources out there as well such as workbooks, online classes that help guide you through ERP, and also various therapists with videos and podcasts to give you tips and tricks.
Some fun facts about me are that I own 4 cats, 2 dogs, and more chickens than I can count. I’ve been married for 8 years (together for 10). I have 3 kids (2 stepchildren and1 biological child). I danced from the age of 6 until 29 (as a hobby, never professionally). I did tap, jazz, lyrical, and pointe. I knit on a loom. I read for fun, in my spare time. My favorite book is Daisy Jones and The Six. My favorite television shows are The Office, How I Met Your Mother, and almost anything on HGTV. I am living proof that you can survive and thrive with POCD.