I was on my way to university in September 2020. I was just 19 years old with so much hope and excitement for the future. I arrived at my accommodation and couldn’t think anything could get any better. Early on in my university life, I met some amazing and wonderful people who after 3 years are still some of my best friends. In those first months of school, I felt that life couldn’t be any better.
What if I could hurt someone?
But as it hit Christmas time in my first year of study, something changed. I started experiencing some horrific and monstrous thoughts about being a serial killer and how I could hurt people. I thought that this was just a phase and it would pass, I chalked it up to tiredness and excessive drinking. However, these thoughts would not go away. I quickly fell into a hole of depression and anxiety. I didn’t want to be around anyone. I put on a brave and happy face in front of everyone because I didn’t want them to think there was something wrong with me. In their eyes, I am sure it was as if nothing had changed. But it had changed. I was living in an absolute nightmare. All my hopes and dreams were being crushed by these dark thoughts and I didn’t want to be on this planet anymore.
However, these thoughts would not go away. I quickly fell into a hole of depression and anxiety. I didn’t want to be around anyone. I put on a brave and happy face in front of everyone because I didn’t want them to think there was something wrong with me. In their eyes, I am sure it was as if nothing had changed. But it had changed. I was living in an absolute nightmare. All my hopes and dreams were being crushed by these dark thoughts and I didn’t want to be on this planet anymore.
I couldn’t quite grasp what mental health problems I was experiencing and I was too scared to research it. The months continued and new thoughts popped up. These thoughts included being disloyal to my girlfriend. I had fears that maybe I was not in the right relationship. This was causing me to become distant from her. This led to me becoming blunt and unresponsive to her because of my thoughts. I also was experiencing thoughts of ruining people’s lives, whether they be old or young with some horrible acts. Thoughts of regret in the past and worries for the future destroyed my mind. These plagued me daily and it was all I could think about. I couldn’t escape them. This was causing me to isolate myself from people when I should be living my best years. Still, I carried on and acted like nothing was wrong. I thought that if I told people what I was thinking, they would instantly block me out of their lives. I worried they would see me as strange and as a weird person. Being in a situation where you know you’re ill, but can’t tell anyone is the worst feeling ever.
I was broken and it seemed my life was getting worse and worse. Thoughts of harming children became a recurring theme as well as harming animals. I thought I was a psycho. I carried on drinking lots and lots at university as I didn’t want to miss out on experiencing this lifestyle. But in reality, even though these were amazing times with great people, part of the reason I drank was to escape reality, just for a little while.
Then, one summer day while I was traveling on the train I decided it was time to look into what I had been experiencing. I researched the internet and the thoughts I was experiencing. I had been to a therapist before this but it wasn’t working at all. However, as I was researching my thoughts, almost instantaneously, harm, relationship, and sexual OCD popped up. I looked into it and couldn’t believe the number of people who were experiencing similar thoughts to what I was thinking. I smiled on the train. I think that was the first time I smiled genuinely in months. I had found what my mental disorder was. I had a newfound hope that this had a name and it could be treated.
Help at last
This is where my journey began. I researched OCD therapists and found NOCD. I booked a trial therapy session and explained my thoughts. Laying it all out on the table with someone who understands gave me confidence and actually made the world seem a little better. Kara (my therapist), this is where I want to thank you. You gave me a space where I could talk and you listened. No matter how disgusting, inhumane and vile these thoughts were, you gave me the resources to quiet them down and for that, I am forever grateful. Performing ERP is such a tough thing to do as you stand face-to-face with your thoughts and let them be there. I still struggle to do it at times, but for my health, it’s something that I have to do. NOCD is a fantastic organization and I hope that writing this exposes them to many more people who are looking to begin their therapy journey.
I still experience intrusive and unwanted thoughts to this day. I have relapsed a few times. I also experience very disturbing anxiety where I struggle to breathe at times and feel like the room is closing in on me, which causes me to feel claustrophobic. Sometimes this stops me from sleeping because I am constantly worried. Recently I was watching a football game in the pub and went home early due to this, I blamed it on physical illness. I didn’t want my friends to think I was weak. This is what OCD does. It grips what you care about the most and makes you think you want to destroy it. I sometimes can’t enjoy doing things with my friends, family, and girlfriend because of these thoughts.
Even after over 2 years, I am still battling this disease. I promise everyone now, I will never give up and I will never let this disease win. Going into this project and sharing my story, and my journey, I have been nervous. I wonder how many people will read it. However, entering into November and this month being the month of suicide prevention and male mental health, it’s finally time to tell my story. In this picture, this is me shaving all my facial hair off in support of Movember. This is a charity that supports men’s mental health and I am looking to raise as much money as possible so we can find new research schemes and methods so that male suicide becomes a discussion of the past. If you would like to donate, there will be a link at the end of this story.
There may be other people suffering in silence, just like me 2 years ago, who can’t find a way out and who don’t understand what’s wrong with them. I want everyone to know, no matter how tough you are, no matter what the circumstances, please speak up if you are struggling with thoughts like mine. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but you have to get past many obstacles in the process. But you will get there. Don’t let mental health get in the way of your hopes and dreams, I know I certainly won’t.
To my friends and family, I will stay strong for you and never give up. I know your love and support will drive me to be a better man. If there is anyone reading this, whether you are a part of the OCD community and experience similar thoughts as me, or you are someone struggling with your mental health and are scared to reach out, I am always here to listen and learn.
Thank you to NOCD for giving me this opportunity to write about my story and thank you all for reading. Stay safe.