I encountered my first obsessive thought when I was about 10 years old. It was an obsession regarding God and religion. I vividly remember how much guilt I felt then and there. Interestingly enough, I was doing my Islamic religion homework when I first experienced obsessive symptoms and intrusive thoughts.
As a shy kid, I kept these thoughts and feelings to myself. No kid should ever feel scared, doubtful, fearful, and guilty for having uncontrollable random thoughts. However, I kept going to school and “hiding” my feelings.
A few days later, the same thing happened again. Weird intrusive thoughts revolving around God and religion. I recall my heart beating so fast that I started running towards the washroom and closed the door behind me. I was shaking and crying relentlessly as I began to wash my face and get rid of all the “evidence”. I was so scared. Intrusive thoughts during this phase were not as frequent as the upcoming phases, sometimes they happened, and other times they did not.
I had a rough time as a teen with OCD. I’d say I was about 13-16 years old during this period of time, a middle school student. As I grew up and my responsibilities grew with me (I began to study on my own), so did my obsessive urges and intrusive thoughts. I began experiencing frequent obsessions and intrusive thoughts regarding sex and scrupulosity (religion). Moreover, I also began to experience mental imagery regarding both sexual orientation OCD and scrupulosity.
Although this phase lasted about 3 years, there is one incident that describes this time of my life perfectly. I was in the 6th grade, in history class when I suffered a magnitude 9 intrusive thought that shook me to my core. I experienced mental imagery of writing blasphemous words and phrases regarding God and his prophets on my desk. I instantly freaked out and began to closely examine, analyze and look for the words I supposedly wrote. I found nothing (shocking), but I kept searching and searching over and over again. The more I looked for evidence, the more guilt, shame, and fear I experienced. Later on that day, I realized that I was repeatedly uttering weird, gibberish words and phrases that surprisingly lowered my stress and anxiety levels. This was of course a classic example of an OCD compulsion.
Adulthood with OCD was disastrous. You know, as kids, we always wanted to grow up and live like adults do. Some people wanted to drive cars, stay late at night with friends, and have their own money to spend on dumb things like junk food and iced tea. I was robbed of all of that. I was robbed of hope, happiness, and wishful thinking. I felt weak, helpless, and afraid. However, this was only the beginning as OCD had other plans to conquer and control the rest of my life (or lack thereof).
Becoming my own man meant more responsibilities, a word that OCD admires too much. Bear in mind, this was my first year in college studying electrical and electronics engineering. I suffered a lot in college, as the stress of my studies grew so did my obsessions and compulsions. This formula leads to two things, immense amounts of pain and a lot of academic failures. I did just that.
First of all, since I was a shy kid, I had little to no social interactions. I don’t think people thought of me as a “weirdo” but I certainly did. I used to have obsessions regarding writing profanity on each and every desk I sat at. In retaliation to these obsessive thoughts, I began taking pictures of every inch possible on my desk just “to make sure” I didn’t write anything.
I also suffered immensely while sending and receiving emails from my professors and colleagues, experiencing mental images of sending sexually inappropriate images and/or phrases to each and every email I had in my contacts. I would also take pictures of my sent and received folders during lab sessions, just for reassurance that I haven’t done what I think I have done.
Moreover, group projects were a nightmare as they required social interaction. I always found ways to skip group meetings and my grades showed for it. I would also keep my distance while in these so-called meetings as I began to experience intrusive thoughts and mental images revolving around touching my fellow colleagues inappropriately. This was both mentally and physically draining as I had little to no energy left to attend to my studies and focus on academic success. I was living within my own mind.
Furthermore, I also began experiencing very creative obsessive thoughts while driving. I remember vividly driving back home after completing a horrible lab session. I was mentally exhausted from the frequent obsessions and compulsions that were performed during the lab. As I was behind the wheel, I felt the need to check and recheck my backside windows for a body that I just rammed over with my car. There was nothing, however, I immediately took the nearest U-turn and rushed over to the side of the road where I “ran over” someone. This went on for a good 35 minutes. I was disgusted with myself, felt alone, and was paranoid every time the house’ bell was rung thinking about my going to jail.
As I began to fail courses, retake subjects, and use all my “excused” absence forms, I quit. I stopped caring anymore and took it upon myself to “freeze” this current semester (much like stopping a gym membership for X amount of days/months). I couldn’t function as a normal human being anymore, OCD took over my life like a thief breaking and entering.
I stayed at home, mostly on my bed doing nothing but thinking. Just like physically ill people can become bedridden, a mentally ill person may also suffer the same consequences. I am a direct reflection of that.
As I practiced “social distancing”, my OCD became even worse. Obsessions and compulsions consumed basically every waking moment. I was so within my thoughts, that I stopped showering, brushing my teeth, trimming my beard, and worst of them all, I began to overeat. I gained a ton of weight while wasting the supposedly most wonderful years of my life (I was 22).
Things got so bad that one day my wonderful and lovely mother almost crashed my door while knocking forcefully on my door. I opened the door, and there she was a broken mom, tears covering her lovely facial details. “Go get dressed or I’m going to dress you up”, she said. We have an appointment with a very well-recognized mental health therapist. This was the moment I was introduced to therapy.
Note – By this point in time, I knew I needed therapy as things were so bad, however, I delayed it as much as possible. This was due to several factors such as the intense stigma surrounding mental health and the false perception I had of the side effects of mental health medicines ( I believed that if you take any type of medicine, you cannot have kids and a family).
I was introduced to a psychologist at first and was told to explain everything I have been going through in extreme detail. I was diagnosed with OCD (shocking right?). After That, I sat down with a psychiatrist (I didn’t even know that psychologists and psychiatrists were two different things). I was told that OCD was a mental health disorder affecting millions of people worldwide and that it is in fact a treatable (can be controlled) disorder. I was also given a brief introduction to the history of the disease, how it works, and what needs to be done for effective results.
I was prescribed medicine (pills) and was told to increase the dosage from 1 to 2 pills after the first two weeks. Then, increase the dosage after another two-week period from 2 to 3 pills daily.
Honestly, I found that the effects of the medicine were very minuscule and had little to no effect at all. After the 4 month mark, I was due to meet with my therapist. I explained the minimum effects the prescribed medicine had. I was told that mental health disorders are tricky and that 1+1 does not always equal 2. I was, then prescribed a different medicinal pill and was informed to check back in 2 months. Unfortunately, the same thing happened as the medicine was not effective at all and the side effects were absolutely negative (low energy, lethargy, and no motivation to do anything). I knew then and there that this was not going to work, so I refused to take any more pills and decided to look for other therapists.
2nd option and the turning point
After a couple of weeks of looking and asking around, I found a well-respected mental health therapist. The first time I met him, I had a feeling this was going to work. I was surprised by his lovely reception and welcoming style as he hugged me the moment he saw me (my mother informed him of my condition prior to my meeting). He treated me like a father treats his own son, and I was blown away.
I was told to explain my symptoms and was told that everything will be fine. Moreover, I was given an introductory pamphlet on the disease and he began to explain the ins and outs of OCD. As for the recovery approach, I was prescribed new pills to take daily before I go to bed. The rest is history.
A couple of months went by and I started to recover with a vengeance. Slowly symptoms became much more tolerable and controllable. I began to feel confident driving alone, going to the store by myself, sending emails, and most importantly, focusing on my studies (I was a senior).
The power of knowledge
Believe it or not, my OCD fascinated me. I wanted to know everything about it, and I did just that. I began to research the hell out of OCD, read various books, analyzed numerous research papers, and joined a couple of OCD support groups. I was on a mission to observe, analyze, dissect, and break down OCD. I also began to share my experiences with other fellow sufferers and detailed what worked and did not work for me.
Moreover, I began to study myself. What activities triggered obsession (X) and how my body reacted to said obsessions? In fact, I even began to observe and listen to my intrusive thoughts, accepting them and moving on while being able to differentiate between an intrusive thought and a normal one. With continuous trial and error techniques, I successfully understood “MY” OCD and what triggers it.
Life as an advocate
In my suffering with OCD, I found my passion, my community, and my people. I made it a life goal to help people who suffer from OCD just like I did. I want people to understand and grasp the idea that, If I could do it, so can you.
I started my own website (www.thestrugglingwarrior.com) to help raise awareness of the disease while providing evidence and research-based articles. Through this journey, I have met wonderful people who suffer just like me. I have finally found my passion and life’s purpose.
The Struggling Warrior is a 26-year-old Electrical and Electronics engineer with OCD. Throughout his experience with this detrimental disease, he found himself and his passion, to raise awareness of OCD and help people who suffer from it on a daily basis. He believes that through knowledge, education, and understanding of the sheer nature of the disease, people will jumpstart their recovery process and reclaim what OCD took away from them.