Anna, 22, Czech Republic

It’s dirty.

anna-no-textI was diagnosed with OCD in my early childhood. Growing up going to psychologists and psychiatrists pretty much sucked. And in the end it was not them who had helped me to become the person I am today. It was a long journey and one that was a hell of a lot of work.

When my illness started, everyone in my family treated it as something secret, something shameful, something wrong. It is probably indescribable, the feeling when even your closest ones regard you as wrong and broken – ill. They wanted to cure me. Get rid of that weirdness so I could be a normal child again. But the little girl didn’t know that. She didn’t feel there was something wrong. She didn’t know where these new thoughts and feelings came from, yet she knew they were a part of her. Like an organ, a brain, a heart. And when therapy tried to rip it out of her, she fought. She closed herself and learned to become ashamed because that was expected. So of course I went through my early school years being afraid my “secret identity” would be exposed and that I would be publicly humiliated.

So that was that. At this point I should probably tell you what exactly my obsession is. I have intrusive thoughts that something is dirty. In my head, everything is meticulously sorted into categories of dirty, not dirty and undetermined. And you just don’t touch something that is dirty. Sooner or later, if you don’t want to be contaminated you have to deal with it. And how? Ha, you guessed it – water. Ideally with soap. Do I feel compelled to go and wash my hands right now? Yes, probably. It never hurts to wash my hands… or face… or everything.

The source of most dirt is nature. I mean living plants – grass, trees and flowers. The funny thing is that vegetables and fruit can be consumed when I wash them first. I guess even OCD can’t resist the power of strawberries. Going outside suddenly became really stressful. Goodbye outdoor sports, goodbye forest (yuck).

That sucks, right? But through the years I learned how to cope. I decided that I would not let the OCD ruin my life. I came up with a way to satisfy the OCD beast and keep doing most of the things other people do. And if I have to keep washing everything and shower every time I get home, so what? It is not like other people don’t have their oddities (and they think themselves completely sane and healthy). It is a price I’m willing to pay (also, I don’t have much of a choice here).

I also learned to let my barrier down. I learned to trust people who will not shun me for who I am. And my family learned as well. They stopped treating me like an ill person and they now understand how hard it is for me to get through some days. I told my closest friends all about my OCD, and some of them told me they never noticed. But all of them voiced their love and support, and that is something I’m eternally grateful for. And I learned not to feel ashamed. Today, if anyone came up to me and asked about OCD I’d freely chat with them about it.

I didn’t write this only to share my story. I am also hoping everyone who reads it will know that mental illness can be a great burden. It will change your life and the lives of your family. But if there is one thing I learned, it is that it’s not something to be ashamed of. So do not ever let other people treat you and make you feel like you’re insignificant. Every living person is unique. And we are just a little bit more unique than that.

Categories: The Wall

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