Rachel, 25, UK

I’m terrified of thinking the wrong thing.

rachel-no-textI started having OCD symptoms when I was around 14 in secondary school. I had a group of friends that started to bully me, and this is around the time it started.

My life revolved around the disorder. I used to fill in gaps in my handwriting; I remember being made to stand at the front of a science class and my teacher told me off for the writing. He didn’t know that if I didn’t do it something terrible would happen.

I would walk around school and retrace my steps to make sure I was thinking a good thought when I went in certain places.

I used to cry when I thought about going home from school because the rituals would start again. I would shower three times a day because I was so afraid the shower would break. I would ask people to repeat what they said, scared that they had said something bad and I had agreed to it.

At home I would dress and undress over and over; I would straighten my hair so much that it was damaged and fell out. I was afraid of wearing certain clothes and would only wear clothes and hairstyles that my boyfriend had seen me wear. I would climb in and out of bed, open cupboard doors, flick plugs on and off, and check for writing on walls. I sometimes stayed awake until the early hours doing this. I had to kiss all my Beanie Babies before I got into bed. If I didn’t I was scared that something would happen to my grandad.

In sixth form I would lock and unlock my locker; I would start essays on paper and have to start them over and over in case I had a bad thought when I started writing. At university I would start essays and have to delete whole sections because of the intrusive thoughts, and often had to print out essays until it felt right. I would read books and reread pages over and over. I was always scared that I would write my name wrong on essays – this also happened when I wrote birthday cards after I sealed them.

When I started working I would have to check that I had locked the front door over and over. Check that I had locked my locker and not hidden anything inside it. Check the safe over and over.

I was afraid of thinking of names and often got names and intrusive thoughts stuck in my head.

I did get help once back when I was around 15. I knew it was OCD and my parents had noticed my behaviour. I was also so depressed that I was self-harming. The doctor confirmed it was OCD. I remember one of my parents’ friends who worked as a nurse saying I didn’t have OCD because I didn’t clean things over and over. I saw a psychiatrist who gave me antidepressants that I didn’t take. I had counselling sessions that were centred around getting to the cause of the OCD; it felt uncomfortable talking about it so I discharged myself. So I carried on secretly suffering from OCD.

I suffered from OCD until in my early 20s I had another breakdown. Now at another doctors, I struggled to get any help. Eventually I saw a therapist but that didn’t help either. She referred me for CBT [cognitive behavioural therapy]. I missed my appointment because it was at a different doctors and I couldn’t find out where it was – they wouldn’t let me book another appointment so I just went back to hiding my OCD.

Now living in my own home, leaving the house was hard because of the checking and rechecking. I couldn’t watch films because I would have to rewind them all the time. I was terrified I might do something terrible to my dog.

We moved to another area in another house. I had a massive breakdown over Christmas because the OCD was too much to live with. I was suicidal and really thought I would end it all. I had to take a week off work. At this time I was already on a waiting list to see if I was suitable for CBT. After two appointments to see if it was suitable for me, and now on a course of antidepressants, I finally got the help I needed and am currently having CBT with a high-intensity therapist. Life is bearable and worth living now. For the first time in a long time I am in control and not the OCD.

When I was younger I was so afraid of telling anybody my problems. So many times I remember crying and nearly telling my mum but I didn’t say anything because I thought I was possessed by the devil or something.

All I can really say is that if you are suffering from OCD then please get help. I’m almost 26 now and it has taken me 12 years to finally get the help I need! 12 years of living with OCD. See a doctor, speak to someone, don’t be ashamed. Don’t suffer in silence.

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