Stacey: Growing up with OCD
I would never describe my childhood as perfect. It was far from it. In a way, it was me, my mum and my dog against the world. Our household was abusive and therefore, I felt very alone. I was a very nervous child. I didn’t like change.
I was just five years old, standing in the playground at school when OCD joined me. I remember this voice in my head telling me if I picked up leaves and put them in my pocket, my mum would be OK. I felt such a wave of anxiety over me, but I felt like I was doing something that was going to save her, so I did it. I picked up loads of wet, muddy leaves and I shoved them into my pockets. The anxiety went for the time, but that was only the start.
Nights for me became a problem. If my sheets became untucked, I would panic. I’d have thoughts telling me, “if they become untucked something will happen”, so I’d lie there as still as possible so they wouldn’t move. I never told anyone about the thoughts I was having. Most of the time I thought they were normal, but at times I felt like I had special powers. Everything you could obsess about, I would.
I would have to touch things a set amount of times, for it to just feel right. I gained a terrible fear of sick so if I ever had a tummy ache I would have intrusive thoughts of me being sick, which would make my anxiety worse.
When I was 12, I started secondary school. My OCD was there with me, along with my anxiety. The compulsions were bad enough but on top of this, I had the fear of something bad happening at home while I was out all day. It was too much for me. It was only my third day at school and I felt like I couldn’t cope, so I told a teacher that a past injury was hurting and that I needed to go home. But this was far from the truth.
I was sent to the office and they called my mum. A lady came over to me and told me they couldn’t get hold of her, and this is when I had the panic attack of all panic attacks. I believed that my thoughts had come true, and I lost it. I remember just screaming and crying and feeling like my whole world had collapsed around me. It turns out my mum was just shopping - she picked me up and I never went back to school again.
I was placed within the CAMHS, but I never opened up about the OCD thoughts. I really believed that if I told someone, something bad would happen. I was completely stuck, alone, just trying to protect everyone around me. In the end, I was home schooled and that was perfect for me, as I knew I was around to keep people safe and I didn’t have to talk to people I didn’t know.
It was around this time that my anxiety also made me scared to be alone. I made sure I was never alone; I was always with someone. Out shopping with my parents one day, I was flicking through a magazine and I saw an article about OCD - that was when I knew I had it. I guess you could say it was a relief, but it was also terrifying.
The years went past, and I was still obsessing and still trying to deal with my intrusive thoughts.
When I was 18 my parents finally split up - but that left me in the worst situation. I found myself sat at the doctor's, opening up about a new problem, flashbacks. I kept reliving traumatic memories from when I was little and was also having nightmares about them. This was one of the scariest times, as I didn't know what was happening. I was just stuck re-living all these things and emotions. I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), given some antidepressants and placed on the waiting list for CBT.
When CBT started, I finally opened up about my thoughts and I was officially diagnosed with OCD. I found CBT to be extremely helpful with dealing with PTSD and I booked in for more for my OCD! It really helped me learn how to stop tapping and know that my obsessions won’t change anything.
Over the years, having treatment and pushing myself has helped more than anything. Knowing that you are more than a label changes things. The journey to recovery is a slow one but so empowering and exciting! I’m slowly getting there, I’m trying new things and different types of therapy and I know I will get there in the end! No matter what your anxiety tells you, you can do this and you are going to be stronger and braver than you could ever know!
If you find yourself relating to any of my story, or feel that you need help, just ask. Talk to your friends and family and be sure to visit your doctor.
To read more of Stacey’s story, visit her blog Fixmeinfortyfive.