I have had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder my whole life, but was unaware I had it until I was a sophomore in high school. I had no idea at first, my mom’s “mom radar” picked it up before I did.
I played volleyball for my high school’s JV team as a sophomore and our practices were rough. My life basically revolved around the competitive sport. I ate, slept and breathed volleyball. Our practices went until about 8 at night everyday of the week. I would come home take a shower, eat dinner, do homework and go to bed. Then I began to clean. Every night at around 1 in the morning my mom (tired and frustrated) would come in and tell me to go to bed, so I would nod, wait for her to leave then continue with my cleaning. I’d rip everything out of my (rather large) closet and put it all back in the “right” way.
I honestly don’t remember much of freshman or sophomore year. I got okay grades that were not “up to my standard”. (They were B’s. I now know that’s just the perfectionistic side of my OCD.) I finished school volleyball, but did not continue with club season right afterwards. I was a mess. I would appear fine to my teachers at school, but regularly took advantage of bathroom breaks to wash my hands. I got to the point where I was terrified of the schools soap. It wasn’t thick enough, I couldn’t use foam soap it wouldn’t be as effective as the liquid soap I used at home! So to compensate for the foams soap lack of ability to clean I’d wash my hands 6 times with 3 pumps of soap for each time. Very soon, however, this grew into 16 times with 6 pumps of soap each.
Then I started seeing myself stabbing my two sisters. I love them! Why would I think that?! But the images kept coming and coming and coming. I’d kick my dog down the stairs. I’d chop my hand off with the kitchen knife. I’d set the house on fire.
With every thought a fixation came. “You’re going to set the house on fire…” OCD would tell me. I’d say “NO!” back. then have to repeat it. For hours.
I had no idea how this impacted my family. It only seemed to happen at home, so I felt in control. I know it was hard for them. At home, I couldn’t contain it to saying “no” to myself hours before I fell asleep, or spraying every wooden surface in my room with pledge, or even to cleaning out my closet. I would be watching tv and I’d see myself stab my sister. I’d scream. It scared me. I then would see her dead body. In real life, my little sister would watch me as I thought I killed her. She would cry and try to comfort me. I could hear her voice, but couldn’t make out her words. She was dead. I swear she was dead. I’d lose it. Crying, screaming, curled in a ball I just knew she was dead. I killed her. She was never coming back. – This kind of episode scared my sisters so much they never wanted to be alone with me for fear that I would have a panic attack like this.
I ended up faking sickness to stay home. School was a trigger. Homework was a trigger. Friends were triggers. Everything set me off into a panic attack or a manic cleaning, muttering mode. Eventually I just would freeze up curled in a ball and not be able to move. My mom would shake me and tell me to get up, but I couldn’t. I started missing more school.
Somehow in the midst of all this my fantastic mother found me help. I went to my doctor and he put me on Celexa, but I still had problems. Then he put me on Paxil and Abilify and suggested cognitive behavior therapy. So, I went to a psychologist for the first time, which for a high schooler or anybody for that matter seems terrifying because of the social stigma of “You need a psychologist? You must be a crazy psycho-path.”. I remember the tiny office and the lady asking me to tell her what I’ve been doing. By that time I thought what was happening wasn’t normal. At all. So I’d relay the information my mom told me about my rising anxiety and “episodes” and she’d just stare at me, ask my mom to leave and try to get me to say this was happening because my parents did something wrong to me.
I was quite upset by this. My parents love me and have done nothing but help me through my childhood. I had a stable home. My parents didn’t ever hurt me! Why did she want me to blame on them?
Needless to say, we did not return. I went to a psychiatrist. She scared me. She was kinda old, smelled weird, her office was far away and I was just overwhelmed by all the long medical words she said. She took me off Paxil and put me on Luvox, and Klonopin (which made me constantly fall asleep and I was so drugged up for most of sophomore year, that is probably why I have no idea what happened during that time in my life).
Eventually (after being on a long waiting list) I got a psychiatrist at the children’s hospital. And a friend that I happen to discover had severe OCD. She recommended her therapist and so (ta-da!) I got a new psychologist!
With her, I worked on exposures such as not washing my hands. As the hand washing aspect of my OCD began to fade, a new compulsion arrived, skin picking. I used nail clippers to cut open my skin and begin to pick at the sight. Only on my hands or feet… So… Yeah… When my parents discovered this, they hid all the nail clippers in the house. I would go into a panic and sneak scissors into my room, lock the door and continue to cut my feet. I’d have trouble walking, but I loved to bleed. It was creepy. So we worked through that one. That often still flares up, but is WAY better now. I also have trichotillomania, which is when you pull out your hair. I only pull out the hair on my head. It soothes me, but recently my therapist asked me about it and told me at the rate I pull I should/will have bald spots. I may have thick hair, but I really don’t want to chance it. So I’m trying not to pull as much. It’s rough.
On the bright side, I have survived my first year at the University of Louisville! I made it through year one with the Living Learning Community and the school’s Honors Program. With the help of medication (I am now on Prosac and Abilify), UofL therapy and my amazing family’s support I am a functioning young adult.
Starting college away from home, surrounded by triggers, new people and responsibilities was really challenging. Heck, high school was a struggle! However, I have really learned to advocate for and to take care of myself in many different types of situations. I want to teach other teens with OCD that you can do it! You will get through this! Although it may seem never-ending you have support. There are other teens and young adults out there ready to help you in your journey. No one is alone. That’s why at some time in my drugged up phase of sophomore year I created T.W.A.A.R.P (or Teen Warriors Against Anxiety and Real Problems).
My friend that recommended me to her therapist, she helped me make art for the website I created. We tried to find other people in our area with anxiety and OCD, but it was hard to talk about with other teens. I am extremely open to discussing my journey and how OCD impacts my life because I feel that the more we talk about mental illness, the less of a stigma it will have. My friend on the other hand was extremely nervous about letting anyone know about her OCD and her anxiety. I tried forever to get her to write up her story for my blog and for our website, but she was scared. Scared that somebody that knew her would find out and think differently of her because of this mental illness. Within the first year of having our website, she told me she could not be a part of it anymore and that being around me was a trigger for her, even though we were best friends. So we went our separate ways. I attended IOCDF Conferences and met more people with OCD. I gave speeches at my school about my mental illness and the journey I have taken. Upon hearing my story, others begun to tell me about their battles with anxiety or other mental illnesses. I have made so many friends through telling my story and today I am super upfront about having a mental illness, so the people around me can better understand this huge thing about me. I don’t like hiding and I don’t have to hide anymore.
If you ever need anyone to talk to about your experience I am here for you. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org anytime or check out my blog which is on my website – http://twaarp.wix.com/twaarp – Remember you are never alone in your battle with mental illness.
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