OCD: A Patient’s Story of Independence

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder that occurs when a person gets caught in a cycle of unwanted and intrusive thoughts. These thoughts trigger distressing feelings and cause the person to feel driven to engage in repetitive behavior, compulsions.

Read Melanie’s story of how she claimed her independence back from the debilitating symptoms of OCD.

I have memories of OCD from as young as five years old. I, of course, had no idea what OCD was at the time, but I had a strategy that I felt confident would keep my mom safe: counting to the number 105 until she returned home. 

It’s fascinating to think of the brain chemistry involved with OCD, as this was clearly not a learned strategy.

I have other scattered memories of OCD throughout childhood such as counting the letters in words which made reading the books I’d trudged home from the library a frustrating endeavor. 

OCD Begins to Take Hold

But it wasn’t until I was a late teenager that OCD started to have more of a presence in my daily life. The fear of becoming pregnant was especially powerful and in an especially irrational way. If I was about to sit down on a chair that had a white substance on it, be it crumbs or dust, I would assume that it was sperm. I’d sit down, due to embarrassment of wiping off the substance but while I sat there, my mind was full of worry of the impending pregnancy.

The fear of having killed somebody without noticing while driving was the nastiest of all my experiences with OCD. Not only did I feel overwhelming guilt and depression over the thought of having killed someone, even though I rationally knew I had not, but I was also so afraid people would think that I had actually killed someone, that I kept it all a secret. 

Driving had become a nightmare, what with having to drive back to check for bodies and fighting the urge to call the police station. I stopped driving and became dependent on others. My therapist said that the OCD had taken my independence, but I disagreed. Avoiding the despair of OCD meant I did not need independence.  

My OCD Treatment

Treatment was not a linear progression from point A to point B for me. It was a mixture of improper treatment mixed with multiple failed attempts at proper treatment. When I eventually obtained a consult with a psychiatrist, he commented that he couldn’t believe I had gone so long without medication. Looking back, I did not realize just how unwell I was.

I was afraid to take medication and I don’t think I would have if it wasn’t for my psychiatrist who used a very slow approach. His patience is what helped me eventually get to the 200 mg of the medication I continue to take today. I am incredibly grateful for his suggestion to start me on a child dose and allowing me to be part of the decision as to when we’d try the next dosage. 

Eventually, I found the right therapist who knew how to do the right treatment coupled with my readiness to commit.

I have been thriving with OCD for the past three years. I still get triggered but they’re not as debilitating as they once were. I teach full time at a postsecondary institution while pursuing my master’s degree on a part-time basis. 

And I’ve developed an appreciation for Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Not sure if you can announce once you’ve self-actualized but compared to what I used to go through daily, this sure feels like I am living my potential. 

If nothing else, I sure have reclaimed my independence.