After my fist six years of dealing with OCD, I thought I had it figured out. I didn't know what it was but I had learned to live with it, the way it was. And then it stopped being what it was and changed into something else. I was afraid of the uncertainty and doubt, the fear and guilt, the differences of what it used to be and what it became....
At ten years of age a great deal of family issues were going on in my life. My mother was dealing with flashbacks of the horrible sexual abuse she suffered by the hands of her father. Her marriage to my step dad was on the rocks and now she also had a child that was worrying her. Me.
The checking and counting had stopped as well as the touching. I still washed excessively but most of the more defining traits of what we thought OCD was, had seemed to vanish overnight. I was no longer late because I had to touch the door knob twenty times until it felt right. I didn't need to count every bean in my three bean soup. I seemed normal on the outside, and that was the point. With OCD nothing is ever normal but it tends to seem that way if you don't know how to look for it.
The outward compulsions had turned into a more ominous symptom. I was ruminating. My ruminations were about this and that but mostly about death. I don't remember exactly how it all played out but basically, I was talking about funerals, coffins and hearses...a lot. And it scared my parents. So they went to a child psychiatrist that ran an outpatient program at a hospital. They told him of my previous symptoms and my ruminations about death and he saw dollar signs. You see, my dad had excellent insurance and it covered a two month stay at a mental facility. The psychiatrist convinced my parents that I was suicidal and a danger to myself. It scared my parents badly, so they signed me in because he was a doctor and he convinced them I could be saved but only if I was institutionalized. I was ten.
Promptly I was I walked to the child ward section of the mental hospital. Anyone who has been institutionalized knows that the first thing they do in the processing of a new patient is a strip search. I was carted off into a tiny room where I was disrobed and my clothes rifled through. I was made to turn slowly around and searched naked. I was made to open my mouth and lift up my tongue to make sure I was not harboring drugs orally. I distinctly remember the feel and taste of the gloved hand in my mouth. Probably why I hate dentists to this day. I remember being embarrassed because I was wearing my underwear that said Wednesday on them and it was a Monday. Funny, how your mind can't really process what is going on so you get embarrassed by the silly things and remain numb to the things you should be horrified by, like being naked in front of complete strangers. I felt lost and scared and like I was being punished for something I had said or done but didn't know exactly what it was. I wasn't allowed outside contact from my parents or family for two weeks. As was protocol.
It was hell. We weren't allowed to have our personal items. No underarm deodorant, toothpaste, brushes, toothbrushes, shampoo, or soap.Those had to be signed out to receive. They counted all of the forks and spoons after each meal as well as all pencils after we had to write our daily assignment. Lest we ,twelve and under group of kids, try to shank someone in the halls (sarcasm). I saw a kid being tied with leather restraints to the bed because he was "mouthy." I can still hear his screaming in my head when I think about it. We were all given the same medications at night, in a line by the water fountain and again our mouths were checked to make sure we swallowed them like good little children. Our parents had no idea we were even medicated. We were forced to do group therapy but nothing of any importance was ever discussed except who said what to whom and the like. I was never treated or diagnosed. The hospital was later shut down for fraud. It seems they admitted children, teenagers, and adults for insurance payoffs even though most of them were not mentally ill or if they were many were not suicidal. I was one of those kids. I was not a danger to myself or others and that doctor knew it.
I learned nothing from the hospital except that I didn't want to talk about my obsessions anymore. Talking about them could end in me going back to that place. The place that never taught me how to deal with OCD or that I even had OCD, but how to wash my own laundry and keep my room "military style" clean. Something I learned because the hospital did regular searches and checks and I didn't want to get into trouble. You didn't want to get in trouble there. My old roommate got in trouble for planning to escape during my stay and "accidentally fell" in her room while alone with two orderlies. She ended up with a huge knot on her forehead. It was the size of an egg. She was twelve.
I am sure my OCD was screaming at me at this point but I told no one. I kept my head down and did what I was told. When I got to go home I never talked about the mental ward. I blocked it out until last year. I hadn't even told my best friends or my husband of twelve years. It was too awful to remember and so I didn't.
In fact I don't remember most of that whole year. It is all blocked and I have little to no recollection of it besides the faint glimmers of memory and flashbacks of being in the hospital.
Around the age of twelve the OCD was quieter but I started to have panic attacks. Severe panic attacks when going to school. Leaving my mother to go to class became unthinkable and I was completely unable to stop the fear and crying spells. I saw other doctors but no one seemed to have an idea on how to help me with this debilitating fear. Just like the compulsions it too disappeared.
At fourteen while grabbing a towel out the closet the voice was back. The voice I remembered from childhood. The one that taunted me and made me check, count, and touch over and over and over again. It told me if I didn't touch the shelf the same way on my left arm as I did my right then my mom would die in a fiery car crash. I hit the floor in agony, tears rolling down my face. I didn't know what the voice was but I remembered all of the pain I had as a young child and I remembered that this voice was the cause of all of that pain. Again, I started to outwardly compulse. Each time believing that I had gone completely insane but being unable to stop it. I went to yet another doctor but finally got a diagnoses. I had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and I was started on medications for the first time. The medications trials seemed to go on and on but finally I was given one that worked decently and the compulsions lessened and lessened until they stopped. However the panic attacks were back in full force leaving me to miss a great deal of school.
At fifteen, the PureO side came out. My OCD was now telling me I was a lesbian. I fretted and worried. Not because I was afraid of what my family would think, because they would love me regardless, but because I knew I had never once had a crush on a girl in my life. I had only liked boys. Only wanted to date boys. Only dreamed of marrying a boy...ect. Nowhere was there a desire to be with a girl and yet my OCD refused to let it go. It bombarded me with images of naked women and girls kissing. It talked to me constantly about how I was a very closeted lesbian and I just didn't know it. It was made harder to process by the fact I hadn't kissed anyone yet so the OCD played up on that fact as well.
... How do you know if you have never even been kissed? You know you like girls and not guys. You are so gay. Just admit it...
I felt like I was going crazy. I knew I was straight and yet the doubts kept coming. Washing over me like a baptism of lies and deceit. I became afraid to spend time with my friends because they were girls and my brain kept telling me I wanted to kiss them or I was sexually attracted to them. It became torture to have to sit next to a girl in class. The shame of the things my brain was telling me in lurid and explicit sexual detail made me flush with guilt and embarrassment. I was so confused I felt I had to test myself to see if I was gay. When I would have an intrusive image come into my mind I would try to see if it felt like I was aroused. Hoping that maybe it would be a way to finally solve the doubt. It was never conclusive enough for my OCD because it would say I was when I wasn't. So much so that I started to doubt if I had been or not. I concentrated so hard on trying to prove to myself whether I was or was not gay by gauging arousal that every time I had one of the homosexual OCD thoughts I felt like I had to pee or vomit or both. It was torture and I had no idea what to believe anymore. The OCD had confused me to the point I felt like I preferred no sexuality preference at all. I didn't want to be gay or straight, I just wanted to be free and maybe become a nun. Then it wouldn't matter either way, because I would be celibate. I really thought joining the nunnery may have been my only hope but I was and am Southern Baptist and Baptists don't have a nunnery or nuns to speak of....The irony wasn't lost on me.
Thankfully, I had a really good therapist who also happened to be a Lesbian, so in talking with her I learned that this torture wasn't indicative of my preference at all. It was all OCD trying to confuse me and torture me simply because that is what OCD does. If I had truly been a lesbian then I wouldn't be agonizing over it or testing myself. I would know. Generally, people know which way they swing or at least have an idea. This made sense and the Homosexuality OCD fear symptom finally dissipated once it no longer was able to upset me anymore. It had haunted me for a year.
I had finally conquered this particular PureO obsession but it would end up being the least agonizing symptom. As I grew older the more devastating and haunting my symptoms became. My new symptoms would be more heartbreaking and scary. Out with the old and in with the new. My next symptoms were Harm Fears and they scared me more than I could ever imagine....
The next installment :http://neurtoicnellyocd.blogspot.com/2014/01/i-was-unaware-and-unprepared.html
Previous installment :http://neurtoicnellyocd.blogspot.com/2013/12/and-so-it-begins.html