The first time I ever remember experiencing those rushing, circular thoughts and the panic that clutches your throat, I was just small–probably 4 or 5. OCD was here to stay.
It was in the 90’s and everyone was rightfully worried about the AIDS epidemic.
My parents had taken me and my little sister on a walk in the woods that brushed our back yard. A few seconds out of direct observation was enough for me to find a hypodermic needle left in the fallen leaves.
I remember my dad’s voice–one of the few times I’ve heard him be fearful–as he yelled for me to drop it.
Back at home, my mom sat me on her lap and told me about blood and how it can bring germs from someone else’s body right into yours. I couldn’t stop crying.
I thought about that needle obsessively. How much had I touched it? I mentally ticked seconds trying to replay the feeling of holding it for exactly long enough. Had I touched a germy part? Where was the person it belonged to? Could viruses jump?
In elementary, and through middle school, I began washing my hands until they were chapped. My mom would “catch” me in the middle of the night having woken up just to wash my hands.
In high school I started thinking obsessively about death. Whenever we had a fire drill at school, I almost cried. I went to Catholic school. I would shake when we had to read the Bible for class, and it would mention anyone dying. When we read The Awakening in class, I hid in the bathroom crying for the next two periods.
In college I obsessively got tested for STDs, often without any sexual activity since the last time I was tested.
In my early 20’s, I was plagued again by thoughts of being seriously ill.
Finally, finally, I am working through several apps and seeking therapy and doing explosive amounts of journaling. But I look back and I know that there will be relapses. Yeah, that’s scary. I hope that by doing all of this work in the mean time, I’ll make it easier to get back to this other side any time a relapse occurs.
What were your early experiences with Anxiety or OCD? How did they shape you?