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My battles with OCD

This page created 3 August 2012

By Jack (ADAVIC Volunteer)


While it seems strange to sit back and reflect upon the distressing nature of obsessive compulsive disorder, it feels satisfying to express my thoughts in a manner which portrays the struggles of the experience. Before a personal narration of the illness however, a definition from the National Institute of Mental Health seems appropriate. According to the definition, “Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is an anxiety disorder which is characterised by recurrent, unwanted thoughts (obsessions), and/or repetitive behaviors (compulsions)’. Affecting approximately 1 in 100 adults, OCD is renowned for its complexity, and is an illness that fascinates many in the psychological field.

While it is difficult to trace the beginnings of my own personal experience with OCD, I can recall a number of instances where the ‘symptoms’ of the disorder may have inadvertently revealed themselves. First and foremost, I recall a fascination with symmetry. In particular, I regularly fashioned the pillows from the couch and the remote controls from the coffee table in a manner that satisfied my ‘cravings’ for such regularity. In regards to contamination, I maintained the usage of a particular glass and spoon, and would trouble myself over the precision of my daily uniform. What’s more, I would avoid any opportunities to go outside with my parents; and would instead mould my day around a pack of game cards and miniature toy cars.

While such examples seem minor, further patterns would develop over time in conjunction with a number of personally ‘horrifying’ events. Two instances of such events come to mind. Upon the closure of the closely located Pentridge Prison in Coburg, my father initiated a tour of the complex. Being approximately six years of age (perhaps younger) at the time, I was terrified by the numerous stories recounted by the tour guide, and was further petrified by the stories of escape. As such, and for an extended period of time, I had incredible troubles with nightmares and falling to sleep; convinced that somehow, I would be taken to the gallows by the now non-existent prisoners and either tortured or killed.
          
The second example of an anxiety provoking situation occurred throughout a school summer holiday period. Unfortunately, the case in question concerned a physically disabled boy, who was born without a hand on his left arm, and without fingers on his right hand. While visiting the family of the boy’s home, I became particularly distressed at the thought of joining both the boy and his family in the backyard pool. From what I now gather, I was actually scared of the boy’s arms. I considered them dirty and was simply unable to comprehend the idea of swimming in such ‘contaminated’ water.

As the years passed by, further behaviors developed which corresponded to my eventual diagnosis of OCD and depression at the age of seventeen. Terrified of becoming sick, I would wash my hands in excess of 80 times a day, to the extent of swollen and blistered skin. Furthermore, I began to engage in obsessive checking practices. I would regularly check and re-check the doors of the house, ensuring they were locked. This even included visits home throughout the recess and lunchtime periods of school days. Next, I developed an obsession with the number three, and would regularly partake in rituals that limited the  anxiety associated with the number. What’s more, I maintained rituals of blinking and cracking, and regularly found myself confined to the isolation of the family home.

Compounding the OCD and anxiety itself was the previously mentioned notion of depression. Unfortunately, depression often accompanies anxiety disorders, and I was no different in this instance. Constantly sad, lethargic and disinterested, I would regularly cry (yes, boys do cry, Robert Smith – fans of The Cure will understand!), and was subsequently quite disillusioned with life…

The implementation of therapy however, and in particular cognitive behavioral therapy, has significantly helped in my personal battles with both OCD and depression. Starting at Glencairn Consulting Suites, I was eventually transferred to ORYGEN youth health services in Parkville. At both clinics, I was treated in a manner that was both highly informative and particularly effective. As such, I am forever grateful to the individuals involved in my recovery.

In regards to the future, it is clear that many battles remain. While therapy continues and medications maintain however, I am hopeful of a full recovery before too long. I hope to inform, support and encourage others throughout my time at ADAVIC, and wish everyone all the best in their treatment and recovery.

Finally, a special thanks of course to ADAVIC founder Anna Kouloubos, who has provided fellow volunteers and myself with a fantastic opportunity to become involved in a great association.

Until next time,

Jack



References



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