Day 8: What age you were diagnosed at? At what age do you think your symptoms began?
I was diagnosed just 3 months shy of my 25th birthday, but I have dealt with my OCD for as long as I can remember.
There are moments from growing up that I reflect on and think, “wow, that was really weird and nobody noticed.” I got really good at hiding my symptoms and my rituals. I passed things off as quirks so that no one knew what my issues were. I didn’t want that label, and honestly, I wasn’t ready to admit to myself that I had a mental illness.
Here’s my timeline:
Age 5 (when I start to remember things): I cried each night. I was afraid, of everything. I used to think that aliens were sneaking in my room at night. I would cry and cry until someone came to acknowledge me and be in the room with me because I was absolutely terrified to sleep.
Age 7: First grade – I made up my own homework to be like my big sister (who was in high school) and I would read the Berenstein Bears until I got it just right.
3rd Grade: During recess, I heard people recite the “step on a crack, break your mother’s back” rhyme and I became terrified that if I stepped on that crack, I would indeed break my mother’s back.
High School: I started noticing that my school work and projects had to be “perfect” before being handed in. I started obsessing over what college to attend and how it would impact my future if I didn’t get into the school of my dreams.
College: My calendar was color-coded, separated out by quarter hours, and I lived and breathed by that thing for 5 years. I still truly believe that that calendar is how I made it through Georgia Tech. I noticed my anxiety really start causing me problems during this time. Then I lost a sorority sister to leukemia and my grandfather to cancer. This is when my OCD exploded.
Right before Graduation: I was planning our wedding and working a part time job while going to school full time and still an active member of my sorority. I didn’t sleep very often and when I did, it was restless. I was miserable. Things had to be perfect all of the time, even though I told myself that things weren’t going to go according to plan.
Fall 2011: Started my first “big girl” job and I was miserable. I was working all of the time because I cared so much. I cared more than anyone else that I worked with and I took every negative comment that the sales team sent my way personally. I was driving almost an hour to an hour and a half each way everyday in traffic, causing myself even more anxiety. I was on the brink of depression.
Spring 2012: Transitioned jobs to my current job and fell in love with the atmosphere. My husband and I bought a home and moved in on our first wedding anniversary. This should be the happiest time of my life – and yet, I was miserable. This is the beginning of what led me to seek treatment.
Fall/Early Winter 2012: I was constantly fighting with my husband, I was unhappy/anxious/miserable/afraid, despite having everything I wanted falling into place.
New Year’s Eve 2012: Went to a party (that I didn’t want to go to, by the way, because of my anxiety) and ran into a friend with ADHD. He told my husband about a book to read and my husband and I made a pact that night – If I bought the book for him about ADHD, I had to buy a book about OCD for myself. We agreed and within the first week of January, we were reading about our respective disorders.
Late January 2013: After reading through my OCD book and discovering that nearly everything in there applied to me, I made an appointment with a therapist who was in our health insurance network that listed OCD as her first speciality. I had my first visit and fell in love with her, despite being diagnosed with something that I knew I had all along.
That’s the thing about my disorder – I’ve known since I was a small child that I was different, that something was wrong with me. I didn’t know how to describe it or if it was really that uncommon until I was older and in high school. That’s when people started joking with me about being “so OCD” or being “anal retentive.” I just thought that this is how successful people appear to those who don’t give a shit. Turns out, I was the weird one. Honestly though, having a name to put to this awful feeling that I’ve felt my whole life is almost a relief. I know that there really is something wrong with me and there’s a way to treat it. I think it’s better to know than to go through life guessing and never doing anything about it.
I wouldn’t say I’m in recovery yet, but I’m working on it. As John Mayer says, “I’m in repair, I’m not together but I’m getting there…”