Imagine, you’re 13. It’s the summer before your eighth grade year. You play softball all summer. You get hot and sweaty; you roll in the dirt. If it rains you go out with your friends and play in the mud. You catch frogs. Everything is fine.
Then one day you get a horrendous case of poison ivy, your knees are covered, it’s crawling up and down your legs, you’ve got it on your arms. It’s miserable. It itches all the time. You sleep with socks on so you don’t scratch. You visit the doctor. You get oral medications and a shot. It doesn’t help, you go back for a shot. Finally, it starts getting better.
But then you start feeling weird. You get these weird emotions. Your mom leaves for work and you chase her to the car and hug her one more time. You’re afraid she won’t come home. You go to the bathroom, wash your hands and leave. You start washing farther up your arms. Eventually you wash to your elbows every time you go to the bathroom.
You start sitting on a sheet when you are in the front room so your body doesn’t touch the furniture. You move your sheet every time you move your seat. Want to sit on the couch, place the sheet there first. Want to sit on the floor, sheet first.
You wash your hands before touching the freezer door. You call your mom at work and ask if you need to rewash a towel because it touched your thigh while you were folding it.
You go to the bathroom, wash your hands up to your elbows, walk out of the bathroom and turn around and do it again. And again. And again. You use a nail brush every time you wash your hands.
You’re in the shower, your long hair touches your butt while your washing it. You have to wash it again. You shower for at least an hour, repeatedly washing, every shower. Your parents have to check on you because you’ve been in there so long.
You are constantly afraid that your germs will kill your family. You cry because you don’t want to kill your family.
You can still go out and play in the dirt. You can still catch frogs. You can still make mud pies, but you constantly worry about your germs.
When you’re on you period, it’s ten times worse.
Your mom doesn’t know what to do anymore so she takes you to the doctor. You are diagnosed with OCD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. You finally know what those feelings are. It’s anxiety. And you’re not alone.
You get medication. You get counseling. You get better. But it’s not easy. There are tears. There are wars in your head. You KNOW that you are clean but still there’s that little voice that says you’re not. That little voice says you can still kill your family with your germs.
Your mom takes away your nail brush. You learn to live without it by digging the soap. Then eventually you can stop that. Your showers get shorter, there are still occasions where you have to wash your body a couple times.
You wash your arms in public and make excuses that “Oops, I’m messy and spilled soda on my arms.”
But you still have some issues. You leave for college. Your mom talks to the college and arranges for you to get a dorm room where you don’t have to share the communal bathroom.
You go out into the big world. You still worry. You still wash occasionally. You still have freak outs. You still call mom and have her talk you down.
You get pregnant and go off your medication. You do fine. You stay off the meds until you get poison ivy again and get another shot. You start having problems again. Years go by, you have occasional problems. Sometimes you call your mom to talk you down but most times you have your husband do it.
You get pregnant again. You go off your medication only this time you don’t make it through the entire pregnancy. You have anxiety attacks. You cry uncontrollably. Only now it’s not just fear of germs but other anxiety attacks.
You go to your doctor because you can’t do it anymore. Luckily you are far enough along that you can start your meds again. Your doctor takes you off work for a week. You slowly start getting better. You war in your head. You use those things they taught you in therapy to talk yourself down.
A couple years go by, you decide you want to try to go without meds, you don’t want to be dependent. Your able to make it several months without a problem and then BAM! Out of nowhere anxiety attacks start again. Thoughts start again. Fear comes knocking again.
You pray, you beg, you plead, you go back on your meds. You get better.
You still have problems, you still have to talk yourself down, you still have wars in your head, you still have anxiety.
OCD is not fun and games. Sure it may be funny to others that so and so has to keep their pencils in a line. Or that so and so has to check the front door to make sure it’s locked 5 times. Or so and so has to count every pole along the road. Or so and so won’t shake peoples’ hands.
You might laugh along. But you have lived like this 20 years, you know what those people are feeling.
You will live like this the rest of your life and you will cope. You will be ok.