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Tag Archives: Childhood OCD
I remember when my OCD first began.
My parents tell me it was in the 5th grade… but I know for a fact it was the 4th grade.
I mean prior to this one moment I’m going to describe, I had always been that kid who was terrified of hurting others’ feelings and having to apologize right away. I was also the kid who would tattle on herself to her parents when I got in trouble at school. There was this one time in 3rd grade that I was talking to much and I had to move my “behavior card from green to yellow”… I was terrified of getting in trouble when I got home, but I HAD to tell my parents, or I couldn’t handle life.
But anyway… my first major OCD freak out happened in 4th grade. I don’t remember exactly what I was wearing, but I do know that I was wearing an old sweater of my oldest sister’s around my waist (you know as we did in the 90s) that was checkered blue and flannel. I went to the bathroom and at some point during that process the arm of the sweater hit the toilet seat.
I know… such an odd thing to freak myself out about, but I was TERRIFIED of the “germs” that got on my sweater. When I got back to the classroom I took the sweater and put it in my pink butterfly backpack (it’s so odd the details I remember lol).
As long as the sweater was in the backpack I was safe from its germs. But when I got home… I had to take it out to put it in the wash. The problem though was that my sweater had touched other things in my backpack. I then had to wash my planner, my pencil, and the dog shaped eraser that was on it.
My parents caught me washing the former thing and started questioning me of “why did I need to wash it” and so forth. But from that moment on I was freaked out about germs. They were everywhere! So I started to wash my hands a lot.
My skin started to get red and cracking… so my parents finally noticed. They again questioned me “Why do you keep washing your hands? Is someone hurting you and that is why you feel like washing your hands?” The way that this conversation occurred… I don’t really know why… but it kind of scarred me for life. I don’t know if it was because my parents were so confrontational about it and I felt like I was getting in huge trouble or what. But from that moment on I tried to hide it from them.
It was also around this time that other things started to freak me out… like cleaning products. I remember washing my hands before dinner one night and the dogs water bowls were near the sink. I realized going to the table that I still had watery soapy hands, but I freaked out that some of the soap got into the dogs’ water bowl and that they were going to drink it and die. Of course I told my parents, they changed the dogs’ water bowl water and told me it was ok. The beginning of needing to ask for reassurance started here I believe.
I remember in the third grade I had an obsessional thought about being the cause of my dog’s death. He was only 14 months old when he passed away, but he died from a liver problem. But a couple of months before he died (when we knew he was sick but we didn’t know why), I was leaning over the doggy gate we had for the kitchen to pet him and in the process I leaned to far into the gate making it fall with me on top of it. Both the gate and me landed on our dog and he cried. I know now that this accident had absolutely nothing to do with my dog’s death, but when I was little even though my parents reassured me thousands of times that my dog was ok (he was totally fine from this… I just had never heard him cry before), I took the blame a few months later for his death (the doctors gave him 6 months to live after we found out what was wrong with him but he only lasted two). My third grade mind thought that I must have accidentally did it. Ok so I take it back… so in the third grade is probably when my OCD started… although it really didn’t get intense until the fourth grade.
I’m not sure what happened in the fifth grade that made my OCD turn to the extreme worse. Perhaps I wasn’t ready for all the changes that occurred in my life, but we moved twice, resulting in me going to three different schools. I was fine at the beginning of the fifth grade, but when we moved over winter break something inside me cracked. I started washing my hands a lot and I became obsessive about other things… such as breathing. I would force myself to breathe loudly because I was terrified that if I couldn’t hear myself breathe then I wasn’t actually breathing and that I would die. This is also when I started to become terrified of driving (well obviously I wasn’t driving my parents were), tall buildings, escalators, heights, and large enclosed spaces (like churches, malls, movie theaters, etc.). I believe the latter started when I got my ears pierced in a large mall. It didn’t hurt when I got it done, but I guess I had held myself pretty rigid and after about 3 minutes of walking afterwards I almost passed out. I think that is why I associated large buildings as being scary.
When we moved again that year, the large enclosed spaces thing got worse. My family went to this really really large church. I really don’t know what at first bothered me about it. I tried to find excuses in my 5th grade mind of why I should feel scared in such a wonderful place. My first huge melt down in this church though was during Vacation Bible School. The theme was something to do with the ocean. So they hung from the ceiling of the large sanctuary huge killer whale, shark, and fish blow ups. And then they made the lights turn blue and made it look like we were all under the sea. This was the first legit panic attack I ever had. I tried to breathe loudly b/c I had to make sure that I was still alive… I started to hold my self rigid.. my heart was pounding I was sweating…my hands started to go numb. That is when I knew I had to get out of there. I ran from the sanctuary and called my mom to tell her I was sick. This was the first day of VBS and I was terrified of going back each day afterwards. I started getting these images (I had a wild imagination) that anytime I was in a large enclosed space that I would somehow end up on the ceiling, stuck under water, and no one would be able to save me. I know so absurd… but this thought would never leave my mind and it terrified me.
Some time during this point another major trigger happened. I actually have a really hard time talking about this… because although I know my God protects me and the thoughts I had were meaningless… the idea of them still scares the crap out of me.
My mother and sister (who is 2 1/2 years older than me) were watching the Twilight zone. I was never much of a Sci-fi person prior to this, so I wasn’t into it, but I had nothing else to do but watch TV with the family (because that is how my family bonds lol). This episode was too much for my 5th grade mind. I don’t remember all the details… but it was about this man who sold his soul to the devil in order to live for a certain period of time or something like that. As you probably gathered from my need to make sure I was breathing and not about to die by breathing loud enough that I could hear it, death was something extremely scary to me at this time. I was a Christian at this point. I had asked Jesus to be my savior in the 4th grade. So although I was scared of death I knew I would go to heaven to be with my God who loved me. But then after watching this episode of the Twilight zone with my family I started getting terrifying ideas… what if I had accidentally sold my soul to the devil or made a bet with him over my soul?
With OCD… your imagination can run wild… so while I promise I never did either of these things… the thoughts would never leave me alone… what if I did? what if just thinking about it made me do it? What if I was going to die and go to hell??
I couldn’t bare the idea.
This is when I started to create elaborate rituals to ensure that I wasn’t going to go to hell, nor was I going to die, nor was any of my family. My parents had this weird saying every time we went to bed. I don’t know why we did it, but it was just something we did. They would say “See you in the morning and” and we (me and my sister) would have to respond back with “after school.” For some reason I felt that if I didn’t do this EVERY night then I was going to go to hell. I was so terrified that I would make my mom do it like 10s of times before going to bed every night. It never seemed to bother her… I think she saw it as a way of me trying to prolong having to go to bed… I mean in a way it was… because I was terrified of sleeping and dying in my sleep. But I was terrified that if I didn’t do that saying that I was going to go to hell. I hated myself for having to do this. And I even convinced myself that I was going to have to live at home for the rest of my life, so I could say this to my mother every night so I wouldn’t go to hell.
I also had other rituals. Every time I pet my dog(s) or cat, I would have to pet them twice on top of their head, twice behind one ear, twice behind another ear, and then twice on top of their head. If I didn’t I was going to hell and my dog was going to die. Also, every time that I took a shower.. I had to write with my finger on the wall of the shower (just with the water droplets) “I love God” “I love Jesus” to prove to myself and the devil that I wasn’t going to hell, because I was a christian. The breathing thing also got worse during this time period. I had to make sure that I was breathing at all times. So my breathing got louder (to the point that my teachers and classmates noticed it so I blamed it on allergies). But even though I could hear my breathing… sometimes I wasn’t totally sold that I was actually breathing, so I came up with a way to kind of “hide” that I was checking that I was breathing. I would take my hand and touch/rub my nose. That way I could feel my breath on my hand. But I was breathing so hard sometimes that I would end up hurting my back and would have to massage my shoulder…which was usually very noticeable. I also started to do this weird thing with my throat… that I can’t really describe. I still do it every once in a while. But it made me feel like I was aware of my body and that yes I was alive.
There were also many other things I was scared of at this time. I honestly can’t remember them all. I remember at times I would get so scared of going to sleep because I thought I would die that I would have to read a book (I would have to hide in the bathroom since all lights had to be out at 8pm) or talk to my sister (who I shared a room with) in order to get my mind off of death before going to sleep.
There was this one time that I saw something on the floor of my room that scared me. I didn’t have a flash light or a lamp, so I used my red glowing clock to illuminate it. In the process of doing this the redness made whatever I was trying to see on the ground look like the face of the devil. I was so scared I cried out for my mother, who came and took me to her bed. I might also add that I saw the movie the Amityville Horror (1979) either this year or I think 2nd grade… but either way it scarred me for life… so I was always looking over my shoulder for freaky scary red eyes.
I tried to talk to my parents once about it… but it was so hard. How does a fifth grader try to express to her parents that she has thoughts of selling her soul to the devil? I cannot express to you… the absolute terrified state I was constantly in. There was never a moment that I wasn’t scared, frightened, plagued by horrific thoughts. While I still had contamination OCD… I would have to say that these thoughts were a THOUSAND times worse.
My parents apparently called my great-uncle, a pediatrician, about me. And he said that I was just having anxiety issues and to ride it out with me. But either they didn’t wish to see the amount of pain I was in… or I hid it well. I so wish that my parents had taken me to see someone. I would probably have hated it at the time… but in the long run I would have really appreciated it. I was so…scared. I wanted to cry all the time, but I couldn’t let my parents see how much pain I was in… because if they did maybe they would realize I was a demonic child… the wouldn’t love me… they would throw me into an institution. They would probably think I was possessed. No one should have had to endure the thoughts that I went through… especially alone… but I had no one to turn to.
I honestly don’t know how I ever made it through this year. I was convinced that at any moment I was going to die of a heart attack. Some how I did survive though. Of course, every single one of those aspects lingered on with me for the rest of my years… even until today. But slowly I was able to actual live in life… but it was a long process.
I think what really helped was that we moved again. We moved to a totally new location. I am not sure if it was because we were in a different place or I had a chance to start new again, but moving really helped my OCD. My parents found us a small church that we could attend, so that I wouldn’t be scared of going to church and having legit panic attacks during service. I still had to go to the mall every once in a while and to go see a movie at a movie theater… it was pure torture for me. I was always so terrified. One time my class was having a field trip to some elementary school to talk to them about band. A week before the trip I found out that we were going to have lunch in the mall. I became so terrified of the prospect that I told them I couldn’t go, even though it hurt my grade.
Somehow though through the little bits of exposure and response therapy that I and my family was unknowingly putting me through I started to get better. It wasn’t until 11th grade though that I was able to walk into a large building without having a panic attack (seriously it was bad, even my school gym scared me…though they still frighten me to an extent). Escalators still frighten me today (though I have gotten so much better!). And I am still terrified of driving.
It is hard to believe that I didn’t know until this past September what it was that has plagued me my whole life. I do know though that I mentally punished myself for never being good enough and that there was something wrong with me. A part of me always believed that I was apparently slightly evil since I had such evil thoughts. I didn’t know that it was OCD. That there was actually something tangibly wrong with me that could be fixed. I remember there were nights when I would cry myself to sleep because I didn’t think that I would ever be worthy of marriage… because again… how does one tell their potential spouse “yea when I was a kid I was convinced that I had sold my soul to the devil”…. no one is going to take that well at all.
Between my OCD and random fights I had with my family and friends… I for the longest time did not believe I was or ever could be a good person. I fought this though. After a major fall out I had with friends once in the 10th grade (I believe I described this somewhere in another post about my ‘stalker’), I made it my soul mission to be nothing but a good person. No matter how much I was dying inside, I would always put others before myself, see the good in everyone around me. Because I had to believe everyone had good in them… so I could slightly believe there was good in me.
My OCD manifests itself in different ways now. Ways I am too embarrassed/ ashamed to talk about. Perhaps I will delve into them at some other point. But let met just say even though it manifests itself different now… all that I went through as a kid, I don’t think could have ever prepared me for what I went through last summer/ semester. It truly broke me. That is if there was anything left of me that could break… after what I went through growing up. And in all actuality… I have been having this specific OCD break down since my second year of undergrad. It was extremely bad between the summer of my second and third year of college, but I guess I hid it well. Last summer/semester.. I could no longer hide it, because I no longer wanted to live.
But I mainly wrote this post… to reach out to those with OCD or know someone who has OCD or knows a child who has OCD to let them know they aren’t alone.
OCD is SUCH an F&%^ing mind game that makes it easy to believe that you are all alone. I mean just look at my past posts from this week… I still feel constantly alone. I have to constantly battle with myself to believe that I am a good person. That I am not just wasted space on this planet. That I am worthy to live.
The fact that I am even going to publish this to my blog scares the crap out of me, but I so hope and pray that it helps someone. As a child… even as an adult… OCD is so scary. It presents all of your worst fears to you constantly… often in very vivid detail… you obsessive over them.. you make rituals to counteract them…. it never lets you feel safe from the world or yourself. So if you know someone who has OCD don’t let them suffer alone. I don’t want YOU to suffer alone. Please go find help. I still have a long way to go… as clearly seen in this blog… and I feel like if I had gotten help sooner… I would be less broken.