So as part of the OCD conference attendees were asked to be an advocate for OCD. To tell people there is hope for those with OCD. Everyone who wanted to could be filmed saying “There is hope for those with OCD” and something else if they wished.
I thought long and hard about this. I wanted to say something meaningful. I wanted to help others. Of course I totally blew my session in front of the camera just b/c I became so nervous about the whole ordeal. But one of my sentences Jeff Bell said was beautiful and asked me to repeat it for the camera.
“Hope Comes in a Quiet Whisper.”
Honestly I have no idea how I came up with this. But it is completely and utterly true. I was just thinking of what I would write if I wrote my own Memoir and that sentence would be the title (and perhaps will be the title if I ever decide to write one…which I am actually contemplating).
This is what I wrote when I was first trying to decide what I would say to those who felt hopeless from OCD. It is basically a very summarized memoir (some of it comes straight from this blog..just in case why you are wondering a part or 2 sounds familiar):
Hope comes in a quiet whisper, a whisper that if you are courageous enough can change your life.
I’m 22 years old, and have had OCD since I was at least 8 years old. I didn’t know though that I had a disorder until September 2011, when I was just a few months from turning 22.
From around the age of 8, I remember having obsessive thoughts of contamination (contaminating both myself and others), thoughts that if I didn’t do or say certain things that I and who ever my thoughts were aimed at were going to hell, thoughts that if I didn’t do certain things in places that made me feel uncomfortable that I was going to die, thoughts that I was a bad person, and that, no matter what, I would never be good enough. Of course these obsessions were partnered with elaborate rituals (such as writing ‘I Love God’, ‘I Love Jesus’ on the shower wall with my finger, touching my nose to ensure that I was breathing and not dying, avoiding certain situations, petting my dogs in the exact right pattern, etc).
When I was young I tried to speak to my parents once or twice about it, but I was too afraid that they would institutionalize me or try to perform an exorcism. I truly believed I was demon possessed. I can’t express to you how torturous these thoughts were to an eight year old. I was convinced that my parents would no longer love me if I let them see what I believed was the ‘true me.’
I don’t think I can say that I went into remission. But as the years went on I found ways to cope. One way was even hiding it from myself. I would have OCD difficulties but would make myself forget them right after they happened. I didn’t want to acknowledge it.
My illusion that I was ok held pretty well throughout middle school and high school. The stresses of college though ripped my illusion fiercely apart. In addition to all that I outlined above, I went into a spiral of morbid obsessions and perfectionism. I honestly don’t know how I survived my undergraduate career. The thoughts debilitated me, but I was able to keep it hidden. I thought it was only a matter of time before someone would notice and institutionalize me. My compulsion though for my morbid obsessions was avoidance, so it was easy to hide: I just simply refused to let people touch me, because I was afraid that I would do something to them. Living a life in academia also made it easy to hide perfectionism, because who doesn’t want to be perfect to get into the best programs? All of this only got worse when I entered graduate school. Especially morbid obsessions, perfectionism, a high sense of responsibility to all of those that I came in contact with, and contamination issues.
I can’t describe to you though the constant pain I was in. I wasn’t dying a little everyday. All of me was dying everyday only to be cursed to be reincarnated into the same person the next day and the next.
I was in a silent prison screaming. It was all I could hear, but no one could hear me. One day though I heard something that was not characteristic of my constant scream. It was a whisper that broke through. A whisper of hope.
At this point in my life I no longer cared about myself. I didn’t believe that I deserved to ever be happy, feel comfortable, feel wanted, or feel loved. But because I had a high sense of responsibility for all those around me I knew I wanted to help others. Before OCD hit me in undergrad, I was enthusiastic about community service. All I ever did was want to make other’s lives better, whether or not someone knew it was me making their lives better.
So my whisper of hope disguised itself as a whisper of a memory, this idea that I could make other’s lives better. If I truly was a horrible person, I wanted to spend the rest of my life (if I could leave my house) counteracting it.
After one particularly bad OCD episode in which I had convinced myself that both my roommate and I were going to die from the chemical residue of the cleaning supplies I used to decontaminated our bathroom (I needed TONS of reassurance from my roommate and my parents that you can’t die from cleaning products), I finally sought for a therapist.
I knew something was wrong with me, and a therapist would know whether there was something mentally wrong with me or if I needed to be locked up as a psychopath.
This is when my hope extended and transformed into my therapist. He gave me hope. He explained to me that I had something called Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and that in fact I was NOT an evil person. He didn’t judge me.
I still had a hard time believing this hope. But this hope was there. Waiting patiently for me. A little louder than a whisper now that I heard a trained professional tell me it was going to be ok. My hope then continued to transform into my parents, who continued to love me even after I told them all of my ‘horrible’ secrets. Like a blooming flower, my hope opened wider to encompass a few select friends who offered me support. Hope then manifested in the form of humor. Humor that kept me laughing at myself and my crazy compulsions.
Finally, my hope grew to embrace me. I now began to believe in me. I finally believed that the OCD was not me and I could be the beautiful person I always wanted to be.
Hope manifests itself in so many ways. It will transform and materialize in the ways you most need it. You just have to be brave enough to first listen for that hint of a whisper.
There is hope for those with OCD.
I’ll write about the conference tonight! I promise!