Hello, I am 26 yrs old and was diagnosed with OCD in junior high. I have been on a bunch of medications for it (Risperdal, Luvox, Paxil, Zoloft, Anafranil, few more I cant remember) and have had some cognitive therapy. I am trying this and am seeking real support groups because I am at wit’s end with everything not working. I have never been on a med that I could say “oh yeah, that helps”. Maybe the OCD would get better or worse a bit, but I never credited meds with much. Right now I am on Paxil, my current doctor does not have me on any anxiety medication (was on Klonopin) because he says a little anxiety is actually good for fighting it. I don’t know, I was much better on Zoloft and Klonopin, but don’t think that any medication can help me at this point. It may help me and I just do not notice it, but right now I just think I need to make some cognitive changes to fix this or try a medication more “out of the box” than Paxil or Zoloft. I am the patient here though, so I really don't know. I am also very intrigued by the Gamma Knife Treatment (http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/ocd/treatment.html).
My OCD centers on cleanliness, mainly fear of getting dirty or contaminating my living surroundings. It’s interesting because the idea of germs or disease really doesn’t bother me, it’s just mainly dirt or filth. My days are filled with the same basic drawn out rituals such as 45-minute showers with scrubbing that leaves by face and hands burning and red. Every day it is the same routine in the shower, I almost think of them as stages. One of the main driving forces behind the OCD maintaining a bad obsession which goes on to infect everything like a virus. The best way I can illustrate this is through example. For instance, I recently moved out of an apartment where in the kitchen and a little in the bedrooms the A/C ducts would for some reason blow this crud out of them once in a while, so there would be spots of scattered dirt in the same places, most easily seen in the light-colored kitchen. Okay, this drove me crazy and I got to the point where I would not go in the kitchen after I showered and in was in my “perfection state.” Also I would not get in my bed even to lie down during the day if I had been in the kitchen. I recently relocated and had to get a new apartment. Well, everything was fine for a couple days and it felt great to have the freedom to not think of any of the apartment as “dirty”. Then, my mind decided to come up with the idea that all the food I had brought from my old apartment was dirty. Even though the cans of soup and such were in a closed pantry at the old place, I had this notion that they were covered with dirt or filth, and it really didn’t matter if I SAW it or not. I resisted doing much about this, but in the end I put tons of canned goods and stuff in a bag next to the dumpster for one of the homeless people who are always going through it. I had to get it cleaned out. Thing is, right after I get rid of the culprit, I start coming up with new things to bother me from it. For instance, now I think that the stuff I had bought after I moved but was in the pantry with the “dirty” stuff is now also dirty. And I think that when I took the “dirty” stuff out even though it was in a bag it had dirtied everything from the floor to the handle on the fridge to the alarm clock that is near my front door. Even the sheets on my bed I think got dirty when I took the stuff out, and of course this meant I had to go and launder those (a huge pain in the rear, I must be one of the biggest wasters of resources such as soap, hot water, cleaners, hygiene stuff, etc). So now I have a separate pair of pants and shirt I wear when I go in the kitchen to get something, and still won’t go in the pantry. This affects everything in my life. When I get home from class I can’t have a snack and go lay down, its either lay down or go snack and shower and lay down. I will notice something from the old apartment such as my CD wallet or dress shoes that were near an air vent and will think that I can never comfortably use it again. I do not open the window to my apartment because the window metal window area on the outside is a bit dirty (like most windows) and I’m afraid if the wind picks up it will blow crud over everything. What blows me away is that this same kind of thing happens again and again. It’s like one awful thing that seems to ruin everything. For this, it was the fact that crap would come out of the air vents and I think it got everywhere. Before I moved out of home, the SAME EXACT thing happened but it was with my brother’s dog that spent his day tied up in my parent’s garage (I know, awful). I thought he was flea city. I believed that walking within 20 feet of him would cause me to get fleas on everything of mine and me. I started parking my car way up in the driveway and never walking through the garage. I love dogs, but sometimes I thought how wonderful it would be if his dog could just be gone from this Earth or at least my neighborhood. I told my counselor that if it weren’t for this one thing I would have a complete handle on my life, and she told me that once this was removed something else would come. Lo and behold, a few months later I’m away from that and I get the dirt from the A/C vent thing. Of course, I have OCD incidents all the time, it’s just that these seem like those major ones that I just cannot do anything about. My mind can make up unlimited things about it and I can’t fight it because it is not something happening right now, it is something that happened (the dogs fleas and the dirt from vents) and is ingrained in my mind.
The other OCD as I call it includes more generic stuff like checking my car doors and windows repeatedly because I don’t want any crap to get in it, being super vigilant about where I walk (away from dumpsters) and walk in (away from grass and stuff, on concrete). I read another OCD patients post about how he was afraid he would get AIDS from giving a homeless man a cigarette. Well, if I give a homeless man a cigarette or some change, I am in the shower within the next hour because I think I just got dirty. I cannot go outside my front door to smoke or get the mail and come back in and relax because there are some mounds of dirt in front of my apartment and countless things I will run into on the way to the mailbox that will make me feel dirty. So I have two states, one in which I come and go and sit in my chair or couch and eat whatever I want, and one in which I am showered in that “perfect state”, can go in my bed and use and touch my electronic stuff, but do not venture outside or into the kitchen pantry. What really stinks is that I have a bunch of text books that were at the old place which I now think are dirty and therefore only read when not in the “perfect state” even though I actually WIPED THEM OFF WITH CLEANER! TEXT BOOKS! This affects my social life (I missed a meeting the other night because I was laundering stuff I believed to be dirty from taking the cans out, and couldn’t stand to leave before this fake task I had given myself was done), financial well-being, and clearly my academic success. It even goes into the thought stuff, to the point where I may think something unpleasant (say, sexually) while doing something and have to do whatever it is over while forcing myself to think of something pleasant or otherwise the thought will haunt me. One of the weirdest things about all this is that it was not always this way. When I first noticed the OCD in high school it was all about checking, the dirt thing was non-existent. Then, the thoughts started happening, recurring unpleasant thoughts that I read a lot about being the main problem for OCD patients. Now, it is with the contamination. It’s almost like I defeated the OCD’s old form, so now it’s back in a different way. It’s almost like playing chess with my mind. Something will come up, say I think that the CD wallet is dirty from the old place and I need a new one. I will say that is ridiculous, and start trying to make a case against it to MYSELF! I will say well the case was in this entertainment center which has a huge ledge which would have guarded it from the air vent. This gives me ten seconds of relief followed by the thought that maybe just a bit of crud could have made it’s way to the case, and the cycle continues, almost always with me losing. Life is too short for this, and that is one of the main mantras that helps through when it gets really rough, but of all the stuff I can say to myself when I am relaxed to make me feel good about beating this, it is when I am in the throes of it that I just forgot all of that. Just thinking of the kitchen right now, and the new debate I am having with myself about whether I need to launder my travel bag because I am going home this weekend and the bag IS in the kitchen…..makes me completely uncomfortable. I hate the time, energy, and money I spend on all this. I mean usually my errand/To Do list is 80% things that DO NOT need to be done but the OCD has convinced me otherwise. I worry about not enjoying the good times because I’m worried about some stupid task I have for myself when I get back to my place, or that I need to just get rid of all my possessions when I get that first paycheck and just start “clean”, because everything I acquire that mixes with the “dirty” stuff may become dirty too. I hate this so much, I want to be freaking normal so bad, and it’s just unexplainable to me. I’d like to pull the wire in my brain that is causing this. Any thoughts, questions? It is unbelievable the way this diesease works and is similar between people. I hate this and I hate the fact that I am wasting my life, I do not want to regret down the road that I missed some of the best times of my life (which I am doing), because of this or missed opportunities (grades have suffered, social life has) because of it either. To be honest, just thinking about that actually helps me a bit, at least for a few minutes.