I don’t know when OCD began for me. The earliest memory that I can somewhat relate to it is hearing a phone ringing and panicking someone at the other end was dying. I remember no one else reacting to the sound and being alone in feeling a desperate urge for a parent to answer the call.
Another memory which I believe is more likely to have been the early stages of OCD is connecting how I moved through objects with fear of being left behind. By walking past say a lamppost either left or right (no set direction) I would be transported to an alternative reality where I wouldn’t know I had been but my family would. They’d either be missing me or I would be in a coma, again, completely unaware of my situation. Basic routes became obstacle courses where I had to circle and dodge to avoid the traps. This was coupled with intense dreams of seeing my dad walking ahead in the distance with my sisters and not being able to catchup to them.
Perhaps this is the beginning of OCD for me, perhaps it’s just an average childs imagination. I certainly don’t blame my parents divorce for how I am now. Then again I never controlled that narrative. I have, and I mean this with as little bitterness as I can mean it with, a controlling parent who tried and succeeded a lot in dictating my thoughts and feelings. I don’t want to name them or even gender them which is not through malice but respect. They had their reasons for how they were that were also dictated to them.
I grew up with a very self-centred person who expected absolute loyalty. Me and my sisters were regularly told that the other parent didn’t love us and it was only because of them that they saw us. The message was we could only trust them as only they wanted and loved us. Again, they had their own reasons for doing it however I don’t condone this behaviour. There was a controlling, vindictive and frankly bullying side to it that even as adults me and my siblings face. We were each labelled “abusive” for gaining independence. We each faced a campaign of phone calls to family members and friends in the hope (I assume) of isolating us. I’ve no doubt this has shaped who I am today.
Since I can remember my family has been involved in the church and most of my childhood memories are around it. Sunday school was the highlight of our week. It played a massive role in the parents life also. They were very keen for us to grow up religious. This isn’t a complaint about my parent wanting us to be involved in the church but important to explain the rest.
I was taught that God knew all of our thoughts. God was going to judge us for every sin and every sin would be laid bare for all to see. There was no escape for anyone. Nothing would remain private. Teamed with if I didn’t 100% commit to God and lived in “lukewarm” belief I was excluded from salvation. I had to be dedicated to the point of never having a thought question it’s validity.
The next major point in my life was the death of my grandma. Now, it all relates weirdly. My older sister had a film she’d decided we could all watch together when we got home from vacation. I was very excited as she was selective in sharing. This type of offer didn’t happen often so it felt special, I remember feeling special. Before the film could play our parent had entered the room to inform us that while away our grandma had died. My sisters were clearly no longer in the mood to watch the film and my initial reaction was to feel cheated. I cared that I wasn’t going to see the movie, not that a human being had died.
My brain somehow interpreted this as I had murdered her. I fully believed that I was keeping the secret that I had murdered my grandma. The only thing stopping me from confessing to the crime was not having the words to make it make sense. I watched my family grieve, held hands with my aunt as she sobbed at her funeral and felt I was the monster who’d caused all of the pain. There was a looming presence of my grandma watching me, knowing what I’d done, knowing what sins I were committing.
Around this time I become isolated from my family and school. To put simply, I withdrew. I had no way to communicate it with them so I couldn’t communicate with them. Bullying grew worse and so did my bad hygiene and urge to stay separated.
To cut a long story short, once I had left high school and entered college I gained back some self confidence. A friend who was into heavy metal music lent me a CD for me to be introduced to it. I can’t state the exact track list however I know one song included the word ‘abortion’. I know because I came home to find my parent had left it outside, wrapped in what I think was a plastic bag. This is the day I was attacked and thrown out of my home for “bringing... into the house”.
To cut a short story even shorter and not completely spew every detail of my life, I don’t know when I stopped believing I’d murdered my grandma. I don’t know when I began praying due to OCD and not from being in a religion. I don’t know when I became destined for a life in and out of homelessness. I genuinely don’t know. Hindsight hasn’t left me with a good enough memory to. What I do know is that these periods are parts of my life and form my journey. A journey I am now, with time, able to look back on and see for what it is. Without this luxury I don’t believe I would’ve ever been able to share and understand my feelings. Even if sharing current threats is too frightening to risk I have the gift of past ones that no longer have hold of me. The embarrassment of them is a smaller price to pay than the anxiety of the current ones.
Of course OCD needs to be challenged to be stopped. Past experiences do not substitute the current ones for treatment. It is though a complex relationship and not always straightforward enough to challenge head on. As much as I hate the threats, aches and pain, frustration, exhaustion and the rest... it is required. Look, I know logically it’s not but *RIGHT NOW* it is.
Until I’m at a place where I feel able to live fully without OCD, there is no option. Hindsight is, for now, the best hope of one day trusting myself and the world again.