August 19, 2017

"Mam concentrated on making sure I hid my OCD. So I put it away, hid it, but it was still going on, where no one else could see or notice it, or help."

I'm Dean, I'm 41, I work at a wholesaler. In my spare time I write comic strips, and help my wife with her Community Project. And I have OCD.

I'm pretty sure it came on at age 7, when my Dad left us. Before that, I was very open, full of jokes, but afterwards I went quiet.

My Mam noticed a little while later, when the mess had died down a bit. I'd sit down once, then again, then maybe again. I'd turn the door handle a few times before opening the door. This was because I thought I maybe hadn't done it right the first time.

My stepdad tried to make a joke of it, which didn't help. Mam basically concentrated on making sure I hid it. So I put it away, hid it, but it was still going on, where no one else could see or notice it, or help.

So by the time I got to 17, it was there all the time. A complex world, counting dots on the wall, trying to find a comforting number, every number had a different meaning by then, an ever changing system. I would read in groups of words of a certain number, and if I was reading something distressing I would breathe only in the gaps between groups.

Having half my mind, busy with this all the time slowed me down, distracted me, and calmed me by distraction. But there was always that little voice, a feeling, an urge, that if I didn't keep it up, terrible things would happen.

All of that, and a life besides, was too much, and I had a breakdown.

That too, hidden by my Mam, had a sedative from the doctor to calm me, just the one, then I was left to gradually pull myself back together from there.

It took a while.

I missed out on a lot, 'cause I couldn't cope with this thing and put much effort into other things.

I didn't want people to get close unless they spotted it, but gradually I tried without really understanding it, to make a life despite the weight of it.

By then I believed it was there for good, I'd be in this net of numbers forever, counting counting counting counting, counting counting counting counting...

Then my wife (yes by now I had a wife) noticed I was looking over her shoulder during an argument. She asked me about it.

Well I've never lied to her...

I was stressed (arguing is pretty stressful, right?). I was counting and linking dots on the door behind her into geometric patterns...

She did some research, put a name to the problem, I was astonished! Then she described it, and for the first time, I understood the nature of it. After that, gradually, she convinced me I didn't need it, that I wouldn't be a different person without it.

I got some simple techniques off the internet, tried them out...that was ten years ago. I've been free of it for years. I'm not perfect, I've had other problems, but without OCD it feels like I can fly, like I was carrying weights around forever, and now they're cut away. I'm fast, capable, sure of myself, lighthearted.

All because one person noticed, and cared.

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