As a 5-11, over 240-pound man, if you saw me on the street you would not think anything is wrong with me. The truth though is far different — I have endured Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, agoraphobia, and anxiety for most of my life
My first incident occurred when I was just four years old. I watched Thriller and saw Michael Jackson turn into a werewolf. It traumatized me. When I started kindergarten, I would hide underneath tables because I was afraid my teacher would turn into a werewolf. I started seeing a psychiatrist shortly thereafter (around five years old).
However, my behavior didn’t get better. If anything, it got worse.
A couple of years later, I had just come up from my basement when I had the irresistible compulsion to go back down, this time with the lights off. I felt the need to repeatedly go up and down the stairs with the lights off, walking further and further into the basement each time. In my teenage years, I displayed other “weird” behaviors — when one ended, another new compulsion began.
Some activities started consuming my life — like when I needed to repeatedly wash my hands, check my car to see if I accidentally hit someone, walk backwards down stairs, take frequent showers or brush my teeth for nine minutes (and exactly nine minutes). I cleaned my body with Lysol wipes. I tapped the floor with my foot and a table with my hand nine times to protect people I loved. If something added up to a bad number then I would use nine to make up for it.
As I grew older, my compulsions controlled my life. When I went to nightclubs with friends I would stand in four directions irrespective of where I was.
I often had to ask if I could work from home (sometimes for weeks at a time) because my compulsions worsened.
I remember my first panic attack. I was walking in a mall with friends, laughing and joking when all of sudden I felt my chest tighten up. I had difficulty breathing. I started to sweat and told my friends I needed to go to the hospital. Very concerned, they told me to take deep breaths, since I was too focused on the fear! My next panic attack occurred while eating, when I felt food going slowly down my throat. I went to the ER, only to find out again I was fine.
I experienced many more panic attacks. Each time I felt drained and tired afterward. I eventually stopped going to public places, fearing another panic attack and worrying that my OCD would go out of control. Needless to say, my relationships started to suffer.
My friends would pick me up and I would have to duck to go to their house. I covered my face with my hands in the car so no one could see me. My girlfriend had to take me out when no one was around.
My agoraphobia limited my space to only the hallway. I eventually feared windows and the outside world.
I subsequently isolated myself from everyone and stopped speaking to friends. Tears rolled down my eyes frequently. Yet, despite my struggles, part of me said, “I can’t give up.” I kept fighting each and every day.
John Cena is my hero, so I had to be a fighter.
The breakthrough came one morning and I realized in order to change my life, I needed to change myself. I did not want to struggle anymore so I decided enough is enough. I had faith in God and most importantly, I had faith in myself. I walked outside feeling like a free man.
It was extremely difficult — my mind started playing games. I felt the further I walked from home, the more likely I would suffer a panic attack. But this time it was different — this time I confronted those thoughts. I continued walking. Every day I would walk — going further and further, slowly but steadily, taking deep, steady breaths every time.
After suffering from agoraphobia for about four years, I eventually started going out more, socializing, and meeting friends. I felt unstoppable. I was breaking free and making steady progress with anxiety and OCD. Actively challenging my negative thoughts paid off.
Today I write inspirational articles for mental health organizations, hospitals, and police officers and am happier and full of passion. I am flourishing and succeeding today because I never gave up.
The way I managed OCD was with CBT (Cognitive behavioral therapy) and exposure therapy.
For example, if washed my hands, I would do it once and only once. If my mind started to tell me I missed a spot, I would remind myself that the majority of my hands were cleaned.
I used the same technique with showering.
With brushing my teeth, I went from 9 minutes to 4 minutes and I told myself that over-brushing can do more damage than good.
Remember my mind has OCD and not my body.
I also reminded myself, tapping and numbers are irrational fears. It can’t protect anyone from anything. It saved me lots of time when I realized this. I felt free.
I may have OCD still, but today I am the master. It can’t control me or my life.
My advice is to NEVER GIVE UP! And remember, these are irrational fears that distort reality. Nothing bad will happen to you. Work at your own pace, but do something even if small that is taking you one step towards overcoming your compulsions.
Yes, it will be uncomfortable, but inevitably if you stop feeding OCD, OCD will stop feeding you with anxiety.
Gather your WILLPOWER, strength, and courage.
Do not feel ashamed.
OCD does not change the wonderful person you are. It is a burden, not you. Do NOT let fear control your life.
You are not alone. I am not only a person with OCD and anxiety, I am a fighter. And you could be, too.
God bless you!
Danny Gautama is passionate about mental health. He writes inspirational and motivational articles for mental health organizations, Hospitals, Police Officers, and Biz X magazine after overcoming his own struggles. He was also recently awarded an Elite LoveMaker by the Love Makers Foundation for his work on Twitter.