My OCD started when I was just eight years old. I remember walking out of the toilet to wash my hands. At the time, my mum was walking past the bathroom, only to drop a harmless remark about how I should be washing my hands with soap. I thought she made a valid point, but from here, things really spiralled out of control.
I started washing my hands with soap regularly, sometimes when I hadn’t even gone to the toilet. My desire to ridden germs intensified by the day. Soon, before I knew it, I was petrified of the concept of germs. Between the ages of 8 to 12, my life was an ongoing battle to stay clear of anything I deemed to posses germs.
What Would Trigger my OCD
My OCD would trigger whenever I’d come into contact with something I thought to be ‘germy’.
Sometimes I wouldn’t even need to physically touch an object but would still consider myself affected by the germs it carried. When I felt exposed, I had no choice but to run to the closest tap and cleanse myself.
At its worst, I’d often wash my hands until they’d crack and bleed. I also couldn’t come in contact with members of my family as I thought they carried germs. When I did, well, it’d often result in an immediate shower to fight any unwanted germs.
As I was young, I was never quite able to explain why I behaved like this. The most effective way I described my OCD to others, was as a voice inside my head that had no reason. The voice would make the most ludicrous demands, in which I had no control over.
Fortunately enough, I was able to see a psychiatrist and years of therapy relieved me of my condition.
A New Obsession
After being relieved of my condition for six years, it was when I turned 18 that my next obsession began. This time around, the focus wasn’t on germs but was instead about my body. One day I was reading a generic 101 fun facts book when I stumbled across an interesting observation:
“If you think about your muscles, it will help them grow.”
One thing I should openly admit is that I’ve had one consistent goal throughout my life: to always remain in good shape. Growing up I’ve always been active. Whether it be through swimming, athletics, playing football, or in more recent times, riding my BMX bike, I’ve always been active. One of my biggest fears is letting life get the best of me and finally ‘letting myself go’.
Now bearing this in mind, you could begin to understand why this fun fact would intrigue me.
At the time of reading it, I had again put no thought into this statement but like my first experience, things escalated quickly. I soon found myself not only thinking about my muscles regularly but tensing and touching them to remind myself that they were still there.
I knew that this started becoming a problem when my actions were embarrassing to explain to those around me. To this day, I know my habits are obscure, but the voice of OCD inside my head continues to tell me it’s necessary.
But unlike my first round of germ-related OCD, I was actually happy to reason with this voice, as it agreed with my goal of remaining fit and healthy.
After graduating from school, I started studying and began working a part-time job. With these new responsibilities, I began worrying that they’d get the best of me and take away from my health and fitness. There’d be countless times throughout the day where I’d have to drop whatever I was doing, only to perform my routine OCD checks on my muscles.
But what really began to trigger my OCD, was food. If I was to think about food, or even hear a mention of food, the voice inside my head would convince me that I was gaining calories. This would, of course, result in me performing a compulsive check to ensure I hadn’t lost my muscles.
Taking Good Advice to an Extreme
Throughout university, I was fortunate enough to work in a retail sales role. This meant that I was constantly on my feet, which I knew was good exercise. But one day, I had read another article. This time, the article explained the benefits of burning calories by standing at work all day. From here on out, I refused to sit in general.
I also started making small changes to my eating habits to ensure I stayed in shape. I stopped eating lunch to avoid a subset of daily calories. Whenever I did eat, I also had to be standing. This is where my bad relationship with food started. Absolutely ridiculous, I know.
Out of Control OCD
As time passed, I graduated from university and entered the full-time workforce. Now, this is when things really started getting out of control.
My first impression of the full-time workforce was two things:
- You have to sit at a desk for eight hours straight,
- And adults seem to have two main interests – food and drinking
At this point, my OCD reached a new peak. Now, whenever I’d worry about my health, I wouldn’t just touch my muscles, but I’d ruthlessly strike at them to ensure they were strong. This would include scratching, punching, and even throwing objects into myself.
Now again, I know just as much as you how ridiculous this sounds, but my OCD gave me no alternative.
In the workplace, my colleagues would often talk about food, which is, of course, completely normal. But frequently hearing about food made me only resent it more.
I’d started eating less and riding my bike more, often 6 times a week to ensure I was resilient to becoming unhealthy. I was terrified of settling into a full-time job and letting life get the best of me.
But when I turned twenty-one, I started to really enjoy my work. Now while you’d assume that someone enjoying their work is great, in my case, it was the beginning of the ultimate catch 22.
You see because I enjoyed my work I started investing more time in my career. This, in turn, would then worsen my OCD. I turned to riding my bike, but whenever I’d ride my bike too much, I was worried that I wasn’t taking my career seriously enough.
I’d then force myself to work harder, which of course, would completely backfire and set off what I call, ‘an OCD attack’.
An attack is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a moment where I lose complete control over my thoughts and actions. It’s a tipping point where I can no longer handle the pressure I’ve put on myself.
The OCD Tipping Point
There’s a fine line in which I can walk between either working too much, or what I’d consider to be having too much fun. This green zone looks similar to a car temperature gauge. Anything out of this safe area only results in me tipping.
Attacks started to become frequent when I’d prioritise work over my life, in particular, exercising. This would normally occur whenever I’d attend networking events or other work functions.
So why am I sharing all of this? Well, recently it all became too much. Everything had caught up with me and I’d pushed myself too far. After remaining on the fine line of the green zone for a few months, I tipped.
Except this time, I remember coming home from work one afternoon and having this feeling of utter melancholy. I’d been so hard on myself to the point where I had broken.
A Problem Halved
I was in a bad state, but I knew that I needed to talk to someone. I picked up the phone and spoke to my mum.
Although physically picking up the phone was an easy thing to do, it made a difference in a big way.
Being able to openly share my thoughts and feelings was exactly what I’d needed. I didn’t expect my mum to solve anything, but I knew that she could listen.
My mum has a wise saying – a problem shared, is a problem halved.
I knew that by the time I’d gotten off the phone, my problem would be sliced right down the middle – and it was.
It’s tough being a young person in the digital space. Things evolve at such a rapid pace, and it’s harder than ever to remain relevant or of value. In general, a lot of passionate workers put unnecessary pressure on themselves to perform, yet no one actually expects it from them.
If you’re not feeling okay, I urge you to talk to someone. There’s absolutely no shame in letting someone know that you’re not okay.
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