It’s funny looking back now to when I was around 14 years old that I actually thought scrubbing my hands eight times after going to the bathroom was a normal thing to do.
That I thought it was normal that I had to lie in bed every night, and wasn’t
allowed to sleep unless I had said ten specific prayers in a specific order, whilst
lying in a specific position.
I thought that I was too smart to get a mental illness. There I said it.
I guess it started when I starting having problems with my partner at the time,
problems which essentially stemmed from my own warped view of myself and
my relationship with him.
It was from then that my OCD started to bloom.
If I made eye contact with another male, I was convinced that I was cheating on
my partner. If I walked by someone that had nice hair, and noticed that they had
nice hair, I had to go back and walk in a different direction to prove that I wasn’t
interested in him. If I liked the shirt that someone was wearing, I had to close my
eyes when I looked near them, because if I looked at them, then that wasn’t ok.
When I was driving, I had thoughts of crashing my car just to see what would
happen. I was consumed by guilt about tiny things I had done years earlier, and
Retrospectively, these do not sound like the thoughts of someone who is in a
right state of mind (duh), but for me, and for others with OCD, these thoughts are
real and genuine.
My thoughts began to control me. They scared me and terrified me.
Thoughts about hurting others, about hurting myself and hurting those around
me took over. About committing crimes I was terrified I would commit, but knew
that I never would. It was all I thought about and it consumed me. What I didn’t
realise was that having these strange and repetitive thought patterns over and
over again, hour after hour, was a form of OCD.
I’ve come to dislike when people say ‘That’s so OCD’ or ‘Wow I know I’m totally
OCD’, when they talk about how neat their lecture notes are, for example. Whilst
obsessive behaviours such as checking, organising and touching things can be a
manifestation of OCD for many people, I personally find the term ‘That’s so OCD’
to be a generalisation. For me, and for many people, I didn't realise that OCD
behaviours can be much more complicated and diverse.
I’m come a long way, with the help of my partner, doctor, psychotherapy and
medication. OCD is something I live with, and I don’t know if it will ever leave me,
but you know what, that’s ok.
I was terrified to speak out, to seek help, for fear of sounding weak, or ultimately
that it would one day damage any chance that I would have of a future in
medicine. As medical students, we can often be ruled by the opinions of those
around us, and think that we must hold ourselves to a higher calibre of being
than others. We are humans too. And I can honestly now say that nothing has
given me such as overriding sense of empathy into those around me than my
My overarching mantra is that my thoughts do not define my actions, and that is
something that I continue to live by.
For those that are suffering out there, you are not alone. For those perplexed by
their thoughts, you are not alone. For those with OCD, or any mental illness, you
are not alone. It really does get better.
Marcus Cherry, University of Newcastle, Bachelor of Medicine JMP, Year 3 (2017)