Hi everyone. My therapist suggested I check out online forums for OCD, so here I am. I'd like to share a bit of my story in the hopes that others can relate. I'm so exhausted at this point.
I've had OCD, at least in this form, for 9 years, although it wasn't ever diagnosed until earlier this year. I'm in my late 20s now. I've always been an anxious person, and had more physical signs as a child (headaches, stomachaches, etc.). (I’ve talked with several people about possibly being autistic, but that’s on the back burner right now because the OCD is so bad.)
I displayed some OCD behaviors when I was younger (had to write my numbers perfectly for a time when I was 9, anorexic behavior when I was 15-17). And as soon as I began to let go of the weight issue, this handwashing/cleanliness issue came up. It stems, at least partly, from a phobia of vomiting, but has slowly grown beyond handwashing. It got somewhat worse during COVID, but after the death of my dad this past December, it has gotten extraordinarily worse, very quickly, to the point where I'm exhausted mentally and having a really hard time functioning day to day. Every single task seems to involve handwashing and planning, and I don't want to do anything anymore. I have had situational depressive episodes before, but this comes from the mental exhaustion. (I'm also an author, and I don't want to write anymore, which is terrifying, as that has always been my passion.)
I was in therapy from 2016-2019, ostensibly for this, but it became more about my struggles with relationships and loneliness. So the handwashing was never really addressed. I also took Paxil during that time, which I think helped with my general anxiety, but stopped because I thought I didn't need it anymore. I recently (April of this year) started therapy again, focusing on the OCD, and have done a lot of CBT, which doesn't seem to be working (although maybe I'm not trying hard enough? I still doubt). I just got a prescription for Zoloft from my doctor, but I'm afraid to take it. I'm afraid I haven't tried the CBT long enough, or worked hard enough. But I'm so exhausted, and even when I use CBT techniques, the fear seems more logical. My therapist thinks medication will make CBT more effective, which I agree with, but I just feel like I haven’t worked hard enough. But I don’t know what else to do.
At this point I feel quite paranoid, honestly. What happens is this: I’ll be washing my hands, and I’ll think I feel or see a drop of water splash up from the sink onto my hand (or arm, or face). The bottom of the sink is disgustingly germy, so I need to wash my hand (or arm, or face) again. And sometimes that happens over and over, with the result that it takes me minutes to wash my hands (and often my arms, up past my elbows depending on where I think the water has hit). (TMI, but this also happens when I’m using the bathroom—if I think I feel something hit my arm [even if it's logically not likely], I’ll have to avoid touching it to anything, and wash it.)
I feel like I’m on high alert every time I use the bathroom or wash my hands—like hypervigilance—and it’s absolutely awful. I was certainly hypervigilant as a child, from the dysfunctional environment, but this hypervigilance didn’t start until earlier this year. I do wonder if the death of my dad had something to do with it. It’s like my brain just decides to plant random thoughts in my head—“Hey, what about this, you’ve never thought about this before,” and I think, “Good point,” and start obsessing over that—water drops on my arms, my lips, my face; keeping certain surfaces clean (or cleaner than others). It’s gotten to the point where I wash my arms almost every time I wash my hands, and I wash my lips several times a day.
I currently work very part-time, from home, and I'm also starting my freelance editing business (currently have 1 client). I've wondered if having a job away from home would be helpful, as when I'm away from home I'm generally resigned to being "dirty," but still, when I get home I have to go through thorough cleaning (usually just of my body, sometimes surfaces too). I recently went on vacation and thought my OCD would subside a bit, as it typically does on vacation, but this time it didn’t. It was awful.
I don't want to do anything anymore. I also, honestly, have had a very hard time adjusting to adult life. I was a great student and worked very hard in school (and liked it), and I was very excited to make my mark on the world as a writer, but when I finished my masters program, I felt so exhausted. And I feel like I've never fully recovered. Maybe I'm just lazy, but I'm not sure. I'm just so damn tired.
I've never held a full-time job (part-time was overwhelming enough), and I still live with my mom, who I'm very close to, but she has become increasingly distressed by my handwashing, which I hate. The shame I feel around her is so strong.
Also, a tiny part of me is afraid of getting better and feeling all the external pressures of the world to “be like everyone else”: “Now you’re healed, now you have to get a 40-hour-a-week job and be independent like everyone else.” I’ve never felt like I fit in this (Western) world, and don’t want a 40-hour-a-week job (hence why I’m trying to get started freelancing), but I doubt my motivations all the time. What if I’m just a lazy, spoiled, selfish millennial? It’s not that I don’t want to work—when I had energy, I took my writing very seriously, but writing fiction doesn’t pay (very well), so it’s hard for even me to view it as a legitimate occupation. I don’t want to spend all of my life working in a job I don’t enjoy. Is that selfish? Maybe. My faith is very important to me, but it increases my doubt here, as I have a very hard time trusting God. I’m always afraid He’s going to punish me. I’m trying to work on that, but with the OCD, again, I’m just so exhausted.
The only thing I’ve been able to focus on recently (besides what little work I have, although my focus is shaky sometimes there), is historical female couples—Boston marriages, romantic friendships, etc. I find this topic very interesting and I’ll read over the same lists, research these pairs, for hours. Maybe it’s my way of escape, but it’s also the relationship I really desire in my own life. (I am also touch starved, which doesn’t help with all of this, and I have attachment issues, which I’ve worked on a bit with another therapist.)
Again, sorry for the length. I just need to share this with people who might understand. I don’t have any questions, but I’m very glad this forum is here.