I knew talking about my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder would be difficult. But I didn't know just how difficult. I guess that's why I put it off for 20 years.
I was afraid of having "something else wrong with" me. In early childhood, I had Selective Mutism. In sixth grade I developed Panic Disorder. In my teens, I developed multiple chronic physical illnesses, plus clinical depression, phobias and Borderline Personality Disorder. It felt like there was no right time to have the "I think I have OCD" Talk, because it felt like I was constantly developing new and increasingly terrifying illnesses. Is there a "right time" for the Talk?!
Besides, I wasn't even sure I had OCD. All the symptoms you hear about in pop culture tended to be very different from what I was experiencing:
I collected plush seals and kept every notebook I filled with poems and doodles, but that's far from Hoarding: Buried Alive. And I was definitely not organized. I constantly drew all over my math homework, stacked my books haphazardly and couldn't have cared less when I noticed something was crooked. I didn't count stuff. I didn't even wash my hands, other than after using the bathroom.
But I knew something was off. I was terrified of germs, terrified of getting sick. Being in a doctor's office made me queasy. I couldn't sit next to someone who had a cold without being convinced I'd catch their cold. I was tormented by vivid violent images. Me stabbing someone in the eye with a fork, someone raping me, me jumping in front of a moving train, someone I love being murdered. The only way I could fend the thoughts off was repeating phrases in my head until it felt 'just right'.
These thoughts have been in my head for as long as I can remember. Even as a child, I'd think, "If I can't do (task) within (this fast), I have to kill myself". I don't think I even knew what suicide was! But the thoughts persisted, and became more and more frequent.
Finally, when I was 24, physically sicker than I had ever been in my entire life, living well below the poverty line and feeling battered by my relatively recent job loss, rape and estrangement of my abusive father, I decided to get help.
I'm 25 and in a group treatment program now. I won't mince words: Exposure Response Prevention Therapy is fucking torture. Baring my soul to a group of strangers, forcing myself to experience the very situations that provoke my anxiety, coping with the exhaustion fighting this disorder brings... I knew it would be hard, but I didn't know it would be this hard.
All I know, is that asking for help was the right choice. I just wish I hadn't waited so long.