Born This Way

September 27th 2016

By Katy, 21 - OCD Youth Blogger: Katy battled with OCD and an eating disorder for most of her life. She became reclusive for four years before eventually getting treatment. Now, she writes books and articles that share her story of recovery in the hope she can help others going through the same thing. She’s also training to be a dog specialist and plans to one day own her own rescue centre.

“It’s just one of my little OCD things.” That’s what I’d say as I rearranged the shelves in Waitrose so all the produce was stacked straight. “It bugs me if it’s not done right,” was my excuse when I turned the light on and off fifteen times before bed. My life was filled with little “quirks” but I thought it was a phase, something I’d grow out of. I never thought I actually had OCD. Not even when I was curled up in the corner of the bathroom unable to move because the floor around me was contaminated. It was only when I began treatment I saw just how long I’d been battling the disorder and once I saw that, it made me see my whole life differently.

I knew I had an eating disorder, I’d known that for years. But when my therapist said my problems with food were a part of my OCD I was completely thrown. I don’t have OCD, I thought, I have an eating disorder. That was how I’d identified myself for years. More importantly, I believed I could recover from anorexia. Even when people said I was born with it, I didn’t believe them. I could clearly remember having a normal relationship with food and I was determined to get back to that point. But with OCD, not only did I have no clue how to recover from it, I couldn’t remember a time when it hadn’t been there in some form or another. Sometimes it was checking, counting or washing. But it had always been there, lurking in the background, until eventually it ground my life to a halt.

Still, I committed to recovery. I learned how to ride out my anxiety and challenge obsessive thoughts when they reared their ugly head and things did get better. Then, out of nowhere, I’d have a bad day and feel like I was right back where I started. On those dark days I’d be so despairing and all I could think was, will I ever be rid of this? Will I ever have a “normal” brain like everyone else? A brain free from OCD.

It was a thought that kept me up at night and caused a constant knot in my stomach. I wanted freedom from OCD, but was I chasing the impossible?

I turned to Google for answers but it only got me more confused. Some people said OCD was a life long battle while others said you could completely recover. The most widely accepted theory was that a person is born with characteristics which predispose them to OCD but it takes a significant life event to trigger the disorder. This did nothing to reassure me. Would I have to be on guard against triggers for the rest of my life? Was there something fundamentally wrong with my brain? Did I even have control over my brain?

Then a hypnotist moved in next door and something occurred to me, maybe he can fix me. I’d read stories about people overcoming terrible fears with the help of hypnotherapy. Maybe it could do the same for me. After all, OCD in its most basic form is a phobia so why should it be any different to a fear of heights or spiders?

At first, I was so excited and utterly convinced I’d found the answer to all my problems. It didn’t matter if I was born with OCD or not because here was a chance for me to change my brain and make it the way it should be. But every time I went to book an appointment, something stopped me. I was a control freak and here I was about to give a total stranger free range over my mind. If hypnotherapy worked then they had the power to change my brain beyond recognition. Yes, I wanted to change aspects of my brain but I still wanted to be me.

The more I thought about it the more I realised that, for better or worse OCD is a part of who I am. It destroyed my life and given the choice I would never have had it. But that didn’t meant it hadn’t brought a lot of good things into my life. I’d done new things, met incredible people and connected with them on a level I hadn’t thought possible. I was stronger physically and mentally as a result of my recovery and I knew myself way better than I did before. The more I focused on the good things OCD had brought me, the less desperate I was to find an answer to the age old question of whether I’d have the disorder forever.

The truth is, I don’t know if I was born with OCD, or if I’ll have it for the rest of my life. All I know is that right now today, I have OCD. I will continue to challenge my disorder and refuse to let it take over my life again. OCD led me to where I am today and I’m pretty darn happy with where I ended up. The further I progress in recovery, the more I love and accept myself – OCD and all.

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