My name is Janis and I have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder or OCD as it is termed. I am rather open about my illness and often people ask me what it is like to have it.
How does one describe this chronic illness? Some often use the analogy of one's brain with hiccups. I prefer to think of my brain operating like a broken record: stuck and spinning the same portion of the same tune over and over again. No matter how we describe OCD, the illness is a living nightmare for the sufferer and his or her loved ones as well.
When I was 12, my mother developed lung cancer. She, thankfully, survived, but was left with a decreased immune system. They told us that a cold could kill her. I was so afraid I would kill my mother so I started washing my hands for hours and hours at a time. This began to consume my life.
My whole life was OCD. I did not, however, know what was wrong with me--I knew it was something, but I did not know what. My parents did not see it; they had many problems and I was left in my personal prison.
I graduated high school with a 4.0 grade point average. I got many scholarships to college. I was dying inside, though, from the OCD. I maintained a high GPA in college and graduated magna cum laude. I also met my husband and we married our senior year of college. He knew something was wrong and wanted to help me. By this time I had seen so many psychiatrists and therapists, I could not count them all. I had been put on so many medications and nothing worked.
When I graduated from college I became employed at one job and another. I could not handle the work load, though. I had a new obsession with having to have my work completed to perfection so I spent hours checking and rechecking my work. I came to work early and stayed late to do so. I was very accurate, but checked my work so much that I never completed anything. I never saw my precious family as a result of this.
I went to work for a local hospital in Jacksonville, Florida. I stayed there for six years by changing jobs each time I had a problem. It seemed as though I was being promoted, but I was really running from my OCD. It was around this time that I saw the first show dedicated to Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder on the TV show "20/20". MY PROBLEM WAS AN ILLNESS AND IT HAD A NAME! I now knew what I had, but none of the doctors (including psychiatrists) believed that I had OCD. It was too rare in their opinions. They did not think that, in a city of over 500,000 people, one case of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder could exist.
My beautiful daughter was born in 1990. She was very ill and almost died. She had three surgeries before she was two months old and, like my mother, she had a compromised immune system due to being ill. A cold would be tragic for my little baby until she got stronger. This was the beginning of a very bad bout of OCD for me.
I was still working at the hospital and the office I was in had a sink. I started washing my hands over and over, then I used Lysol and Bleach to clean my hands. I constantly wiped my phone with alcohol. I finally could not even touch the papers at work. I would shower most of the night. I rarely slept. I finally collapsed from exhaustion at work.
I left that job and looked for another right away. I left that one in one month, the next in three days. I then tried to kill myself. I could not take it anymore. Yes, OCD can be fatal in this way. My husband stopped me and we decided we had to fight to get someone to listen to what was wrong with me. I found a specialist who understood OCD.
We fought this fight and won. By winning, I don't mean cured, but better. I think the most important thing is to know you are not alone if you are suffering from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Just as I was not the only one in my city to have OCD, neither are you. NEVER GIVE UP THE FIGHT!