In acknowledging OCD problem, student seeks help

Emily Brown, Opinion Editor

12 a.m.
I was exhausted and wanted to go to sleep. But I knew I wasn’t even close to finishing my normal bedtime routine.
I dragged myself into the bathroom and brushed my teeth for exactly a minute. Rinsed three times. I placed my blue toothbrush and toothpaste in my bathroom drawer — right above the cigar box that I use to hold my carefully organized makeup. I popped in my retainer. Rinsed again. Washed my hands for exactly two minutes and filled up my cup with water, exactly halfway. If it was higher, it could spill. Lower, and I could get thirsty during the night.
I carried the cup into my room and sat crisscross on my crimson bed, praying for exactly 20 minutes. Usually, the prayer took 10 minutes, but tonight, I’d made a mistake.
That mistake meant I had to start the prayer over.
I dreaded the next part. But it had to be done.
One elephant-sized pill of melatonin. Two pink pills. And then the evidence of my failure. I
poured out the pill onto my bed. I knew what I had to do. I knew, yet, I hated it. I despised it. I closed my eyes and swallowed the pill. Then I put my face into my hands and cried.
4 months earlier
I sat on a cool leather couch while a muscle in my cheek twitched uncontrollably, and my hands shook.
I knew I should be looking at the psychiatrist, but the papers on his desk were unorganized. I had to literally dig my nails into the palms of my hands to keep myself from saying anything out loud.
“So tell me about why you decided to come here,” he said calmly. He watched me carefully, probably wondering if I was about to faint.
I certainly felt like it.
I explained what had been going on. My words were detailed and organized. I’d been up all night planning out my explanation.
Countless doctor trips to figure out what was wrong with me. Constant illness. Three major panic attacks within the year. Persistent anxiety keeping me up all night. Rituals and routines.
I told him about my hatred of sleepovers and my very real obsession with being in control. I told him about my exhaustion from getting up throughout the night to wash my hands or move the hanger in my closet that was out of place. About the little things that could just tick me off. Whether it be someone rubbing their jeans or arriving late.
I explained that my room was clean. Perfectly cleaned. Perfectly organized. And that whenever my friends jokingly moved my perfume bottles around, I wanted to cry.
I revealed that my grades were suffering because of my constant illness.
A revelation that made me sick to my stomach. I wouldn’t be able to pull off straight As this year.
By the end of my story, I was furiously rubbing away tears.
I shouldn’t be here. I should have been able to handle these things. This was my own failure. I should have stopped getting sick. It was all in my mind, they told me. Then I should be able to stop it.
But I was at the end of the road, and I knew it. I couldn’t handle getting sick so often anymore. I had failed, and I simply had to acknowledge my loss.
And that was why I was here.
The psychiatrist didn’t seemed disturbed by my tears, and I appreciated it. If he had made a big deal out of it, I would have been even more embarrassed by my weakness.
He proceeded to tell me the diagnosis.
I had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). He told me that it was common and very treatable. That the medicine I would be taking, Zoloft, would help me significantly.
I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time. But since I was already crying, I decided to hold in my laughter.
I had known forever that I had OCD. But this was the first medical professional who had acknowledged it. Not only that, but he had recognized it almost immediately.
I told him I would take the pill, but after my finals.
“I don’t want to lose my edge,” I admitted.
Now looking back on these two scenes, I want to shake myself.
I’d been so intent on control, on my failure.
I hadn’t even considered the positives of taking Zoloft.
But I’ve learned my lesson.
Now, I can’t even think of a negative. Zoloft has, quite literally, changed my life.
I can sleep now without getting up every hour in the night to do meaningless things.
I don’t want to throw up every time I think about those two Bs I received last year.
I don’t need to take naps in my classes anymore. Or take multiple days off because of mysterious high fevers.
I want to try new things. Debate. Youth Court.
My room is a little bit messier.
My family and my friends have all noticed and commented on the changes in my attitude.
I’m happy.
As silly as it sounds, this is probably the first time in my life I can truly say that.
And it isn’t just the Zoloft talking. I know because Zoloft has cleared out the illogical, obsessive, frantic thoughts in my mind.
For the first time ever, my mind is free.


The Facts of OCD:

  • Approximately 3.3 million people in the U.S. have OCD.
  • Less than 10% of people suffering from OCD will seek effective treatment.
  • In a majority of OCD cases, symptoms start to appear during adolescence.
  • OCD symptoms worsen with stress and fatigue.
  • Delaying treatment in hope of alleviation is often ineffective.
  • OCD symptoms might include: the need for order or symmetry, hoarding, fear of germs, the fear of contamination and repetitive rituals.

Information gathered from