A New Way To Live

By Jody R.

“In high school, my hands were cracked and bleeding from washing them so often. I thought I was crazy, or that I was being punished for something I did. ”

Eighth grade graduation was the first time I remember washing excessively. In high school, my hands were cracked and bleeding from washing them so often. I thought I was crazy, or that I was being punished for something I did. My parents took me to a therapist but it didn't help. So I learned to hide my OCD, although looking back, I'm sure it was more visible than I realized.

As an adult, my OCD continued and was a constant source of anxiety. I was in therapy for many years, but it didn't alleviate my OCD. When my depression was diagnosed and I began taking medication, it did not alleviate my OCD either. In 1989, when I was 35, my therapist told me about an OCD treatment program at the Chicago Medical School. I went for an evaluation, and agreed to a three-week outpatient program.

For two hours, four days a week, I worked with two therapists on exposure and response prevention. The first "assignment" was to think of my greatest fear (with respect to OCD) which for me was to go to the bathroom and not be able to wash my hands. And that's exactly what we did. I was crying and shaking, but I got through it and was able to get in my car that night and drive home. I felt it was nothing short of a miracle. Going through the program was undoubtedly the hardest thing I've ever done, and at times I felt that I couldn't go back another day. But the thought of continuing to live with OCD helped me get through it. I could never have done it alone, and will always be grateful to the wonderful people at the Chicago Medical School.

My symptoms have been almost nonexistent for 15 years. Whenever I'm tempted to wash when I know I shouldn't, I'm afraid that if I do it once, the compulsions will escalate and get out of control. I don't ever want to live that way again. I worked hard to get to this point. That's what gives me the strength to stop myself from giving in and letting OCD take control.

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