The Right Diagnosis, At Last

By Anthony Barone

“I had not told anyone about my problem because I was so ashamed. The diagnosis changed my life…I realized I was normal – I just had a disorder.”

I was 50 years old when I was finally diagnosed with OCD. The diagnosis changed my life. I realized I was normal – I just had a disorder. I became more confident and stopped feeling guilty. I felt an enormous sense of relief.

But it was bittersweet, too. I regretted spending so many years not understanding why I had filthy intrusive thoughts, and why I felt compelled to do things over and over. I wish I could have been diagnosed 30 years ago. I wish I knew while my mother was alive, so I could explain it to her, too.

My mother took me to see our family doctor when I was 12. My OCD had gotten steadily worse since I was seven and began to have compulsions to touch, tap and count. In school, I would write and erase my work over and over. I constantly rubbed my hands across my desk, and repeatedly put pens and pencils into my desk and took them out again. I was failing sixth grade.

The doctor said that it was just puberty and normal growing up problems. No one discussed mental illness in those days. I had not told anyone about my problem because I was so ashamed. I thought I was the only person in the world who did these things, and that I was not a normal human being.

It was not until May of 1987, while watching the television program 20/20 that I learned that other people had this illness and that it was called Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I visited a psychiatrist who diagnosed my OCD, but he only treated it with medicine. Thirteen years later I finally began exposure therapy, which taught me to manage my OCD.

Like everyone, I have bad days. But it's a relief to understand OCD and know what to do. I can sit in church now and not get filthy thoughts, which used to give me such a low opinion of myself.

Now, it feels wonderful to help others with OCD, and volunteering for Beyond OCD is my passion. As much as we know about OCD, there is more to learn. I want all parents and teachers to understand OCD. They should know what to look for at the youngest ages, in order to recognize OCD and its assault against the spirit.

To my brothers and sisters and their families who share OCD with me and my family, you are in my thoughts and prayers.

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