I am 24 years old and recently I have been diagnosed with OCD and anxiety, which I did not know I silently had for around three years. My OCD has affected me in almost everything I do. I feel anxious when I go outside. I get confused and frustrated. I tend to look behind me when I go outside. I always count “four times” in every task I do. I reread words four times before completing the sentence. I avoid going on my laptop and using my phone. I sometimes would skip taking showers and brushing my teeth. I would count when putting on clothes and brushing my hair. I find these tasks difficult because I am very slow. I get panic attacks often; I get rapid heartbeats and I feel scared.

Around the ages of 8-10, I recall portraying OCD symptoms. Every time I came down the stairs, I would place my back towards the wall and knock my elbows eight times on the wall. I remember when going to stores, tile lines or cracks on the floor would bother me. I would slide my feet left and right on the line before I take another step. At that time, I did thought if I did not do that, something will happen to me or my family.

After I graduated from college in 2012, I was actively looking for work. I went to many interviews and did not get through with any. Here is where I believed my OCD started off -- In November 2012, I haven’t left the house in three weeks. So one day, I finally went outside. When I arrived back home, I suddenly had a high fever and my head was pounding. I never had experienced that before, and it worried me. This lasted for a few hours. After it disappeared, I had negative thoughts enter my mind – “what if I caught a disease outside, and it is slowly developing”, and “will I die?” All this worrying built anxiety. From that day on I worried about every possible disease I could get. I constantly washed my hands. I thought everything I touched was contaminated with germs. I went to the walk-in clinic several times, thinking I had an aneurysm, hypertension, or a myocardial infarction. It turns out it was only my anxiety.

In the middle of January 2013 to the end of March 2013, I was employed. My head went numb every day at work. I washed my hands frequently. I thought everything I ate was contaminated with E-coli. If I bought fast food I would worry if I will die after I ate the food. Then my head would go numb. Although my head went numb, I never was absent; however, I was the slowest employee there. I would constantly check things over and over again. I would delete letters I typed four times on a daily basis. When I left my cubicle I would check it four times, just staring everywhere to make sure it was okay. I was terrified something would catch on fire when I left my cubicle. I would check my bag, and zip and unzip it several times. When I went to the washroom I would lather my hands with soap and washed my hands for 10 minutes until my hands would go red. After I washed my hands, I would take out the paper towel three times, throw it out, and use the fourth paper towel. I felt like the first three paper towels were contaminated with germs.

In the summer of 2014, I started to work back. All my habits started to reappear again and some were new habits I developed. Travelling to work was a challenge too. I always felt the anxiety build up in me. In March 2015, I went to my doctor and he diagnosed me with OCD and anxiety. He referred me to therapy.

From May 2015 to September 2015, I was placed in a community Mental Health Clinic. I was put in group therapy classes once a week and I saw the therapist every three weeks. I was taught the CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) model and Mindfulness. The five months in therapy did not help. Sometimes it made me worry more. I had to learn to control my thoughts, but I did not manage to control it. My doctor referred to CAMH. I hope to start a therapy program there soon.

My story did take me long to type because I still have the habit of deleting letters and reading sentences over again. I tried my best to manage it!

Struggling with a mental illness is hard, but it is important to speak up!

Amanda (Toronto)