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STAGE DOOR

A Long-Term Pre-SSRI OCD Suffer's Story

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Let me enlighten people of what it was like to suffer with OCD from childhood (nearly 50 years), especially when society was far less open and tolerant—and respectful—with other people’s psychological problems.

 

Unlike today, where it is quaint to claim to have a disease (whether one has one or not) ADD, Bipolar, perhaps because they think they will garner sympathy or accrue some benefits, there was most certainly NO benefit in previous years in telling anyone about my OCD.

 

But while the OCD with its intrusive thoughts are horror enough, the difficulty of having to conceal the rituals made an additional ######, as well as the fact I could never dare to confide to a single soul.

 

In fact, as is common of my generation, I never had the slightest inclination until I was past 40, that what I experienced was a recognized disorder with a name, and that there was even a single person who ever lived that experienced what I had.

 

You often read of posts of OCDer (usually females) that tell of having OCD thoughts that they will harm their loved ones and even will not go into a room with their children alone or keep sharp objects in their house. Or you will read of people fearing molesting their children or others, or committing a homosexual act, even though, as OCDers know, they are appalled at the very idea.

 

You better believe if a 6 ft. 4 in. man had had ever breathed a word of this to anyone, he would be persona non grata in his entire community—a loathed person and a total outcast.

 

When you are a large man, the confession “I feel I am going to commit” later evolves to “I have a latent desire to commit” as it passes through people, even though as we OCDers know, we recoil at the very thought and have absolutely no desire whatsoever to do these things we fear we will do.

 

In the 60s and 70s blue-collar environment I grew up in, if I even confided to my closest friends, they would not have been my friends any longer. There was no internet where you could go anonymously and find others that share you experiences.

 

One of my biggest challenges was to keep my rituals from being discovered.

 

One of the rituals I had that if anyone said anything bad or even threatened me (usually they were not serious, such as schoolboy teasing, “I am going to kick your butt” etc.) I felt what they said would necessarily come through literally (as a curse) unless I cancelled it by getting them to retract it 4 times or if they said something bad they would have to cancel out the curse by saying something good at least 4 times.

 

Usually when someone saw they were causing me to have fear of them, their own insecurities (perhaps a lack of confidence in their masculinity) caused them to step up their teasing or threatening me. And of course any new curses would have to be cancelled by the same 4-1 ratio.

 

I could write a book on how I had to develop stratagems and ruses, as well as take on assumed personalities, to manipulate the unsuspecting party (who was getting their own insecurities assuaged by getting a bigger person to fear them) to retract the curses.

 

I was often criticized for making choices that caused me to be ostracized—people mentioning I could have had better social situations simply by making the right choices. What they do not know the choice was not between developing a persona that would facilitate good relationships vs. maintaining the personality I had. The choice was between either incurring derision for these artificially affected personalities—OR—worst letting my OCD rituals being discovered.

 

Even today, and even more so in the past while one would never belittle a person in a wheelchair, utter a racial epithet, make fun of someone’s sexual orientation, lest you face legal or other repercussions, there is nothing in the political correctness or legal code that prevents someone coughing on someone paranoid of germs and stating they have a combinable deadly disease.

 

Let me give you another example. I would have a ritual where in a library I would have the have the shelf with a book I valued was located lined up perfectly. If it wasn’t I feared the knowledge I garnered from that book would be eradicated from my brain. So I would have to go back over and over rechecking to be safe “add a cushion” of having the shelves besides this one line up perfectly. Someone who I wasn’t even aware of would think I was stalking them.

 

Or, if I have to recheck something in a public building, such as a library and I have to make sure I finished touching or rechecking something a certain number of times, in case I died and be eternally cursed, I would be suspected of “being up to no good” casing the place, or whatever.

 

Or course I could never explain to anyone what I was doing—at that time I did not know that there was a name for OCD, I thought it was just me, sui generus.

 

Could you imagine a conversation with a policeman such as:

 

Officer: “Can you tell me what you keep going back past that patron [the shelf experience] or why you were in the building past closing?”

 

Me: “Well you see officer, if I do not complete this ritual a curse will come upon me, I will get cancer and die.”

 

Officer: “What are you talking about???

 

Me: Seriously, I just know something will happen to me if I do not do such and such, in fact I am constantly laden with fear with the prospect of this happening.”

 

Officer: “OK, we got a real psycho or he is covering up something. He is probably a stalker or thief. Better lock this guy up.”

 

I have long been aware that to survive, it was better to incur odium, derision and even scorn than to let anyone know what really was going on with my OCD rituals. And could you image if the same officer knew what some of my OCD intrusive thoughts were, my situation would only be exasperated.

 

As I got older I had become more of a loner so I did not have to be as careful of covering up some of my rituals. Yet being a loner just allows rumors and stereotypes to accrue all the more.

 

As you can image dealing with OCD prevented me from holding any meaningful employment. As a result I am often broke and in need of financial assistance.

 

But try explaining to an individual or agency of why you are broke and why you cannot maintain employment.

 

Their reaction is this: “You are a healthy big white person, who seems intelligent, does not use drugs or even drink, have no obvious disabilities or handicaps; what POSSIBLE excuse could you have?”

 

“Well I am Obsessive-Compulsive.”

 

“Oh just that? Why if you saw my roommate Suzy and how she likes to have our apartment tidy and everything placed just right, now there’s OCD! But in not anything serious like bipolar or schizophrenia; I think the problem is just that you are lazy!”

 

Oh how I hate that word “lazy.” It does no good trying to explain that the colloquial use of the word “OCD” is at best, only superficially related to the medical (DSM-V) use of the term.

 

If I could ever redirect my efforts in battling my OCD and concealing it to the business world, I could run Microsoft, IBM, Exxon-Mobile and Dell Computers combined.

 

Going to a therapist in those days only exasperated my situation. OCD before the mid-80s was not known to be caused by a biological malfunction as it is today, but the result of bad parental upbringing and other environmental factors.

You would not dare tell a therapist your sexual intrusive thoughts since Freudian concepts of “sexual repressions” and “sexual hang-ups” permeated the psychological community; you would be told your intrusive thoughts were “latent” desires and you needed to “come out of the closet.” Now those horrendous intrusive OCD thoughts are now magnified and given more credibility in your mind.

 

I do not want to revel in my identity of a person with a disability. It is not my goal to waddle in people’s sympathy—I am not looking to be a poster child for OCD, but I would like to have close relationships, do something useful with my life, contribute something to the world, and live with self-respect and dignity.

 

If anyone battled OCD (young, old, male, female, whatever) and has similar stories either post your story or privately email me.

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Let me enlighten people of what it was like to suffer with OCD from childhood (nearly 50 years), especially when society was far less open and tolerant—and respectful—with other people’s psychological problems.

 

Unlike today, where it is quaint to claim to have a disease (whether one has one or not) ADD, Bipolar, perhaps because they think they will garner sympathy or accrue some benefits, there was most certainly NO benefit in previous years in telling anyone about my OCD.

 

But while the OCD with its intrusive thoughts are horror enough, the difficulty of having to conceal the rituals made an additional ######, as well as the fact I could never dare to confide to a single soul.

 

In fact, as is common of my generation, I never had the slightest inclination until I was past 40, that what I experienced was a recognized disorder with a name, and that there was even a single person who ever lived that experienced what I had.

 

You often read of posts of OCDer (usually females) that tell of having OCD thoughts that they will harm their loved ones and even will not go into a room with their children alone or keep sharp objects in their house. Or you will read of people fearing molesting their children or others, or committing a homosexual act, even though, as OCDers know, they are appalled at the very idea.

 

You better believe if a 6 ft. 4 in. man had had ever breathed a word of this to anyone, he would be persona non grata in his entire community—a loathed person and a total outcast.

 

When you are a large man, the confession “I feel I am going to commit” later evolves to “I have a latent desire to commit” as it passes through people, even though as we OCDers know, we recoil at the very thought and have absolutely no desire whatsoever to do these things we fear we will do.

 

In the 60s and 70s blue-collar environment I grew up in, if I even confided to my closest friends, they would not have been my friends any longer. There was no internet where you could go anonymously and find others that share you experiences.

 

One of my biggest challenges was to keep my rituals from being discovered.

 

One of the rituals I had that if anyone said anything bad or even threatened me (usually they were not serious, such as schoolboy teasing, “I am going to kick your butt” etc.) I felt what they said would necessarily come through literally (as a curse) unless I cancelled it by getting them to retract it 4 times or if they said something bad they would have to cancel out the curse by saying something good at least 4 times.

 

Usually when someone saw they were causing me to have fear of them, their own insecurities (perhaps a lack of confidence in their masculinity) caused them to step up their teasing or threatening me. And of course any new curses would have to be cancelled by the same 4-1 ratio.

 

I could write a book on how I had to develop stratagems and ruses, as well as take on assumed personalities, to manipulate the unsuspecting party (who was getting their own insecurities assuaged by getting a bigger person to fear them) to retract the curses.

 

I was often criticized for making choices that caused me to be ostracized—people mentioning I could have had better social situations simply by making the right choices. What they do not know the choice was not between developing a persona that would facilitate good relationships vs. maintaining the personality I had. The choice was between either incurring derision for these artificially affected personalities—OR—worst letting my OCD rituals being discovered.

 

Even today, and even more so in the past while one would never belittle a person in a wheelchair, utter a racial epithet, make fun of someone’s sexual orientation, lest you face legal or other repercussions, there is nothing in the political correctness or legal code that prevents someone coughing on someone paranoid of germs and stating they have a combinable deadly disease.

 

Let me give you another example. I would have a ritual where in a library I would have the have the shelf with a book I valued was located lined up perfectly. If it wasn’t I feared the knowledge I garnered from that book would be eradicated from my brain. So I would have to go back over and over rechecking to be safe “add a cushion” of having the shelves besides this one line up perfectly. Someone who I wasn’t even aware of would think I was stalking them.

 

Or, if I have to recheck something in a public building, such as a library and I have to make sure I finished touching or rechecking something a certain number of times, in case I died and be eternally cursed, I would be suspected of “being up to no good” casing the place, or whatever.

 

Or course I could never explain to anyone what I was doing—at that time I did not know that there was a name for OCD, I thought it was just me, sui generus.

 

Could you imagine a conversation with a policeman such as:

 

Officer: “Can you tell me what you keep going back past that patron [the shelf experience] or why you were in the building past closing?”

 

Me: “Well you see officer, if I do not complete this ritual a curse will come upon me, I will get cancer and die.”

 

Officer: “What are you talking about???

 

Me: Seriously, I just know something will happen to me if I do not do such and such, in fact I am constantly laden with fear with the prospect of this happening.”

 

Officer: “OK, we got a real psycho or he is covering up something. He is probably a stalker or thief. Better lock this guy up.”

 

I have long been aware that to survive, it was better to incur odium, derision and even scorn than to let anyone know what really was going on with my OCD rituals. And could you image if the same officer knew what some of my OCD intrusive thoughts were, my situation would only be exasperated.

 

As I got older I had become more of a loner so I did not have to be as careful of covering up some of my rituals. Yet being a loner just allows rumors and stereotypes to accrue all the more.

 

As you can image dealing with OCD prevented me from holding any meaningful employment. As a result I am often broke and in need of financial assistance.

 

But try explaining to an individual or agency of why you are broke and why you cannot maintain employment.

 

Their reaction is this: “You are a healthy big white person, who seems intelligent, does not use drugs or even drink, have no obvious disabilities or handicaps; what POSSIBLE excuse could you have?”

 

“Well I am Obsessive-Compulsive.”

 

“Oh just that? Why if you saw my roommate Suzy and how she likes to have our apartment tidy and everything placed just right, now there’s OCD! But in not anything serious like bipolar or schizophrenia; I think the problem is just that you are lazy!”

 

Oh how I hate that word “lazy.” It does no good trying to explain that the colloquial use of the word “OCD” is at best, only superficially related to the medical (DSM-V) use of the term.

 

If I could ever redirect my efforts in battling my OCD and concealing it to the business world, I could run Microsoft, IBM, Exxon-Mobile and Dell Computers combined.

 

Going to a therapist in those days only exasperated my situation. OCD before the mid-80s was not known to be caused by a biological malfunction as it is today, but the result of bad parental upbringing and other environmental factors.

You would not dare tell a therapist your sexual intrusive thoughts since Freudian concepts of “sexual repressions” and “sexual hang-ups” permeated the psychological community; you would be told your intrusive thoughts were “latent” desires and you needed to “come out of the closet.” Now those horrendous intrusive OCD thoughts are now magnified and given more credibility in your mind.

 

I do not want to revel in my identity of a person with a disability. It is not my goal to waddle in people’s sympathy—I am not looking to be a poster child for OCD, but I would like to have close relationships, do something useful with my life, contribute something to the world, and live with self-respect and dignity.

 

If anyone battled OCD (young, old, male, female, whatever) and has similar stories either post your story or privately email me.

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