18, United Kingdom.
Jo’s disorders started manifesting around the age of 9 as little quirks, and soon escalated to something much worse. Over time, and without treatment, her relationships with friends and family broke down, and she attempted suicide several times. A chance encounter with an old friend became a turning point in her recovery process, and despite a relapse, she was recently released from psychiatric care; a true sign that she has come leaps and bounds.
As a child, I was always scared of something.
A lot of children get scared, though it seemed there wasn’t a day that I wasn’t worrying. My parents called me a little hypochondriac; I was terrified of getting sick. It went from cancer, to radiation poisoning, to hitting my head and getting a bleed on the brain. They said I read too much, and supposed I was picking this all up from books and magazines. That didn’t explain the rituals. I fought the fear with strange little habits. I would run to the nearest wooden surface and tap three times when a thought like that popped into my head. Every night, I would recite the same prayer that I had been taught at school, just to stop God from killing me in my sleep, even though my family weren’t religious. If I messed up, I started again, and kept going until I got it right. I had to wash my hands every time I passed a sink to stop the germs.
Eventually, it stopped being a cute little quirk.
I started to get hot flushes, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, twitches.
When nothing seemed to be physically wrong with me, my parents started to get angry. It was the same when I wasn’t at home. I didn’t like going out to play with my friends very much. They were adventurous. They didn’t follow the rules. That terrified me. As we got a little older, my friends stopped inviting me out. They didn’t have time for my strange habits, and my constant fear. By the time we reached high school, I didn’t have many friends, and the few friends I had were still at that stage kids are when they can be awful little things.
I had had enough of my friends. The first two years of high school had been hell. I was bullied emotionally and physically, and began to lash out in strange ways. I had started to have panic attacks almost daily, and as a result, barely left my bedroom. It was my safe place. I started to spend weeks at a time in my bedroom, until weeks turned into months, and months turned into years. By the time I was thirteen, I was depressed. My attendance at school had hit an all-time low. I had become short and irritable with everyone in my life, and started to act out. My relationship with my parents broke down, and I had no one to turn to. In short, I had lost all hope, and wasn’t functioning. The few times I made it to school, I could barely think straight, let alone work. I wanted to explain to everyone that I wasn’t trying to be the way I was.
I wasn’t really angry, I didn’t really want to be alone, but I couldn’t find the words.
Frankly, I was intolerable. I wasn’t a nice person. I was defensive, aggressive, and blunt. To put it simply, I was in survival mode, behaving in the only way I knew how to keep myself safe.
I was referred to the school youth worker, who then referred me to an educational psychologist. This didn’t help. After a few more months of bad behavior, I was temporarily removed from mainstream school, and sent to a referral center. In a sense, this was the year I hit rock bottom. It was the year I started to self harm, and it was the year I first attempted suicide. My OCD rituals had become a coping mechanism and were draining me of all energy I had left. It was also the year I started to get my life back. My relationship with my parents had all but broken down, but my psychologist referred me and my family to our local Child and Adolescent Outpatient Unit.
This was the year I started serious treatment.
Continue to Jo’s Story, Part Two