OCD Took My Life Away at the Age of 8

OCD Took My Life Away at the Age of 8

by Anahid Mantl

My name is Anahid Mantl and I’m 16 years old. I have dealt with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) since the age of eight. I’ve been through 10 therapists and several medications to stabilize my life. I had and still have panic attacks, during which I sweat profusely, and have shortness of breath and lightheadedness.

The biggest fear I’m trying to control with my OCD is throwing up. To manage this fear, I take sertraline an antidepressant (SSRI) and risperidone, as prescribed by my doctor, and regularly attend cognitive behavioral therapy. I went to the 2017 OCD conference in Washington DC, and I enjoyed it because I realized I wasn’t the only one having a hard time with OCD—there were so many people sharing their own experiences. This is my story.

I’ve always been an anxious child. This might sound absurd but by the age of two, living in Egypt at the time, I had a debilitatingly fear of water. Therefore showering and—at the age of five—pooping in the toilet were scary. This became a huge problem in my everyday life. It was very unclear as to why I was so afraid of these two particular things as nothing bad had happened to cause them. And these fears took several years to overcome.

At the age of seven, living in Austria, I developed an intense fear of germs. I started washing my hands multiple times a day until they would hurt because of how dry they became. At that point, my parents started to send me to therapy because they were very worried about me developing trust issues. Eventually, I overcame the fear of germs, but it was replaced by another fear.

It was a Sunday and I was eight. I went to the cinema with my friend, we ate popcorn and gummies, and I was wearing a dress. Later that night I got a terrible stomachache and then I threw up. It was a moment of shock and it felt like a trauma. That’s when my OCD as well as my anxiety got severe. I quit eating sweets and salty things, even though I was craving them because I connected them to throwing up. My OCD saw the dress to be one of the reasons why I threw up. I started to fear Sundays because it became my "dangerous" day. I would sleep in a sitting position in fear that something would come up my throat. I wouldn’t wear green because I associated the color with throwing up. 

The longer my OCD went untreated the worse it got. It made all these connections that made sense in my brain, and only then was I diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder. I went through therapist after therapist; they didn’t want to accept me because I was so young. When I was 12 we moved to Washington DC, I suffered from suicidal thoughts and I didn’t see a reason to live anymore. The therapist that did accept me, gave me the medication sertraline and clonazepam. The medication helped me but unfortunately, I got streptococcus, a viral infection, due to which I threw up, which led to my mental health worsening again.

My parents thought it would be best if I went to a therapist who was specialized in OCD. This therapist was able to explain and give us the information we needed. The therapist advised us to reduce clonazepam, as it was a very addictive drug and carried with it severe withdrawal symptoms not suitable for a 12-year-old. We then replaced the clonazepam with risperidone which made the OCD manageable. We did exposure therapy with the pajama I wore on the night I threw up from the viral infection and after that, I was able to put it back on.

I’m now 16 years old, currently in Italy, and have been living with OCD and the fear of throwing up for so long that I don’t even remember how my life was without it. Soon I will be graduating and I will need to deal with my OCD on my own when I go to university. Having to deal with OCD showed me how strong I can be, fighting with my brain every day, and it has made me interested in studying psychology. This is the reason why I wanted to tell my story. I’ve learned not to be ashamed of my OCD. Although it took a long time until I was able to talk about my OCD, now I might be able to help someone feel better by sharing my story.

OCD is not rational. It will come and go, and you will need to fight it. It seems ridiculous to fight with your own mind every day but you’re the only one who has direct access to it therefore you are the only one who can actually change things. Keep fighting and be proud of what you have already accomplished.

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