No picture here obviously 🤣.
This was almost certainly my first major obsession, I probably had some minor ones before this (such as worrying the house might accidentally burn down because of something I did), but this was the first obsession that brought me to despair. I was around 17 years old when it started.
The worst part about OCD is that most people who have it don’t realise what it is at first. I was the same, I had no idea. It would probably take me another 5 years to realise I actually had a disorder. A further 3-4 years until I got proper treatment (but that’s for another post).
It all started when we had a talk in school about testicular cancer and the self checking method. Like most lads in the year (probably, it’s not like we all discussed it the following day) I went home and did the check. I was a ball rolling master by the end of this obsession.
I remember doing the check several times, and then several times more. I kept doing the check. I noticed something, but the booklet told me this was probably the epididymis. I was also a professor of testicular anatomy by the end of this obsession.
I must have checked and tried to reassure myself 20 times a day, every day, for weeks. Each check only relieved the anxiety for a short period, but my brain would demand more. I would spend hours each day researching testicular cancer: the anatomy, symptoms, the checking method (did I do it right?), treatment options and survival rates. Nothing reassured me. I finally went to get checked, best be safe right?
The first GP checked, phew it’s all normal. I can move on. But wait…what if he didn’t check thoroughly enough? Best go again to another GP to be sure. All fine once again. Life is good again.
Soon after we went on a family holiday in Crete. The Olympics were on at the time. The obsession grew exponentially. I ended up checking around 30+ times a day. I became convinced I had the disease (but at the same time didn’t think it to be true), surely these signals in my brain must mean something!? Everyone else was having a great time around the pool, I was stuck in my head.
After the holiday I’m pretty sure I went back to the GP for a third check when home and all was well again. (I find my memory hazy sometimes when trying to recall compulsions from the past at times, almost like trying to remember a dream).
For the life of me I cannot remember exactly how this cycle of obsession came to an end, but it did. Only a few minor checks here and there. This obsession probably consumed me for 6months.
Somehow I must have accepted the risk and refocused for long enough to allow my brain to move on. I was also depressed at the time, probably due to the OCD, and was on medication, so this might have also alleviated the symptoms (SSRIs are the same drugs that are often used to treat OCD).
It is common for OCD to lead to depression and this is a significant problem for people who need treatment. Fighting OCD is the hardest thing I have ever had to do. If you are depressed, it makes it twice as hard at least.
Randomly, 3 years later the obsession came back again when I lived in Kenya. All from a random thought “Did I even get checked properly at home? What if something was missed? Did I even get checked at all?”. I paid privately to see two experts. All was fine again, I could move on. Again, I must have refocused enough for my brain to become unstuck. Or perhaps it moved to another “theme”. I cannot be sure. But this didn’t last long this time, maybe a few weeks. Significant OCD themes can have a severely traumatic effect. I will never forget any of them, even if they don’t bother me now.
Either way, after this particular obsession, the phrase “I know it like the back of my hand” would no longer apply to me.