I’ll start from the beginning, when I was 17, my niece was born very early and her immune system was weak. We all thought she wasn’t going to make it. Thankfully now she is very healthy but after she was born, I was told if I didn’t make sure my hands were germ-free and wasn’t dirty, she would catch an infection and die.
The fear of possibly passing my germs onto my niece and being the reason she died was overwhelming. I started washing my hands over silly things such as tying my shoe laces and I started opening doors with my elbow or tissue. I kept having “what if” thoughts, which made me anxious.
4 years later and I am worse then what I was, if I feel my hands are dirty I have to clean them or I become panicky and irritable. I dread getting up in the mornings because I don’t know if my OCD will be bad or at least bearable. My fiancée tried to convince me to go to the doctors a year ago to get it sorted but I was stubborn and thought when I get a job, it’ll go.
I eventually found a job as an office assistant apprentice at an electrical company for 4 days (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday) 20 minutes away from where I live by train. I was so excited to finally live a “normal life” and not be the “weird guy that is obsessed with soap”. I couldn’t wait to start and I was looking forward to getting rid of my OCD.
The first week, I was scared something would trigger my OCD and I’d look crazy in front of my co-workers. I politely refused any drinks that were offered to me so I wouldn’t have the urge to use the toilet. If anyone noticed my spilt dry hands, I would say it was eczema. If something dropped on the floor, I would pretend I didn’t notice and when my co-workers looked the other way then I’d use a piece of tissue to pick it up. I thought I was hiding it very well and I was trying to optimistic, telling myself “be patient, it won’t go after a few days at work”.
When I was given spreadsheets to copy onto the database, I checked it over and over and over again before even moving onto the next one. I kept thinking “if I don’t re-check it, I might have made a mistake and it’ll cost the company money and I’d be the one who gets blamed”. It was frustrating because I just wanted to move onto the next spreadsheet but I couldn’t until I checked it over multiple times.
When it came to leaving at the end of the day, I was given the keys to lock up all the cabinets and again I was stuck in a loop of checking it over and over. If I didn’t, the “what if” thoughts came back and I was scared if someone broke into the office and stole anything in the cabinets, I would be accused of doing it. Before leaving the office, I had to use the toilet even if I didn’t have the urge to just incase I suddenly needed to go while I was out. Again, I was stuck in a loop of washing my hands and panicking I was taking too long. I would then collect my stuff, leave the office and check I didn’t leave anything, then leave and re-check again. I would do this around three times, a co-worker used to say I better get my roller skates on or I’ll miss my train.
Even though I was doing this, I still thought I was hiding it because no one ever questioned why I was doing these things.
A few weeks later, it was becoming worse, the night before work I’d be in or nearly in tears because I was so scared my OCD would be bad and noticeable.
I have always suffered with anxiety since I was very young and I have always tried to avoid going out just incase something happened to me. Now looking back at my childhood, I realise even back then I had OCD. I would get these thoughts, “knock on that piece of wood or Nan will die” (I’m a big Nanny’s boy ) or “touch that light switch or Nan will die”. Now that I’m an adult, it has gotten a lot worse.
As each day passed, I became more anxious and scared that something would trigger my OCD while I was on my way to and from work or at work. I still don’t go out unless I absolutely have to because the stress is too much for me, I panic and I end up ruining the day for anyone with me.
After a month and a half at work, a lady came from the college to get me to sign a few documents for my apprenticeship. She informed me that the college had people I could talk to if I needed to (if I was being bullied etc.) but I thought she meant a therapist. I waited for my office manager to walk out of the room and I spoke to the lady about my OCD but when I started to talk about it, my manager walked in and I didn’t notice, she heard all of it. I was embarrassed and felt like crying from it.
When the lady left, my manager wanted to talk to me about it and encouraged me to go to the doctors because I had an illness. I thought she was being supportive but they must have been discussing it.
The next day, I had to leave work early because my OCD was triggered while I was using the toilet and I was in there for 40 minutes. I panicked so much I got the feeling I was going to have an upset stomach. I told my manager I had a bad stomach and had to leave.
For the next 3 weeks, I had one day off a week because I became so anxious it would cause me to have an upset stomach. It was embarrassing having to ring my boss to tell him that I wasn’t coming in because of my stomach.
The third week, on the Wednesday, it happened again and I finally had enough. I went to the doctors and explained to them what was wrong with my stomach and the doctor said it was caused by anxiety but he wanted me to have a blood test to make sure it was nothing else. I also spoke to the doctor about my OCD and how much it affects my life, he saw my hands and gave me fluoxetine and cream for my hands which worked really well. The doctor also referred me to get CBT sessions.
The next working day (Friday), I arrived to work 10 minutes early as I always do, I said “good morning” to everyone but when I got to my boss’ office he asked me to come in, he wanted to talk. As soon as he said that, I knew it was going to end badly for me.
He asked me why I had been off and I told him it was because I had an upset stomach which was caused anxiety and I went to the doctors, I offered to give him the doctors number so he could check I was telling the truth. He seemed fine with it.
He then brought up another issue which was my co-workers had been complaining about my work. Apparently I was doing it wrong, they had to re-do it and when they asked me why I did it that way, I would shrug my shoulders which was a lie because they never spoke to me about it. My boss wanted to know why I took so long in toilet (apparently I took 40 minutes each time which was also a lie because I took my watch in to time myself and I took 15 minutes) I told him about my OCD.
He said I should have told them in the interview and that they wouldn’t have been put off as I was the best candidate for the role. My boss then said I didn’t have to tell them I had OCD because they noticed it, he started to organise things on his desk as I do to demonstrate what I’m like. I was shocked. He told me it was more the dishonestly that I never informed them, he didn’t “want the problem” which offended me, there was a long pause and he said “lets call it a day” which meant I was fired. He told me he would pay me for the day, I said “bye” to everyone and left.
When I got home, I was upset and angry that I had let everyone down by losing my job and I was going to make a complaint to the college. On the Monday, the lady rung me from the college and I told her that I was fired for my OCD but she knew that was the reason and offered to help me find another apprenticeship when I’m better.
Two months later, I have just started my CBT and hopefully one day I will have my OCD under control. I encourage anyone who is suffering from OCD to go to the doctors and get the support that is offered, it may help you.
If you made it until the end, thank you, this was difficult for me to write because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to post this but I hope my story will encourage at least one person to get help for OCD.
See you next time,