Written by: Ankita Kumari
OCD or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is different for different people. For me, it was the repetitive cleaning until I got totally exhausted and drained out which finally resulted into depression.
I was in college when my OCD symptoms started. Initially, due to lack of awareness about mental health, I didn’t understand what it actually is. I thought I am doing right thing by cleaning each and everything of mine that someone else (who is not clean according to me) is touching.
The most tragic part was that my obsessive thoughts became intensified specifically around the most natural phenomena of a girl’s body: menstruation. I started getting thoughts that periods is impure/not clean. This obviously was stemmed from the so-called conditioning that little girls are put through in our society. “Our society” told me that during periods you are impure. You should not be touching any of the holy stuff (like holy books/idols/or any other puja related stuff).
I ended up in a zone where I couldn’t stand even the thoughts of having periods. I even had thoughts of getting my uterus removed (I was 20 back then). I was scared. I kept washing myself repeatedly and every other thing that I touched or used. During the time I was not washing, I continuously kept thinking about what I have to wash as soon as I reach my hostel room. It was painful. I kept crying and couldn’t concentrate on anything else.
The intensity and frequency of these thoughts were so high that it affected my sleep as well. I couldn’t sleep for nine continuous days. Soon I could find myself falling into the pit of depression. This was the time my parents were informed and thankfully my mother, who was a student of psychiatry earlier, knew about this and took the immediate decision of taking me to a psychiatrist.
I was scared again for as per our so called "society”, only 'mad' people go to a psychiatrist. Hence the fact that I was having to go to one made have self doubts. However I mustered up courage to go anyway. I was put on medication. With time, I started to feel better with the effect of medicine but most of my obsessive compulsive habits remained with me. I got habituated and felt like those activities were my normal routine.
After being on medication for two years, I once again had a major breakdown. This time, when I reached out to another good psychiatrist in Kolkata, he told me about therapy. This proved to be a turning point in my journey. I was surprised. I didn’t know that I could go under therapy for this. I was never told about this before. This again was due to lack of awareness about mental health. I finally reached out to Charvi Jain at ‘Over a Cup of Tea’ and started my therapy sessions.
I remember in the beginning of my therapy, I would do nothing but cry about how bad my life had been. But Charvi listened it all with patience and she made me see the most important part which was knowledge. I never read about periods before and believed everything I was told since I was a kid. When I started reading, I found out that it is a normal bodily phenomenon. It has nothing to do with impurity.
But still, my OCD brain wouldn’t let me believe what I was reading. With continuous therapy, I learned ways to identify and break the vicious thought cycle. Slowly, I learned new ways to understand how brain works and how to change our thought mechanism with techniques of CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) that Charvi taught me.
With continuous therapy, I worked more and more on myself and was finally in a place where I felt my life was returning to normal.
I then had to move to Bangalore after some time but I never left my therapy sessions. I again found an amazing psychologist here with Charvi's reference. I am still in therapy and I am leading a very normal married life now.
I am going through exposure therapy currently and every time I succeed, we do a little celebration to mark my victory. I have travelled a long way from where I initially was and where I am now and I am really proud of myself.
Throughout this whole journey, I had major setbacks due to lack of awareness about mental health. Even though, I am a well-educated person – I never had basic knowledge about mental health and how important it is.
To everyone who’s reading this, please be aware of the importance of mental health. It is not the end of the world if you are depressed/anxious/ have OCD or any other mental disorders. With knowledge, everyone will understand that it is as normal as any other physical sickness. Seeking therapy when required is as normal as going to any other doctor for treatment of physical sickness. I am happy and very grateful that I am now much more aware and I never shy away from spreading this among people.