I am going to tell you about my sudden and unexpected self-cure of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) after 51 years on this Earth. But first, a brief personal background.
I don’t remember a time before my obsessive-compulsive disorder. In my earliest memories, from maybe nine or ten years of age, I am touching things for no clear reason; touching the ground while walking with friends, touching walls and counter tops as I walk by, touching my nose with the palm of my hand. Even as a young child, I was embarrassed by my odd behavior and tried to hide it or explain it away. I became an expert at incorporating my self-designed rituals into ordinary movements.
I felt like I was getting away with my strangeness undetected for the most part, but occasionally someone would ask what I was doing and I would have to come up with a plausible explanation: I was touching the ground to get a running start, like a racer.
As time went on, my rituals grew more and more complex and frequent. Going to bed was quite a chore, with several time-consuming rituals that could keep me up for minutes, hours, or even all night. I felt compelled to turn off and on the lights repeatedly until it felt “just right”; my shoes had to be aligned the right way; I had to get into bed a specific way, thinking the right thoughts; from the light switch to the bed, there could be a myriad of objects that had to be touched in the correct order. Once in bed, an obsessive compulsive thought, maybe remembering a certain number of lines from a movie, or from a conversation held that day, could potentially keep my brain whirling away, to my anguish, all night.
Complicating matters, when I was a kid, there was no such thing as “OCD” — as far as I knew, I was the only person on Earth tormented with self-inflicted, irrational behavior like this. When I was about 13, my parents took me to a psychiatrist who recognized my condition as some sort of anxiety disorder and prescribed Valium.
It wasn’t until I went off to college and researched my symptoms at the library, that I came across a description of “obsessive compulsive disorder.” Knowing that it was a recognized condition and that others suffered from it relieved a burden, but my OCD just grew worse in my 20s. I sought out some behavioral…