I have a type of OCD which I finally understand to be Obsessive-Compulsive Spartanism.
For more than thirty years I suffered in embarrassed silence, not sure what was wrong with me. I suspected it was OCD, but my particular symptoms were documented in none of the textbooks on the subject. I didn’t clean or check, and I certainly didn’t hoard. What was wrong with me?
By age 16 I was so desperate for help that I began starving myself. By age 18 I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital for anorexia and bulimia, and that’s when I first attempted to explain that I was constantly bothered by the presence of stuff in my room – that I had to have specific numbers of everything, but I could never quite decide what those numbers should be. I felt silly saying all this, and the look of pure cluelessness on the doctor’s and nurse’s faces only served to amplify my isolation.
Years of self-abuse, self-harm, excessive drinking and depression followed. I spent hours in libraries and bookstores trying to understand what was wrong with me, but still found nothing. Then came the internet. I searched and searched and came up empty-handed.
One spark of joy, the only thing that kept me alive all these years, was that out of more than twenty mental health professionals from whom I sought help, one prescribed SSRI medications and I experienced enough relief from my symptoms to be able to function (somewhat) in life. Seeing how much relief I got from SSRIs, I became more convinced that I might indeed have OCD. But still none of the literature covered my specific symptoms. So I continued my journey through life alone and frustrated.
And then it happened. Thirty years after my admittance to the psychiatric hospital for an eating disorder, I was in an online forum, not unlike this one, listening to everyone describe hand washing and hoarding for the millionth time, and as usual having my posts ignored by everyone, when suddenly one angel popped onto my screen and said those magic words:“You have obsessive-compulsive spartanism.”
So I looked it up and, surely enough, it described my symptoms. There isn’t that much information on obsessive-compulsive spartanism. But it is there, and it is OCD. Finally I had a name for my condition and for the first time in my life, I felt that I could talk about it.
The moral of this story is that OCD is more than just the textbook symptoms that are rehashed over and over. But many sufferers are never made aware of this. And many people suffer alone and in silence, unaware that they are not alone in suffering from a well-known condition that can be treated with SSRI medications.
I wish the OCD community would be more open-minded and understand that we do not all fit into one neat little box. Certainly the majority of OCD sufferers experience the most well-known symptoms, but theirs is not the whole story of OCD, and any responsible educators on the subject have a duty to leave no sufferer in the dark.
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