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All in the Mind

Ep. 3: Triggers and Rituals

(This series has been written by one of our blogging interns who wishes to remain anonymous)

Soon after my diagnosis, I went on an exchange trip to Ireland. It was a great experience and one of my best decisions. However, towards the very end of the trip, things took an ugly turn. I was at Heathrow Airport, rushing to catch my connecting flight. I passed swiftly through security check and proceeded towards the gates. That’s when I realized that my passport was no longer in my hands. I felt a huge thump in my heart, as if it had momentarily stopped pumping. Then, a rush of cold blood to my extremities. I felt weak and sat down. I opened my bag and checked everything vigorously. I felt my heart beating fast, as if trying to escape the situation at any cost. Sweat trickled down my head and moistened my hand as it was rummaging through everything in my bag. I began to think that it was stolen. I thought I would be taken to prison and never be able to return. My obsessive thoughts seemed to come true. I could picture these thoughts come out of my mental confinement and start eroding reality itself. Thankfully that wasn’t the case. My passport was still in my bag. I just didn’t find it the first time I checked. That sounds like a happy ending right? Unfortunately it wasn’t. The cause of OCD isn’t very well known. It is possibly a mix of various neurobiological, environmental and genetic factors. However, very stressful situations are known to aggravate symptoms and trigger compulsions, although they don’t necessarily ‘cause’ OCD. This incident gave me more reasons to let my mind control my body. Compulsions often take the form of rituals - sets of unexplained, often illogical exercises that a victim is convinced, are the only ways to avert the obsessive thoughts from actually happening. I experienced much fewer compulsions as compared to other victims. I would often keep on checking the bathroom door and the window for several times. My OCD made me believe that the repetitions would only be effective if it were repeated an even number of times. I also gradually developed a similar ritual of checking the zip of my school bag. Again, even number of times. There were days when, during a class, I would suddenly start checking my bag and reviewing its contents. Again repeat the same after a few seconds. Often, the teacher would ask me if I had lost anything, but I never did. Somewhere around this time, I could really feel OCD degrading the quality of my life, and soon felt a determination somewhere deep in me, to actively resist these urges. That was the beginning of the recovery.

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