When I was five I remember what I now know was a panic attack. I remember feeling warmth filling my body and being so worried and afraid. I'm not sure why it started, if there was a trigger, but, I do know I was suddenly convinced that I was not going to live past 10 years old. Once that milestone was hit, I was sure I wouldn't live past the end of middle school, and then highschool... and then that fear dwindled...
When I was 12, I remember suddenly panicking in the middle of the night that maybe I was gay. I remember drinking 3 glasses of water and feeling better and having the thought, "oh wow, who knew the cure to being gay was drinking water." And yet, while it didn't really make sense, I didn't know how to process it. It would be 8 more years before I knew what a panic attack was.
Throughout my teens I convinced myself that I had cancer and MS until at 20, when I had a bump under my arm and I was sure it was breast cancer (because Brenda on 90210 had a tumor once, so that meant I must also). I was home for a break from college playing scrabble with my parents and I broke down and told my mom that I thought I had breast cancer. My mom, who was diagnosed with OCD several years prior told me I was having a panic attack. She went with my to my room, looked at the bump and told me that it wasn't what a tumor felt like. She helped find a therapist near school for me to go to. The therapist diagnosed me with social anxiety disorder, because all of my fears made it really hard for me to make friends. I was put on one SSRI which I had a really negative reaction to, and then another that actually helped. The therapist however did not.
I wasn't very good at staying on the medication. I felt shame. I eventually took myself off of the medication.
The two years after I lost my virginity I was sure I must have AIDS, even though I had been tested.
When I was 27, I remember watching an Oprah show in which a bunch of women talked about realizing they were gay late in life and fell hard back into panic. It overwhelmed my every thought. It occurred to me then that the feeling of fear felt an awful lot like a panic attack - and by then I knew that nothing I had ever panicked about had actually been true. Maybe this fear that had stuck with me since that night at twelve years old was also not true. I went to my doctor and was put on an SSRI and slowly the panic fell away. I remember talking to my sister during a nervous rumination that I thought maybe I also liked girls, but it never felt right. I expected to suddenly feel like I was allowing myself to be myself, that I should feel relief. But, what I really wanted was the anxiety to go away.
A few months after starting medication, I met him. The love of my life. The first real relationship I had ever let myself be in, my first real boyfriend, my first real love. I married him. I was never afraid getting married. I loved being married. We decided that we would start to try for a baby this fall, so last spring, under my doctor's care, I weaned myself off of medication.
The depression started slowly. My husband and I had a stupid fight and remember waking up the next day feeling nothing for him. It scared me, the relationship doubt started to really scare me. Then in summer I had my first panic attack in years with the sudden thought "oh my god, what if I'm gay." It became every waking minute. Every woman and man I saw became a test. I couldn't watch a tv show without analyzing my responses. Was it anxiety? Or was this me?
For the first time I needed to know if it was possible that it was anxiety. I typed anxiety and gay into a search engine and found the term HOCD. Oh my god. This might be it. It took two more weeks for me to break down, and tell my husband that I needed to get myself well and that I thought we needed to put babies on hold for a while. I talked to my regular doctor about medication and after weeks of thinking about it, I filled a prescription. Four weeks later, I was in a psychiatrist's office. I bulldozed in and spit out all my fears before I could let myself talk myself out of it. (Please, please, please say you think this is OCD. I'm scared that it's not. I'm scared that it is. I'm scared that I can never be happy). She told me that I was having very common OCD fears, and that, while she had never seen anything written about it, in her experience the gay fear and the health fear often coexist for patients. I'm not so unique. At the end of the session she asked if I had any other questions, and I only had one.
"So you think I have OCD?"
"Yes, you have OCD, the purely obsessional variety- but, that doesn't mean you should look it up."
"Don't worry, I already have."
And now a new journey begins...