Living with OCD and anxiety

I’ve always had a hard time relaxing because my brain doesn’t know how to stop working. When I was younger, I could force myself to relax by having a few beers. This worked great for me as a teenager up and through college. I built up enough of a tolerance that I could slam a 12 pack in a 3 hour span and still write complex computer code. It got to a point where I was drinking almost every day. This obviously isn’t a great way to live your life and I ended up getting a DUI in 2005 (I wrote about that experience in a previous blog entry, “Life experience: Driving under the influence”). Part of the sentence given to me was attending counseling for a few months. After talking about alcohol for so many hours, drinking lost all of its appeal and no longer helped me relax.

Without a way to relax, my brain would keep spinning. It gets fixated and stuck on a subject for long periods of time, to the point where I feel physically ill. I would have an upset stomach and feel extremely fatigued all the time. I’d always feel tense and on-edge. These physical symptoms started to affect my social life. I would ditch events with my best friends because I didn’t feel good. Quite often I’d start feeling light headed out of nowhere and a few times I fainted. One day when I was working at Intel, I started having unbearable chest pains. The nurse came, checked me out, and called an ambulance for me. I really had to figure out what was happening to me. With all these physical issues, my brain is starting to second guess how I feel all the time, making the problem even worse.

In 2006, I spent a lot of time and money running tests at specialty doctors. I was diagnosed by one doctor as having Celiac disease, an allergy to gluten. I switched my diet and quit eating wheat and gluten products altogether for about a year and it did help. I lost weight and started to feel better. But the problem was still there. I got retested, this time taking a biopsy, and it turns out I didn’t have Celiac disease. I did barium tests, an endoscopy, and a colonoscopy. I had CAT scans, MRIs, just about every test in the book. The only diagnosis I got was IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). There was a gastrointestinal doctor I had saw and he told me straight up that the problem is in my head; there is no physical issue. I was insulted; what an idiot. I’m definitely not crazy.

Sometime in 2007, I flew up to Hillsboro Oregon one time for a 3 day business trip. I’ve been there a few times, my team was actually located there. I was working on a project with a few people and really needed the face time to finish the project. The first day was really great, I had a good time and we got some good work done. I was reviewing code with a few other folks and it was really nice to see them in person. The second day I made it about halfway through the day before I started to feel ill. I excused myself towards the end of the day and went back to the hotel.

I stayed in the room for a few hours, trying to sleep and relax, but this time I couldn’t handle it. Something is wrong with me. With all the tests I had done coming back with me being fine, the problem had to be in my head. That stupid doctor was right all along. This was hands down the hardest thing I’ve ever had to accept in my life. I felt like a weak piece of crap for not being able to beat this, especially considering how good my problem solving skills are. I had a break down that night and called my stepmom and let her know what was going on. I had no idea what to do with myself at this point. I ended up canceling my stay and leaving Hillsboro early the next morning.

When I got back home, I started seeking out mental health experts. I met with the first person who was available, a lady named Danielle. After a few visits she diagnosed me with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). It was great having a name for the problem and a plan for how to treat it. The really horrible feelings I have been having were called panic attacks. These are seriously the worst thing I’ve ever experienced in my life. You get pumped up with adrenaline, your muscles get all tense, you start hyperventilating. It got to the point where I was obsessing and getting scared about having panic attacks. What happens if I go out and meet with my friends and an attack happens? These attacks were happening several times a week, sometimes several times a day.

I got on medicine. It took a few weeks to kick in but I started to feel better. Much better. The thing I noticed the most after taking the medicine was that I started to feel extremely happy again. After living with this problem for almost 3 years without a way to relax, I was seriously suffering from depression. It’s weird admitting that because I didn’t feel sad or anything. I guess I just didn’t feel happy.

Every day since then, my life has gotten much better. Relaxing is much easier. Once I started taking that medicine, I started to feel like myself again. I started having feelings I hadn’t had in years. Things just kept getting better. I switched jobs and now I’m doing something that I love every day. I met a great girl and ended up getting married. I never pictured myself where I am today when I was struggling with those issues.

I still deal with the issue, it’s just nowhere near as bad as it was. As much as I’d like it to just go away, it hasn’t. Every day I take steps to get myself in better shape. There are good days and bad days. However, like any problem out there, once you know the root cause, it’s a lot easier to solve the problem. The hardest part through it all was knowing my thoughts were irrational but just not being able to make them stop. In my case, it was not even possible for my mind to overcome the issue. I had to get medicine to get my brain up and running again.

So that’s what I’ve been dealing with for the past few years. Feels really good to sit down and reflect on it. If you know me personally, you’ll know how I joke about being crazy. I’m not insane, but these are the issues I’ve been dealing with.


  1. My Wife, Jennifer, has been dealing with OCD since she was a teenager. Meds and therepy help, but like you said there are good days and bad days. I don’t think people really understand OCD unless they have it; I’ve been helping my wife with it for 7 years and I still really don’t “get it”.

    1. you have to take it one day at a time. I had a person that I loved had ocd. I realized it takes a special individual and love to keep going. you are my hero, major. call me 230.770 5342 if you want to talk. I have heart.

    2. @Major, oh wow, had no idea. It’s definitely something that’s hard to explain to someone. The hardest part about it is knowing you’re stuck thinking in a loop and not being able to break out. Glad to hear you’re helping her with it though. It’s a lot easier to handle when you have support

  2. Brian, I am so glad you are feeling better. I do know how you feel, because I have been fighting panic attacks for about 30 years. I felt bad because I could not overcome this problem by thinking it out. I knew it was irrational thinking, but could not work though it until I got medication. At first I needed it just to get through the day, then only to get through specific situations. Now I rarely use it, but keep it around – just in case. And yes, it really helps to have supportive people around you. Love, Mom

  3. I almost experience OCd too and it feels that I’m crazy DOING THING again and again… I knew that it was caused by mournings in my childhood years and now another trauma happen I kip on thinking and I cannot slept at night because of loosing a beloved friend.. but how can I accept the mere fact that even my friend is roaming around our closeness and interest to each other was lost… I don’t know if my friends tells the truth or a lie… and that causes our misunderstanding.

  4. It’s really tough living with it and agree it’s hard for someone to understand who has not got it. After 30 Years of living with it I can now see light at the end of a long tunnel.

  5. I live with OCD, so I completely understand what you’re experiencing. I went through behavioral therapy with a psychologist and all the stuff, but it didn’t get down to the heart of the problem. I won’t take meds, because I know there is another way around it, it’s called classical conditioning. I got a book by Dr. Jonathan Grayson called Freedom from OCD and it saved my life. It teaches you how to break from the cycle, that the brain wants 100% certainty in an uncertain world, and the goal of classical conditioning is to experience the thoughts without the anxiety, and with enough practice you can get there, because I did.

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