My journey with mental illness started from the age of nine. Following a series of sexual experiences from the ages of six to eight, I found myself traumatized. My young mind couldn’t process what had occurred, and neurosis quickly set in. I started to feel a lot of shame and guilt as a result of what had taken place, and as time progressed over the next few months, those feelings of shame and guilt manifested themselves into a feeling of physical dirtiness. I felt physically tainted and dirty, and because it was sexual in nature I attributed urine and feces (the substances from the sexual parts of our bodies) to be the culprit. This meant that I needed to avoid urine and feces at all cost, because any contact with those substances made me feel contaminated. Thus my obsessive-compulsive disorder was born.
Initially, this just started as me not wanting to touch things like faucets, door handles, other people, or any objects I felt as though they might have microscopic amounts of urine and feces on them. I felt as though if someone touched a faucet and then touched let’s say the remote for the television then I couldn’t touch the television remote. This continued to expand to other objects and even people and then there came a time where there was nothing I could touch. I was washing my hands so abrasively and frequently that they were actually starting to bleed, and at this time I was only around ten years old. It wasn’t long before people started to take notice of my idiosyncrasies.
I struggled with going to school because I felt as though everything was contaminated. I would bring wet wipes with me to wipe down the bus seat before I sat down, and it wasn’t long until I had to do the same in the classroom. Other children were obviously aware that I had this immense fear, and my parents were concerned with the magnitude of the debilitation of this condition. As I got into my teen years things progressed to an unfathomable degree. I became so convinced that the school bus, the school, and everyone at the school was so contaminated I actually had to switch schools. Not only was I afraid of touching things, but I was also afraid of being near things. I started to feel as though the contamination (the urine and fecal matter I was so petrified by) could move through the air. I would actually have to duck in certain places or hold my breath while walking into certain rooms because I felt as though I would breathe in the contamination. I spent the entire summer between grades ten and eleven almost entirely confined to my bedroom, with my ceiling fan going in an attempt to blow the contaminants away from me.
Trying to go to school the following year wasn’t just an arduous task, it was basically impossible. Because I was so afraid of urine and feces, any time I went to the washroom I had to immediately shower, and those showers were lasting at minimum an hour. This meant starving myself and dehydrating myself so I wouldn’t have to use the washroom, so I could get away with only showering two or three times a day. I would wake up at 7:30 for school, and be lucky to be done washing and showering by noon, spending over four hours each morning in the washroom obsessively cleaning and washing. If I could make it to school there was no hiding my illness. I couldn’t touch any door handles (and had begun the habit of using my feet to open and close doors, drawers, etc.) I could barely sit at any of the desks, and I was afraid of the wind because it could potentially be blowing contaminants towards me. I had no quality of life left. I couldn’t do anything because my entire day was taken up with ritualistic compulsions that I knew were insane and irrational, but that I had no control over. I became incredibly suicidal and even my psychiatrist told me that my condition had progressed past the point that she could help me, and I needed to be referred to someone more specialized in specifically treating the most severe cases of OCD.
As the months progressed and my condition continued to worsen, instead of committing suicide, I turned to drugs and alcohol to cope. It didn’t cure me of my neuroses, but it alleviated some of the obsession with contamination I had, at least enough to function. Almost immediately I was a daily user of drugs and a daily drinker of alcohol. I spent the following four years either being a slave to my OCD, or a slave to drugs and alcohol, and often times, it was both. Eventually, the drugs and alcohol stopped having any effect on helping my OCD, and I was left doubly afflicted and more suicidal than ever. I had made up my mind; I was going to kill myself. I had no other option, I couldn’t function constantly drunk and on drugs, and I couldn’t function with the OCD, I really felt as though I had exhausted all my options and death was my only escape from this misery.
Finally, after four long and horrific years, I was able to open up to someone and truly be honest. I had already gotten into a twelve step program for my addiction and was able to get clean and sober, but the OCD still controlled my life. Until I finally committed to honesty. I opened up to my therapist, this beautiful elderly woman, and for whatever reason, everything came pouring out of me. I went into detail for the first time in my life about what exactly those sexual experiences I had as a child were and what happened. It was the most emotional moment of my life and in that moment, everything changed. I was outright cured of my OCD and coming from someone who was never of a religious or spiritual bent, I can honestly say it was nothing short of a miracle. Today I still struggle with chronic anxiety, feelings of worthlessness, addiction, major depression, and suicidal ideation, but I have hope. I’ve been to Hell and I’ve made it out alive. Mental illness is a lifelong journey but I’ve learned I don’t have to do it alone, and I know that love and hope exist always.

Jack A. Bingham is a twenty-one year old author of a book titled Obsessive – Compulsive Dramatic: My Fight Against OCD, Borderline Personality Disorder, and Addiction. It debuted at #1 under new releases for compulsive behaviour on Amazon. He currently writes a weekly blog at and is working on obtaining his degree in psychology. He currently resides in Sutton West, Ontario.