OCD & Me

Thursday, April 9, 2009
posted by admin

My name is Dean Pesticcio. I was born in Cardiff, 1970, pre-disposed to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, anxiety and depression.

My first recollection of being ‘different’ goes back to my childhood when I would obsessively tidy my toys in contrast to my brother and sister leaving theirs all over the bedroom, house, garden, up trees etc. I can remember a gut wrenching feeling when anyone disturbed my possessions.

Family life was good, my parents gave us all the love and opportunities that were possible, but my school life was a quite different.
I attended Marshfield primary school, which I hated, to a degree I suppose thats normal, but looking back I can remember feeling very nervous quite often for no apparent reason, I always felt intimidated by other children and the teachers (the headmaster was actually a bully, but thats another story). My school reports from most teachers (except art) always seemed to start ‘Dean is a likeable and polite boy, however…’ and end ‘…lazy and a daydreamer. Ok, so they were half right!
My memories of playground social life aren’t pleasant. One kid in particular would always make a beeline for me, he had a strong and mischievous personality. He intimidated me, made me carry him about on my back, all that kind of thing. He enjoyed tormenting me, I would cry very easily which was highly entertaining for him and soon the other children got on the bandwagon. They would surround me and taunt me, steal my school bag, empty it out etc. I was rarely physically hurt, though it did happen, I was just teased most of the time. My older brother Gary would often stick his neck out trying to protect me but he was out numbered couldn’t always be around.
To this day I do not know why I didn’t make a point of telling my parents much about all this, they noticed my bike getting nicked regularly after school by the older kids and all that stuff, but I suppose from an on-looking parents view it was just boys being boys.

Emotionally I was walking on eggshells, I would become fixated on guilt, if I thought that had wronged or offended someone, even in the slightest possible way. I would become overwhelmed by a fear of death. I would often become depressed obsessing about most everyday issues, and usually something that I had completely blown up out of all proportion. No one really knew about what was going on inside my head, I kept it secret, because I was embarrassed about these thoughts.
Checking behaviour and ‘thought action fusion’ was surfacing. I would dash about our home repetitively checking windows were shut and light switches were off. I kept rabbits and guinea pigs and I can remember staring at the door-catches on the hutches, feeling anxious and wondering why I couldn’t walk away.

I did have a small, but important, means of escapism though, I loved music, still do. My parents had a big Adidas bag full of vinyl singles, Beatles, the Stones, Beach Boys, allsorts. I would sit on my bed for hours on end and take my mind miles away, meditating, dreaming up nice stories, scenarios and general fantasizing. It was great, I can’t do it so well now.
I learned to play piano (and later bass guitar) and I can lose myself when playing too. Through music I had found a regular escape.

Secondary school: A few of the other children had picked up on the emotional weakness I seemed to emit (it’s amazing how good they are at this) but I made a few friends and things weren’t so bad as long as I didn’t make any waves. Certain children did bump into me and give me a hard time but I was quickly learning to keep my head down. Even on the school rugby fields in games lesson I avoided the ball! …until one day the ball came to me.
Usually when I was in a games lesson I would wander about in circles avoiding any contribution. I had no interest in rugby, looking back it’s a bit funny, I really didn’t know which end of the pitch I was supposed to run towards anyway!
One day the ball landed at my feet, I froze with panic, and then apparently all I had to do was “pick up the friggin ball and donk it over the line!” The line didn’t seem so far away and it would have been more embarrassing if I didn’t do it.
Suddenly the whistle blew, ‘we’ won, and I was a hero for about 60 seconds, I had a taste of acceptance from my peers and this intense experience had planted a seed in my mind.
It was now in my interest to learn the game of rugby.
(Don’t worry, this isn’t gonna turn into a big ol’ rugby story)
During the following matches I observed and learned. I realised that in this controlled environment I could let off some steam. Desperate to hear the appreciation again I had a reason to push myself.
I was not exactly school champ but because I was showing keen, I was put on the school team.
So, I got invited to parties, had a girlfriend and started smoking behind the bike shed etc.
I was beginning to feel my feet and enjoying my new found alter ego. I mitched off school (I was useless in lessons anyway as my mind was usually in some weird place elsewhere), I ended up in a few fights, in some cases bullying people who gave me a hard time previously, and even managed to get myself into Juvenile Court for a street fight. Yep, over cooked it!
My parents removed me from school to engage me into private tutoring, I had just turned 16, I had bought a motorbike and became pre-occupied with the open road, so the tutoring didn’t last long and I finished my education with a Police record and a cycling proficiency test.

So the situation was: I seemed to dip In and out of two mind-frames, the new liberated side battling with the repressed side. One month I’d be enjoying all the endeavours of early adulthood and the next I’d slip into bouts of obsessive thoughts, behaviour and depression but on the surface front a normal but often preoccupied young lad.

At 15 I met a girl named Renee and we fell in love.
I was encouraged to start work at my father’s garage (…well, I had a girlfriend and a motorcycle to support!) and I was to attend Nash College on a day release basis. I actually passed the exams using knowledge from living in my father’s engineering environment, I spent most of my college day miles away on my Honda 750.
At 18 I lived in a 40ft caravan at the end of my parents garden with my brother and a friend Matthew, we had a great time, Renee practically lived there. The caravan was always full of our friends. It was a crash pad and usually looked like a tip (except my very tidy and organised bedroom, which was sacred). Life was usually good, my obsessive behaviour was minimal as I had very few responsibilities. I spent most of my wages keeping my motorbike and eating at the chippy three times a day. Mum did the laundry 🙂
Renee and I started to get serious and by age 20 we were mortgaged & married.
Our lives were coming together quite nicely, lots of responsibilities though. It was now very important that we had a steady flow of money coming in, there were important and complicated letters to read and obsess over every morning, having to sort things out on the phone all the time and shopping to do etc. I did enjoy this new being a grown up stuff for a year or so but inevitably the OCD started to raise its ugly head and most daily tasks were becoming a chore even more so when I had to repetitively do it. My material problems were no different than anyone else’s, but I always felt so torn up and mentally exhausted, I thought maybe that’s normal?
I was slow and over methodical in work, no one knew why, myself included,
I was beginning to compare my work ethic to other people. I came to the conclusion that I was highly strung or something, having an illness hadn’t crossed my mind.
Juggling life’s tasks were becoming increasingly more difficult so I started to use a diary to keep my life and my obsessions in order. The diary itself became an obsession for many years, I used it as my external auxiliary memory. If I was in a social situation for example, it would be embarrassing to openly access my diary continually so I would nip into the nearest toilet and write stuff down. It seemed that I had no confidence in my sub-conscience memory at all.

Renee and I had a large circle of friends so we would go out and party on weekends. We would enjoy a good drink and a laugh. I would drink a bottle of Thunderbird, my jokes would get worse and then I would fall asleep. This went on for about a year.

One evening, on the spur of the moment decided to visit an ol’ school friend, a surprise visit. I drove to his house and knocked on the door. He answered, and said “Hi Deano, how are you? You’ve come at just the right time!” He led me in and introduced me to two of his pals. On the floor was a bucket of water and a plastic cola bottle with the bottom cut off. The bottle was immersed in the water. Then a small piece of pierced tinfoil was placed in the top of the neck, followed by a large helping of marijuana sprinkled onto that. As the lighter was applied to the marijuana, the bottle was drawn upwards and about a litre of thick toxic smoke was contained. My friend was being hospitable and offered this gift to me.
I was in the frame of mind that loads of people I knew smoked it and found it relaxing with its medicinal properties blah, blah. I decided to give it a go.
I removed the tinfoil stuck my mouth over the top, pressed down and breathed in deeply. I waited about 30 seconds, breathed out and then coughed, big time!
About half an hour went by and nothing happened, by which time the others had crashed out on the floor, so I made my way home.

Suddenly, about half a mile from home, I felt an overwhelming and surreal fear take grip of me. I felt like I was travelling really fast but I looked at the speedo and I was doing about 15mph. My perception of time had altered and each three seconds seemed to overlap, I could feel my heart was racing with fear. I had never experienced such an unnatural fear in my life before, ever! It would seem that marijuana induced paranoia and the obsessive mind don’t mix.

I finally made it home and nervously babbled to Renee informing her of the situation, I went straight into bed where I thought I’d feel better. I lay down and shut my eyes, big mistake, seconds later I was not tired anymore, my heart was racing again and I felt that I just had to get out of the building, fast!
Renee (by now bewildered and pissed off) was walking me up and down the grass verge of a nearby dual carriage way until five in the morning.
When we eventually returned home Renee went to sleep exhausted, but I could not sleep, I was still overcome with fear and confusion, I was wondering what was happening to me, why I was feeling so bad. I was supposed to be relaxed!! I didn’t sleep at all that night and I was glad to get into work hoping I would feel better if I occupied myself.
I arrived at the workshop and began to prepare a car for painting, I was still very nervous, battling with intrusive thoughts and images, what seemed like two hours passed, I glanced at the clock, actually five minutes had passed, I was petrified. I was thinking that surely any effects of the drug must have pretty much diminished by now, but I was still clearly remaining confused and anxious, something else was wrong.
After work I returned home, I was still in a state of anxiety, I had lost my appetite and my stomach felt like it was tied in a knot, much more than usual, later, when I did try to sleep I was dealing with more intrusive thoughts, I was paranoid that I would harm Renee as I slept and I asked Ren if she could be tie my hands together. I nervously managed a light sleep, only to wake up in the morning feeling no better.

This surreal episode lasted for three years I was continually anxious, depressed and confused. I became withdrawn and my social life had largely disappeared (I no longer drank alcohol, the idea of losing control was a huge issue to me). My mind was riddled with intrusive thoughts and images. I was mentally dissecting my body, mind and soul, to analyse and re-assure myself of my existence. I suppose trying to reach a feeling of wellbeing that was unattainable.
My checking behaviour and the panic attacks were progressively becoming worse. It seemed that after my one-off marijuana endeavour that I had learned a new dimension of fear. Every second awake was traumatic, my torso ached, my thighs ached, I constantly felt like I was detached from reality.
It felt like forever.

My family and friends were aware that I was experiencing an emotional disturbance and were desperate to help.
One evening I was at my parents, I was trembling on the settee, we decided to contact my GP and asked him come over and take a look at me.
When he arrived he administered 5mg diazepam, four times daily and we made an appointment to discuss the panic attacks. When I returned home I felt an improvement, the diazepam took the edge off and we were relieved that progress was made. I had not mentioned my repetitive behaviour, as it seemed to be the least of my worries at that time, besides I had not yet established a link between the two ailments.
My GP arranged an appointment with my Community Mental Health Team and I was informed of a group called Walk-Free, a self-help group for people who suffer with panic attacks. After I had come to terms with the stigma, I nervously attended but I was learning a great deal. I realised that I had an illness, I was not alone and there was help, this knowledge in its self offered an element of relief. It was also dawning on me that though there were a huge amount of similarities between the people at Walk-Free and myself with the panic and anxiety, I had another issue and that my checking behaviour was in need of attention, my first notion of a possible link between the two (for the record, I was about 24).
The diazepam was helping but my GP and I were aware that diazepam is best used short term due to possible addiction so I tried a few different types of antidepressants which made me ill, they mostly gave me nasty headaches and aching genitals!
Eventually I tried flouoxitine (Prozac) my anxieties didn’t seem to be addressed but I had fewer problems with the nasty side effects so I plodded on taking them, I waited and hoped, for about three months.
Eventually, I noticed a change, I was becoming more interested in social interaction. I was coming out of my shell, but this did not mean Renee found me easier to live with. I was like a child with a new toy, I had always ridden motorbikes, and a few months later I joined up with a motorcycle club in Cardiff. I was out on my bike until the early hours too often and I started attending parties and motorcycle rallies. I weaned myself back into drinking alcohol again (which I considered to be a brave and liberating achievement) I loved meeting interesting and exciting people. I was a new liberated me, enjoying life again, I even got a nice big tattoo and some bolts through my nipples to secure my new identity.
My attitude towards life was adolescent, I was angry about what I had been through, I felt that life owed me something. I suppose I was on an emotional rebound.
I was confused because there was a part of me that wanted to dive further into hedonism but another that owed a large portion of my recovery to Renee and to be a supportive husband.

Renee and I decided to have a child, we had been together for 9 years, the thought of being a dad was scary, but when our daughter was born we were besotted.

I had to work a lot more to compensate for the loss of earnings because Renee was now a full time mum. I was still working in my father’s garage, the OCD was still a problem and often I would book fewer hours than I actually worked in an attempt to compensate. I toyed with the idea of a job change.
My brother landed me an office job (global fax broadcasting) 150 miles away in London where during the week I stayed with Gary and his family, then on the weekends I’d jump on my motorbike and tear across the M4 to be with Renee and little Kayleigh.
The new job offered a completely new experience to what I was used to and I was beginning to enjoy it. Gary and I often went into London on many rave-ups and we met up with the bike club at rallies as often as we could.
Of course, I was still battling with repetitive checking. My work involved using specially designed software to send multiple business faxes across the globe, which was fascinating. This also involved updating large data bases, I would often over check my work, I tried to hide it from the others in the office, and I’m not sure how well I did.

My obsessive checking was also still riddled through my private life, I would spend a lot of time organising my personal belongings, writing pointless lists of stuff I had to do when I went home for the weekends.
My motorbike became even more important to me than usual because I needed it to commute fair distances. I was never one for keeping my bikes clean, but I was a stickler for maintenance, due to my ruminations I often stopped on the hard shoulder to obsess about a potential disaster, e.g.

had I tightened something too little or too much? Sometimes I would be so mentally exhausted I would pull over, hide behind the pillar of a motorway bridge, lie down and sleep in my leathers.

The whole reason I changed my job was to try something that may be more suited to my OCD problem, which it wasn’t, and of course a geographical escape was not going to work, besides I missed Renee and Kayleigh. I stayed in London for about 10 months.

I was home only a few months and Renee became pregnant, this time with twins! Two boys, Adam and Daniel. Our entire family was exited. An excellent miracle in progress.
I had returned to work at my father’s garage. There was also a problem to add to our responsibilities, we had a two bedroom house at the time, we didn’t have enough bedrooms, plus my motorbike was worn-out beyond economical repair.
So I carried on working at the garage the best I could (all the old problems with time keeping and working performance cranked up again). We tried to sell the house but had no joy, we finally decided to build an extension and my transport problem was being solved by building a chopper out of bits of anything, mostly a chopped up/hard-tailed Z750 rolling chassis, and a KLR 600 motor (for those who are interested).
Things slowly started to come together, within a year we had a three bedroom house, three beautiful children and a very interesting looking motorcycle.
Life was as good as it gets, I was coping with everyday work, family life, playing bass in a band and OCD the best I could. About this time I became secretary of the motorbike club, I’d bitten off more than I could chew. After a year of helping to organise charity and social events I left the club due to stress caused by OCD some other issues.

An opportunity of attending a treatment centre came up, my mother in law was watching a TV programme and a treatment centre in Aberystwyth was shown treating obsessive compulsive illnesses. As soon as she told me about it me I was very interested. I phoned the contact number and the pursuit began. First I had a phone interview, it was explained to me that the treatment was sixteen weeks and that I would have to stop my medication. I explained all about the OCD problem and my concerns about stopping the medication. I remember being asked about my past, my family life etc. I was asked if I drank alcohol and told about a no drinking policy. Then it was explained to me how to enrol. It seemed like there was a lot of hassle for it to materialise, a load of hard work when I got there and altogether a bit scary but I was of course keen to rid myself of the OCD.
I needed funding from my local health authority and to get the funding my local CMHT had to verify the intensity of my OCD and anxiety issues.
I spoke to my GP and he got the ball rolling with my CMHT there was a long waiting list to get the interview and some complications, first the person who dealt with the waiting list was on holiday and they said that they would be in touch. Three weeks went by, nobody called me. I called them and explained the whole thing again. I was told that the person who dealt with the waiting list was back, but at lunch and they would leave a message. Three hours went by, I called them, only having to explain the whole thing to somebody else who couldn’t help. I decided to visit in person, 45 minutes later I had successfully managed to get myself noticed and on the waiting list, possibly because I was standing in the waiting room in my underpants and a bobble hat. It’s a shame what one is driven to do to get a simple task done.

A few months went by and I waited, with mixed feelings.

I was not offered Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which is a pretty standard approach for ODC.

The treatment started June 19th 1999. I had my last Prozac in the evening of the day before, I drove to Aberystwyth, found the B&B where I was to reside, I unpacked and then walked the few steps across the road to the treatment centre. Over the few months before the treatment I had mentally prepared myself the best I could so that they could lead me about by the nose.

Note, I have learned that stopping Prozac (or any other SSRI medication) instantly is dangerous, it’s advisable to wean off slowly over a few months.

I was with people who suffered with many different problems, but we all had anxiety and depression in common.
The daily routine varied slightly but usually began with a group talk, a lesson/lecture from a visitor (or friend of the treatment co-ordinator), a video session or chat with the treatment co-ordinator, lunch break, a half hour walk together, therapeutic duties (basically we cleaned the floor, windows and vacuumed etc) then we discussed our homework assignments. Twice a week we had to attend an external meeting, an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.  …HELLO! I HAVE OCD!
I soon found out that they had never treated anyone specifically with OCD before. I questioned this and they said they considered me too have a compulsive illness, that it is the same that I am compelled to obsessively check, drink alcohol, to self-harm, over eat etc.
We had our AA books and we had to substitute the word alcohol with whatever illness we were enrolled for. I explained that I had stopped drinking alcohol months before the treatment began. I had a feeling that because I admitted that I drank alcohol it may be used as an issue for their convenience. I wanted to work on the OCD which should have remained the primary focus. I suffered for 16 years with OCD and anxiety before I introduced alcohol to my liver! I was told that I was of course in ‘denial’.
The homework consisted of learning how to extract memories of when our illnesses have damaged others and ourselves. With regard to my OCD I wrote how it affected my work, family and friends and I was scraping the barrel after a week.
Our compulsive behaviours had to stop on the first day of treatment and the emotional aftermath was to be addressed during the treatment. I found it impossible to determine an obsessive thought from a normal one so I was very confused by the whole idea. It’s easy to determine if you are not using alcohol, drugs or self harming but filtering what thoughts were normal or not, I found impossible.
I plodded on thinking it was maybe me or that I would get it as the treatment progressed. The repercussions of stopping my medication took about two months to surface and I was a mess, certainly worse than when I began the treatment. I completed the duration of the treatment and went home in a haze of twisted thoughts, images and feelings. The local AA in Cardiff had no idea what to do with an OCD sufferer. My family was left to pick up the pieces. I went back on the Prozac and waited in Hell for a few months longing to get back to my normal OCD behaviour.

They sent a multiple choice questionnaire eighteen months after I had left, hardly effective aftercare.

The treatment knocked me back a few pegs. During my ‘adjusting back to how I was’ period I had joined an OCD group in Cardiff called Obsess. I also joined the Cardiff and Vale Mental Health Development Project. I helped with staff recruitment at Whitchurch Hospital in Cardiff. I enjoyed learning about how the process works and having a voice as a Service User.

How sculpting in metal began:
I would often go to the workshop in the evenings and mess with my motorbikes. A friend of my father’s was discussing trying to find a steel sculptor to make a six foot high dragon that bellowed smoke.
I thought that I had little to lose by giving it a go, I just had a feeling that I could do it. Six months later it was built and from then on I have been messing about with steel in alternative ways.
My next project was inspired by Renee to make a giant ‘Nessy Dragon’ to replace a fence in front of my brother’s house. Word got about and people began to approach me about sculpting. I also have paint spraying, panel work, mechanical and engineering skills so I’m often asked to undertake some diverse work.

I see beauty in many mediums, I have worked with motorcycles, motorcycle parts and practical applications to human forms, animal forms.
Sculpting with steel is my primary focus as I find that it’s liberating and therapeutic.

OCD, anxiety and depression remain an ongoing part of my life, as I get older and wiser I learn more ways to cope through experience and I’m also grateful for support from family and friends.

As a sufferer of OCD, anxiety and depression, I find that being open and unashamed of your feelings has helped me purge what tends to get bottled up and inform the people around me so they have a chance to understand my situation.
I feel that awareness is important for recovery, public understanding and ongoing research.

There are many websites and forums on the internet regarding OCD, Depression, anxiety and many of the mental illnesses that people suffer with, just type a few key words into Google and it’s all there.
I am lucky to have a great GP, and as mentioned above, my family and friends have always been supportive.
However my relationship with my Community Mental Health Team (CMHT) and Crisis Team has been a struggle, and I having spoken to many other local people with mental health problems, they have similar problems with them.  Hopefully other CMHTs provide better care, but I’m stuck with these guys due to my post code.

I have heard and read of many successful stories of improvement, and even the odd total recovery, so there is defiantly hope.
One of my pursuits at the moment is to find out what experiences others have has with their  GP’s, CMHTs, and other professionals, good or bad.

I have a Facebook page called ‘I have OCD – I am not OCD’, please join and share and feel free to leave your comments. and keep in touch

Thanks for looking at my site,

Dean.