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OCD: A Rough Road

(The Verge) – The date is September 5, 2006. The morning bell rings. Jason Smith attempts to grab his books but is afraid. He enters the eighth grade classroom and is visibly nervous. There is not a seat in the room in which he feels comfortable sitting in. So he just squats at his desk, wearing gloves on his hands and realizes this is going to be a long day.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder affects millions of people of all ages in the United States. It is a mental illness that is characterized by intrusive thoughts that produce uneasiness, apprehension, worry, or fear. Usually a person with OCD has an obsession with washing their hands, hoarding, checking, or nervous rituals. For Smith, it was a mix of all those symptoms. “It’s like I couldn’t do anything, Smith said. Everywhere I looked, everything I did, everything I thought of scared me to the point where I had no idea what my next move was going to be.” On a typical day, Smith would be unable to touch anything in the school unless he was wearing his protective gloves. He would wash his hands nearly every hour, and was petrified of coming into contact with certain individuals; specifically those whom grew up on a farm. “Something about farms just terrified me to the point where I could not associate with half the people in the school because of the rural area we live in,” Smith said. Instead of taking the scenic Route 46 that led straight to his house, he would force his mother to take a detour; one that did not include a view of Liberty Township’s sod farms. “I couldn’t even look out the window at the sod farms without feeling uneasy,” Smith said. “Instead my mom drove up Danville Mountain Rd. which was mostly dense forest.”
What truly surprised Smith’ friends was the fact that the disorder simply came out of nowhere. “I’ve known Jason my whole life and he was never afraid of anything, said longtime friend Dan Luberto. I remember one time we were exploring an abandoned house at night and he was fearless…he was touching everything and going through all the stuff in the house; and then one day he just got weird.” The sudden change began to affect Smith’ grades in school as well as his performances in local basketball games. His grades dipped below his typical A’s and B’s and was unable to make contact with anyone on defense, allowing his man to score points constantly. Chris Castello, an eighth grade teammate of Smith, said, “We were one game away from the championship and everyone was so pumped up for the game. But there was something different about the way Jason looked; like he wasn’t all in.”

O.C.D. affects millions, but sometimes, the symptoms become more apparent as a ‘victim’ becomes more worrisome. Image taken from: mhalc.org

As the year went by, the symptoms began to get worse. Smith was unable to exchange food with the lunch ladies even if they were handling the food with their own set of protective gloves. He was unable to enter even his closest friends’ homes that he trusted. He was unable to make time to do anything because he was so preoccupied with his obsessive thoughts. Then one day, he nearly hit rock bottom.
As Smith sat in the hospital room months after the school year ended, he thought about what could have been, and felt happy to be alive. Prior to the extensive medication and therapy given to him at the hospital, he had attempted to end his life. However, that was not to be. The medication and treatment that he had received have transformed him into nearly the same person he always was before his ordeal. “Now I have a second chance, Smith said after being released from the hospital. I’m thankful that it did not come to that because I miss hanging out with my friends and being normal.”
Today, Smith is a new man. Although he still suffers with OCD, the symptoms and problems are barely noticeable. “It’s like he’s a whole new person,” said Luberto. “I came back the following fall from summer vacation and it’s like I was meeting a new friend.” Smith is now able to hang out with his friends again, touch nearly everything imaginable, and is even able to drive passed the sod farms that lead up to his home. His sense of humor is back as well. “I must save thousands of dollars of gas driving past the sod farms straight to my house instead of detouring,” Smith said with a grin. As for school, he has already graduated from the Institute of Audio Research in New York City, a two-year school. His future plans are to open up his own recording studio and hopefully work with well-known artists in the ‘city that never sleeps.’ Of all the places Smith could have imagined, he never thought of himself being able to walk around the congested streets of NYC while struggling with OCD. “One day he’s squatting at his desk because he can’t even sit in a chair, said Castello. Now he’s bumping into a thousand people as he’s trying to cross from block to block in the city.”
The date is May 5, 2013. The light turns green and Smith makes a right turn into Liberty Tax Center where he currently has a day job. He goes inside, dresses up as the Statue of Liberty, and walks outside holding a sign that says “It’s Tax Time!” as cars speed by. “It’s been quite a ride,” Smith says as cars beep at him as they pass by. “But I’m proud of what I’ve overcome, and the man I am today.”
Tony Shalhoub in “Monk” was not immune from O.C.D., but in this instance, it made for some entertaining television. In real life, it can be torturous beyond all belief. Image taken from: zawaj.com