Sunday, February 08, 2009

Guest Blogger: Ruth J. Hartman - Author of "My Life in Mental Chains"

There is Hope

By Ruth J. Hartman

Sometimes life’s a struggle. Sometimes it’s a train wreck. But what do you do when it’s even worse than that? I wish I’d known the answer to that in February of 1990. That’s when I was first diagnosed with severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Looking back, I now realize there were precursors to my illness, but on that cold, snowy Thursday, it hit me like a lightening bolt.

As a dental hygienist, working in spit and blood on a regular basis really didn’t faze me. Until that day. That awful moment. Suddenly, a thought latched onto my brain. “What if,” the awful thought prodded me, “you don’t get your equipment clean enough? What if there’s still some blood and germs left on the surfaces? And, what if your next patient gets some awful disease from the previous patient because of it? Worst of all, what if you get some disease from it?” I hated that mean, obnoxious thought!

I became obsessed with cleaning everything in that room. I couldn’t top disinfecting, wiping, scrubbing. And the thought zipped around in my mind as a terrifying loop. I’d never experienced anything like that before. Where had it come from? And why did it pick ME to latch onto?

Before I even made my first appointment with a psychiatrist, I pretty much knew what was happening to me. I’d had enough psychology classes in college to figure it out. That still didn’t prepare me for his diagnosis. After much discussion, and a long, drawn out written evaluation, he determined I had severe OCD. One of the worst cases he ever seen, in fact. Lucky me.

I ran into even more trouble at work. My militant employer hated to be even one minute behind schedule. Unfortunately, my cleaning and re-cleaning caused me to fall farther behind after every patient. That didn’t go over well with the dentist.

The OCD soon spilled over into my home life. I became afraid of most things in my house. I couldn’t seem to get my hands clean enough. They bled from the repeated scrubbings. I became so terrified of going places and being near people, it was a struggle just to leave my house. I quit my job. I just couldn’t cope with it anymore. It got worse. I began seeing things that weren’t there. My mind continually told me lies. And I fell for each and every one.

Sound awful? It was. Not only didn’t I know how I’d make it through each day; I had trouble coping from one minute to the next.

Fast forward to today. After years of visits to my psychiatrist, three times a week, I now only see him once a year. But even with his treatment, I would never have made it without medication. Prozac became my new best friend. It still is. I will never stop taking it. Believe me; no one wants me to, either!

If you suffer from severe OCD, and are resisting treatment, please re-consider. When I think back to all I’ve gone through, and how much better I am now, I can’t believe I ever resisted taking medication. I am now happier and healthier than I ever believed possible. Take heart! Help is available for you!

Buy Ruth's book, My Life in Mental Chains.

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Sher said...

Thanks for sharing a part of your life with OCD, Ruth. I can identify with everything you said - except I've had it for as far back in my life as I can remember.

Thanks again.

Cher said...

Yes, thank you for sharing your story. I've watched this struggle in a co-worker. She's better now, thank goodness.

The Texas Woman

Ruth J. Hartman said...


Thanks for hosting me on your blog! It looks great! I hope it helps your readers who are having trouble with OCD.

I'll be checking back later on in the day for any questions or comments.


Ruth J. Hartman said...


I'm so glad your co-worker is doing better! It's an on-going struggle.


Flutterby said...

Mine is not nearly as severe... around here my family pretty much writes it off as one of my *quirks*. I know at any moment it could spin totally out of control and they know not to ignore it if they see it happening. I had no idea Prozac was used as a treatment.

Ruth J. Hartman said...


Sorry to hear you're troubled with OCD too. If it weren't for daily Prozac, I'd never leave my house. It's a life saver!