In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

March 26, 2015

Out of the Darkness and Into the Light – Documenting a Struggle With OCD

By In the Loop

Jennifer Giesen showing the incision on her headJennifer Giesen was just 13 years old when she’d had enough of obsessive compulsive disorder. It had made her young life such a torment that she just wanted out. "I was always in such a heightened sense of anxiety that it caused migraines, and I was constantly nauseous or dry heaving. By the time I turned 13, I was praying for God to kill me," she writes in a post for Aljazeera America that documents in heartbreaking detail her struggles living with the disorder.

She spent much of eighth grade "in and out of the psych ward," she writes, "on more drugs than you could imagine." Those drugs caused extreme drowsiness, weight gain and tremors, and she "became almost numb to the outside world," she says. That numbness continued until Jennifer checked herself into a treatment facility after graduating from high school at age 17. "It was by far one of the hardest things I've ever done but so worth it," she writes. "It made me a functioning human being." But over time, her anxiety returned. She dropped out of college after her junior year and moved back in with her parents. “I could not get a ‘normal’ job,” she writes. “So I was on disability, living at home with my parents, and going to therapy. That was basically my life.”

Frustration mounted, and Jennifer decided something had to change. That change came, she says, when she found out about a deep brain stimulation study at Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus. “It was a long and strenuous process to say the least, but at that point it was my hope, my reason to live, my chance at happiness,” she writes.

As AlJazeera reports, "deep brain stimulation has long been used to treat movement disorders, like Parkinson's disease." Mayo Clinic, it notes, "is pioneering its use for … depression, schizophrenia, Tourette syndrome, addiction and even memory loss." Jennifer was awake during her surgery, as doctors placed the electrodes for greatest effect. "That was one of the most amazing experiences I've ever had," Jennifer writes. "I had lows, where I wanted to jump out the nearest window, highs where I was just laughing for no reason, and times where I couldn't feel anything. And all these changes simply by the doctor clicking a screen."

Although she has experienced improvement in her mood and quality of life in the six months since surgery, Jennifer says she's still "a work in progress" and so far, improvement has only been temporary. “I am still going in for adjustments every two to six weeks,” she writes. That said, she notes that, "my OCD has gotten a lot better and I'm 100 percent glad I did it." And she remains grateful to those who helped her. “I'd like to give a huge thank you to my entire Mayo Clinic care team,” she tells us. “I couldn't have gotten to where I am today without each and every one of you.”

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Tags: deep brain stimulation, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Patient Stories

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