This is what it’s like to be a gay man with OCD while still in the closet
As a young gay man in the closet, Andrew Puccetti began to suffer from OCD, having obsessive and compulsive thoughts about washing his hands and counting steps.
Coming out helped him overcome his mental illness.
At just nine years old, Puccetti started having this “constant nervousness and anxiety”.
He tells PinkNews: “I’d be in class and I’d be constantly leaving class to go wash my hands and as a result, my hands were bright red.”
“They were cracked, they were peeling, they were bleeding.”
As his anxiety built, he also felt compelled to touch light switches an even amount of times.
“I had to count my steps in a way that I couldn’t live anymore,” he explains.
This is what it’s like being gay and closeted with OCD:
For Andrew, repetitively washing his hands and the counting was an attempt “to gain control” as he faced bullying at school and feared being outed as gay.
Eventually, OCD got in the way of relationships and friendships. He was forced to leave school in the seventh grade and was homeschooled so he could deal with his mental health.
Andrew Puccetti was bullied at school for being gay and having a mental illness.
“The kids would make fun of me because I didn’t play the sports, I hung out with the girls, they would call me gay,” he tells PinkNews.
“I mean, they weren’t wrong but at the time it was hurtful because I didn’t know that,” he added.
“I feel like my early experiences in school of being made fun of for being gay made me look at being gay as a bad thing, which hindered my coming out process and my self-esteem.”
The realisation hit me for the first time that, I’m gay.
People at school also made fun of Puccetti for his OCD, tormenting his for his symptoms.
“They’d spit on my desk, they’d lick their hands, touch it to me, they would make fun of me,” he adds.
Coming out helped him overcome obsessive thoughts.
Puccetti had his first crush on a guy in the sixth grade. After first thinking that he just wanted to be his friend, he then realised it was “more than that”.
“I would push it to the back of my brain and I wouldn’t want to think about it until sophomore year of high school, and the realisation hit me for the first time that, I’m gay,” he says.
“A lot of the anxiety I had from the OCD kind of lifted away for a long time and I felt like I was kind of on a high from coming out of the closet and being open about who I was.
“Being out to my family felt like I had this wall that was taken away.”
However, coming out and overcoming his OCD meant losing friends.
Some of his “close friends” didn’t react in the embracing way he had hoped.
“They told me that I’m going to hell, they literally told me that the devil is inside of me,” he explains.
Andrew had his first boyfriend age 16. “It really felt amazing to be my true self,” he says.
Andrew sought professional help to deal with OCD.
When his OCD became apparent and “crippled” his life, his parents decided to call in professional help.
At the hospital, they diagnosed him with OCD and he saw a therapist weekly. He did exposure and response therapy, which means he was exposed to his biggest fears and had to overcome it.
For example, he explained that he “sat in an elevator every week in order to desensitise myself to that”.
“It was horrible, but it worked,” he concluded.
His advice? “It’s good not to stay silent. Reach out to a loved one, surround yourself with people you love and that support system.”