Thirteen-year-old Michelle LeClair has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and is one of three children profiled in the season finale of "Primetime: Family Secrets," airing Aug. 4.
Michelle feared that other students were contaminated, preventing her from going to school or any public place where she would see her classmates. Her crippling fear kept her isolated at home. The following is Michelle's story in her own words.:
By Michelle LeClair
OCD is a real disorder that effects the way a person thinks and acts. It effects an individuals' thoughts and actions. OCD takes control of your whole life and once it does, it is hard to get your life back. OCD makes the world a scary place where you cannot and will not venture into. It controls your actions, it controls your thoughts and it changes your personality. It shuts you off from your family and friends and closes in the world around you. Your world becomes smaller and darker until it is just you and OCD with OCD in the driver's seat.
At first I told myself that the compulsion of wiping and washing things was real because of the concern for germs. So it made perfect sense. So I kept wipes with me and washed my hands with them every time I touched something because I didn't want to get dirty. Then the OCD became more invasive of my life. It was not enough to wash my hands with the wipes -- now I could no longer touch anything because somehow it was contaminated -- dirty. So I would need to wash the paper, pencil, the desk, my hands and on and on. I kept washing it because the germs were still there. I couldn't think of anything except being contaminated and washing away the contamination.
OCD was telling me: "DON'T TOUCH IT. IT IS CONTAMINATED. YOU WILL GET DIRTY IF YOU TOUCH IT." It is then that the OCD took total control of my life. I tried to hide it from everyone, but then it became overwhelming. Even if I didn't touch anything somehow the OCD convinced my brain that the air around it is contaminated and therefore so was I. So going outside and being with people was no longer an option. My life stopped. My world started caving in. I stopped interacting with people. I stopped touching everything and everyone.
So to keep my secret I pulled away from those who knew me best, my family, my friends. I started hiding the washing. I tried to fool everyone into thinking I was becoming more independent. I start doing my own wash and preparing my own food. I fooled myself into thinking I could keep up the washing and keep everything clean until the need to have everything sterile took over my every action. My clothes had to be washed again and again because they touched the outside of the washer or I thought they were not clean enough. Each article of clothing had to be washed separately. I couldn't sleep because I needed to have clothes for the next morning and nothing was clean enough. I was exhausted trying to keep up the charade.