John Cleaver Kelly (JCK) lived nearly 25 years. In that short time he graduated from a prestigious college, volunteered at Habitat for Humanity, Afya, and Invisible Children. He lived independently in Italy, Alaska and China. He worked full time as a Psych Tech at Four Winds and Silver Hill Hospital. Based on his accomplishments you would never know that he battled OCD every waking hour and that OCD eventually took his life.
John was born at St Agnes Hospital in White Plains, NY. His parents, Janet and Stephen, welcomed their second child and first son with great joy. It was opening day at Yankee Stadium and he left the hospital dressed in a Yankee uniform. He was welcomed home by his 4 year old sister Marisa who smothered him with kisses.
As an infant, John was easygoing. He met all of his milestones in growth and development, was well coordinated and explored his world with ease. He followed his sister to Community Nursery School where he learned to make new friends and enjoy his teachers. John tried his best in all activities but was always considerate of the feelings of others, if he had a special treat he would always share.
From a young age John was very close to his extended family on both sides. He loved visiting his Italian family on Christmas Eve and his Irish family Christmas Day. He was a follower of his older cousins and a leader to the younger ones. He enjoyed family vacations at Oak Beach, Disneyland and Eagles Mere, Pennsylvania. He was close to his sister but as the oldest child she was always trying to direct attention from him to herself. They had a normal brother sister relationship of give and take.
Upon entering kindergarten John was identified by his teacher as a happy child. John excelled in school always raising his hand and eager to answer questions. He made good friends and had play dates.
In second grade he started to play T-ball. He was a good fielder but a poor hitter. Although he was a lefty, he batted righty and was conflicted about this. He would get up to the plate and then would move his right foot in a variable tapping manor. It took him a long time to settle into a regular stance. His coach tried to work with him to avoid that tapping procedure but he was unsuccessful. This was one of the first signs that John was suffering from OCD.
John progressed through to 4th grade where he encountered his first episode of bullying. He was taunted by a fellow classmate with simple epithets and words which made him feel low. Despite this taunting he made sure to invite this classmate to his birthday party. He was traumatized by this and in retrospect felt that this was the beginning of his recognition of OCD thoughts. That summer, TWA Flight 800 (a Boeing 747) crashed over Long Island carrying a nearby Irvington family. John agonized over the pain of that family and became extremely anxious about the number 747 which would haunt him the rest of his life.
The first time John realized he may be suffering from OCD was in the sixth grade at 11 years of age. John is quoted in Natalie Rompella’s book, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, saying “I began to obsess about weird stuff like having to shoot basketball hoops from both sides and equal number of times, having to go to bed at certain times, big fear of the number 47 and not able to wear certain clothes. My status at this point is pretty bad from an OCD viewpoint. I have isolated myself from my friends and I am having a hard time.”