This is the third instalment in my series where I talk about the types of overlapping OCD I have.
This OCD has been in my life since I can remember. I didn’t realise until just a few weeks ago just how bad it was. I knew I had some compulsions but I had no idea the extent of it until I began recording it down and asking my husband to tell me if he noticed any compulsions.
There is no main drive behind this area of my OCD. I’ve already had to delete certain words of this blog as I am typing, so that I am typing certain words in sets of odd numbers. If I have to delete a word because I’ve made a mistake then I have to delete it, retype it, then delete it then retype then repeat once more to make it a set of three. All I know is there are ‘good’ numbers and ‘bad’ numbers and things have to ‘feel’ right. I don’t really feel like something bad might happen, just if something doesn’t feel right because I haven’t counted it right, or checked it right then it will bother me enough that I have to correct it before I can carry on with my day.
I have to check things in sets of numbers. For example, if I am checking the window handles, I have to wobble the handle three times to make sure it’s shut. I then go to check the doors three times then go back to the window to check it another three times, then wobble the handle once more to make three sets of odd numbers. If I need to go back in the kitchen I will have to start the process again. With the front door, I have to check the chain three times, the handle three times, then the lock three times to make three sets of three to equal nine, then go into the cloakroom and check the window just once, then shut the door only touching it once pushing it shut, then I have to check the front door another three times on each section again so it equals nine because then with the first check equaling nine, the cloakroom check equaling one and the final door check equaling nine, I have checked in three sets of odd numbers. I do this with checking switches, touching things, shutting stair gates etc. I never knew just how much I did this.
If I am too tired or not well enough to check everything correctly then I will ask my husband to do it and I won’t watch in case I see him not doing it right. At the moment I have a broken ankle and so can’t do all the checking but if I avoid it completely and don’t watch it being done then I can cope with that. I do repeatedly ask though, ‘Are you sure you checked the windows? Are you sure you checked the switches? Are you sure you turned the TV off? Are you sure you checked the door? Are you really sure you checked ALL the windows? Did you definitely check the back doors? Are you sure?’. I will check things I haven’t even used that day such as my hair straighteners, even though I know I haven’t used them I still have to check them, just to be sure, because ‘What if I did use them?’.
Checking and Order
When I say good night to my children, I have to go in to my older boys room and follow a certain order of saying good night to them before I can go to bed. I check they are breathing, check their temperature, tuck them in, give them a kiss by kissing my three fingers and placing it on their foreheads, and sometimes do that three times. It has to feel perfect. It sounds awful to think this but the reason I couldn’t go to bed unless it felt perfect is because I think, ‘If the worst was to happen and they pass away in the night then I have to know the last kiss I gave them while they were alive was perfect’. I have no idea where that obsession and compulsion has come from but that thought definitely drives this compulsion. I then pray for them, tell them how much I love them and shut the curtains with the right side overlapping the left, checking there’s no hazards like carrier bags or anything and then shutting their stair gate then placing a kiss on my three fingers again and placing it on their bedroom door, I do this twice, one for each of them, then I go into my second youngest son’s room and do the exact same except I also turn his music off and make sure the curtains have the left side overlapping the right and that I have taken his empty milk bottle out of his cot.
For our newborn who is in our room, I make sure he doesn’t have any lose covers or anything, then I give him three kisses on his forehead, pray and tell him how much I love him too and can then go to bed. If I get up to go to the toilet or it’s been a while since and I am still awake I will go and repeat it all. When I am really tired or unwell I ask my husband to check. Even waking him all hours of the night to go and check.
I have always been very vigilant about trailing leads, plastic bags, things falling etc. Our upstairs windows stay locked and at night the washing up bowl has to be emptied, even a cup of water on the side has to be empty because I read once that a child can drown in an inch of water so I worry, ‘What if one of my children manage to get downstairs and fall into the cup of water and drown or fall in the washing up bowl’. I know my children couldn’t fall into a drinking cup but my mind tells me, ‘it could happen…what if it did happen…it would be your fault wouldn’t it for not tipping it away, for not checking’. So I carry out the compulsion.
Less bothersome compulsions include doing chores like putting dishes on the draining board, I have a certain order I like them in, and when folding washing, I have to re do it sometimes if the order I have put them in piles in doesn’t ‘look’ or ‘feel’ correct. I make a lot of lists to. I make lists that list plans for other lists I need to write. This takes up a lot of time and although not driven by a horrible fear of someone being hurt or something similar, it still interrupts my day and I don’t want to be doing these things that take so much of my time and attention. I am working on this. Already I have stopped one compulsion in this area. When I would go to the toilet I would need to turn of both taps holding them together with both hands and while holding them in off position I would have to tap the toilet seat with my foot. In some toilets out and about I couldn’t reach the seat with my foot so I would tap the base of the sink with my foot instead. I continued doing that until just a few weeks ago and have managed to stop tapping the sink base but still turn both taps off together with a hand on each tap so it feels ‘right’.
Where do I start? I count everything in odd numbers. Mostly threes but I find quite often things have to make a triangular pattern that goes three, two, one where in my mind I imagine it making a triangular shape. So for instance, If I were eating chips. I would eat three chips in one mouthful, then two on the next mouthful, then one on the next so it makes a triangle shape. I would repeat this then say I repeated one set of this but there were two chips left on the plate I either wouldn’t eat them or I would eat one because that’s an odd number but not eat the other else that would be a set of two and two isn’t a ‘good’ number. I also will eat in threes or fives at times (Where I will eat say three sweets then eat two to make five), it’s either the triangular pattern or in threes or fives depending on what ‘feels’ right. The triangular pattern, and also eating at times in fives is the only time I can use an even number and it’s only the number ‘two’. It only feels right at that time because I am not using it on it’s own, it’s part of a pattern that involves odd numbers so it feels okay.
I count when I am looking out the car window going past things, how many times I blink sometimes, I count how long I look around a room before leaving it if we are going out to make sure I have looked for three seconds, washing dishes where I have to, for example, wash a plate across the middle then completely around the edge then the middle again to make three points of contact and if it’s not clean enough I have to keep repeating the washing until it feels like it’s been done in odd numbers.
I also have a ‘tic’, where I have to say certain words three times. So I can be talking, and say I am talking about a holiday, I might say, “I think we could visit Scotland”…but if I lose my place in what I am saying during the word ‘visit’, I will then say ‘visit’ again, then cough and say it a third time or say it under my breath. So it becomes, “I think we could vis…visit…visit Scotland”. Sometimes I will deliberately stop part way through saying something so I can start it again, then again either under my breath or coughing to make it seem like I lost my place. It just has to ‘feel’ right. The same goes for reading. I have to re-read certain things or paragraphs in books either three times or five times.
I think I am quite the pro at hiding all these compulsions. Not even my husband knew the extent of my counting and checking. I didn’t even know how much time I spend doing it. Some would think I must have a super tidy, organised or clean home but I don’t. I have a certain standard that I spent many months in counselling before my OCD diagnosis working on lowering. We have four children five and under so our house is often messy, toys fill the floor space making our own ‘ninja warrior UK’ course in our front room most days and often laundry piles so high it looks like we are getting ready to open our own warehouse of clothing. I can carry out counting rituals in my head and that means it’s easy to hide. So much of what I have shared sounds so weird and I know it isn’t normal to spend such an excessive amount of time carrying out these rituals. I am not sure where this area of OCD developed as I have always done it. Compared to the sexual/violent OCD this area is more manageable to me on a daily basis.