My OCD up close and personal; Relationship OCD

This is the fifth instalment in this series. I will discuss the Relationship OCD I have experienced in this entry. This area like all the others in my overlapping OCD has not been as severe as the violent/sexual OCD but I feel they all need discussing to build up the picture of what caused it to get to breaking point where I was diagnosed.

Our wedding was everything I dreamt. Perfect from the moment I woke up with all my bridesmaids around me, offering support and so much joy to the end of the night when me and my new husband shared a bath and collapsed in bed too tired to do any ‘wedding night’ traditions. The lead up to the wedding however was not so smooth. For 18 months from when we booked our wedding I was filled with fear. Not just fearing the end of the world as mentioned in my previous blog but for health reasons. I do have physical health conditions and one of those is Crohn’s disease. I was worried sick that I would be unwell on my wedding day. The biggest day of my life felt shadowed by this gut wrenching fear. I had images of me running out of the ceremony, loosing bowel control and bleeding onto my dress in front of all my friends, family and new in-laws. My perfect fairy tale dress. I had vivid images of me not making it to the toilet or my friends having to help me with my dress in the toilet and getting blood on it. The strong image or red against my ivory wedding dress tormented me. Because I was so worried we agreed we wouldn’t get married in a church. I wanted a ceremony that was as short as possible. I wanted it to be over quickly. The impending doom was unshakeable. We found a beautiful venue that we had no way to afford but thanks to having a friend who worked there we were able to a have a package that meant we could afford our dream wedding. The moment I walked into the banquet room and saw the ceiling flooded with lights like walking under the stars I knew this was perfect. I didn’t want a big ceremony room or long isle to walk down in case I was unwell, but the room was perfect. The aisle was short, it was beautifully lit with natural light, from it being made of glass panels, with a lovely high ceiling surrounded by beautiful gardens which made it feel like we were outside whilst being inside.

Several months before the wedding I sat in the office of my specialist and cried. I said I just want to be well. I’m so afraid my wedding will be ruined. I had a dress fitting once my dress arrived and I was so scared it wouldn’t fit or I would try it on and be ill and not be able to get to the toilet in time that for around six days before I didn’t eat. I got to the fitting and the lady was working on taking it up as it was too long. I had to stand for quite a while, and part way into it I felt really unsteady and then began to go really fuzzy and nearly blacked out. All my blood felt like it was rushing to my head and chest, I began to sweat profusely, and the colour left my face. I had to lean forward ready to grab the wall and asked to sit down. I was given water and started to feel a bit better but it didn’t completely pass until we grabbed a bite to eat afterwards where I told my mum I hadn’t eaten in nearly a week. I found out around six weeks before our wedding I was pregnant and diabetic. I made the choice to become vegan and felt that made a huge improvement to my symptoms. I lost nearly 40lbs dropping from a size 18 to a 10/12. My wedding dress needed altering twice at £199.99 a time! They said they would need to wait until three weeks before the wedding because I was losing weight so quickly, handfuls of fabric were needing to be taken out as it would swamp me due to the weight loss. I was under an incredible amount of stress worrying about being unwell, being able to afford the alterations, and my wedding day being ruined

My wedding day finally arrived. My dad had said my younger brother had been sick the day before and the familiar fear of me catching it to set in. I was on edge already and just thought, ‘why of all days’. I got to the ceremony and was so nervous. I tried to put on a fake smile because I felt so bad for feeling so worried. The savior of my day was the registrar. He needed to go over some formalities and as embarrassed as I was I broke down and told him how worried I was about being unwell. He said I could stop as many times as needed, and could leave the ceremony and come back as many times as needed, he said he didn’t need to rush off so I could have as much time as I needed and that he would have a chair there ready for if I needed to sit down. Where was he months and months ago when I needed this conversation? He put me at ease and for the first time I felt I could breathe.

Just before a photo of me sat waiting for the car to arrive was taken my photographer captured me having a silent panic attack. I am assuming I have deleted the photo he took where I can see the worry in me but that no one else could see. I was looking to my right out of the french doors with the many ‘what ifs’ taking hold..’what if I need the toilet on the way there? Why did I choose somewhere that is a 40 minute drive away? What if we get stuck in traffic and I mess my dress? I haven’t eaten for four days so I will be fine, but what if this time I’m not? What if this is the time you mess yourself and everyone sees? What if you have to run out of your ceremony? What if you get blood all over your dress and your day is ruined?’. I needed to sit down and stop talking,  I could already feel my chest feeling tight, I was sure my dress was shrinking by the minute! I couldn’t catch my breath. I sat on this sofa and my photographer snapped away. I was mortified he had managed to snap a photo while I was so consumed with worry. I immediately put on the biggest smile I could muster, then he captured a photo that you wouldn’t know looking at that inside I was in pani and I just said my dress was feeling a bit snug and must be all the nibbles we had last night even though I didn’t eat. I asked my photographer to get some photos of the flowers and asked my mum to help arrange them nicely so I could have a few moments without the attention on me. I think this photo shows how a smile can conceal a panic attack.

The day was perfect. I actually had fun and could relax. I felt confident in my dress. Confidence is not a feeling I experience often. As the day drew to a close, we said goodbye to the last of our guests and made our way to our room. We went to bed at around 2am. All was well. Until at 3.30am when I woke up feeling like I had been cracked over the head with a baseball bat. I made my way to the bathroom and vomited in the sink. I vomited in the bin and had diarrhea. I was loosing a lot of blood and very quickly I lost vision. I collapsed on the floor and felt the cold tile. I couldn’t stand up or see. I had no idea what was happening and was full of fear. I dragged myself back into the room and laid there until family came in the room and found me after we hadn’t come down for breakfast at around 9am. My husband slept through because I wasn’t able to shout for help before collapsing off the toilet onto the floor and after dragging myself back into the room, I collapsed where I was not able to reach up to the bed or call for help. I was covered in sick, blood and had lost bowel and bladder control. Paramedics were called and I was taken to hospital. I was told I had, had a Crohn’s flare and a massive hemiplegic migraine. I spent the first several days of married life in hospital. Even though I began to improve I couldn’t shake the feeling of something being wrong. I didn’t feel ‘right’.

I didn’t want to look at any wedding photos, I didn’t wear my rings, or change my name online. I didn’t want to talk about the wedding. The thought of it filled me with panic. I made the only logical conclusion, or what I thought was logical even though I knew I felt differently. I thought I had made a mistake. I thought God had punished me for marrying the wrong person, for sleeping togther before being married, for having a baby and being pregnant again before marriage. I thought that was why I was so sick on my wedding night. It must have been because I was being punished for sinning. Family began noticing I wasn’t wanting to talk about the wedding. My mum brought photos to the hospital and I said I didn’t want to see them. I said I was too unwell but really I didn’t want them anywhere near me. We went for a family meal and comments were made about me not wearing my ring. I left the table because I didn’t want to talk about it. I was increasingly feeling worse. I was thinking, ‘I must have made a mistake. Why would I feel like this otherwise? God must be telling me I made a mistake? Why would I be so ill? It must be because I am being punished?’.

I prayed. I would beg for understanding, that God would tell me what was going on, that it would make sense, that this feeling would lift. I prayed for healing. I prayed that God would take this pain away. I tried to talk to God and ask why is this happening. I asked if I was being punished. I prayed a lot. Throughout the day, everyday, in small bursts, I would say mini prayers. If I had thoughts about my marriage being a mistake I would pray that this feeling would lift.

I began googling how to get divorced and my heart sank when I read you are not legally allowed to apply for a divorce for one year. The realisation that I would feel this awful feeling of dread for over another year at least just made me feel worse. I also knew I don’t believe in divorce. If ever that happened it would be because my husband asks, I would never initiate a divorce. The confusion ate away at me, ‘Divorce is a sin…but so is sleeping together before marriage…but maybe divorce is less of a sin so God must want me to get divorced…why else would I be so ill? Why would God, on all days, allow me to be so poorly?Why would I feel this awful feeling of dread whenever I began thinking bout my wedding day. I was fine until I woke up unwell. Why has this happened?’. I began doing whatever I could to distance myself. I sold all of our wedding things. All of the glasses for our sweet buffet, table number holders, table centerpieces were given to family and the others thrown away, I had my wedding dress sent to family. I asked family to put all the cards and photos into a bag and just said it was because I wanted to look at it all when I was better but really I couldn’t bring myself to even touch things that reminded me of my wedding day. I needed to sign some documents but didn’t want to sign my new married name. For months I put off creating a new signature; just saying. I was still working on what I wanted it to look like. I eventually couldn’t put it off because our bank needed me to sign some documents so I knew I had to do it. I grabbed some scraps of paper and just made some squiggles. I just couldn’t write ‘Alice Burns’. I wanted to go back to before I was married, when I felt fine, when none of these feelings and thoughts existed. When this doubt had no hold over me. I eventually settled on a squiggle. I googled if you had to sign your actual name out in full and it said you can put an ‘x’ if you wanted to, it could be anything you wanted as such. So that felt just about manageable. Without realising it I had opened up about how I was feeling to my midwife and she had contacted my doctor. I was referred to counselling and began a couple of months later.

During counselling I didn’t know what to say. I just spoke about the wedding and how it must have been a mistake for me to feel like this. She said she didn’t think it was because of my marriage. We began working through some issues from my childhood but OCD was not mentioned. The counselling helped me move past the feelings I had about the marriage. I didn’t even mention the other compulsions I had because I didn’t know they were relevant. I didn’t know how much of an impact it was having on my life.

Me and my husband have been together for over 10 years. We met when we were 18 in 2006 and began dating three weeks later. We had our first son in 2011, married in 2013, our second son later that year, our third son was born in 2015 and our fourth born in 2016. We have been through three redundancies between us, two job losses and 10 house moves to name just a few life stressors. I have realised there have been times that relationship OCD has reared its ugly head. The worse was after our wedding because it made me question my marriage. Everything I believed in and loved about my marriage felt tainted for the first near year of marriage.

There are times where doubt will fill my mind and I will look for reassurance, ‘Are you sure you love me? What if you start liking someone else? What if you change your mind? What if I get to ill and you don’t want to be with me? Are you happy? Are you sure? How do you know you love me? If you want to leave please tell me, don’t let me go on thinking you are happy if you aren’t, you would tell me wouldn’t you?’ and these times of intense questioning feel like an itch you can’t help but repeatedly scratch. You scratch and scratch which feels good but then you scratch too much and it bleeds. That’s what the questioning feels like. I feel myself getting more and more on my husband’s back and can’t stop. Then it ends up in an argument because I don’t feel like he’s taking my questions seriously or he will stop answering once they begin getting really repetitive and then I am not getting the reassurance I need which my mind tells me, ‘It must be because he doesn’t care, why wouldn’t he answer these questions? If he loves me surely he would want to put my mind at ease? What if there’s someone else? What is he doesn’t love me? How could he love me being so unwell?’. I know now there is no ‘ease’ in OCD.

I trust my husband, I know in my heart I trust him, he is kind and loyal and has taken on role of carer during this. He is my best friend, my biggest supporter, my everything, but even though I know that, OCD tells me otherwise. OCD tells me not to trust that, to doubt, to question and then just when I think I feel reassured and feel more at ease OCD takes that away to. The ease comes when you begin working on understanding how to manage OCD. It comes from you. No one else can reassure you. I am just thankful that this part of OCD did not destroy my marriage. I now look back on my wedding day as the perfect day it was. I was ill after it had gone midnight so my wedding day was not ruined. We returned for our two year wedding anniversary and stayed over night and it was such a lovely experience. I didn’t have any horrible feelings about being there like I thought I might. I am now working on not relying on my husband so heavily for reassurance and he is learning too, how to help me by not feeding the OCD which is so easy to do. This is just one small area of the OCD I battle. There is a small piece to a much bigger fight I am working on winning.

A x


My OCD up close and personal; Emetophobia

This is the first instalment in this series where I go through each area of my overlapping OCD. Each installment will cover a different area/theme/fear of my OCD.

I have discovered through counselling that I have been suffering with OCD since I was around 10. I had a fear develop around age 10 of vomiting. I was very sick growing up, I seemed to have a lot of bowel problems and vomiting and I then began hand washing excessively. I would wash so often that my hands bled and I became very wary of food, I wouldn’t even touch food that I felt was old or had been opened to long, even in date food, if it looked funny it was a no and I started going through phases of eating the same food, so for months when I was around 15, I only ate battered cod, chips and peas, that was it, every day for months because I had eaten it and not been ill I thought it was a safe meal. Every few months I would brave a different meal and worry the whole way through, constantly asking whoever I was with ‘Is this cooked properly? Are you sure? Can you have a look? It looks pink doesn’t it? No? Are you sure? What about this bit? Are you sure I read the date right? It’s definitely in date? Okay what about this bit? Are you sure it’s okay?

My mum took me to the doctor in my early teens and told the doctor that I have OCD. I was mortified and embarrassed and denied having a problem. The doctor asked I keep a diary for two weeks with how many times I wash my hands and why I was needing to. I didn’t do the diary and I didn’t go back again. Mid-teens I was referred to counselling for anxiety because I was still having stomach issues. I got to a point I worried so much about loosing bowel control I wouldn’t eat four days before needing to go in a car so that I wouldn’t have an accident. There was one specific memory. I was in the car with my then boyfriend on the way to my sisters and she lived a 40 minute drive away so I didn’t eat for four days and we had picked up lunch to have at her house but I was starving and really trying to work through this anxiety so I reached back, took a sandwich and had one bite and after I put it back down, the cars all started stopping in front of us, stand still. My worst nightmare. I had eaten a bite of food and was now stuck in stand still traffic on the motorway. I freaked out. Full blown panic attack. I couldn’t escape. The fear of being stuck in this car, having an accident with all these people in their cars seeing completely terrified me and I flipped out. I was crying, I couldn’t sit still, I hit the dashboard because I wanted to get out of there. It was awful. Traffic eventually moved and all ended up being fine. I was referred to counselling but quit after one session because I felt there was more going on in my stomach. I was referred at a later date and quit again. I just felt that whatever the counsellor thought was going on with me, just didn’t fit with how I was feeling, they talked about health anxiety and hypochondria but this just didn’t feel like that was the root cause. Yes I had health anxiety but I felt like there was something else.

The Emetophobia has continued until this day. If someone is sick I have to know why. Is it food poisoning or a sickness bug. Sickness bugs are the main fear. When I catch bugs it can take me out for days and I get so worked up that I will catch it. If my children are sick, I can go into their room and comfort them but I can’t go too close or touch anything in the room, not the bedding or any teddies that get sick on them. There have been a rare few instances where I have helped bath them after they’ve been sick while my husband cleans up the room, but I will have to wash my hands multiple times and they won’t feel properly clean for a few days. If I know someone has been sick I will try to avoid contact for 48 hours. If I have eaten something I felt was under cooked or that I convince myself must have been out of date or old then I will set a 24 hour window and tell myself if I make it through that then I won’t be sick, but then I will get through that and think ‘well it could take 72 hours’ so won’t relax until that’s over then after 72 hours I will recall when I read somewhere it could take 10 days for food poisoning to happen after eating the affected food product so for a further 10 days I will be on high alert for any feelings of nausea or illness and mentally log what I am eating, and cut down on food so it’s easier to log and so if I am sick there won’t be much to bring up. I would worry about breathing in air that someone who has been sick has been near. I would worry about touching door handles and railings etc and even now will still use my sleeve pulled over my hand to open doors or press traffic light buttons. If I know someone has been sick in the last 48 hours what they have touched feels unclean and I won’t use the cup they used, or sit in the chair they sat in and everything would need cleaning.

I wash my hands when I get home because I can physically feel the dirt on my hands, even though I can’t see any dirt, I know if I have been outside and touched a counter or something then it leaves a physical feeling on my hand exactly where I have been in contact with surfaces so I will have to wash my hands to get rid of the feeling of dirt. I do this even if I have worn gloves during winter because I can feel the dirt has gotten through the gloves to my hands.

There were points growing up that I would feel sick and then every time I would feel sick I would do certain things convinced they would stop me being sick. I now know they were compulsions. I am not sure why I had these specific compulsions but two I remember clearly were eating a white chocolate magnum if I felt sick or smelling a McDonald’s cheeseburger wrapper and picking off the cheese remains from it and eating them. Sounds odd doesn’t it? I remember I use to do one or the other each time I felt nauseous and would feel better. I think this only lasted for so long before being sick or catching a bug then I would know they no longer worked. I would have a compulsion where if I felt sick I would have to cool my body temperature down to the point I would shiver. I would wet flannels and cover myself and open windows and turn fans on to get me as cold as possible. I remember one time I was at my friends house sleeping over which is also something I had a phobia of but I could stay over this friends house. I began feeling sick and said I needed to cool down and she got me a flannel to place on my forehead. I was sick during the night and she was amazing and cleaned it up for me because I couldn’t even face being near my own sick. I would get really nauseous if I got too hot and think that’s why I would have a need to make myself freezing cold. If I couldn’t cool down enough I would wet my hair to help get colder and make sure I was wearing light clothing. To this day when I feel sick I pray and will tell myself over and over again that everyone gets sick and think of celebrities and I remember reading once when I was younger that Sarah Michelle Geller went to hospital unwell on her wedding day and I always held onto that and I still think of that now as a way to reassure myself. I have learned that by carrying out these compulsions it has fed this phobia and is something I will work on during my recovery.

A x