This is the sixth instalment in my series talking about my overlapping OCD. I discuss the difficult reality of how OCD made me pray for cancer.
This area of OCD has always been present from a very young age but has not run my life to the extent the violent/sexual OCD has which I will go into in upcoming blogs.
Since I can remember I have always felt worried about my health. Growing up I would always worry about getting cancer and I would scan my body for moles that were changing and for any lumps. Sometimes I would avoid looking over my body when I had visions of actually finding something because I didn’t want it to come true. I feared death. I feared cancer and was often over run with thought about it. This overlaps into my emetophobia that I have previously blogged about.
My earliest memories are of being unwell. I have one memory from when I was under 10 and I was on the toilet in pain, and it was so painful that my sister was knelt by me holding my hand, telling me it would be okay. I was often sick with vomiting and diarrhea. I seemed to catch every bug going. I was often unwell after going to the beach and linked the beach to being unwell. I would remember getting in the car not feeling well ready to go home and feeling sand on my hands. I’ve never been comfortable around sand ever since I was a small child. I knew growing up there was something wrong. I was taken to the doctors multiple times and was told it was anxiety. I remember one time after a big bout of rectal bleeding my mum took me back to the doctor. He examined me and said it was just a tummy bug. Through 15+ years of diarrhoea, fatigue, pain, bleeding, mucous and weight fluctuations I was never sent for further testing at the hospital. When google became available it was a 24/7 feeding frenzy for my OCD. I could access all the unlimited information about every health issue conceivable. I couldn’t even count the hours I have spent googling health conditions. I have googled thousands and thousands of diseases and their symptoms, treatments, diagnosis and prognosis, although I tend to focus more on symptoms and symptoms checkers and then looking at case studies. I have had panic attacks about health. I remember when I found a lump just a couple of years ago on my foot and was convinced it must be cancer. I phoned my sister really upset and remember being in the bathroom just crying and praying it wasn’t cancer. It was a cyst. It has gone away since. Then when I found a lump on my head that gradually grew I didn’t get it checked for ages. I asked my mum to feel it and she was shocked I hadn’t had it looked at. During a scan it was looked at and I was told it was just another cyst that had a fancy name. Since then it has burst and reduced. I also had cysts form on my wrist and they all came and went to. I have been in and out of the doctors with different ailments but the one repeating issues was my stomach. This never went away. I felt like something was wrong. I was convinced this couldn’t be because of just anxiety but then I was showing tenancies of being a hypochondriac. I was googling all the time, worrying, having panic attacks convinced I had all sorts of diseases. I developed social anxiety and refused to go to the school. I would scream in the car begging not to go to primary school but through all this I couldn’t shift the bowel issues.
When I was 22 the stomach problems started again. Gradually getting worse and one night I could barely stand. I was on the toilet and could feel gushes of blood. I looked in the toilet bowel and it was full of blood. I tried to get to the sink to clean myself up but collapsed on the floor. I was vomiting over and over and could feel myself loosing bowel control as I couldn’t get back to the toilet. My then boyfriend, now husband, found me on the floor in the middle of the night and called an ambulance. One of the paramedics made my anxiety about going to hospital even worse by saying I was wasting their time for just a stomach bug and why couldn’t my partner have driven me because he should have finished his shift half an hour ago. I remember apologising profusely and feeling like a burden. Feeling like I am in everyone’s way has always been something I have struggled with. This experience didn’t help and I began having panic attacks. I was feeling sick and asked for a sick bowel and the paramedic said ‘You aren’t going to be sick are you? Ugh you should have stayed at home’. I was so embarrassed and mortified to be told I was wasting their time and shouldn’t be going into hospital. I felt so light headed, foggy, and faint and couldn’t stop shaking. My legs were cramping and I could see how pale my skin was. I got to hospital and had tests and scans. On day three or four I was panicking. I wanted to go home. I was asked to keep all my stools and urine in bowels for testing but the nurses were busy so I was having to leave them in the toilet and with going multiple times an hour they were building up. I was so embarrassed that other patients were going in to the toilet seeing my samples that had my name on them. I kept asking if they could be taken away but they were left. I then had my bed changed for a broken one so someone could have mine because in the nurses words ‘you’re young and healthy’. I had no issue giving my bed to someone more in need but implying I was young therefore healthy upset me. I was in agony, needing assistance to even make it the toilet at times. I had soiled myself on night one because I didn’t even feel it coming out and having to tell the nurses was absolutely humiliating to me. I was loosing blood and needing iron because I was anemic, I needed constant fluid via IV because I was so dehydrated. I hadn’t eaten in days and hadn’t been able to eat much for a couple of weeks. I was needing constant pain relief for the agony in my stomach. I texted my mum that I was self discharging. I wanted to leave. No one seemed to see how unwell I was. I knew this was real and this wasn’t just anxiety. I was also battling the thoughts, ‘What if this is cancer? What if they are missing it? What’s wrong with me? Why am I so unwell?’ What have I done to deserve this?’
I was getting ready to self discharge and my mum turned up. She came and sat with me and by this point the nurses had called the doctor to come and chat to me. He sat down and said he had personally looked at my scan results and wanted to come and tell me face to face. He said three words that changed my life. “We’ve found something”. I asked him to repeat what he had said. He said ‘They have found inflammation and that with the inflammation on the scan and the blood markers being high it’s pointing towards bowel disease’. I burst into tears. I felt validated. I felt relief. I felt heard. Finally. Finally I was getting answers to a life of pain. I went for an colonoscopy and had it confirmed. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. It took time to sink in but I was finally able to begin treatment to get it under control.
During my life I have had gestational diabetes through all four pregnancies, impaired glucose levels outside of pregnancy (I am due a test to find out if I still have diabetes since having my son last November), a suspected TIA, a blood clot in my right eye/TIA, hemiplegic migraines, anaemia needing iron transfusions, Crohn’s disease and other health issues. These are real issues that affect my daily life. Therefore I feel that yes the OCD makes me panic over everything, even health conditions I don’t have, and it makes me feel that I have to reassurance seek every tiny symptom, I have to google things I know have nothing to do with me, but I have to check anyway. I spent my life having bowel disease missed because I wasn’t sent to the hospital during all those years once. So I have doubt because I have feel like I was failed. So I feel that yes I have hypochondria tenancies but for good reason!
Since December when my OCD ruined my life and I was diagnosed I no longer worry. Yes I google still but I’m not scared to the point of panic attacks about developing diseases. OCD, for me, is the worst. So I no longer fear physical health problems.