The story OCD didn’t want me to write

Here is my soul poured onto a page.

I am writing this for the millions of people suffering with this mental illness. For the many, many people that have this exact same theme and thoughts that are too fearful to speak up. You are stronger than you know and you are not alone.

I am sick of being dictated to by OCD. I am sick of being too afraid to move, breathe or function because of OCD. I am sick of not knowing who I am because of OCD. I am fed up of doubting everything because of OCD. I am sick of loosing time because of OCD and I am sick of not speaking up about things because OCD tells me to stay quiet.

Thoughts I battle because of OCD.

‘Don’t say that because you will be judged, don’t say that because no one will understand, If you say that thought out loud you are admitting it’s true, if you speak up it’s because you believe it, if you talk about how you are feeling it will make it worse, if you speak up the fear will feel even more real, there’s a threat so stay quiet, you are alone, there is no one else going through this, you must be evil, you must be a monster, No-one has this problem, what kind of person thinks and feels like this?What if you want it to be true? What if you become this awful person?What if you’ve lost the old you forever and this is who you are becoming?What if you feel like this forever? What if you if therapy doesn’t work for you? What if this isn’t treatable? What if this isn’t OCD? What if I am a horrible person? What if I can’t ever get past this? What if I stop having morals? Why me? Why is this happening? What went wrong? Why won’t it back off? Just stop and leave me alone!, No one will understand, I will be judged, I will be misunderstood, What if people become afraid of me? What if no one trusts me? What if people think I’m a threat?Your past history of never hurting anyone doesn’t matter, What if I go back to how unwell I was at Christmas? Maybe it would be easier if I wasn’t here, Maybe that’s an option if this doesn’t get better, I will die before hurting anyone. What if I go onto medications but they don’t help like last time? What if I am going crazy? Why is my brain doing this to me? Who am I? Why is this the theme OCD picked? Why can’t I go back to worrying I might stab someone? That felt so much less scary compared to this, Why has it picked on something so disgusting? Why do I have bad days? I must be so weak. Why can’t I get out of this? Why can’t I believe my own mind when I tell myself I am a good person? Why am I doubting everything? Why does everything make me feel uncomfortable? I must be being punished? Does God hate me? Do I believe in God? What do I believe? Do I know myself who I am? I must prove or disprove these thoughts? What do I even like? Can red still be my favourite colour? It’s the colour of blood so that must mean I like blood? What kind of person likes to look at blood? The foot stool is red so does that mean I’m a bad person for looking at it? Who am I? Am I straight? What if I am gay? What if my marriage is a lie? What if I am a lie? What if I am in denial about everything? What if I am a monster? Why did I bring that person up that day? Why did I talk about him? What if I am like him? What if there’s a link? He seemed so normal but wasn’t, what if I am like that? What if I don’t know if I am like that? Who am I? Why won’t this stop?

That man was a local convicted paedophile. My hands shake as I write this. I mentioned him at Christmas, five weeks after having my fourth baby and already suffering with harm OCD, while talking to the crisis team about the harm OCD and a BBC drama we had recently watched before the harm OCD began. I said, “I’m disturbed by the drama I watched, how easy it was for this man to be stood watching his wife sleeping then just jumping on her and strangling her to death. He went from being so normal to not, and that terrifies me, how anyone could just snap. That’s why the harm thought bothers me, I keep thinking back to that drama and how easy it looked for him to snap. Like that man we knew. He seemed so normal and then he wasn’t, he’s now a convicted paedophile”….and that was it…that was the moment the life destroying thought popped into my head, ‘What if I was a paedophile?’.

That one thought brought my world as I knew it crashing into a million pieces, cutting my soul as it broke. That one thought broke my heart and took time I will never get back. I was a statue sat rotting. I stopped eating, drinking, sleeping and how my heart didn’t stop I don’t know because it felt like it was going to explode. I hoped it would, because then I could die without having to take my own life. The compulsions spiraled. I did everything possible to get as far away from my own thoughts as I could because I was terrified to my core. I sat in the bathroom contemplating ending my life. I have never ever felt like that before. I never thought I would be a person to even get close to that edge, yet there I was, stood right up close to it, looking over into the darkness…..I’ve taken a moment because the tears keep flowing as I think back…I thought I would never recover from that moment. I was questioning my own character, my own morals, my own soul. I felt like I had lost everything I was. I couldn’t go near my own children or look at them. Not even photographs. It was painful being in my own home because everything reminded me of them. I couldn’t watch anything to do with children, or be near anything that reminded me of children. Everything was ruined. I hit rock bottom.

I have tried to avoid writing this. I have tried to write things in a way I can try and convince people that I am really a good person and no threat to anyone. I have torn my head apart trying to think how I could possibly word this to make it sound more understandable. I didn’t even understand it. Truth is, I have a recognised mental illness, truth is this theme of OCD and thoughts is so common that there is literature and workbooks with separate sections just on this theme, this is my OCD theme. Sexual OCD. This is what my OCD latched onto because it was the easiest target for it. I grew up in the church, strong in my morals, babysitting countless times over the years for family and friends, working in a nursery before having my own children. I grew up being told, ‘You’re so good with children, you will make a great mother, you are so kind and patient, you are so good at your job, you are a wonderful mother’ and I knew growing up my soul purpose was to have children of my own, to raise strong independent children who will go out into the world and make it a better place. And OCD decided it would take that security and knowledge in myself and rip it apart without mercy. How I have begged for Mercy!

I didn’t ask for this. I didn’t ask for this to happen. I have been in pain, physical, emotional, mental pain. Pain that has made me question living. The fear of sharing this truth in detail has been causing panic attacks and stress I can’t even measure. But today I have had enough. I have had enough of being to beaten down by the doubt OCD causes to stay quiet any more. I am sick of the stigma. I am sick of the fear of judgement. Judgements I am guilty of making before having these thoughts. If someone said this to me before, you know what, I would have questioned it, thinking ‘But are you then? How do you know you aren’t? Surely you would know if you were or weren’t?’.I understand hearing such disturbing thoughts said by someone is difficult. It’s ugly. I fear being judged by my friends, family and the entire world. I feel guilty and shameful everyday for these thoughts, I feel awful everyday, I beat myself up everyday looking for proof one way or another. I know the difference between an OCD fear and an actual paedophile (even the word fills me with panic), I know I have this theme because it goes so against my morals and is not linked to my being, I am learning to recover. I am learning to accept thoughts are thoughts, they mean nothing, they are not connected to me. I am learning to let them pass then carry on with my day, I have learned more in the last three months then I think I learned in three years at college. I have learned that this is treatable, I have learned that this is nothing to do with who I am, I have learned that this will take time and there will be falls on the way (that has a very literal meaning to me as I am currently typing this with a broken ankle!), I have learned that these thoughts ‘are not me, they are OCD’. This has affected the most important part of my life, the part that completes me, the part I love unconditionally and would die to protect. It’s affected my relationship with my children and I have made big steps in regaining my confidence again.

I promised I would help advocate for OCD. That I would become a warrior fighting against everything OCD throws and everything society throws at it to. I hope by finally, after all this time, by sharing the absolute deepest fears in me, that I have kept that promise, and this will give you the strength to fight as well.

A x

Advertisements

Falling into the OCD trap

I couldn’t blog yesterday because the OCD seemed to grab on.
I am currently doing a mindfulness workbook by Jon Hershfielf, MFT and Tom Corboy, MFT. I was so keen to get started but delayed it for a few hours when I looked at the contents and realised that there was a section on my specific theme. Seeing it there made me spike slightly. I flipped straight through to that section and read the first few words and then closed it. I knew that I would be working on my specific primary theme and needing to write about it which I still can’t do in any real detail.
I left the book then mid afternoon I picked it up and began reading it. It was interesting and made sense. I began working through the initial sections of it answering questions then challenging them as directed.
I sat for hours getting through the workbook. After seven hours we were watching a tv show in the background and a very attractive celebrity was on it. My husband at first when the series began last week said he didn’t find her attractive and said she wasn’t his type but tonight when the adverts came on he said, “oh look she’s in an advert to” and I said, “I knew you’d end up liking her.” He smiled and said “What?” and he said in the advert with straight hair she did look quite attractive. I began to get upset. Not because he thought a celebrity was attractive, she was, and I knew that. I was already thinking while watching the show, ‘Why can’t I be normal like them?, they all have it okay and don’t have OCD, why do I have this stupid illness’. 
All day I had my primary thought circling my head and I knew I was falling into the trap of trying to prove it or disprove it. I knew it had been bothering me all day and I wasn’t applying the right tools. I was falling into its trap of ruminating, withdrawing and telling the thought to just ‘go away and leave me alone’.
I burst out crying after the celebrity comment. I told my husband I was already irritated that the thought was bothering me more than it had been and this work book was reminding me in every paragraph how wrong my way of OCD thinking is. Every paragraph talked about different thinking patterns, ‘magnifying, future predicting, zoning in’ and I did it all and that upset me. I felt like I was being berated by this work book. My husband said it would be a good idea to stop now but I couldn’t. I wanted to stop but just wanted to be fixed and had to keep going. Another hour and I could barely absorb the information. I was struggling to even read the sentences having to reread parts over and over and over and it still wasn’t sticking. I wanted to get to the section on my theme even though that was so much further into the book. I wanted answers, I wanted to do the exercises and feel better or cured.
OCD had its claws so far into me and I allowed it. I sat and through passiveness to the world around me and through rising anxiety I allowed it. After eight hours of the OCD workbook focus my husband took the book from me. He then nodded off in the chair and I began googling for reassurance. I watched video after video, looked on peer communities and read information. I couldn’t help but try and feel better.
Another two hours later and I finally heard on one of the videos someone mention, not being alone. It hit me quite hard. I had let the OCD take hold and tell me, ‘I’m all alone, I’m the only one feeling like this, I’m isolated’ and I forgot about the millions of others going through this. The many many others that have the exact theme that I do. That have the exact same thoughts and worries that I do. Then I felt the slight relief. I could let go slightly. I wrote these words down, ‘you are not alone’ as pictured in the feature photo taken straight from my note book. It helped.
I have woken feeling a bit uncomfortable and drained from yesterday and annoyed I let myself fall into the traps. I did all the compulsions I was working hard to stop. I allowed myself to start believing the horrible lies of OCD. Yesterday OCD won that battle but as I will remind myself, it will not win the war.
A x

The ‘Exposure workout’

I am learning new things about OCD everyday. Learning about OCD is like New York. It’s like trying to visit every avenue, every shop, every room in every apartment and shaking hands with every person who lives there. OCD is always awake and making noise just like New York. But people live in New York, they live happily there despite the noise, despite how big and busy it is. I feel like I will spend my life time learning new things about OCD and I feel okay about that because I know I will learn what I need to to help myself. I will learn to stop listening to the noise.

Yesterday I learned something new. I was reading some articles online about my OCD themes and it was intense. Every other word was a trigger word. Words that I still struggle to say out loud. Reading them was difficult. When I first started reading the first article I chucked my phone onto the sofa because I could physically feel myself getting worked up, and had physical pain in my chest as I tried to force myself to keep reading so I just chucked it away and said, ‘I can’t’. I spoke to my husband and said I was struggling and that I knew what my counsellor would say. He asked me what that would be. I said, “She would say ‘why can’t you read it?’ And I would reply ‘Because it’s too hard, the words are triggering a panic attack’, and she would ask, ‘And what is panic?’ and I would say, ‘A fight/flight reaction to a perceived threat releasing adrenaline and cortisol…so because I am reading words that are uncomfortable and horrible I feel like there’s a threat so I am wanting to avoid as a fight or flight response’ and she would say, ‘Okay so why are these words uncomfortable to you?’ and I would reply, ‘Because I have attached meaning to them’, then she would give me that look and I would smile nervously at how silly I feel because I know all this already but still can’t apply it to myself.”.

I had literally relayed part of my counselling session to my husband which just demonstrated to me I do know what to do and I do know what OCD is doing to me and I do know why I am carrying out compulsions like avoidance and I do know doing that will not beat this. So I picked my phone back up and finished the article. I reminded myself, that I am not reading this to torture myself or test myself, I am reading it to help myself and of course the OCD will tell me to stop doing that. It wants to keep me miserable. I read it because it was an informative article about my main fear and although written very bluntly using my triggers words, what felt like hundreds of times, I knew I needed to finish it. I did and to my surprise I reflected on it for a short while then carried on with my day. I had won that battle. I didn’t feel like Rocky when he finally made it to the top of the steps. I didn’t feel victorious or super proud. I just felt a bit deflated. We got in the car and I read more articles from the same person, with the same blunt tone. There was no cotton wall writing, it was written as it is, with every horrible word being used in nearly every sentence. I read a couple of these articles then we picked our son up from school and had to get straight to hospital for an appointment. I was feeling more deflated. I felt mentally drained and physically exhausted and wasn’t sure why. I thought by pushing myself to read those articles was a big step so why did I not feel better about it. Why was I feeling so low in my mood?

The hospital visit was stressful, a nurse was quite unkind, telling our children off even though they were actually playing so well and I felt so bad for not defending them. I couldn’t speak. I struggled even speaking to the doctor because I could hear her still telling them off when they weren’t doing anything wrong. Where was my fight? Why wasn’t I able to tell her to not tell my children off? Why was I feeling so defeated?

We got home and the feeling wouldn’t lift. I was so tired and felt so foggy. I wasn’t sure why. I had exposed myself to triggers and really worked on using the tools I have learned. I was in the middle of chatting to my husband and a notification popped up saying that one of my favorite advocates was now live on youtube. This is the first time I have watched her videos live, so I jumped on to watch her live video. I can’t believe what they discussed! They talked about what I had experienced. The doctor, Jon Hershfield, MFT, was likening OCD and learning to manage it to a workout at the gym. He explained that when you are learning to build muscles you have to start small with 10kg and keep tearing and repairing your muscles until it feels easy, once your form is perfect with that weight you move up to 15kg then again keep training until your form is perfect and it feels easy then you move up weight again and so on and this is what happens in exposure therapy. You start with a trigger that feels small or anything you think would be good to start with, even just writing the first letter of a trigger word is a good start, it’s completely down to you and your counsellor to work out where is your best individual starting place. There is no right or wrong.

He then went into the exhaustion part of it. This is the part that really helped me yesterday. He said just like when you have had a really good workout at the gym you feel fatigued, weak, a bit unsteady etc and the exact same is true for your brain. When you are exposing yourself to triggers you are working out the ‘muscle’ in your brain that is helping you to manage the OCD and because you are giving it a workout and putting it through it’s paces it’s normal to feel fatigued afterwards, to feel a bit deflated and not be jumping for joy (before the OCD doubt creeps in and tells you, ‘well you are really elated when you conquer an exposure so what if….’, I’m going to tell you it is also great if you can feel wonderful about your achievement, because it is a great achievement, there is no right or wrong way to react).  This feeling is actually showing that you have had a good ‘brain workout’. Of course, if you jump on a treadmill on the highest setting for the first time then you could fall off, smack you face, and bolt off to the other side of the gym and the same is true for your brain. If you try and do the big things first you could feel like you are taking steps back. I noticed yesterday I could read the article out loud but towards the end of the third one I could no longer say my trigger words any more and my tone changed and my husband could tell I was getting more uncomfortable. I now know that yesterday I should have stopped after just one article or as soon as I started to feel I couldn’t say the words any more. I could have said to myself, ‘Okay, you’ve just read an entire article full of trigger words, even when you put your phone and said ‘I can’t’, you picked it up and carried on and reminded yourself what OCD is and that’s amazing, so now it’s getting harder because your brain has already worked hard today so take this victory and tomorrow you can try again’. This is hugely helpful to me. I am understanding how to pace myself, how to react when I feel like I can’t manage to avoid avoiding and it’s changed my perspective from feeling like I must have failed that exposure to actually I made such an important step yesterday that will help me on my path of recovery.

You’ve got this!

A x

Seeking someone the same

While discussing my blog with my counsellor yesterday she suggested it would be a good idea to blog about what I was talking about.

So I have discussed how much detail to go into around my violent/sexual thoughts OCD and at the moment I am just not ready to go into huge detail. I am still in early recovery and it’s an area that although I have made very good steps in, it still bothers me. Even though I understand these thoughts are nothing to do with me or my morals I still can’t shake that uncomfortable feeling that comes in waves.

I was explaining that when I looked online I was looking for other OCD stories based on my exact fear. I was desperate to find others who had my exact thoughts. I found an OCD advocate online who was amazing, I could watch her talk about violent/sexual OCD and I didn’t feel as ashamed, disgusted or guilty, she helped me to feel better about OCD and that it isn’t anything to be ashamed about. She spoke about it in such a light hearted but also factual way that I felt I could understand this even more. I remember watching and I was desperate for her to say what her fear was. She listed examples and mentioned my fear but didn’t say which ones were her fears. I thought, ‘Please say which is your fear so I can know if it’s the same as mine’. I wanted to know this person I looked up to had the same theme as me. However as I watched more of her videos and didn’t learn what her specific thoughts were that ‘need to know’ reassurance seeking compulsion lessened. I stopped caring what her specific theme was and I was able to apply the tools I learnt from her videos to my OCD even though I didn’t know if our specific thoughts were the same. After a while I learnt what her fears are and by reading her book I learnt more about her OCD and how it manifests. Her fears do touch on mine but her main fear isn’t the same as my main fear and it has taught me that it doesn’t matter what my theme is compared to someone else (although it is very reassuring to know many others have my exact theme, it’s actually not going to make my treatment any more effective if I only seek out research on just my theme) because OCD has the same traits and patterns no matter what the theme or content is.

I thought if others are reassurance seeking like I was, by needing to find others with the exact same thoughts, then maybe it’s best if I don’t go into super great detail because I wouldn’t want someone reading my blog or watching my video then me going into huge detail and the person thinking, ‘Well your thoughts aren’t the same as mine so this won’t be of help to me’. My blog/video/page is for everyone with OCD, with any form of OCD and I think people could begin missing out on important information by only ‘zoning in’ on people with their exact fear. The theme isn’t important which is one of the hardest parts to OCD to accept. Of course, the themes are distressing and unpleasant and there are common themes and thoughts, though the imagination of OCD is limitless, so please don’t be worried if you experience thoughts or feelings that I don’t list. I try and list the more common ones but like I have said it’s limitless. It’s the process behind the thoughts and how you react to them that needs focus, not the theme. The themes can be interchangeable which just shows how the content of the thought is actually not important…For example you could have thoughts like:-

I’m worried I might be…a murderer or pedophile or rapist or an abuser or an attacker or gay or straight or having incestuous feelings or inappropriate images of feelings about my God, contaminated etc

What if I….Stab someone or hurt or sexually or physically abuse someone or run someone over with my car or want sex with animals, contaminate someone else and they get sick or die, or like men or women or have sexual feelings to a family member or become a murderer or pedophile or rapist or an abuser or attacker or gay or straight etc

I must be…evil or a monster or a bad person or becoming this thought or being punished or disgusting etc

A lot of the questions we ask because of OCD have the same base to the question so… ‘I’m worried I might be…What if I…I must be…’ but yet the content of the end of those sentences change to a whole variety of themes person to person.

This shows how OCD has common traits and follow common patterns.

I understand what a relief it is to hear someone say your own thoughts and fears because you know you are not alone, it’s a comfort to hear someone else with the exact same thoughts/fears and themes as yourself and to not feel so crazy because someone else is the same but it can also be reassurance seeking and that can make the OCD worse or you may miss out on help if you decide you are only focusing on researching a specific theme. I have gone into my past OCD issues and am okay with that as they do not bother me to the extent the violent/sexual OCD thoughts have and continue to as I am early in recovery.

Whatever your theme/content/thoughts are, we are in this together. We all experience the same doubt, guilt, shame, fear, anxiety, embarrassment, low mood/depression, worries, what ifs, torment, pain and all the other emotions that go with it, of course to varying degrees person to person, and you may only have trouble with one specific emotion or all of them or other ones to like anger. There is no one theme that is worse than the other because to each of us, our own fear/theme/thoughts are the worst of the worst but the emotions that we all experience although different fears/themes/thoughts are all the same because that is what OCD does to us all.

I hope this is useful information as I feel it’s important.

A x

My OCD up close and personal; Social anxiety

This is the seventh instalment. I will discuss social anxiety.

I’ve had social anxiety since I was young on and off. I struggled with school at times, and crowded places. As my stomach issues got worse before my Crohn’s diagnosis I struggled being anywhere overly crowded or away from a toilet. I had a very social life despite times where I really struggled socially. I wanted to be normal. I wanted to be a social butterfly. I went to church every Sunday and would do volunteer projects with the church. This felt safe because it was doing God’s work. I would pray if I felt anxious and I would feel better. During my teen years and early to mid 20s I performed on stage in pantomimes, operatic shows and in musicals. I was so social and even when I was younger I use to visit nursing homes and sing with my friends. I went on trips and holidays and had parties. To everyone who didn’t know about my anxiety I looked super confident.

Since the OCD hit rock bottom in December I experienced a social withdrawal like I never have before. I couldn’t see anyone other than my husband and health care professionals. I couldn’t speak on the phone, I deleted social media, and couldn’t get out of bed for two weeks. I struggled going to appointments. I couldn’t wait in any waiting rooms. There was a point I couldn’t leave the house. Doctors came to our house because the thought of stepping out into the world while I felt like I was going mad or must be an evil person stopped me from doing anything. I had thoughts such as, ‘If people know what I am thinking they’ll think I am crazy, What if they think I’m a threat? What if they know I am mentally ill? What if I have other thoughts? What if I get triggered? What if I have a panic attack? What if I’m judged?’. I had it in my head that people might just ‘know’ that I was seeking help for mental illness and the thought of people being afraid of me terrified me. I couldn’t see friends. I couldn’t say my thoughts out loud to myself, so I couldn’t say them to my friends. I wanted to confess everything to all my friends, I felt so guilty about my thoughts and wanted to tell them everything but knew I couldn’t so I withdrew and distanced myself from friends and family. I told my close friend about the first harm thought I had as it was about her and I was hysterical and just needed to confess I had this thought about her because I felt so awful, ashamed, guilty. I felt like I was hiding something by not telling her but then I felt like I was admitting something by saying it out loud. It was just a lose lose situation but I reasoned that if I didn’t tell her then I wouldn’t be able to live with myself. So I told her.

Once my thoughts moved from harm OCD to sexual OCD, I hit a new low I didn’t even know was possible. Just when I thought it couldn’t possibly get worse, OCD found a fear that was so distressing to me, it broke me. I couldn’t even say it out loud to my counsellor. I couldn’t say it to myself. I still now haven’t written it or talked about it in any detail yet, only to my counsellor and husband. Once I was able to come off the sedatives, I could sit in the armchair but I couldn’t move. I would only move to go to the bathroom that was it. I was stuck. I wanted to be around my family but also alone all at the same time. My counsellor said it was because I felt safe in the chair. Not a threat to anyone and less likely to be triggered if I didn’t engage in life. She’s right. The armchair became my safe zone. I knew if I stayed still in the armchair then I wasn’t a threat and triggers were less likely to happen. It took, I think three counselling sessions before I could move. From there I began engaging in life again.

I still struggle socially. I needed to take two of my sons to two different doctors appointments on the same day, one in the morning then back again in the afternoon. That was a lot of exposure in one day. At first it felt okay but as the doctor ran late, the waiting room filled up and I started getting increasingly more anxious. I could feel myself getting restless, and starting to sweat and kept looking at the clock counting the seconds, begging the screen to show my son’s name so we get out of this heaving waiting room. I also feel paranoid when I am out that people are looking at me and laughing or talking about me. I feel like maybe I am showing how anxious I am so I try to look as calm as possible. That evening I did have a panic attack. I felt overwhelmed by the day. I felt forced to have to be out in public in a busy waiting area twice before I was ready to do that, so I felt stressed and upset that it felt so difficult to just go out. Instead of looking at how well I did, at how calm I was despite the anxiety kicking in, to have taken my sons all by myself to their doctors appointments, even at one point having a conversation with a lady in the toilets while I changed my youngest, all I could focus on was the fact I was still anxious.

Last week I saw one of my closest friends in hospital. I knew I had to go. I had missed so much and couldn’t keep letting her down. I felt so nervous, I couldn’t sleep the night before and felt jittery all the way in. But I went. I went and I sat by her side and supported her. For the first time since this started in December I was there for my friend. That weekend I did a 5km run (Well mostly a run with walking at times to). I am not fit at all and I always said ‘I would never do a 5km run’. I needed to do something that I could control because I was sick of OCD controlling my life. I read that running was good for the mind and I was willing to give it a try. I struggled to keep eye contact with friends we knew there that were taking part to. At one point I had to lean forward to try and catch my breath as the crowds of runners gathered. My husband stayed by my side the whole time and at one point I wanted to quit. Through some tears I said to my husband, ‘I want to quit this but I won’t. I can’t control that I have OCD right now, but I can control whether I finish this 5km. I am in control of my body and I am going to finish this’. I finished it not quite last and was shocked I actually did it and in the snow. The Monday after the 5km (so last Monday), I broke my ankle walking in the woods and I had strangers holding my hands, comforting me, wrapping blankets around me and my OCD took a back seat during that time. Later that day a friend I haven’t seen in months dropped some beautiful flowers off, my favourites, and a card and stood in the hallway and had a chat before going. Then a massive step, the biggest step really, I had a close friend over for a play date and opened up to her about it all. I actually said the fear out loud and for the first time I didn’t cry or feel sick. I felt nervous yes, but I just said it. She didn’t judge me, she didn’t run away thinking I’m a monster. She understood. She knows about OCD and she really heard me and was so kind. How blessed I am to have such beautiful understanding friends with the biggest hearts and the kindest souls. Then today I had my other close friend over for a short while and again, I was met with nothing but love and compassion. I’m actually tearing up writing this because every time I let a friend in to what’s been going on, every time I say my fearful thoughts out loud, every time I write more about my OCD, every time I tell myself, ‘It’s not me – it’s OCD, these thoughts and feelings are a symptom of OCD…I feel this bothered by it so much because it’s a chemical imbalance in my brain that’s sending false messages and so I am going to do something else and I am going to revalue these thoughts and feelings as nothing but the nonsense they are, they are not real and I will work around them’…every time I do all these things I am stripping OCD’s power. I am winning. I am getting stronger. I still cannot be without my husband for long, I still cannot go to public places without feeling anxious, I still cannot go to the dentist even though I need to. There is still so much I need to work on but for now I am making steps and each time I do I am giving the finger to OCD!

A x

My OCD up close and personal: Hypochondria with good reason

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.

A x

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; Scrupulosity

This is the fourth instalment in this series that discusses the different types of OCD I have and the fears that go with them. I have researched and found this is a common theme that some people of faith will have this huge weight of guilt and shame that they’ve been carrying around because they don’t feel they have been good enough in their faith or God might be punishing them. This is certainly true for me.

I had a lot of guilt and shame growing up. For various reasons, but all centred around me not feeling good enough. I strived to be a good person, to feel like God was pleased with me. I had some health issues growing up and in my late teens/early 20’s these got worse. I was diagnosed with hemiplegic migraines around 2005/2006 and with Crohn’s disease in 2011. I spent a lot of my time growing up not well. I would have reoccurring diarrhoea, bleeding, nausea, pain and with the migraines I would have stroke like symptoms that would leave me unable to communicate, see or walk properly. I would think ‘What if I am so ill because God isn’t happy with me?’. I always wanted to help. I had started fundraising for charities from age eight/nine and I continued this on and off up until last year when physical health took a bad turn and I couldn’t physically dedicate the time needed. But I raised money through all my teens and most of my twenties. For the dolphin sanctuary, cat sanctuaries, Water Aid, Action for children, McMillan and many more.

I also had a lot of responsibility from a young age. During my teens my sister wasn’t well and while my mum worked nights I needed to watch over her. If she had a bad night I would feel like it was my fault for not watching over her well enough. I would be so worried I could lose her and just wanted to do everything I could to help her. She spent most of my early child hood raising me like her own daughter, always making sure I had everything I needed so when she became unwell, I just knew I had to do everything I could to help. She doesn’t know this but when she slept I would stay up and regularly check on her. She slept in a loft conversion which had a ladder going up to it. The ladder would be so noisy so I would use a top folded or cushion to stand on and move it up each step so I didn’t wake her because I knew she needed her rest but I worried if I fell asleep or didn’t check on her every half an hour or however often then she might need me.

My parents separated when I was very young and there were times I felt forced to choose who I would spend time with and that would make me feel guilty. I would often think, ‘If I wasn’t born then my parents wouldn’t still have to see each other and argue, if I wasn’t here they would be happier’. I felt like it was my fault they still had to be in contact when clearly being in contact didn’t make them happy, often ending in arguments. My brother and sister both left home by the time they were 16 so it was just me that still had to be between my mum and dad. I remember my sister often had me stay with her and we got up to amazing adventures doing all these fun day outs and I was spoilt by her all the time but I would also think, ‘If I wasn’t here my sister wouldn’t need to watch me or have me stay at hers so often’. It seemed I just felt like I was in the way a lot of time. I think being told I was an accident during my child hood contributed to that.

My guilt spreads into all areas of my life. I feel guilty all the time. I feel guilty if I want a break from my four young children, when I am unwell with health issues and the feeling that I am a bad mum for having children when I have health issues, I feel bad if I bicker with my husband, I feel bad if I think I’m not giving my all to my family, I feel guilty over things that I don’t think I should even be still worrying about like a few weeks ago for example, I was walking my son home from my sisters house and there was a frog in the road and I picked it up and put it on the grass but I couldn’t help think, ‘I should have put it back further away from the road, what if it hops back onto the road? What if it gets ran over? Why didn’t I move further away from the road?’. It still bothers me now several weeks on.

Growing up I would feel guilty If I cursed, argued with my mum, didn’t feel I was dedicating enough time to God, or did anything I felt was sinful and I would beg for forgiveness. I would read scripture, and highlight the scripture that stood out to me. I needed to be perfect or at least pray for forgiveness so I could feel better.

When I met my now husband, we were 18 and we knew each other for about three weeks before officially beginning our relationship. I was sure he was the one even though we were so opposite in our personalities. He was shy and into grunge and quite reserved and I was outgoing and into musicals and performing. He believed in God like me and that made me feel really good that we had similar morals and beliefs. I had a few boyfriends through my teens but I would always feel quite uncomfortable if I felt things were getting to intimate. I knew I didn’t want to have sex. I was sure I would wait until marriage. However as time went on in my relationship with my now husband, we mutually decided we wanted to take that next step to our relationship. It felt right. I knew this was the man I wanted to marry. So we didn’t wait until we were married. I carried a lot of guilt around this as time went on and although I have prayed over and over for forgiveness I have never been able to shake that feeling of shame and guilt. We got married six years later after we had our first son together. This is a good spot to leave this blog on as it’s at this point it moved into another area of OCD, relationship OCD which my next instalment will be written about.

A x

My OCD up close and personal; Checking, counting and order OCD

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.

Checking

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’.

Counting

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.

A x

My OCD up close and personal; Fearing the end of the world

This is the second instalment in this series where I discuss all the different themes/fears of my OCD. As I have overlapping OCD, I felt it was important to discuss each area of this illness that led up to the flare that broke me at the end of 2016.

From around the age of 10, I feared that the world was going to end. Like now. I convinced myself that every time it was cloudy and the street lights reflected off the clouds making the night sky look orange that it was the rapture. I would stand at the window and fill with dread because I’m a Christian but my family aren’t. I would think, the sky looks like it’s on fire, this is it, ‘We are all going to die and I won’t see my family again because I’m going to heaven but they aren’t’ and I would pray over and over that God would take my family to heaven with me. I would get so upset at the thought of loosing them. This happened every time it was cloudy and only settled down around my late teens but I still feared the end of the world but didn’t focus on the sky any more.

When December 21st 2012 was due to happen. I was engaged and our wedding booked for the following April but I couldn’t set all the plans because I was convinced it could be the end of the world so what was the point planning a wedding we wouldn’t be alive for. I also wanted to be a mother before I died. I felt like I was born to be a mother, and I felt like that was something I needed to fulfil and when I heard about that date being the end of the world back in 2011, me and my then boyfriend (now husband), had our first child, born December 2011. I felt guilt, and so selfish for having a child when I thought the world was going to end, because I didn’t want him to suffer any pain but felt like I needed to have him, I wanted him so much, I didn’t want to die and not have had a child, and all the joy from that felt worth it. On that date, I stood and held my son so tightly as the time grew close and just prayed to God it would all be ok. The time came and went and my stress levels were through the roof. As the time passed I felt so relieved but the fear of ‘what if the world still ends’, still lingered and still does now.

With my mum being an astronomer I grew up watching the stars, and spending evenings outside watching meteor showers and learning all about the night sky but I would often have the thought of bright stars or shooting stars being asteroids and would panic for a short while after thinking what if they hit the earth and have created a huge tidal wave that could be destroying the earth and reaching us any minute. I would look out in the distance and over the fields into the night and panic thinking the hills were the wave. This did lesson as I grew older but the general worry of the world ending is still present.

I can’t watch any apocalyptic films as they will just circle around in my mind and cause me panic. I can still remember films in detail I watched up to 20 years ago. Sounds crazy I know. Believe me I know.

With this obsession my compulsions were internal. I would pray over and over again and ruminate hoping this would prevent the world ending, or if the world must end, I would hope that my family would be saved by God and go to heaven with me.

A x