Please bear with me as I have never really written down my whole OCD story before, so it may be a bit of a jumble. I’ll try my best. Please also know that I am sharing some very personal things, some of which I have not shared before. If you know me in person and don’t think you can handle knowing these things please, don’t read on.
My OCD started to show itself in my early teens, 14ish I think. My very first obsession was thinking that the water I was drinking was poisoned (only bottled water). The thought just occurred to me one day. It didn’t strike me as odd; it was a perfectly reasonable possibility. To make myself feel better I had to take the first sip and spit it in the sink. One was good for a while, then two, then three. Three was the magic number. It wasn’t a problem at first, then I had to do it when I was out at picnics. I was able to compromise with myself and just pour it out rather than have to spit it out, but I was still “randomly” pouring out perfectly good water. I would usually try to go somewhere out-of-the-way, to do it when no one was looking.
Then, my nighttime routine started. First check the stove, then front door, then back door, stove again, front, back, stove. wait…stove again. This could vary from night to night how many times and in what order. I just had to do it until it felt right.
Then, the intrusive thoughts started. These thoughts came out of nowhere. Horrible things I would never EVER actually do. I was so confused when my first inappropriate sexual thought came. I was just reaching puberty (late bloomer). I didn’t understand these thoughts or feelings. I was horrified. To make the thoughts go away I would repeat over and over (in my head) Jesus saves, Jesus saves. I felt like an awful person. There must be something wrong with me. I am disgusting.
One day when I was doing dishes (I was washing , my sister was drying) I picked up a steak knife and an image of me stabling my sister entered my head. I dropped the knife and washed a dish instead while chanting Jesus saves in my head. Those thoughts came every time I washed or dried dishes. I began to hate dishes. I would do them really fast, which would cause me not to clean them well and I would get in trouble. My mom just thought I was being a normal teen who hated chores. I never told her. She still doesn’t know.
Thoughts of my family getting hurt continued with fear of fire, gas leaks, and deaths caused by me. My compulsions ranged from the noticeable ones, like checking or gathering clothes in piles by the door for emergencies, to inward ones, like praying specific prayers before bed, making sure I covered each problem and each person and if I forgot something or started to fall asleep, I had to start all over again.
I never told my mother any of these things. She saw some of the things I did, but she would just tell me to stop or yell at me. Like when I became afraid of touch for no reason and would react when people hugged me at church, she would scold me for being rude. I became obsessed with germs getting in my cup at meal time and would cover my drink with a napkin; it wasn’t a problem until I knocked my milk over during dinner because I was rushing to get it covered when someone started talking. Lunch time at school was a nightmare, all my friends so close to me, breathing near my food.
I became depressed. I didn’t even notice it, I just was who I was. When I was 16 my mother made me go to counseling, but she didn’t know why I was depressed because I never told her anything that went on in my head. And I didn’t realize that those things were the reason I was depressed. The first counselor didn’t work out. She actually made things worse although, looking back, it wasn’t her fault. She didn’t know what I was dealing with because I never told her. My second counselor was great. I still never shared any of the thoughts or things I did, but she respected my space and helped me through my depression. By 17 I met my (future) husband and with the help of the counselor and his support I got a lot better and she released me from counseling.
But my OCD was still there. I continued to have new fears as the seasons in my life changed. New apartment, marriage, kids. My husband saw my “quirks” but I never told him the thoughts. (Luckily, moving out of my parent’s house stopped the sexual and murderous thoughts.) After my second son was born I started getting really depressed again. My stress levels were through the roof and I started having panic attacks. I became obsessed with thoughts that my kids were going to die and it would be all my fault. It had to do with any decision I had to make. For instance, I reach for a glass in the cupboard, the first one will cause my son’s head to be chopped off, the next one would be my husband’s death, then the next one would cause my mother’s death. I would have to try to find the one that would be safe for everyone. This would happen with everything. Grocery shopping was awful. There was no such thing as making a quick trip because I had to find all the safe items.
At some point there stopped being a “safe” option. Someone would die no matter what I chose, including me. So, to save my family, I would pick the one that killed me. Of course it didn’t actually kill me. So a logical person would conclude that my family wouldn’t die either, but it doesn’t work like that when you have OCD. (Keep in mind that I still had no idea that’s what I had) So that became my new “normal”. I would have to “sacrifice myself” 50-100 times a day. It was exhausting. My depression and stress was at it’s all time high. I had no energy, and I felt physically sick all the time.
The pinnacle moment when I realized something wasn’t right was about two years ago. I was hanging up laundry (we have drying racks in our hallway) and I have to hang the clothes on the “right” rungs. I went to hang up a shirt but there was no safe rung and there was no sacrifice rung. I had to chose between my kids’ deaths or my husband’s. I started to panic. My husband was in the other room and heard me. When he came out, he took one look at my petrified face and knew what was going on. He grabbed the clothes and pulled me away from the rack and held me tight while I cried and tried to breath again. When I calmed down my whole body got tired and cold and I had to lay down while he finished the laundry. That was not normal. Something was wrong.
Several months later I finally got help and reached out to a counselor. When the label OCD was thrown out there I was stunned. Wasn’t OCD when you counted and straitened and organized and washed your hands ’til they bled? That wasn’t me. But as I researched it and learned more about it, some of the things I read made me stop and show my husband saying, “Woah. That’s me.”
If I was educated in exactly what OCD was, I could have sought help earlier. #OCDweek is a great way to spread awareness so that those suffering can finally put a name to it and get help.
So that’s my OCD story. It’s a scary disorder full of fear, doubt, and dread. It is time-consuming, stressful, and tiring. It is not just the need to have your books in alphabetical order or your house clean and tidy. It is not a joke.
Help spread the word. Consider sharing your OCD story. Let your voice be heard.