At 15 years old. I realized that I had habits that made me feel strange and uncomfortable with myself. I would walk in and out of a room multiple times to double or triple check that I unplugged anything that could potentially cause a fire.
Leaving the house would take me about 15-20 minutes. I would walk into every room to check that nothing was plugged in that shouldn’t be, all lights were off, windows were closed, no faucet was left running, stove was off and not hot to the touch, back door was secured ( turning the doorknob 2-3 times to reassure myself it was locked) and finally it was time to set the alarm. I would walk to the door take a look around me and play back in my mind all that I had done. Then I would punch in the alarm code, walk out and lock the door. After turning the doorknob and pulling on it a few times I was ready for the final step. I’d lean close to the door to make sure I could hear the alarm counting down. Finally, I was done.
Often I would get out of my car after just getting in and run up the stairs of my front porch just to reassure myself that the door was indeed locked. My fear was that the house would catch fire or someone would break in due to my carelessness.
Time to drive. I always had such a fear of hitting someone while driving. I would always circle back around parking lots to reassure myself that I had not hit or harmed anyone with my car. I would only do this if I was driving alone. If I was driving with other passengers I usually felt comfortable not doubling around. Surely if I had hit someone one of my passengers would obviously let me know. Although I can remember times where I would make up some reason to turn around just so I can assess my surroundings and check that I did not hit anyone.
Between ages 16-17 I remember watching a show called OCD. The first time I came across this show I was instantly drawn. Watching these people perform their rituals, listening to the reasons behind their need to perform them, their fears and all that the doctors had to say felt all too familiar. It was then that I understood myself a little more. I felt a sense of relief to finally know why I did the things that I did. I was also sad because this was something that I didn’t want to live with. Suddenly I remembered what occurred in my life that may have activated my OCD.
I was 9 years old. It was early in the day on a weekend and I was home with my mom and two sisters. My mother had asked me to start a bath for my 1-year-old sister. I started her bath. I remember checking the water and being satisfied with the temperature. I put her in the bathtub and she seemed just fine. Playing in the water as normal. The water was just running, I did not plug the tub to begin filling because I had to grab her towel. I ran to the room next door. Just as soon as I stepped into the next room I heard her scream. Both myself and my mother ran to the bathroom to find the running water very hot and Sammy with pinkish red skin from the hot water. Thankfully she did not need medical attention. She was okay after being removed from the tub and comforted. But my mother was upset with me and I remember her telling me that there was no way that I had checked the water temperature. If I had, then I would have noticed it was too hot. I know I checked the water but what my mother said made sense to me. It was then that I realized I could not trust myself. That I could not be sure of my initial judgment. I believed that it was necessary to double or triple check things before I can say that it is truly locked or truly off or truly safe. After this experience, I had to perform my rituals. There was not a time or a day where I would forget to perform. These practices controlled me and my mind.
It was so exhausting constantly being in fear and worry. I was a slave to these rituals and my fear. I was embarrassed to share this problem. I felt so alone because no one in my family had this issue. They would sometimes joke about how I would make sure things were off and locked multiple times. I was so tired of wasting so much time performing these rituals just so I can have a sense of peace and feel safe. Eventually, I had become so exhausted that my fear turned into anger. I was angry that I was this way. That I was dealing with this illness.
I took on a new approach. I told myself, “you know what, if someone is going to break in your home then someone is going to break in your home.” “f your house is going to set on fire, then your house is going to set on fire.” “You are not going to hit someone while driving as long as you follow driving and traffic laws.” “You are a careful driver. If you were to ever hit someone or something, you will hear it and feel it.” From that moment on it was time to force myself to believe these truths. I allowed myself to perform a check through of the house only once. I still would twist and pull on the doors a few times before leaving and once the alarm was set I did not allow myself to go back inside of the house. I forced myself to the car and tried to gather myself. I was uncomfortable. I felt nervous. I would think about not performing those rituals for the first 20-30 minutes after leaving my house. I felt regret and anxiety but finally, after practicing to ignore those urges and a lot of prayers, I was eventually freed from my OCD. I still double checked locks and checked the stove once before leaving but I felt like I had freedom. So I was okay with where I was.
Fast forward to age 25. I am now newly marriage and a mommy. Being a new mommy, deprived of sleep and being responsible for a new life brought on a whole new level of worry, fear and doubt in myself that was almost unbearable. This time around I knew I was dealing with OCD, I knew that I could overcome this. I knew that this fear was trying to trap me in my mind again. I didn’t want to be in that dark place again.
Since being married I rarely drove so I did not have to deal with that battle. I was mostly home alone with my son. I remember my biggest battle being checking the stove at all hours of the night and new mommy guilt. I felt guilty whenever I feel asleep and my baby was sleeping on top of me instead of in his crib. My mind would race with all the things that “could have happened”. And that was my life for the first 6 months of having my son. My husband worked till 6 pm and would be home by 7 pm for dinner a shower and sleep. I felt so alone. Here I was a slave to this fear and trapped in my mind all day thinking of everything that could have happened during all of my new mommy moments.
I did share my mom guilt with my husband because it was all I could think of all day. My husband would reassure me that I was doing a great job and that he was sure these were things a lot of new moms experienced. Of course, I always went straight to google like any “normal person”, typed in “co-sleeping mistakes”, “falling asleep with on the couch with baby” and my OCD symptoms. I was always looking for answers. Needless to say, I was not the only one.
Surprisingly during a visit with a friend, I found out I was not the only one struggling with OCD . My friend shared with me that her husband had struggled with OCD in the past and at that time was struggling with it again. She went on to share his rituals and fears with me and there it was again. I saw myself in him. I was so overwhelmed by his struggle and the look of understanding on her face, tears just began to fill my eyes. It was overwhelming knowing that someone understood me, someone knew my struggle, someone understood that it was real and that there was a battle I was fighting alone in my mind.
This connection that I had made gave me strength to do what I had done once before. Overcome my OCD. I had to do this for my own sanity, my son and the health of my relationship with others. So again I told myself the truth and forced myself to believe it. I told myself, “the stove is off and you checked it already”. “Stay in bed and go to sleep.” ” You turned off the bathtub faucet. ” “Go to sleep. ” “You locked the doors.” ” Go to sleep.” ” By telling myself these truths plus prayer and being very distracted by my healthy playful boy, I once again overcame my OCD.
Now I can honestly say I am free. I feel free and I will admit I still have a thing about double checking locks but I can deal with it. I don’t allow it to drive me crazy.
My hopes are that by sharing my story if you are dealing with symptoms of OCD that you will feel comfortable letting your doctor, your family or spouse know. You do not have to deal with these issues alone. It is scary but there is a victory and freedom in allowing others to help you. I wish I had connected with others who were familiar with this illness sooner than later.
I pray this helps. Until next time my friends.
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