Truthbomb: Me and my OCD

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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

I never knew I suffered from OCD until I lost my Mum suddenly in 1999. She was diagnosed with cancer in the February – 6 short weeks later, we had lost her.

The day she died still feels like yesterday.

I can still remember my first thoughts being for my Dad.

He had left the hospice to pop home for a quick shower, while he was gone my Mum passed away.

To say he tormented himself for not being there was an under-statement. I like to think that my Mum waited until he had gone to save him the extra pain of being there and watching her slip away.

He was losing the love of his life. His wife. His companion. His friend.

My brother and sister needed time to grieve the loss of our beautiful mother. To let out all of their pain and frustration of no longer having a Mum to turn too.

I just wanted to protect them all. To try to make everything better.

In my mind, I had no time to grieve, so I set about turning myself into Superwoman…

It felt great being in control.

I turned into the bossy Manager/Wife/Mother/Daughter/Sister/Friend.

Everyone’s lives became my focus, my rituals.

Which meant I had no time for me. I filled everyday from dawn to dusk and beyond.

Organisation and rituals were my thing. Why? Because it stopped me thinking.

As did the loud music in the car. Fast aggressive driving became another bad, but needy habit – Yes, I had road-rage…I took far too many risks and pushed too many boundaries.

I also cleaned and scrubbed until my hands were raw. Everything had to be done exactly 7 times.

Check the front door was locked…1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 before walking away.

Once in the car, if I let a seed of doubt enter my head about the door being locked (even though I knew I had checked it 7 times) I had to go through the whole ritual again.

It was completely exhausting.

But it made me stop thinking about my Mum. About how much I felt I still needed her guiding me.

In the end, my OCD got so bad I was just existing, it had me caught up in a never ending spiral.

Something had to give.

Until my Mum died, I thought my little OCD rituals were just quirks in my personality. Things I did, just because.

I believed they were normal. Surely, everyone did the same as me – they just didn’t talk about it.

Thank goodness, a seriously fabulous GP in the UK recognised my symptoms and answered my poor families distress call.

Let’s just say, I can now acknowledge, I must have been pretty darn difficult to live with. A nightmare even.

Everything had to be done a certain way or I believed something bad would happen.

This wonderful words were posted on IG by the lovely Vicki from Style On V – this quote made me feel ok about sharing .

Because OCD can be all-consuming,

In case you don’t know exactly what it is:

Obsessions are uncontrollable thoughts – such as:

If someone you love doesn’t pick up the phone when you call, instead of thinking they are busy,  your mind goes into overdrive and you  immediately picture something bad has happened to them / they are in danger / had a car accident / died. You start panicking, you become anxious which slowly gets worse until you know they are safe.

Compulsions are behaviours or rituals – such as:

Washing your hands. Checking the door several times. Counting. These are just a few of the physical things you might do – but just like an obsession, if you don’t complete it, you fear something bad will happen.

My recovery was all down to Tracey (my very talented therapist) who dedicated her precious time to me, every single week for two years.

She taught me to acknowledged the signals that made me worse and then set about breaking the habits of a lifetime.

Tracey also helped me deal with my grief and the loss of my beautiful Mother.

So why talk about this today? Why now?

Well, yesterday on IG I noticed a hashtag that popped up on my feed.

The hashtag #truthbomb – stopped me in my tracks and got me thinking:

I asked myself:

  • are the rituals sneaking back?
  • did I really start lining up the tins in the cupboard yesterday?
  • has the obsession to wash my hands continually, really gone away?
  • am I starting to panic that I’ve locked the door/turned off the straighteners again?

If so, what could be the trigger be?

My girl possibly?

My girl has always been a trigger for me. In fact, I know my OCD started around the time she was born at (28 weeks) – keeping her alive was totally out of my control.

This morning she felt slightly under the weather and I felt myself start to panic…so I baked. Yes, baked.

I baked even when I had no time to bake. Because baking calms me down.

The best gift...

Maybe I’m a little anxious about needing to be brave enough to encourage her to throw caution to the wind when it comes to the next chapter in her life.

To stop worrying about the what-ifs that I have no control over,  and instead concentrate on enjoying the here-and-now’s.

I recently wrote this post about how sentimental I am,  about my girl and all the people I adore in my life.

Or maybe it’s something as simply as recognising OCD traits in others – I noticed a woman going through a hand-washing ritual the other day when I dashed to the bathroom at work. I could see she was totally enjoying the control.

Whatever it is, I’m glad it’s happened.

It’s reminded me of one ritual that I love, that I am in control of…and I say it to all the people I adore.

It can be a simple, I Love You when I end a call or say goodbye on Skype or in person.

Or if you are Mr. IM and Ms. May – it goes something like this:

  • Love you.
  • Take care on the roads.
  • Drive carefully.
  • Let me know when you get there.
  • Have a good day!

It’s the one ritual that makes me smile.

Are you like me? Do you have to say certain things before you leave loved ones?

Has OCD ever affected you or someone you love? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bev,

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  • Gosh, Bev. This is so brave of you to share – and I can bet you’ve helped someone by sharing this. I too have to tell my husband I love him before he leaves for work…and indeed just about every time we speak. I explained this to him one day. I said that I’m the type of person who has to share how they feel. I can’t control it. And I want him to know always that I love him. x

    • My need to tell everyone just how much I love them started a long time ago – way before my Mum died. But since then, all of my family now say it every-time we talk on Skype or text. Even my Dad says it – which makes my heart melt,because when we were growing up, he was not that kind of Dad. So I see this as a huge positive for our whole family.
      When I’m saying goodbye to Jonny or Beckie it’s slightly different – I have a whole spiel of words that I need to say in a certain order. Otherwise, I instantly start to panic and find myself picturing the worst. xxx Ps. I can tell just how much you love and cherish your man xxx

  • What heartbreaking times you’ve had – to lose your mum and to have your daughter at 28 weeks!! No one knows how they will react when something traumatic happens in their life. At least you were able to recognize you had OCD and have put in measures to control it. What a beautiful post and so many would be able to get comfort and encouragement from it Bev. xo

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to read my post Bec. I just woke up and wrote the words down not really understanding why I felt the need to talk about my OCD. The response has been amazing though, so if I have helped just one person understand/feel ok and in control of their rituals then I’m happy.
      I’m also the luckiest Mumma in the world Bec, having my gorgeous girl survive against all of the odds and knowing that my beautiful Mum had the joy of falling in love with her for 6 years before she died makes me realise just how blessed I am xxx

  • Sophisticated Mumma

    I’m sure so many people are affected by the loss of loved ones in different ways, totally understandable why you would not allow yourself a second for yourself! Thankfully you received help and you can recognise the signs whenever the OCD creeps in. Social media has a habit of profoundly displaying subliminal messages at times. Some of them stir up all kinds of emotions as I too know 🙂 Take care lovely! x

    • Thanks so much gorgeous girl. I find it hard to slow down at the best of times, so when my Mum died I just pushed and pushed until I had nothing left inside to give. Deep down, I knew the OCD had been there for a while, but it was just another way of helping me take control of my grief and sadness. I was on a roller-coaster ride of rituals…which I can now admit, was totally exhausting both physically and mentally. xxx

  • Lisa Mckenzie

    Thank you for sharing beautifu,l I do have some OCD traits I fear, I count things and then catch myself doing it,I have rituals like not being allowed to have a coffee before cleaning the house and that takes me a long time these days and I’m also like you when it comes to saying goodbye to my children in particular! I love you, no I love you more ,drive careful ,text me when you get there etc etc.I also cannot leave the unpacking of the dishwasher at night till the morning but I nearly kill myself cleaning when stressed but I have never been diagnosed or anything I just see these behaviours coming out now.I do not wash my hands a lot or check doors but do have to do things a certain way or I feel they are not done properly.
    I understand about your Mum passing away suddenly as you know about mine 2 1/2 weeks after her diagnoses of cancer to when she passed away it was too quick but not as painful for her but I think more painful to us and my poor Dad,I love you just the way you are Bev quirks and all Xxx

    • Awwww thank you so much beautiful Lisa. I think it’s only when people say things out loud that we recognise these traits in ourselves. The most important thing, is to stay in control of the ritual rather than letting the ritual control you. Treat your coffee as a reward for cleaning the house – it’s your little treat to say you have finished your jobs! I still have a few compulsions that torment me from time to time, but I know (mostly) I’m the one in control of the rituals these days – which makes me feel so much better about life.
      I know you are still in the first stages of grieving the loss of your lovely Mum. The void she has left in your life will be huge. Give yourself time to heal gently, at your own pace. Be kind to yourself my friend – I’m here for you if you ever need a shoulder xxx Ps. thanks for loving my quirks too xxx

  • Petra

    Wow – thank you for sharing that. You come across, in words and photos, to not be the type of person who has these little “quirks” at all. I have had these “quirks” since I was a little girl. They have continued on and off throughout my life, but then 7 years ago, when I turned 40, my body just broke down and I had 2 years of hell (through CFS and anxiety). I saw a therapist who was wonderful, and I am on anti-anxiety/depressant pills which I want to come off. My new GP in Melbourne now tells me things got bad because he thinks I was going through an early menopause and all my hormones got mucked up and caused me to “overload”. Whatever. I know I am an anxious person, and these little “quirks” that pop up now and again need to be sorted out. Having my son made me worse, an only child, bad pregnancy, colicky, very clingy etc etc. I found that you really need to know yourself, to learn about why you do the things you do, and then it makes sense. And also to know that we are not alone. That apparently over half the population do this too. Again, thanks Bev for sharing this brave story. And aren’t you blessed to have such a supportive family.

    • Thank you so much for sharing too Petra. I truly appreciate your honesty.
      I am the master of disguise when it comes to revealing what’s inside me. Everyone who meets me thinks I am a confident, happy go lucky kind of person, without a care in the world. For the most part (these days) that is true. I now have coping mechanisms to help me get through stressful times. I am a worrier and a nurturer by nature, but I always like people to see the fun/happy side of me even when inside I may be building another wall of pain to hide behind. My therapist truly saved my life though, when I first met her I was not in a good place. Thankfully, she gave me the sledge hammer to break down the walls and was there to support me through the pain and grief that I had been hiding behind for far too long. xxx
      Thanks again Petra, and yes, you’re right I am blessed to have such wonderfully supportive people right by my side xxx

  • It’s such a credit to you that you have recognised OCD and worked to minimise its impact on your life. I respect you enormously and appreciate your honesty. x

    • Thanks so much V. Would you believe I’m such a private person? I would struggle to talk about this if I was face to face with someone. But, some-days I have an overwhelming urge to share something so personal to me, something I hardly ever discuss even with my closest friends and family.It shocks me, but I still let it come out on to the page, hoping that maybe I can make just one person feel slightly less alone. My finger hovered for about 30 seconds over the publish button…but then I thought ‘what’s the worst that can happen?’ xxx

  • Deidre G

    Hi Bev 🙂 Thank you for being brave and sharing this. Yes I have lived with this disorder since I was in high school. I believe it manifested itself as a way to cope in a dysfunctional family I felt I had no control in. To this day I have to check switches are turned off and gas hotplates and the oven are turned off properly, so the house can’t burn down?, and that the fridge and freezer doors are closed so food doesn’t go off. When I am trying to leave the house in a hurry, I need to check that lights in used rooms are turned off even if I am quite sure I did turn them off. The more of hurry I am in, the more it stresses me. So there you go, TMI 🙂 It is a strange thing indeed. Thanks again dear lady for ” putting it out there”. It is always reassuring to know that lovely ladies like yourself are willing to reach out to others. <3 🙂

  • Deidre G

    Hi Bev 🙂 Thank you for being brave and sharing this. Yes I have lived with this disorder since I was in high school. I believe it manifested itself as a way to cope in a dysfunctional family I felt I had no control in. To this day I have to check switches are turned off and gas hotplates and the oven are turned off properly, so the house can’t burn down?, and that the fridge and freezer doors are closed so food doesn’t go off. When I am trying to leave the house in a hurry, I need to check that lights in used rooms are turned off even if I am quite sure I did turn them off. The more of hurry I am in, the more it stresses me. So there you go, TMI 🙂 It is a strange thing indeed. Thanks again dear lady for ” putting it out there”. It is always reassuring to know that lovely ladies like yourself are willing to reach out to others. <3 🙂

    • Thank you so much for sharing your story with me too.
      The rituals of OCD do allow us to have a sense of control and balance in our lives, which can truly help if you are surrounded by dysfunction.
      When we are late/rushing we start to panic, so our mind starts to play tricks with us. The more we try to ignore the signals the stronger the anxiety gets. I do try to leave the house in a timely fashion most days to stop the demons coming and messing up my day. Most day’s this is achievable – other not so. But that’s ok as long as I take a second to calm myself and not let the walls come tumbling down .
      Thanks again lovely, especially for taking time to stop by this little space of mine xx

  • Yvonne Duke

    Thanks for sharing your story. I too suffer from OCD and find it gets worse when I am worrying about something. Well done for recognising it and getting help. Think you always look fab !!

    • Thanks so much Yvonne I truly appreciate you reading my story. Lots of ‘worriers’ do suffer with OCD – I think it comes with the territory! xxx

  • Oh yes lovely lady. I am like that all the time. My daughters say that I test too much. Even yesterday while being at the hospital all day with my mother, I had a slight panic in my mind as I knew my youngest daughter was at home but she was not answering my texts or calls and I did start thinking the worst but she had been asleep. But it just me knowing that they are at their destination and are safe. Well done on achieving all that you have beautiful lady. Sending hugs and love your way. I cannot wait for the day we meet. V x

    • Thanks so much Vicki…I can always pick up clues from people around me and with little snippets you have shared about your gorgeous girls I knew you were a worrier too.
      Yes, I just know we will meet one day soon Vicki and I’m already excited! xx

  • katypotaty

    Darling, I love that every time we part, you say something so caring. It’s who you are and what you’re made of – love.

    Having only met you fairly recently, I think you should be very proud of how far you’ve come. I wouldn’t know that you once were struggling with this illness.

    xox

    • Thanks my love for taking the time to understand another part of me. I’m such a good coverer-upper (and creator of new words) so to be honest, even when I was at my worst not many people knew. I came across as happy and cheerful – because that was something else I had control over! xxx