I’ve always thought my OCD was about fear of contamination from germs so I don’t get ill. But I’ve finally got to the bottom of my OCD and realise that it’s actually a way for me to keep the big scary world in control and put of my save haven of a home. My cousin (my mums sister’s son) died of cot death when I was four. Less than a month later my little sister was born and obviously there was a lot of anxiety in my family. My sister was very protected in case it happened to her. As a four year old I didn’t really understand what was happening. Just that people could die. I think I then took on the heightened sense of responsibility that I had to protect my parents and sisters from dying. That is when the OCD started really. Plus mum remembers that’s when I stopped being the cuddly little girl. If I don’t let myself show how much I care about someone then it avoids me getting hurt and it protects them. I’ve been tasked with challenging this belief. It was easy for me the challenge the belief that if I will get ill if I do or don’t do something. But how can I challenge the belief that if I don’t do something, my family will die. What if I’m challenging it an it turns out to be true and one of them dies? I’ve also got to start thinking through the actual horrible thought and starting facing that it could happen rather than running away from it. I’ve never got this far into my OCD before and feel I’m making progress but its going to be hard to learn to live with emotions and anxiety.
I have been doing really well with my CBT treatment at the moment. I am halfway through my list of habits. My therapist says that is really good but I still haven’t tackled the really tough ones. The ones that really tackle my belief that I will get contaminated with germs and get ill. But trying to keep germs away is not the only thing I am trying to achieve by doing my contaminations. It is also about keeping the outside world away from my precious haven which is my home. Particularly my bed and bedroom. That is why I have a problem with keeping work and ‘home’ things separate. It isn’t because I have a problem with work (I love my job), it’s because it is the public place I spend the most time in and don’t want to bring that into my haven. I haven’t discussed this with my therapist yet. Her task for me this week was to tackle some of the really hard ones on my list. The ones where I actually see germs such as take the rubbish out or not scrub my hands and arms after putting the washing on (which includes underwear). I am to write down what my anxiety level is before I do the thing, during and then immediately after. I am then to write my anxiety level at certain times after the event to see if they have gone down.
I did one of those things today. I cleaned the toilet (even doing that is a good thing as one of my compulsions is to simply avoid doing these things and get my husband to do them) without scrubbing myself from head to toe. I did this today and just had a normal wash after (though I still washed my arms up to my elbows). I was pleased with this but I felt very anxious. I wrote that down and then got on with things. I went round my parents house to play in the snow with my 20 month old niece (she hated it!). I then got home several hours later and got changed. It was then that I remembered that I had cleaned the loo and the anxiety came flooding back. I had failed to keep note of it going up and down throughout the day because I was distracted. This is the main problem I am finding with recording my anxiety. It goes away when I am distracted but the minute I think about it, I remember the feeling of anxiety and it comes back. It’s like saying don’t think about tomatoes, and then you are repeating ‘don’t talk about tomatoes’ in your head over and over again which means you are, in fact, thinking about tomatoes. It’s a bit catch 22.
I am determined to beat this thing but am quite scared about the things I have to do this week. I think the trouble with a lot of my OCD is it’s still there 12 years later because I have almost become lazy (shhhhh, don’t tell anyone I said that!). I have become so used to checking the front door 4 times or not taking the rubbish out that part of me believes I can’t do it. But I can. When I worked on the checking the door 4 times, I realised that I didn’t really have much anxiety when I didn’t do it. Therefore it was an old compulsion that had simply become the norm for me. Ok sometimes I get anxiety from it but hardly at all. I think I just have learnt to live this way as it has been so long. The therapist I am seeing now seems to be the first one to really know how to treat OCD and I am really pleased with my progress. Even she says that I will never be 100% cured but if I can even get rid of 50% of my compulsions then that will free up my life so much more. Now I have learnt what my ‘true’ compulsions are, I need to tackle them and learn to live with the feeling of anxiety. Then, hopefully, my IBS and general feeling of tiredness and malaise with get better and I will have a better live and be able to enjoy it with my husband. Fingers crossed!
So I haven’t been on here in a while. It has been a tough couple of months with my IBS re-surfacing making me very afraid that I was going to be sick. I had a coil put in and then taken straight out, then got a stomach bug, then a cold and just couldn’t recover. Looking back now I think I was exhausted from my wedding and honeymoon and just needed time to get over it and rest. The Christmas holidays helped a lot but so will my trip to Spain in June!
I have, however, made quite a breakthrough with my Emet. Yes I am afraid of being sick and afraid of sick itself but Emet is not really at the heart of it. It is, and always has been, my OCD that is at the heart of it. I am just so afraid I will get ill (not just stomach problems – I believe a cold will make me sick as well) and I therefore do everything to stop it. It’s just that being sick is the worst kind of being ill I have ever experienced!
So now I am working on my OCD in the hope that getting over that will result in me getting over the Emet. This is why I have changed the name of this blog! It isn’t easy and results in me really having to go against the grain and do things I really don’t want to do! But I am feeling positive that I can do it!