Living with OCD as a mother by Gail Buckie
Ah OCD, the mental health issue that’s often thrown around as loosely as the elastic on a pair of old knickers.
I am sure you have heard it or you might have even said it, “Oh sorry, I am OCD about that....” but have you ever thought about it? Have you ever wanted to end your life because the cushions weren’t placed correctly on the sofa? No? I have...
Ok, I didn’t want to end it all JUST because certain objects weren’t where they were supposed to be but it was a trigger for having my whole day collapse into an anxiety panic attack black hole.
Let me start from the beginning, OCD is described is a mental disorder where people feel the need to check things repeatedly, perform certain routines repeatedly (called "rituals"), or have certain thoughts repeatedly (called "obsessions") and why do they need to do this? Well I can’t talk for everyone but for me it was a way of gaining control in situations I couldn’t control. An example of this is, it’s only normal that my children will get sick, children get ill but if I do these things they will not get sick or at least it prevents the panic I have that they will get sick, god I sound crazy!
In my mind I have a constant loop saying that they are sick or getting sick, I ask them over and over “are you ok?” I feel their foreheads and I listen for any hint that they may be ill obsessively. This means I am always on edge, always ready to jump to it if illness strikes. This causes a tidel wave of non-stop worry and anxiety leading to the obsessing and over thinking of pretty much everything else. It’s exhausting.
I was diagnosed with OCD at 14 after the death of my beloved gran, I was a lost hormonal teen looking for relief in a mist of grief. It was pretty mild but it worried my parents enough to take me to the doctors and I had some CBT. I was high functioning, no one would have known but I managed to get by with the odd outbreak for many years.
Having my first child hit me hard in the mental health department and obsessing became second nature again. My husband was aware of it all, the only person I show my dark demons too but to others I was just a very organised and tidy person. As I said I was high functioning meaning I could live a pretty “normal” life without it disrupting me much to the outside world. Inside I am shaking emotional mess.
I managed to get by but then my daughter started school nursery and she was out of my sight and I could no longer control her contact with others. I hadn’t realised that my own daughter was an obsession I was controlling to help keep my anxiety at bay. I had done a great job as other than the odd cold and a bout of chicken pox she had been very well and this fact adds to the need for control as it worked, I had stopped her from illness.
The first 4 months went by ok but then winter hit and the nasty sick bugs came with that. It closed a whole school in Edinburgh so the fear was very real for me, she then got sick...very sick and had almost 3 weeks of nursery with one thing after another. Illness is a stress in itself but with OCD it was like she was dying and the house and my actions were the reason. I had guilt, the house was not clean enough, I was not clean enough. I was the reason she was ill, I felt like a useless mum and a waste of space. I had failed but I had to keep going and it got worse and worse.
I picked up new ticks, all the windows were to be opened to “let the germs out” as I had read a constant stream of fresh air helped stop illness. The house was so cold but I thought it was good as the “bugs” wouldn’t be able to survive. I was going mad that germs were everywhere – It became easier to just stay in the house than go places as I knew my home was clean. I was becoming more and more withdrawn from my life.
I couldn’t drive alone with the kids in the car (still can’t) because the fear of the children becoming ill in the car has stopped me from visiting friends and more sadly, my family who live very far away. My heart breaks that I have not been home to see them in over a year. I don’t think I will be able to do it any time soon as well, its soul destroying.
The panic attacks have been worse than ever before, one can happen when I have an unexpected event happen or when I have to confront my fears. It starts with my heart racing, I can feel it trying to escape my chest as the blood pumps through my ears. Pins and needles on my arms feel like thousands of insects scuttling about and the weight of a trillion worries rest on my chest and lungs. I can’t breathe and my mind races, this is the end I think as I struggle to focus my eyes. I feel sick and another wave of fear runs over me that I am Ill and will be ill out in public.
How do I stop it? I rarely can – I have hypno apps and breathing apps, I have medicine that stops the attacks but leaves me numb and zombie like or I just breathe and it passes. It always does. I have recently gone back for help as I knew the signs and was scared of falling back into a carousel of obsession and depression, it’s a long waiting list but I have started the healing journey. I will be starting CBT again and attending an OCD. It won’t beat me.
So next time think before you say it, as OCD can ruin lives, families and stop you living a full life.
I will always have OCD and at times it will take over me but I can cope, I will heal. Just like everything else “this shall pass also...”