As far back as I can remember, I struggled with everything needing to be perfect. My first memory related, was when I was in early elementary school. I had to have my work perfect. By perfect, I mean it had to look absolutely perfect- if I looped a “B,” I had to erase but if I left an eraser mark, it didn’t count and I would have to copy everything onto a new paper until there were no marks and no messy letters. To this day, people complement my handwriting. The ones I’m friends with, I’ll joke about why my handwriting is so neat, other times I’ll just thank them and move on.
Another strong memory I have from when I was in elementary school is being afraid of thinking anything profane on Sunday, after church while I still smelled like the church building. I was afraid if I let any impure thought slip, I would get struck by lightning. Needless to say, I slipped once and nothing happened. When nothing happened, I started to realize it was unfounded so that obsession slowly faded.
I also had a strong fear that if I slept with my feet uncovered, I would get drug into a Hell like dimension by a demon.I read a while back, that is actually a common fear.
When I was in later elementary school, the people I associated with outside of school were middle aged, most of whom had weight problems and were trying to lose weight. What started as me getting hooked on Diet Coke and diet specialty foods, walking and reading weight loss tips in women’s magazines turned into an obsession. Pretty soon, I had a set workout routine I HAD to follow or else, in my mind, I would gain 20lbs over night. It went from a short 5 minute workout to taking over an hour to do. It also grew from having to walk a few times a day to having to walk 12 miles, BUT the 12 miles had to be by myself, if I walked with anyone else, the calories were not burned and my count had to freeze. It also didn’t count without music, so if my walkman died in the middle of a lap, I had to redo the lap. It went from me getting anxious to punishing myself if I failed a day. I would restrict my calories as much as possible until I started having near fainting spells in 9th grade. I found out I had low blood sugar and have been dealing with that ever since. In college, I realized I had a problem by the time my obsession morphed into binging then puking. The disordered relationship I had with food (diagnosed as ED-NOS and later told sounded like OCD instead of an actual eating disorder) only ended when I had my first daughter. I made myself quit and deal with the anxiety because I didn’t want my daughter to grow up seeing her mom starve herself.
When I was little, I was told to not touch the stove- it would be hot. Needless to say, I burnt my hand but another time, I touched it and it was cold. I started testing to see whether it would be hot or cold each time I passed and before long, it was a compulsion. That compulsion/impulse happened every time I walked past an oven from the time I was around 7 or 8 until recently. Even when I was walking through an oven display at a place like Lowes (that’s always fun- tapping every stove I walk past in Lowes)
All those, along with having to bite my nails down until they are perfect, having to delete the whole sentence if I notice a typo and getting a headache when I read the misuse of “they’re, there and their,” were things I always considered quirks. That is, until it got really bad. I started getting obsessive thoughts- intrusive thoughts I could not get out of my mind. My oldest was born 3 months early, 1lb 11.5ozs and 13 inches long. She was very sick, long NICU stay and came home on oxygen. When she was 15 months, I got pregnant with her little sister. This baby didn’t live (she had a condition called Anencephaly) and that was when the OCD symptoms got bad. I got to the point I was afraid of carrying my daughter around because I’d get the image of her oxygen mask (cannula) falling off or dropping her down the stairs.
I started grief counseling through a program we had for my older daughter, mentioned the stories from when I was growing up and she told me I had OCD.
I started studying OCD and it fit perfect- it was like the puzzle pieces fell into place and it gave me such relief. She gave me a piece of advice I still use- to sit back when I have thoughts and ask myself “is this how a normal person would react?”
It has helped me through a lot, but I have had to go to normal people from time to time because, let’s be real, when you have a disorder like OCD- you do not know what normal is.
I have been reading a lot about the condition and I have been doing my best to ignore compulsions, ride out the anxiety and see that nothing horrible is happening. It gets annoying when OCD becomes my focus of obsession and when ignoring compulsions becomes a compulsion itself, but I am getting better with it.
I’ll post more on other types of OCD I have personally dealt with later, but since my diagnosis and starting to learn how to handle it, I have been trying to spread awareness of the real condition- not what everyone likes to joke about.