Since I was 11 years old I’ve known that there are certain things that I do that aren’t considered normal or sane. Every night I would say my prayers before bed. I would say the same five prayers and the same special intention prayers every night. If I fell asleep or got distracted during the prayers I would start again, no matter how far I got through my prayer list. I would keep this up until I got it right and then I would be able to go to sleep. This lasted for 12 years but as I started to move away from this ritual I picked up others.
My rituals continued on as I grew older. I was overly worried, and still am, that I will offend God and that He will punish me or my loved ones. If someone would say something offensive about a mentally or physically disabled person I would kiss my cross pendant on my necklace and pray until I felt God had forgiven the sin. If Rob ever jokes about wanting a son only I would kiss the cross again and the fear that God would punish us for not being happy with what we get drove me to pray frantically for forgiveness. I would pray until the anxiety goes away.
I get anxiety if the socks aren’t folded correctly and Rob won’t let me fix them. He leaves the laundry to me since I have to colour coordinate and hang and fold clothes a certain way. I get anxiety if the condiments aren’t put away correctly. The cleaning products and oils need to be on their respective shelves and every cupboard door needs to be closed straight away. The difference between myself and sane and healthy people is the fact that if I can’t rectify these things I will be wrought with anxiety until I can fix whatever is not in order.
I never thought I needed help with this until last week. I shook a client’s hand and was paralysed with the fear that he had germs and that I was going to catch a disease from him. I explain to the Doc in this emergency session that I went back to my desk and continued to sanitise and wash my hands. I started to have an anxiety attack because I couldn’t get my hands clean enough. From 12:30pm until the end of my shift at 5pm I was cleaning my hands every 5 to 10 minutes. I was even late to meet my husband after work because it took me so long to clean my hands. Each time I cleaned my hands the anxiety would subside but only just for a moment.
After hearing all of this the Doc said “that’s OCD and it seems to be mostly religious oriented” You see, there are different types of OCD; those that check, count, are preoccupied with germs and dirt and religion influenced. He began to explain to me that people with OCD are very aware of what is happening unlike a patient with psychosis that loses touch with reality. He told me that even though I believe that God is not a punishing vengeful God, I still feel compelled to pray to undo what I believe was wrong.
OCD can be purely obsessions, like just intrusive thoughts and obsessive thoughts without the rituals. I told him that I suffered from intrusive thoughts, mine were always religiously inappropriate. Others, as the Doc explained, could be images and thoughts of hurting someone or picking up a baby and throwing them. Now the OCD sufferer would never want to do something like this but the thoughts always force themselves into the forefront of their mind and they have no control over them which is very distressing. I often had intrusive thoughts and images of me hurting myself by jumping in front of a train for example. I was not suicidal even in the slightest but there is nothing I can do, that I know of, to block out such thoughts.
I’ve always struggled with these symptoms but I’ve never been told I have OCD. I’ve been very private about what ended up being OCD. I told Rob that I have OCD and he said that he is always finding another layer of me after all this time. He made a joke saying that Abed (my favourite character who is obsessed with TV and pop culture) would like the Rebecca Show since there’s always character development and growth. That made me feel better.
I’m not sure how I feel knowing I have OCD. It definitely explains everything I’ve been going through. I don’t have to feel so horrible for all of my intrusive thoughts. It feels better knowing its part of OCD and that I’m not a bad person. Like my friend Johnny said you can’t always fight your DNA but you can learn to live with it and not let it define you.