In reading your story about when you were a kid sitting by the fire, it reminded me of some of my episodes. There are no existing thoughts or problems of your own and then someone makes a remark, or in my case I see something on TV, and then poof, an OCD fire starts from a small spark and before I know it the flames begin to spread and rage into a recalcitrant, obsessive wild fire. I think people with OCD are so sensitive and impressionable. Your website leads me to believe that you’re very creative. Are you? I feel as though I am, and I sometimes wonder if that’s a contributing factor as well????
I have had several horrible, gut-wrenching, terrifying episodes that usually get resolved, and then thankfully, in retrospect, I can see the utter ridiculousness of them. The craziest one, and I find this absolutely hilarious now, was the whole Jeffrey Dahmer thing. My first reaction to hearing about him was shock and disgust. And then I’d keep seeing it and seeing it on TV and it was so upsetting. And then I’d think, How the hell did THAT ever cross his mind? What would make anyone want to do that? And then I thought, “OH MY GOD!!!! COULD I EVER DO SOMETHING LIKE THAT? COULD I EVER BE THAT HEINOUS? HOW DO I KNOW I’M NOT CAPABLE OF THAT? HOW DO I KNOW? HOW DO I KNOW? HOW DO I KNOOOOOOOWWW?”
And of course, I told myself,”Duh. Why are you even questioning that? You could never, would never. If Jeffrey Dahmer had not appeared on TV, you would not be having this obsession — the thought wouldn’t EVER have entered your mind.” But then I’d start obsessing again. I think what happens is that I see or hear about something horrific and it just scares me to death, and I need to prove to myself and know that I am GOOD and that I could never be as bad as what I’ve just heard about or seen. So that’s an example of an episode. That one didn’t last long. Maybe a month or so because it was completely retarded and easy to resolve. And so it goes with the scary episodes — all usually resolved, some take longer than others, but they usually go away.
And then there are my on-going obsessions which are all tied to fear of disease and other health-related issues and then ultimately death. Which I think also sort of ties in to my religion issue. For the life of me I can’t come to terms with religion. I’m constantly ruminating and never getting anywhere — I’m just spinning my wheels. Faith, where there are no mental gymnastics involved, must be such a beautiful gift. I wholeheartedly believe in God, mostly because I see evidence of God. I see it in the miracle of birth, in that special interconnectedness you find with some people and in the beauty of nature. Especially dogs. Yep, dogs. I think it’s so amazing that you can love a dog and he can love you back and you’re not even the same species!
For a person who wants to KNOW and wants mathematical certitude in knowing, I really do like the fact that God, even though I know he’s present, seems a bit nebulous at the same time. I can deal with that. It’s Jesus that has me stumped — and He is what I ruminate about. How do I know He’s the Son of God? OK, so maybe He is the Son of God, but then how do I know that He’s the ONLY Son of God, what if 100 years before Jesus, God came to earth as some little Japanese guy or something and nobody ever wrote it down? And what if Jesus was just a historical figure? Just a man. Will God be pissed that people believed in Jesus and not directly in him? And if Jesus really is the God’s son, why did God need a blood sacrifice — His child’s life — to prove that He loves people? It seems mean and unnecessary. Jesus might be the Son of God, but He might not be. How do you know? I think it’s amazing that some people just believe. And I wonder if they really believe, or if they’re afraid to delve too deeply and have their beliefs shaken. I want do the right thing, and in this case I don’t know what the right thing is to believe, so I just believe in my vague God. So, it’s stuff like that. And it never goes away. It’s been going on for years and years, but sometimes, for whatever reason, I won’t think about it for several moths. This part of OCD is not distressing, I just consider it to be part of my nature.
The disease stuff is hard sometimes. I have had AIDS, multiple sclerosis, multiple myeloma, lymphoma, several brain tumors, ovarian cancer and colon cancer — in my mind. If I read about something, I have it. If I have some sort of symptom and pursue it in a medical book, there’s never a simple or logical reason, I always end up thinking I have something dire and then I make all of my symptoms worse. My doctor said to me, “Laura, every time you see hoof prints, you look for the zebra instead of the horse!” And then she forbade me to look up stuff in medical journals anymore. (I have been a good girl and have heeded her advice.)
Unfortunately, my husband truly does have cancer. He was diagnosed nearly four years ago. When he was diagnosed, I freaked, but then I was totally able to channel my energy into research and into worrying about something REAL. I believe my OCD was gone and I did OK unmedicated throughout that period. (What he has is incurable. He did very well with treatment and is in a strong partial remission. Researchers believe that they may, within the decade, be able to make his disease a long term manageable condition that you die with and not from.)
Then about two years ago, my best friend’s son was diagnosed with cancer and it rocked my world. First, because I was so upset for them, and second because I wondered if he and my husband had been exposed to something. (We lived in the same neigborhood.) And then that would mean that my kids would be exposed, too. And if they could have cancer, then anyone could. My kids could. Oh God, please don’t let my girls get it. Not my girls, please, please please not my girls.
My girls are the most precious things in the world to me. Our little one will be seven this month and our oldest will be nine. I love them more than anyone or anything in the world. I feel such overwhelming joy when I look at them. They’re so cool and we have the best time together. Every night I say this ritualistic prayer asking God to protect them and keep them healthy etc. (It has exact wording and I must say it perfectly. If I mess up, I gotta start again.) I am so petrified that they’ll develop cancer, and partly, I think I am hypersensitive for a good reason, but I can’t put it in perspective. I completely lose my objectivity when it comes to my children. For example, when I put their hair up in ponytails, I check the back of their necks to make sure they don’t have swollen lymph nodes; I watch to make sure all of their bruises are fading; if they have a fever,a rash or a headache I assume the worst. Even before my husband and my friend’s son were diagnosed I was like this, but I’ve gotten worse. One winter, my oldest had a rash on her legs. I thought it was the beginning of Hodgkins disease. The pediatrician diagnosed it as dry skin. “Grease her up, Mom!” was the advice I got. Phew! So I was fine until the next little thing popped up. Once I thought I saw a white hair on her head when she was a baby, and I concluded with absolute certainty that she had that funky disease where kids turn into old people. Took her to the doc and told them what she had. They laughed and laughed and laughed, as I was crying because I had myself convinced that she had this. I am a card-carrying hypochondriac.
I will tell you about my most recent episode. It started just a week or two ago, and while part of me can see that there was a trigger and that the same thought patterns have emerged this time as in prior times, I still get panicky and feel like I want to throw up, etc.
I always have problems in the summer. I get depressed every summer, and depression and anxiety are catalysts for OCD for me. Partly I get depressed cuz I hate the heat. I can take the cold, because I can figure out how to get warm, but I hate the heat, and Georgia is like freakin’ Africa hot. My kids get tired of going to the neighborhood pool, so we’re inside a lot, which means that they invite half the neighborhood over to play, and I just putt around and do chores and get bored. I haven’t been running with the dog, cuz even if I could deal with the heat, I can’t leave the kids alone, they’re too little. They have gymnastics four days a week, but at different times, so I’m basically just shuffling them around, and I’m bored. If I have an idle mind, I just totally set myself up for an attack.
Anyway, I was watching TV, and I saw the thing about the woman in Texas who drowned her kids in the tub. It was sad and scary, but I didn’t really give it another thought. And then I kept seeing it over and over. (Kinda like the Dahmer thing.) And I asked myself how she could do it? Why? Oh my God, could I ever do that? No, of course not. And I forgot about it for a day or two and saw it on TV again and I thought, my God, she had postpartum depression — I did too! Does that mean that I could have been capable of something so horrible? No, of course not. She was psychotic, all I had was some depression and OCD. What if I was misdiagnosed? What if I was psychotic? How do I know? How do I know that I’d never do anything like that? And then I have to tell myself that I could never do anything terrible to my kids because I am the mother who lays in bed every night and begs God to protect the girls and keep them safe and to please let them grow up to be healthy, happy old ladies. I am the mother who gets such a thrill watching them play or listening to them tell me stories and just being with them — I could never do anything contrary to my true feelings for them. They’re my life. I’ve never thought of harming them. I’m always trying to figure out ways to keep them safer and healthier and happier. I freak if they’re sick and I love them more than life itself, more than anybody or anything, so how could I possibly wonder if I could ever do something so brutal and awful? I am a kind, loving, gentle person. Thoughts that are complete revolting and alien to my personality should be easily dismissed, but they’re not. I’ve never done anything but love my kids and overprotect them, so why am I plagued with wondering if I could do something so bad? If I didn’t see it on TV, I would never be writing to you now.
Writing this has actually been very cathartic. As a veteran OCDer, I should know that this episode is simply OCD, and while I really can see that it is just OCD, it still makes me ill, because it is so horrible and bizarre and so opposite of who I am. I told my husband about this episode, and he said, everyone in the world who saw that on TV asked themselves if they’d ever do that. They tell themselves no, and move on. They don’t have to examine and re-examine and analyze it to death.
I wonder why with OCD sometimes the scary thoughts happen with the people you love the most?
One more story and I’ll quit. About ten years ago, I was cooking dinner and our dog was laying at my feet as I was chopping vegetables. I put the knife down and for some reason, it spun around and was teetering on the edge of the counter. I was like, “Oh my God! That could have fallen and landed on the dog!” I was relieved that it didn’t happen and that he was OK, but I was all agitated, and nervous about it. Then the image of the knife hitting him popped into my mind and then I thought, what if I cut him? Could I cut him? That dog was my baby. I was crazy about him. I threw birthday parties for him. If we went out on a Friday night, I would decline any social invitations for Saturday cuz I didn’t want to leave him alone two nights in a row. I treated him like a person. My husband and my friends used to make fun of me for loving him sooooooooo much and for spoiling him. I could never hurt him, but the thought palgued me and I was scared of knives for a while. And then, I woke up one morning and the thought was gone. And I could be completely secure in knowing that I would never, could never hurt him and I never gave it a second thought.
Yesterday, I called my psychiatrist and he called in some Zoloft, so I feel like I shall shortly be on the road to recovery. I just have to face the fact that I might need to be on meds every day for the rest of my life.To be fair to my husband and children I am going to stay with the program and not quit once I start feeling well.
The content in this post is mirrored from my original OCD site here;