Now we have part five of “My OCD Life Story, So Far”: Recent Past/Now (it’s getting a little excessive so I’m finishing it up today with a long one 😉
We had been living in Utah and moved to California for my husband’s work. Once again I was called as Primary President in our ward, and we settled into daily life. My main issues with OCD arose from driving and feeling sick (as I’ve mentioned previously on the blog).
In regards to driving, I would worry that I hit parked cars as I drove by them, often going back and checking to make sure that they were okay and not dented. I worried about parking next to cars and me or my kids hitting them with our doors when we got into or out of our car. I worried about brushing against cars with my clothes/bag in parking lots and damaging them. Once I left a note on someone’s car because I thought that “maybe” our stroller rolled into their car when I was loading my kids into our car. I worried when the kids rode their bikes or tricycles that they would scrape the sides of cars. I would take photos of people’s license plates if I suspected that I might have scraped their car when I was parking, just in case I wanted to look them up and send them a note. And I worried, occasionally, that I hit people on the side of the road waiting at crosswalks. One time I went grocery shopping and heard a thud as I backed up (probably a melon rolling around in my backseat) and thought that maybe I had run over someone. I checked online afterward to see if there had been any hit and run’s reported in that parking lot or other police reports filed.
I also checked grocery store receipts (still do) to make sure that everything I purchased had been scanned and paid for, just to make sure I didn’t accidentally “steal” anything. I still have a receipt where my husband, I think, bought organic garlic but was only charged for regular garlic. I intended to go back to the store and tell them about it but haven’t (yet?) done it.
But I truly started freaking out when I felt sick a lot. As I wrote before, I thought that I might have the flu and would try to avoid going shopping, going out with friends, etc. I would make excuses, have my husband go to Costco, have groceries delivered (easy to do in the Bay Area), and use tons of hand sanitizer if I did have to go out. I would research how long flu and cold germs were contagious and put the household on lockdown if someone got sick. I had an ultrasound to see if I had gallbladder issues and went to another doctor, buying supplements, doing stool tests, and going on a special elimination diet to test for food allergies. After wasting time and money, I finally researched endometriosis and went to a specialist, culminating in having laparoscopic surgery to find out that I did indeed have endometriosis, pelvic varicose veins, and a cyst.
We decided to move to Vashon Island in Washington shortly thereafter, partly to save money and get a home of our own and partly to help ease my anxiety with driving, traffic, social situations, etc. After living in a less than ideal housing situation and having a miscarriage, something snapped. My daughter somehow got poop on a rug in the bathroom, and I washed it as normal. But then something in my brain triggered, and I started thinking that I had contaminated everything else in that laundry load with feces. I worried about disease. And my contamination OCD took off running. From there, I was soon encompassed with worry about laundry contamination, dirty underwear, feces, urine, dead animals outside our house (Vashon is pretty rural), wiping after bathroom use (me and the kids), towels, and hand washing. Within a month or two, my life was completely encompassed by the OCD. I frequently cried during breakfast. I researched contamination OCD and realized that it described me—even down to having my own “safe” chair or safe spot on the couch. I would avoid sitting certain places until I knew I was “home” for the night, or I would sit on a blanket on the couch to keep my clothes or the couch clean.
My husband forced me to get help and even made the call to the psychologist because I was emotionally unable to do so. I went to a group therapy session first and cried my way through my story. Listening to others, I realized that I didn’t just start having OCD. I had it for years but didn’t know what it was. I went to an individual session the next day. And then my family got strep. It was basically a disaster. My son had strep on his bottom, my husband and I had strep throat, and my daughter eventually got it on her finger in the form of impetigo. I felt powerless. I had to sterilize the house with disinfectant wipes and spray. I washed all that I could at a laundromat. And then my husband had to go out of town for work.
I lasted one night. I could hardly sleep. I felt like I was “leaking.” I kept going to the bathroom. I freaked out completely and emailed my psychologist the next morning, who told me to go see my MD and get some medication. I went on fluoxetine again, and my husband came home early from his trip.
Shortly thereafter was Christmas vacation. We went to my parent’s house, and I was a wreck. I’m amazed I made it on to the airplane. I noticed blood on the sleeve of my shirt, probably from over-washing my hands. I didn’t want to go outside. I felt like it would be easier if I died in my sleep. I wasn’t suicidal, but I wouldn’t have minded if I just passed away naturally or got in an accident. And then my son and I got strep again. I felt like a failure. I had a heart to heart with my mom, and we decided something had to change. We decided that living on a remote, rural island where I had to take a ferry and drive about an hour to a doctor to get help was not a good plan. And so we flew home, stayed in a hotel overnight, and drove to Portland to look for houses. We found an ideal home being built outside of Portland, put an offer in, and prepared to move. About a week or two after moving in, I starting going to a new doctor in Portland and began my treatment in earnest. Within a month, I was making progress.
I’m not cured and likely never will be, but that’s okay. Often I feel like I’m just treading water, but at least I’m not drowning.