“Was that ok back there?”
I have no idea how many times my wife heard that question each week.
“That’ll be alright, won’t it?”
Yes dear, of course it will.
“Can you just look at this for me?”
Oh, i suppose so.
“I didn’t do anything wrong did i?”
How should i know?
“Can i just go back and look at something?”
If you must!
“How do you think that got there?”
How the hell should i know!
“I’ve been worrying about something all afternoon”
I KNOW YOU HAVE SO SHUT UP!
“I can’t ask you for reassurance can i?”
By asking me that question you know you just have.
“I’m not going to ask about that thing back there”
YOU JUST DID!
“If i even look like i’m seeking your reassurance about anything please tell me not to as it fuels and feeds my OCD and makes it stronger.”
With Pleasure, i love you.
Fight OCD. Fight the urge. It’s just a thought.
So you’re jogging along nicely with life, skipping the puddles as best you can when OUCH! You feel a little stone in the bottom of your shoe, something unfamiliar.
Nothing serious enough to share with your running buddy, but definitely something that shouldn’t be there.
A mile or so down the road you start to thinking that, rather than a stone, it might just be the start of a blister. Again, nothing to trouble your partner with, after all, we’ve all had blisters right?
Except this blister isn’t like others you’ve had before, it’s constantly nagging at you all day and night and everytime you do something to appease it, it seems to grow in intensity…..and keeps growing until it’s ruling your every action and affecting EVERYTHING you do EVERYDAY, not just on your weekly run or the walk to the shops, but every single chore at home or task at work or social encounter.
At some stage your running mate is going to need to know about this and you kind of know that if you don’t tell them, however good at acting you have become concealing your ailment, then they are going to spot it for themselves.
Now if it IS a blister then I’m guessing this is no big deal and a quick word and a trip to the chemists for a plaster and some cream should fix the problem.
If it turns out to be an infection or injury then, hey a trip to the doctors is not really an issue to worry about.
But, and it is a BIG BUT, it happens to be your brain that’s been troubling you not your foot, now THAT is a different matter.
At some point, if the problem is to be tackled, then you are forced to do something most would find rather uncomfortable. To turn to a wife, husband, partner, parent, sibling, friend, boss, doctor or even the guy you go jogging with and say “I think something’s wrong”.
The words MENTAL ILLNESS are pretty heavy hitting, to the person saying them and the person hearing them from a loved one.
I suffer from a mental illness, but I am not mental.
Now put yourself in the position of a long time solo jogger trying to find a running mate and having to explain to them that you’re jogging is going to be seriously handicapped by an overwhelming blister…..not easy.
A LOT easier than saying to potential dates “by the way I’ve got a mental illness that means that even though I am a charming, intelligent, attractive sweetheart with an interesting job and a steady income, I will undoubtedly be acting oddly ALL the time we are together, will find MOST social situations or trips from the house extremely discomforting, and will waste hours of OUR time performing seemingly pointless tasks for no other reason than to satisfy the whims of an illness that I KNOW is silly, and that for us to get intimate is likely to cause me massive distress and require me to perform untold rituals to make me feel ‘safe’.
Hmmm, not selling it that well am i?
Welcome to the lonely, frightening, frustrating and at times downright ridiculous world of the OCD sufferer. IT’S NO JOG IN THE PARK!
For Laura x
My 30’s should have been the best ten years of my life. Actually when I look back maybe they will have been.
So many amazing, wonderful things highlighted this decade:
Falling in love again and marrying my teenage sweetheart.
Fathering two wonderful, healthy, funny, intelligent, inspiring children.
Moving to the seaside and forging a new professional career to compliment/replace my existing trade.
Rediscovering my love for all things pedalled.
It had it all……it also had something dark……something nasty……something spiteful.
Something that NEARLY tore all of the wonderfulness away. Something that I KNEW was ridiculous.
That last word may not seem to fit with the previous description of my enemy, but it needs to be written.
I KNEW my enemy was silly, pointless and ultimately wrong, but there was NOTHING I could do to stop it taking over my life and beating me into the ground.
Hell, it took a few months but with a little bit of searching I even knew its name…..3 letters that I guess I’ll be linked to for the rest of my life (for better or worse) OCD.
Those three silly little letters joked about by many an innocent, careless or ignorant public.
“But how could checking the door a few too many times or washing your hands a bit too rigorously RUIN your life?”
Pretty damn well so it happens.
My particular compulsions, like most others were/are somewhat more complicated than that.
OCD manifests itself in many ways and varies greatly from person to person as well as morphing, changing and seemingly adapting in individuals just to keep you on your toes and inflict a new flavour of punishment.
Simple tasks such as driving 3 miles to work would become 90 minute epic journeys of retracing tracks and multiple (20 was my record) trips around the block or specific roundabouts.
Leaving home for the day involved a complex, not routine, but series of checks – panics – rechecks – calm – panics and rechecks……and that was just the oven, television and lights. We hadn’t even got to the full scale trauma of actually GOING OUT of the front door.
Walking down the pavement I must have looked like some weird tattooed subservient, shuffling along behind whoever I was with, constantly scanning the floor for what I was about to, or just had, trodden on.
The 100 yard walk to the shop, once I’d been convinced to undertake it, became a battle of wills and an impromptu acting class as I would pretend I’d forgotten or dropped something to satisfy my need to check the screw or nail or sweet wrapper OCD was convincing me was an infected needle that was carelessly placed to sentence me and my family to a certain early death.
The less said about the throwing away of a microwave, a babies bottle sterilizer, hundreds of teabags, platefuls of food and a whole host of other household objects for no other reason than to relieve anxieties or the hours spent checking empty meat packaging……or anything else for that matter before putting them in……then taking them out of the bin, the better.
And all the time KNOWING that it’s all a game, all a trick being played on you and knowing that every time you carry out that check or think something through or ask for reassurance that OCD is laughing at you as you are giving it the one thing it craves – attention!
And that the more attention you give it the stronger it grips you – CLEVER LITTLE BASTARD!
You get the picture?
Well you probably don’t unless you’ve ever suffered from OCD, as quite plainly none of it makes the slightest sense.
Now these, and the numerous other games I had to play to keep my OCD happy, in themselves may not seem so apocalyptic, and indeed individually I guess a half hour walk to the shops really isn’t.
The big problem is the volume and neverendingness of it all. It is constant, ALL day EVERY day from the moment you wake until the moment you sleep. Not necessarily the physical actions themselves but the increased extreme awareness of EVERYTHING around you, the ruminating and the constant peaks of anxiety of reliving the same potentially catastrophic, but in all probability boringly harmless, action you undertook 6 hours earlier.
Well, putting that teabag in the cup without washing your hands after shaking your friends hand which may just have removed his shoes which might have, at some time, walked over something red or sharp or…..you know…..deadly serious stuff!
I’m 42 now and you know what, I’M OK.
I may not be ‘cured’, probably never will be, not even sure if it’s possible to ever be.
Yes I still check my car mirror more times than a learner driver doing his test and I probably wash my hands more when cooking and eating than a doctor heading into surgery, but you know what, it’s MY rules now not OCDs.
I’m steering this ship now not being tossed around by the waves and tides of compulsion.
I can ride my bike 70 miles without doubling back on myself and race it through an ankle deep muddy park.
I can run a half marathon without needing to inspect every inch of the 13 miles of road while I go.
I can drive to visit my mum 60 miles away in the same time it used to take me to get the 3 miles to work some days.
And best of all I am writing this sitting on a stool which I haven’t (and won’t!) inspected, in a kids play area while my two gorgeous children play in a ball pit and playground I feel no need to go over with a fine toothed comb.