March 5, 2011
This is the first part of my crazy story with OCD. In January, I had a very scary episode with OCD and finally sought help. It was only then that I learned that I have been suffering from OCD for as long as I can remember. Here is my story.
I’m a teenager. Can’t remember exactly what age, because I have been this way for as long as I can remember. Even for as long as my parents can remember. I am a worrier. Nothing abnormal, or so I thought, but just a worrier. At bedtime, I follow a routine because I am suspicious that I might die in my sleep or that someone might kill me in the middle of the night. On my way to my room, I make sure I tell my Dad I will see him in the morning. I do this every night. That should seal my fate. I should make it through to the next day. Then, when I get to my room, I check. Check, check, check. My closet, under the bed, between my bed and the wall. I check anywhere there could be a potential intruder. I might check my closet twice, just to be sure. Then I lay down and recite my prayer. I say the same words always, exactly as I have said them a thousand times before. If I mess up, I start over. This prayer insures that if I do die in my sleep, that I will get into heaven……finally, I can go to sleep. When I wake in the morning, I am pleasantly surprised.
Still a teenager. My dad drops me off at our house. It is empty. I make him come inside and check under every bed in the house and maybe even the closets. I can’t quite remember. Meanwhile, I check the bathroom closet and I pull back the curtain on the bathtub to make sure nobody is hiding there to jump out and kill me. Once I get the “all clear”, I allow my dad to leave. As soon as he leaves, I lock all doors and check the back door to make sure it is also locked. And if I am feeling extra spry, I might even check the locks on the windows. Can’t have any intruders now, can we? Check, check, check.
Probably around age 10, I notice a bump on my finger. It happens to be the exact place where I hold my pencil. I immediately panic, assuming it is cancer, of course. I run and ask my mom about it. She sees that I am clearly freaking out and assures me that it is just a callous and that I will live. Wow. Dodged a bullet there, but I am going to keep an eye on it, just in case she is wrong.
My college years are full of health obsessions. I notice at one point that one of my ribs in higher than the other when I am laying on my back. Is it supposed to be that way? Is it cancer? Could the higher rib have a growth on it? I nearly have an anxiety attack just thinking about it. I check it everyday, multiple times a day for months just to make sure it isn’t growing. Of course, it never does and I move onto a new obsession.
Still in college, my asthma appears to be getting worse as I age. Maybe it will kill me?! Maybe it is getting worse because I have lung cancer or something like that? (Noticing a pattern here?)
Just married to the man of my dreams and I am working at a local hospital. I am terrified of somehow contracting HIV, even though I have only worked with 2 or 3 HIV patients in as many years and I have never stuck myself with a needle. I become terrified that I have somehow picked up the virus and will pass it on to my unsuspecting husband. I lie in bed at night crying for fear that I might harm him without knowing it.
About 7 years later, I am working at Quest Diagnostics when I experience a true exposure to a person’s blood. I wait 12 hours for the tests to come back confirming that I have not been exposed to HIV. The 12 hour wait was horrific. I was having a full blown break down. Sweating and shivering at the same time. Repeating myself over and over, pacing the floor, on the verge of throwing up. Then I got the call that I had not been exposed. I was so relieved. Then a week later, I started doubting. What if they tested the wrong persons blood? After all, it is a huge lab. What if they didn’t do the test correctly? What if I was exposed and nobody knows? What if, what if, what if? The HIV obsession is back for a while.
Over the years, I have done this with everything. A pimple on my neck – lymphoma? The moles on my skin – melanoma? The lump the doc found on my breast and assured me it was fine more than once – breast cancer? Check, check, check. Check as many times a day as I can. Obsess all day long. It never leaves my mind, always nagging at me. Eventually the obsession fades, just to be replaced by another. I might go months without a worry, then they will slowly creep back in and take over my life.