March 6, 2011
This is the second part of the story of my struggle with OCD. If you would like to read the first part, click on the following link. The OCD Monster: Part 1
Between the obsessions over my health and my worries about someone harming me, I was a bit tightly wound. When I had kids, I really felt like God had healed my obsessions with my health. For a long time, those went away. But, without me realizing it, those worries were replaced by worries about my kids.
I have woken in the middle of the night, consumed by a feeling a doom. Are all of the doors locked? When we were at the park today, was there a person around watching my kids that might have followed us home? Would he know where we live? Could he come into our home and hurt our kids? I go into each of their rooms, scoop them up and take them into the guest bedroom with me. I sleep with them to make sure they are protected for the rest of the night. I might do this the next night too. If I wake up without a feeling of doom, I still have to check on my kids. I just need to make sure they are safe. Bosley is a great watchdog, but I wish he were more of a guard dog. I would feel better at night.
At our house, all doors are locked at all times. ALWAYS. When I am in public with my kids, I am on edge the whole time. What if they disappear? What if someone harms them? What if, what if, what if? I used to check the basement every time we came home, just in case. I have gone downstairs at 2am to check the locks and garage doors. Check, check, check.
In the last few years, I have had mild worries that I was going to accidentally hurt someone. If I hit a pothole in the road or a curb, I worry about it being a person. I check my rear view mirror just to be sure. Then I worry the mirror did not have the correct angle for me to see properly. This bothers me for a few minutes before I force common sense to reign. I worry about things accidentally happening to my kids. I think about a knife falling off of the counter or me dropping it and it falling on my kids. I worry about saying things that I shouldn’t. I replay conversations over and over in my mind to make sure I didn’t say anything awful or rude. Worry, worry, worry.
Add this to all of the quirky, harmless things I have done over the years. I used to add numbers on digital clocks all of the time and tried to make two equal numbers out of what was on the clock. I count my steps when I am walking the dog. (1,2…1…1,2….1….etc). I tap my fingers in a certain pattern. (thumb, middle, pointer, ring, middle, pinkie, reverse and repeat)
Then, in January 2011, my worst nightmare happened. A disorder I didn’t even know I had attacked me at full force. It is still hard to talk about, but for the benefit of myself and anyone else who might have ever been paralyzed by this illness and intrusive thoughts, I am sharing.
It had been a long month. Judah had been sick, had an ear infection and I was exhausted and feeling emotionally vulnerable. I was standing in the kitchen and had Judah in the baby carrier. I was chopping vegetables for dinner with a large knife when an image of me stabbing him with the knife came into my mind. It lasted a split second, but the collateral damage it caused crippled me for weeks. I instantly became sick to my stomach and pushed the thought out of my mind. The harder I tried to push it away, the stronger the image became and it just kept repeating itself. I felt like I was running into a brick wall over and over again and there was no way to get around it. I felt helpless. Powerless. Then, the thoughts this image caused took over. There must be something evil deep down inside of me to think such a thing? Am I a harm to my kids? Should they be taken away from me? Should I be committed? Is this what happens to a woman right before she becomes psychotic? Am I insane? If I weren’t evil, I would be able to get this thought to go away, right? What is in my subconscious that wants to do this? Then more images came. I hold my baby, shaking for fear that I might hurt him. I hand him to Jere, terrified to tell him the thoughts that wouldn’t leave my head. I can’t look at any of my kids. The fear, the guilt, the images are crippling me. I quickly crumble apart under the weight of it all.
The next day, I am feeling worse and start taking 100mg of Zoloft again. It takes at least two weeks to take affect, so there is no relief in the near future. The images are still there, as are all of the fears and doubts that come along with them. The harder I try not to think about it, the worse it gets. My mind is stuck and I can’t recover. A friend comes over that day and spends the entire day with me. When she starts to leave, I begin to panic. I am terrified of being alone with my kids, for fear I might hurt them. Am I psychotic? What is happening to me? I love my kids, why can’t I get passed this? When Jeremiah comes home, I ask him constantly for reassurance that I am not a violent monster. We go to Versailles for the weekend so we can have help with the kids and I can have emotional support. I am plagued by panic attacks every time I look at or think about my kids. I can’t be alone with them and I can’t take care of them. I am terrified. The weekend allows me to rest, but I am nervous about going home. On Monday night, we get home and I give Arwyn a bath. I have to leave the room because I am having an anxiety attack. Sudden images of drowning her have sent me into a terrified downward spiral. Jeremiah has to finish her bath. On Tuesday, am alone with the kids for the first time in 5 days and I am no where near healed. I make it through the week somehow. We take it easy and I don’t do much except rest and let the kids watch TV. Panic attacks here and there, but I feel the Zoloft beginning to help. The thoughts are still pretty constant at that point, but I am not feeling as anxious about them and they are fading in strength. Still though, I refuse to use knives with my kids in the room, I cannot bathe them for fear I might drown them, and putting them to bed is terrifying because there are pillows nearby. Basically, any situation in which a mother might hurt her kids, I avoid. I fear going to sleep because I am afraid I will hurt my kids while sleep walking. I check on them all of the time at night.
The weekend comes and I am feeling confident I am going to recover soon. I haven’t eaten well in over a week, because I have felt sick from the images and fears. But I am starting to feel better, then Sunday night comes. Jeremiah and Breckin left the house for an event and I was at the house with the two little ones. The images come back full force and I panic. I put the two kids to bed immediately and sit on the couch to regain my composure. Then the doubts creep in. What if I hurt them and don’t remember? I check on them at least twice to make sure I didn’t do something that I don’t remember. Freak out then, check, check, check.
It was weeks before I was able to feel completely comfortable being alone with my kids again and a month before I could give my kids a bath or use knives while they were in the kitchen without trembling. Slowly, the Zoloft began to even things out and the images began to weaken. My anxiety lessened and I began to get better. A month after the initial image that started everything, I decided to look my symptoms up online. This was definitely not my usual anxiety and I had know I was not going crazy. And if I were crazy, I had to protect my kids. My online search lead me here to the International OCD Foundation. When I read this site, I suddenly felt so relieved and shocked all at once. It explained my latest episode of anxiety and fear and a lifetime of “little” things I have thought about and done.
I made an appointment with a wonderful Christian psychiatrist. After two hours of sitting and chatting with her about my life, my family, my thoughts, my fears, my behaviors, etc, etc, she diagnosed me with OCD and Mild Recurrent Major Depressive Disorder. Depression and OCD aren’t an odd combination. In fact, it is common that if you have OCD, you will probably also have depression. Makes sense that OCD would cause depression. She also raised my dosage of Zoloft to 150mg.
When most people think of OCD, they think of What About Bob and Monk. At least, that is what I think about. The hand washing, refusing to touch doorknobs, or always cleaning. None of that is me. I am not a neat freak or afraid of germs. I am not a perfectionist about most things. Here is what I do.
– Fear of acting on an impulse to harm others
– Fear of violent or horrific images in one’s mind
– Fear of being responsible for something terrible happening (examples: fire, burglary)
– Fear of harming others because of not being careful enough (example: dropping something on the ground that might cause someone to slip and hurt him/herself)
– Concern with a need to know or remember
– Concern with getting a physical illness or disease (not by contamination e.g., cancer)
– Fear that someone will harm me or the people I love
– Checking that you did not/will not harm others
– Checking that nothing terrible happened
– Checking some parts of your physical condition or body
– Repeating body movements (example: tapping, touching, blinking)
– Mental review of events to prevent harm (to oneself, others, to prevent terrible consequences)
– Canceling” or “Undoing” (example: replacing a “bad” word with a “good” word to cancel it out)
– Telling, asking, or confessing to get reassurance
– Avoiding situations that might trigger your obsessions
In addition to an appointment with a psychiatrist, I will also start therapy in about 8 weeks at the Kansas City Center for Anxiety Treatment.
The therapy will involve a method called Exposure Response Prevention that will help me develop the skills to deal with my obsessions in the event that my medicine stops working or so I can slowly scale my Zoloft dosage back from 150mg to 50mg. Research shows that people who use a combination of therapy and medication for OCD have great success in overcoming the disorder. At the KCCAT, I will be reevaluated by a psychologist for 2-3 hours and then they will develop a custom treatment plan from there. I am excited and stressed about this. It is supposed to be an intense process, but I look forward to having more control over my own mind again and not being quite so dependent on Zoloft to keep me sane.
This is my story of my struggle with the OCD monster. Keep you posted.