Friday, February 06, 2015

Part 4 of My Back Story: OCD Gets Very Expensive & Dangerous

After Christmas was over I decided it was time for me to go looking for some help again.  This time I went to the health unit but they didn’t do home visits in this city.  I was given the addresses of 2 mental health places, so I went and filled out applications at both places.  One place called me back and I got an appointment with a counsellor again.  Her name was Suzanne.  The first session we met I told her that I’d heard about this program where you touch things/ do things you are afraid to do one at a time until you are cured.  But I didn’t want her to do that to me.  That sounded too scary.  She agreed to not do that, that her focus was CBT.  Learning better thought patterns.  OK by me!

As the days got warmer again the neighbour kids came out to play, along with their shed toys: wagons, cars etc.  And they wanted Katrina to play with them.  So one day I went out and played with them as I wasn’t going to let Katrina (at 3)  go out alone.  Everything was fine (I hadn’t come up with the mouse story yet) until I went inside and watched them put their toys away in the shed.  Then I freaked out in my head.   Now I AND Katrina were covered with mouse germs.  I changed her clothes and my clothes and didn’t want to play with the neighbour kids again.  But they kept coming over wanting to play so I had to keep making up excuses for why we couldn’t come out..  And I had to keep cleaning the doorbell!   One day one of the boys put away our garbage can before he went to school and so now I was REALLY afraid of the school gym.  I even went over to his house with a paper towel full of vinegar to wipe their door handle on the outside!!! Fortunately for me they weren’t home at the time. 

During that time I was feeling very anxious.  My ‘safe’ spot was on the couch with my laptop computer.  That’s where I spent most of my free time.  I was also playing with Katrina- using shapes to make pictures on a magnet board, reading stories etc.  She didn’t nap much except on the couch beside me, if I was lucky.  So on days she was home I had no break to look forward to.  While I didn’t believe in suicide, there were many days I just wanted to die.  It was so hard and tiring trying to be a good parent while having ocd. I was continually making Katrina wash her hands for some little infraction or worse yet, changing her clothes.

We had bedroom clothes (pj’s) and downstairs clothes.  We had a tv in our bedroom.  When KD woke up she could come into our room, sit in the cushy chair and watch tv.  But if she wanted to go downstairs I would have to get up and get her dressed.
No lounging around in pj’s because that would bring the bedroom ‘germs’ downstairs and/ or bring the downstairs- daytime germs- into the bedroom.

I remember times where I would finally be done the laundry and had my shower and it would have taken so much time and energy that I was crying.  See, after I washed up and brushed my teeth I could finally relax in bed and go to sleep.  So I continually touched the sink or faucet with my hands or arms and had to keep rewashing them.  If I dropped the soap in the shower, I’d have to wash the soap off.  If I touched the shower curtain or shower wall I’d have to rewash that body part.  For some reason the more I tried NOT to touch walls, sinks and the bathtub side, the more I’d end up doing it.  Leaning against the wall or doorpost was also a no-no.  So was using the stair rail.  All these things were potentially contaminating and I just couldn’t risk touching them without needing to wash afterwards.  Neither could my toddler.  She had to learn to go downstairs without holding on to the rail.  Not that safe but she managed.

Then we moved to another house.  Again, I had to pack.  Some things I had managed to keep clean (the book shelf) and I could just pack the books.  Other things like the toys, dishes etc. all had to be washed and then packed.   The house sold quickly and we had 2 weeks between our new house closing and the time we had to be out of the old house.  Packing and cleaning with Katrina and my ocd took a long time.  So long, that on the day we were supposed to be out I was still packing up and cleaning. 

The new house needed a paint job so Tom and Bruce were there painting while I was packing and watching Katrina.  One day I went over there to clean the kitchen.  The house looked so tidy when we’d done our walk-thrus that I was just expecting to do some cursory wiping.  Then I noticed the mouse droppings!  They had hidden them and the killing product behind dish washing liquid and in drawers.  I was so shocked and full of anxiety at that unexpected turn of events (they had cats!! And don’t people clean out mice droppings in their utensil drawers???)  I took the drawers, put them into garbage bags and threw them out the front door onto the lawn.  The kitchen is a galley one and the other half didn’t have mice droppings in it but now it was too late. I needed a new kitchen.   The painting was going well, tho. A few days before we had to be out of the semi, Bruce scheduled the carpet cleaners.  I had worked all night cleaning up the house of paint supplies and mouse stuff that kept finding its way onto the kitchen floor from the walls.  I even threw out the mat that was at the front of the house.  There were 2 piles of garbage- 1 in the basement and one on the front lawn.  The carpet cleaners decided they needed stuff to wrap around the wall so their hose wouldn’t mark it up.  The guys went to our garbage pile and pulled out 2 rugs and used them.  I almost lost it.  I had spent all that time trying to get the house ocd, mouse and dirt free and these guys had undone my work in a few minutes.  Later, after I calmed down, I agreed that Bruce should clean up what the men touched as he would only do the necessary things and I would go overboard and have to re-clean everything.  So he wasted a couple of hours re-cleaning that could have been spent packing. 

 We left behind lots of our kitchen stuff because we had to be out of the house and we weren't done moving. Thanks, OCD. The new owners of the house were not happy with us as they had to wait outside for an hour or more before we gave up and just let them have the rest of our stuff.  Maybe they would have been nicer had we told them I had ocd, but instead we just became part of a 'Nasty Move' story for the family to tell for years.

Late one night after the dumpster arrived at the new house, Bruce and Tom went outside and got rid of all the garbage on the front lawn,  then took off their clothes, threw them into the dumpster also and came back into the house.  Ocd was now everybody’s problem.  

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Part 3 of My Back Story: OCD & Moving 5 Hours North. OCD Running Havoc In My Life Even With Medication

My ‘relaxation days’ were now spent packing, or rather  cleaning and then packing the items I’d cleaned.  We wanted to have the bathtub redone but before the men could come I had to spend a night getting the real mold off the ceiling above the tub.   But that was not enough.  In case the mold spores had migrated because I touched them, I also had to clean the entire bathroom, ceiling and all.  Then I probably threw out the clothes I was wearing.

      My closet became contaminated (I can’t remember why now) and I tried to decontaminate some of the stuff like jewellery by washing it before packing it.  Unfortunately that didn’t work because my mind remembered they had been contaminated (unlike a shirt or pants that was just thrown in the wash and I forgot which one had been contaminated by the time they came out of the machine.)  So the jewellery ended up being thrown out.  Now before you get worried, I’m not talking expensive stuff, thank goodness!  I did throw out my wedding dress, tho, that was hanging in that closet and also a dressy winter coat.
       The basement storage room had real mold in it that I didn’t notice until we emptied the shelves to pack them. So everything that was in there had to be wiped clean (all my food cans and the outside of packed bins that were put there while I swept out the larger room) or thrown out.  (I’d already cleaned out the basement twice due to real mold back when we’d first bought the house. I had to scrub the concrete walls with bleach and hose them down.  Not a fun job.   I was shocked that room had already started to  grow mold again.  Because I didn’t want to wash the metal shelves that were in there, to decontaminate them, they, along with a lot of stuff from the garage were given away.  Or did I make Bruce clean them off outside before we gave them away?  So no storage shelving.  The art supplies bin that was in that room that I carefully wiped down would return to haunt me later on because I remembered it was in a mold-contaminated room years before.  Even though my mind knew I had wiped down the container (whether it even needed wiping in the first place those of you without ocd would know) I still had a hard time taking things out of it and using them.  Some items like glitter glue pens and patterned scissors eventually got used.  Other items got thrown out even at that later date.

 I came to North bay with very few clothes.  The last day we were at our house we tidied it and I threw out my dirty clothes and I think I made Bruce do the same thing, so I wouldn’t have to take them with me and dirty up the car.  I packed most of our things even though we had a packing team coming to help us the day before we left. I was also hurrying to get all our laundry washed before I packed it so it would be ‘clean’ at the other end and could be put directly into the drawers.  I did it all except for 2 bins of clothes/ dishtowels that we eventually threw out because I was too afraid to open them at the new house till it was too late and the clothes were ruined.  It never occurred to us to run to a laundry mat and clean them before we left Welland.  In fact, these were probably the only clothes that actually needed to be washed as they were worn or used.  I saved them for last and ran out of time.  This would not be the only  time things got thrown out due to OCD.

While Bruce was living up north he was house hunting also and when we finally got one, his job was to clean it in the evenings after work.  He got everything done except the kitchen.  So to me the kitchen was ‘contaminated’.  I wouldn’t cook, or clean or do dishes.  I left any garbage from opening foods on the table because I was too afraid of using the garbage cans.  Using a garbage can meant I had to wash my hands afterwards and that could take up to a half hour if I didn’t do it just ‘right’.  So I tried to stay away from the sink as much as possible.  Even after we spent the time cleaning the kitchen, I was not too eager to use it, although I did.  Not for cooking tho.  Bruce did the cooking when he came home from work. 

Laundry was an issue too.  This house had a 2nd floor laundry that was as big as a closet.  And in order to do a load I still had to wipe down not just the machines, but the walls, the door, the window ledge.  Then I had to take a shower.  Showers lasted a very long time. Many times I finished with a cold shower.  Often afterwards, I would be crying because I couldn’t stand it that I couldn’t shower like quickly like I used to.  I was also afraid to touch the walls, shower curtain or faucet.

 All the paper towels from cleaning the laundry room each time I wanted to do a load of laundry had to go somewhere.  For a long while they ended up beside the toilet in the upstairs bathroom.  When the pile got big enuf, they got put into a garbage bag and taken outside on garbage night.  That meant that I had to wash not only the path from the garbage can in the kitchen to the door which was ceramic tile and hardwood flooring, but also from the bathroom  upstairs down the carpeted stairs  to the front door. (because you never knew what germy things were leaching  out thru the pores of the garbage bag and landing on the floor!!)   Then I’d organize  the garbage, wash the front door and foyer area and finally have a shower.  Washing the carpet with a cloth was no fun, esp. if it hadn’t been vacuumed in a bit.  All sorts of sock fuzz along with regular dirt had to be manually wiped down the stairs.

When I noticed mold inside the rubber part of the new front load washer, I got fed up and we bought another one, a newer one that had drain holes cut into the rubber to stop the molding.  I  wanted to get a top loader but OCD loved the front loader with a sanitizing button on it.  Now I could really clean something if I had to! So we got that machine but in all the  time since we’ve had it I’ve never ever used it.  One, because I don’t want to wreck the clothes by washing them in such hot water and second, because I don’t want to start something by thinking that some clothes are so dirty they need to be sanitized.  I was washing ‘contaminated’ clothes twice using the longest setting possible the second time thru which meant I was taking 2 showers that day or waiting til one cycle was over before resetting the washer and then cleaning the laundry room and showering. 

We had left a lot of the boxes in what would become our living room and I would take them out one or 2 at a time and put the items away.  Sometime before all the bins/ boxes were emptied the room became contaminated.  This meant that one day I’d clean a few boxes off, take them out of the room and shower before opening them and putting the items away.  With a 2 yr old to entertain this process took a long time and by Christmas Eve day it still wasn’t done.  Bruce and I worked our tails off that evening, wiping down all the boxes and putting them in our dining room, finding and setting up the living room items and putting up a Christmas tree and decorations.  Katrina went to bed that night seeing a boxed up living room and when she came downstairs the next day she had an astonished look on her face!  Christmas had magically appeared at her house!!!

  So then we had a living room which was clean and safe to use.  As long as things didn’t get left on the floor for too long.  Then they had to be cleaned again.  Ditto for the family room in the basement.  The first time I cleaned the family room I found some unrecognizable bugs in the room (ie, not ants, flies or spiders, which were normal for houses.)  Because of my previous experience with maggots, I was completely freaked out that my house had somehow become bug infested by some horrid bug (not remembering all the times I’d left the house door open for at least a half hour if not longer while taking the garbage out and cleaning the foyer area!) .  I spent hours cleaning everything that was on the floor, table etc.  including books, toys and even the couch with vinegar.  And many items would be cleaned and then re-cleaned to make sure they were clean.  Once that was done, I didn’t want to clean the room again for a long time, except maybe to run a vacuum thru it.  So instead of a weekly routine of a quick dust and windex and vacuum, I’d do these long marathon cleanings every couple of months.  I felt that if I used a cleaner of any kind I had to take a shower.  Even a duster.

We had joined the YMCA and found the Early Years Center.  The EYC was a sanity saver for me.  The hub near my house was opened 3 days a week and we were there every time.  Katrina had the chance to play with kids her own age and I could either sit and watch or join in.  I told Lise, the facilitator, about my ocd  so she wouldn’t wonder where I was if I left the room to wash my hands.  I hated the feel of play-do on my hands so would wash after that.  I didn’t wash as often as I could have as I didn’t feel stressed there, so ocd was often quieter.

Unfortunately for me, the neighbour kids had a shed of outdoor toys they used in the summer.  In the winter it was left alone.  So OCD concocted a story in my head that there were probably mice in that shed and so the toys were all contaminated.  The school where the EYC hub was, happened to be the one these kids went to and thus it was contaminated- the drinking fountain, the gym the EYC also used, anything these kids might be touching.  Now I had a problem.  I couldn’t admit to Lise what I now believed because it sounded so bizarre.   If that wasn’t enough for me to deal with,  Lise would empty the garbage container from the classroom and put a new bag in it without washing her hands afterward.  So now the EYC became a stressful place to go.

I had been seeing a counsellor thru my husband’s work plan but he wanted to spend the time discussing my past, not getting to the ocd part of my life so when the 5 weeks were up, I stopped seeing him. The last time I was there he gave me an article on why we need not keep our children’s environments sterile.  It had a coffee stain right on the top.   (Coffee stains were especially contaminating because I belonged to a religion that banned coffee drinking.  I’m sure the counsellor didn’t know that though). So that told me that he didn’t get it- giving a person with germ- ocd a DIRTY page and giving me an article to read that I completely agreed with. I KNEW kids shouldn’t be left in a sterile environment.  Problem was, OCD didn’t, so it didn’t’ matter that I did.  OCD ruled my life, not me. 
I went to see my new therapist, Cory yest. and we made a list of things I still hate to touch- bathroom sinks, kitchen faucets, the laundry...  Only after i finished the list did i remember the real thing that I need to touch- all my clothes in the closet.  Funny how the catalyst for re-entering therapy is forgotten while all my rituals that I felt I could live with come up first.  Guess I don't really want to 'live with' rituals or weird ways of doing regular weekly or daily things.

Unfortunately OHIP isn't paying for this round.  My husband's insurance co. pays for some of it; the rest I pay.

So yesterday I had to touch the top and bottom of the kitchen faucet to turn on the water, wash my hands and touch both the top and bottom of the faucet to turn off the water.  Sounds simple.  I did it, and didn't dry the hand that touched the tap because I didn't want to 'wipe off' the contamination onto the towel.  Both a) so the towel didn't become contaminated (OCD reason) and so that I couldn't say that the towel was cleaning the contamination off my hand (ERP reason).

I stared at my hand for a long time, wondering whether I'd be able to think of it as clean, or ok.  I went from a 9 to an 8,  but then Bruce started saying things like:  'you're in control'.  Katrina hates it when we say that to her, trying to help her remember that she can beat ocd.  She tells us that it just makes her dread number go back up.  Now I understand why she said that.  Telling me that 'I'm in charge' that early in the ERP just says that if I wasn't so stupid, i'd be in charge and i'd get to a 0 really fast, and the reason i can't is just cause i won't, or don't want to, because, you know,  "I'm in charge".

Interesting piece of information, that was!  Saying things like:  'you can do it, Karin,' or  'you'll be alright' or 'shut up' (to the ocd telling me that I'll just contaminate the next thing i touch)  works to calm me down and decrease the noise/ dread/ fear in my head.

Also that's when something Cory said to me earlier clicked.  She said that my 'peanut butter' theory (where i touch one thing, and then it's contaminated now, and then i touch another thing and it's contaminated now etc.)  isn't my thought- that's OCD talking.  That's what i need to tell to shut up.  And while i'm telling ocd to shut up, i'm also not taking mental notes of what i'm touching for OCD to use as new contaminated items.

OCD is such a devious sneak.

Yesterday it took 43 minutes before i was ok touching stuff.  Today it took 14 minutes.  I was busy with the dogs, tho today so just got irritated faster that i was being one- handed doing stuff- and not my dominant hand, either, while yesterday night i was just sitting on the couch, WAITING.

I'd like to do it 2 more times today, just not right now.

PS.  i also think it's time the English language followed the rest of the world in not capitalizing their word for I.  It's a pain for those of us with not very long fingers to always be reaching for that capitalizing button.  Just my pet peeve!

Monday, February 02, 2015

Let's Start At the Very Beginning. A Very Good Place to Start. Part 2- I Ended Up With O.C.D.

For Part 1 of my story click here:

Thank goodness for Google.  I entered OCD into the computer to see what the symptoms were and found not only the symptoms I was experiencing but also found that the thoughts I had had when Tom was a baby about maybe accidently molesting him because I was changing his diapers were also symptoms of OCD.   It also explained what was going on with me during the university years.

Next step was to call the doctor.  He sent me to a psychiatrist who put me on cipralex which is the only anti-depressant/ ocd drug that I could take while still nursing my daughter.  I also called Dana, the counsellor who agreed to see me but it took a month before she could visit.  The psychiatrist diagnosed me with OCD and General Anxiety Disorder.

  By this time my ocd problems had mushroomed.  I could hardly walk outside in case I stepped on some leaves that had leaf ‘mould’ or in case I just walked near some dog poop.  I made everyone take their shoes off at the door and mine even got washed rather often in case something dirty got on them.  This was either done with a cleaner outside where they could get hosed off and dry in the sun or if it was an ‘almost’ contamination like stepping close to, but not in dog poop I could get away with just pouring vinegar on them and wiping it off with a cloth.  Even though it was summer, having bare feet was a ‘no-no’ since I could then bring all sorts of contamination into the house and onto the couch as I often sat cross-legged or lay on it. 

 Taking Katrina to the lovely park right across the street from our house was now really full of anxiety as she was mobile and wanted to touch and play with stuff, not just sit in the swing with mommy.  Other preschoolers would play in the park without diapers and then pee their pants and then go on the swing or slide.  I would take note and make sure Katrina didn’t touch those items.  Later I’d go back over with some cloths full of Windex or vinegar and wipe off the ‘dirty’ swing.  Or I’d wait until the next rain cleaned the park before going there again.

My life with a new baby was very anxiety-ridden.  I was losing control.  People had to wash their hands when they entered the house to ‘not get it dirty because I don’t have time to clean it’, or so I said.  Since the vacuum cleaner cord touched the ‘dirty’ ‘contaminated’ carpet, the vacuum cleaner was contaminated too.  I couldn’t dust or spray windex around a room unless I wanted to shower afterwards because that was too dirty a job now. (What if the dust fell on me?). Laundry meant a shower also as did doing the dishes.  All of these jobs were at one time my favourite household chores. Yes, I was one of the few who actually liked doing laundry- and hanging it up to dry. 

My evening routine went like this:  cook dinner, eat, do dishes, sweep floor, do any OCD decontamination cleaning, do laundry and then shower.  I’d dress in my pyjamas ready to nurse the baby and be ‘clean’ for the evening.  On occasional nights I’d help my husband do his homework or study for a test.

Library books, once a source of pleasure, were now a problem. They were often contaminated before I got them which necessitated a wiping with vinegar before I could read them and/ or became contaminated because I touched  them and thus needed a cleaning wipe down before they were returned to the library.  It soon became easier for me to just not go there anymore.  I was now cut off from my favourite hobby – one that not only entertained and informed me but also helped de-stress and relax me.

 I was also anxious about stepping on a cigarette butt or some other ‘dirty’ item.  Just walking close to dog poop made me feel contaminated.  It was as if I had a 3-4 foot circle around me and anything in it was as if it were touching me.  It was the same way with garbage cans too.  I couldn’t just drop things into one.  I’d have to stand a certain distance away (one that ‘felt’ right) and drop the item from high above the container so no garbage molecules could bounce back out of the can and touch me. (Think of the garbage landing on a pile of flour and the flour spewing dust and flour back up.  All garbage reacted just like flour to me- invisible but real.)

What was really odd, though was how inconsistent I was at what was contaminated and what wasn’t.  I didn’t have a problem taking Katrina on the merry-go-round. I could touch a grocery cart without getting upset.  Shouldn’t these things also be off limits?  Whatever I had wasn’t very understandable. 

Life was becoming chaos.  Things that were clean the day before could become contaminated and if I didn’t get around to cleaning them, someone else in the family would touch that item. Then I would yell, cry or both.  It seemed to me that other people had a strange need to touch objects that were contaminated.  Even if that object was sitting there for months with no one touching it.  As soon as it was contaminated someone would suddenly get a need to touch that item or put something in that specific spot. All of this meant that my 15 yr old was getting pretty fed up with me and my weird requests for him to clean things or wash his hands ‘for no good reason’ as was my husband.

We decided that Katrina should go to day care a couple of days a week so she could get away from my continual requests for her to come get her hands washed and  my counsellor Dana agreed that this would be good for me, to get some rest and do things just for me.  This would help eliminate my stress.  She helped us get some financial help for the day care as Bruce was still in school. 

 I was completely at a loss of what to do the first day Katrina was gone so I decided to clean the car.  It wasn’t just dirty, remember, it was contaminated with mouse poop so it took a long time to clean.  And I didn’t clean the floor, don’t ask me why, but that meant the car still was contaminated.  And I forgot to clean the seat belts, so that didn’t help either.   I never noticed how many times I got into the car and the buckle would be on the floor until now.  Since I hadn’t cleaned the floor by the seat belt it would contaminate the buckle which would contaminate me and my keys and Katrina.  But there was nothing I could do about it.  Except to clean the floor and if I did that the vacuum would be really contaminated, even if I never saw any mouse evidence on the floor.

 Day care brought more anxiety as I had to take Katrina in the contaminated car, so her coat, etc. was contaminated which meant her cubby at the day care was contaminated.  Was she contaminating the whole day care?  I kept these thoughts mostly to myself, sharing them only with Bruce and Dana. The ‘sane’ part of me knew that unless Bruce and Dana said they were dirty, it was probably ok.  That it was just me and I wasn’t really making all the kids at the day care dirty. Fortunately most of the time Bruce drove Katrina to daycare and picked her up.  He was not in the least concerned about my mouse contamination issues.  I would change Katrina out of her daycare clothes into clean home clothes when she got home.  Funny, I never made Bruce or Tom do that!  But neither of them spent the day with lots of germy kids sitting all over the floor and outside in a playground.  (I used to teach Junior and Senior Kindergarten and sit around with germy kids and  I loved it.  This is how sad my life had become.)

 By now, ocd had taken all the fun out of my life.  I used to like doing the laundry, sitting or laying on the floor, going for long walks, reading a book.  Now I just worried.  When on a walk, I used to look at people’s landscaping, the path ahead of me or just walked, lost in my own thoughts.  But now I was spending all my energy looking down in front of me or around me to make sure I didn’t step in messes left by dogs or cats or in any brown leaves- they could hide dog dirt or leaf mould.  Unfortunately what used to be my favourite relaxing activities now became anxiety-ridden feats.

In fact, I was becoming housebound.  It was just easier to be in my own familiar areas with all my new ‘familiar’ ocd-routines.  I had to force myself outside.  I was afraid I’d become agoraphobic.  Dana said that that could happen AND I could become more and more confined to a special spot even in my house as ocd got a bigger and bigger grip on me.  I didn’t want that to happen, so I continued to force myself to go outside no matter how anxiety-filled that made me.

I decided to use the time that Katrina was at day care to improve my French and German skills and to nap. That went fine for a few months.  Bruce was still working as a co-op student.  We were concerned that there wasn’t any money left for him to go to school for another year, so he started applying for jobs.  A permanent, full-time job became available in North Bay, 5 hours north of where we lived.  On the plus side, the company would pay for moving costs.  On the negative side, they wanted him in January and Katrina was just getting used to and liking her day care experience and Tom wanted to finish his year in the Sea Cadets.  We decided that Bruce should take the job and so he lived in North Bay for most of the week and came home on weekends.  That meant he had the car and I had to walk.  While that worked well during the fall, it wasn’t going to do so well in the winter months!  We got another old car for me and that solved my mouse-contamination-in-the-car problem because I used the new car and Bruce used our original car.

By this time the pills were kicking in and I wasn’t so anxious outdoors anymore.  However, they didn’t take the ocd completely away, like I’d hoped.  Not even close.  I did find that I wasn’t so nervous driving anymore and didn’t need to do much circle-checking for dead bodies or accidents.  One small blessing.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Let's Start At the Very Beginning, A Very Good Place to Start. Part 1 What the heck is wrong with me?

I came home from an afternoon at a friend’s farm in early September of 2005 feeling kind of queasy.  Did I have too much sun that day?  Did I eat something I shouldn’t have?  Nope, I was pregnant.  Forty years old and pregnant.   My husband was in college.  He had taken out student loans, had dipped into his RRSP.  I thought it would be an interesting challenge to see how little we could live on.  We had planted a garden in the backyard again to help us out with this endeavour.  Our 14 yr old son would continue to be home schooled as he had requested. 

Most of my plans went right out the window that September when I started feeling nauseous.  Bruce still went to school, Tom still home schooled but I, instead of cooking and preserving the garden produce and baking our own zucchini bread spent most of the day sick in bed trying not to smell any food at all.  Tom, in addition to his schoolwork and regular chores now took on laundry and house tidying also as well as cooking.  Someone must have done the grocery shopping too.  I didn’t care.  In fact, I said to myself “I can’t have ocd because I don’t care how anything is being cleaned or IF anything is being done downstairs and I’m sure that if I really had ocd, I’d be in the thick of it, no matter how sick I was.” Famous last words, as they say. 

Now why did I even think I had ocd?  Because I had watched an Oprah show about it where I found that I wasn’t the only person in the world who would re-circle a block to make sure I hadn’t accidently run over someone in the road.  So, I had some ocd tendencies.  Nothing to get overly worried about esp. as I had also watched a documentary about ocd where a lady couldn’t go to the park because of the germs there and she would sort and wash her laundry based on how contaminated it was, not by color.  NOT ME, so I was still ok. Laundry was one of my enjoyable household chores and I had no problem going to a park and sitting on a swing. I just had some funny habits- like not carrying the dirty laundry and the clean laundry in the same baskets and washing my hands after I touched the garage doors- odd because I didn’t do that in our last house.

Well, inevitably, 9 months later a beautiful 8 lbs 15 ounce baby girl entered our lives.  After the nausea had left, around Christmas time, I was able to read again and one of my homeschooling friends had loaned me a book to read called Diaper Free.  This book talked about how mothers used to help their babies eliminate waste before the advent of diapers.  It was an interesting book, and always one to want to make my baby happy, I naively tried it.  I did wait till the baby was about 2 weeks old.  Then I started taking her to the toilet and making a ssss noise, try to have her go.  She caught on but didn’t like it much, crying as she did it.  But as it decreased the amount of dirty diapers and poopy clothes I had to clean up, I still kept on with it.  After a while I could tell by the look on her face that she was getting ready to poop and instead of waiting while she filled the diaper and THEN changing her, I’d hold her over the toilet instead.  I did spend more time washing my hands and her hands & feet (since they were over the toilet and could have potentially gotten sprayed by germs, OCD anyone??).   

  By the time she was a year old I was still very tired.  Not only was I running up to the second floor bathroom with Katrina every hour or two but she still nursed during the night AND she didn’t sleep well during the day unless she was on my lap or right beside me.  Unfortunately, if I put her down in her crib after she dropped off to sleep  she would startle herself awake and start crying.  If she was right near me, I could softly jiggle her back to sleep, but  by the time I got upstairs to her crib, she’d be fully awake and ready to stay up for another few hours. 

Katrina was a very alert, curious baby who didn’t like being in a baby seat for very long, didn’t care for television to entertain her much (except maybe 10- 20 min. of Baby Einstein stuff so I could cook or have a shower).  Bruce was still busy at school from early in the morning til 6 or 7 at night.  And then after coming home he had hours of homework to do also.  So I had the main responsibility of her care day and night.   

One very odd thing that I noticed was that I was confused about how to put Katrina in her crib during the day.  Did I have to change her clothes so she wouldn’t get her bed ‘dirty’?  If people put on pj’s at night to sleep in bed, then shouldn’t she be changed from day clothes to night clothes for a nap also?  Strange thought!   I’d never had that concern with Tom when he was a baby.  He napped in his clothes!  I was also worried about touching the swing set in the park across the street- would she catch germs?  She already had had diaper rash a couple of weeks after she was born and a cold too.  I thought these thoughts were ‘odd’ but put them down to being a new mom so many years after my son was born and just being worried.  Kind of like 15 years ago when I worried about whether Tom was breathing in his crib while he went down for naps.

 But these odd thoughts didn’t go away like I thought they would.  They got worse.  My father came over to help put in new windows in our 50 yr old house.  The 2nd floor windows had mold in them.  I used to try to wash it out but with the pregnancy and baby there was no time or energy for that kind of activity.  These windows were taken out and brought downstairs and out the door and new ones were put in.  I wondered if the windows had somehow deposited mould spores on their way outside and thus contaminated those rooms also. And were the new windows already contaminated because my dad touched them after touching the mouldy ones without showering first?  I spent a lot of time (with Bruce) cleaning up the bedrooms and the living areas where the windows had been.  This included washing walls, dressers, the bed, floor.  EVERYTHING.   But then the house was clean again… sort of- because I didn’t wash the sheets off the beds ‘correctly’ and they contaminated the linen closet. 

And then I started smelling something funny in the house.  Bruce called the chimney cleaners and they said there’s probably baby raccoons in the chimney, dead.  EWW.  They couldn’t come right away, so we were put on their list.  No problem- until I saw the maggots crawling on the floor.  Fortunately Katrina was too young to be on the floor at the time.  I spent time picking them up and getting rid of them and then made a frantic call to Bruce to tell him what was up.  The chimney people, taking heart at my dilemma, moved us up the schedule to the next day.  Bruce came home after his co-op job that night and put up shower curtain barriers between the dining and living room so I wouldn’t have to clean the dining room after the men left.  Then he made me stay upstairs so I wouldn’t see the mess that came out of the fireplace.  Again, I kept hoping that once these specific ‘issues’ were cleaned up that my need to clean and my belief that things were contaminated would go away. 

Bruce didn’t have that hope.  He went to the local health unit and asked them if they could tell him what was wrong with me.  They mentioned stress and gave me the name of a counsellor I could call.  I waited a month before calling. I really wanted to be ok, all by myself.

We were going out for a drive one warm late summery evening and stopped at a friend’s house.  They were outside cleaning up their camping equipment. The couple had just come home from a vacation down south where they were helping someone renovate a house.  I stood listening, full of anxiety.  I wanted to leave but they invited us in instead and Bruce went along. I didn’t want to go in as they hadn’t showered yet and thus were still contaminated by whatever renovations they had done. They told us more about their experiences gutting that house and how much stuff was behind those walls.  I translated this all to:  They touched dead mice/ mouse droppings,  then came back to their house and cleaned out their trailer which was also contaminated by these mouse leftovers. Now the whole house we were sitting in was contaminated with mouse droppings- even tho I hadn’t actually seen any- and so were Bruce and I … and so was our car because you never know what might have stuck to our clothes as we were sitting on their couch… and so was our living room as we walked through it on the way upstairs to the mandatory shower.  I cried the whole way home and for months afterwards thought that there were mouse droppings under the couch, in the living room and in the car. Even though I never found any.  I was now an emotional wreck.  If only Bruce had had the courage to say “no, we can’t come in for a visit” all of this wouldn’t have happened, right?