I Have What??!! Part 2 of my back story about OCD

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.

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