For as long as I can remember, I have lived in fear.
Aged just eight, my world was rocked when my dad died in a car crash. Left to look after me and my sisters on her own, Mum struggled. She couldn’t keep up the payments on the house, so we spent the next few years going from flat to flat. I slept, crammed into a single bed with one of my sisters.
I had to grow up very quickly. With Mum struggling to cope, I became the parent. Somehow, we manged. We survived. But life hadn’t stopped hurting me …
In 2001, I was raped. Afterwards, I stayed strong. I put it out of my head and carried on. But Mum couldn’t take it. After so many years of pain, she caved in and suffered a mental breakdown.
After the breakdown, Mum was diagnosed with OCD. She washes her hands so many times every day, she makes her hands bleed. She won’t let shopping bags into the house in case they bring germs in. And we’re not allowed to put handbags on the floor for the same reason.
When I gave birth to my twins in 2006, she came to the hospital with carrier bags over her shoes so she didn’t get germs on her feet. Me and my sister just thought she was completely nuts, but you couldn’t say anything to her or she’d get really angry. So in the end, we just tried to ignore it.
Now though, I know how she felt. Because now I know that I have OCD too.
It took me a long time to realise; I didn’t have the same cleaning compulsion, or the fear of germs that she does, but I suffer with intrusive thoughts. (Although I didn’t know that’s what they were at the time.) The thoughts were very severe after the twins were born, but then, for a while, they stopped. I thought things were okay, but then, last year, after my daughter was born, they came back with a vengeance. I thought I was going mad, or that I was going to have a breakdown, but then I saw a video of Adam talking about his experience with OCD, and that’s when I knew that I had OCD too.
Now when I look back on my life I know I have always had it. I think that the birth of my children just heightened my fears and let my anxiety spiral out of control.
I kept fighting with myself, asking ‘Why now?! When I’ve finally got everything I want? A happy home, a wonderful husband, three beautiful children and a crazy dog!
Why was I losing control?
Now I know that it’s because of the fear of losing it all. I was terrified that it would all be taken away from me. Scared that I was just going to end up like Mum.
The fear leads to anxiety – the anxiety leads to intrusive thoughts – and the intrusive thoughts lead to anxiety. Before you know it, you’re stuck in an endless, nightmarish cycle.
It all started when my husband went back to work after paternity leave. I didn’t want to be left on my own, so I made plans to see friends out of the house. I was getting more and more scared that something would happen to my daughter …
I was scared of knives, or of scissors being left out, just in case something bad happened. I couldn’t stop the ‘what if …’ thoughts spinning round my head …
What if the scissors fell onto my daughter and hurt her?
What if I dropped her in the bath?
What if I dropped her down the stairs?
The intrusive thoughts wouldn’t leave me alone. Then one day when I was looking at her, this dreadful thought of her being abused came into my head.
‘Where the hell did that come from?!’
‘Oh my God! Why did I think that?’
Surely it meant I was a monster. Or a child abuser.
Then I started arguing with myself. And that only made me want more and more reassurance. I couldn’t stop asking myself: ‘Am I a good mum?’ ‘Am I doing enough to look after her?’
It got so bad I wouldn’t want to change her nappy, just in case the bad thoughts came into my head. But I didn’t have a choice – I was the only one there – I had to do it.
I just got more and more anxious. I knew I needed to talk to someone. But I was too scared in case they thought I was mad and tried to take baby away from me.
I really didn’t know where to turn, but Adam’s video was so helpful. Everything he said seemed to hit the nail on the head. So I started researching postpartum OCD, and that helped for a while … but even my research became obsessive. I would research through the night, while my husband was asleep, so he never found out. I was absolutely obsessed with the idea of getting better.
Then finally, I called the doctors. I just couldn’t take any more. He gave me some medicine, and we’re reviewing the situation, week by week.
I want to take as much responsibility for my own recovery as possible though, so I’m reading self-help books, and if that doesn’t work, I’ll see a therapist. Whatever happens, I don’t want to end up like my mum. She won’t change now; she doesn’t even think she has a problem.
I’m worried that my son is already showing some signs of anxiety, so that makes me even more determined to beat this, not just for me, but for him. OCD is a bully, and you have to stand up to bullies. I know that the thoughts are just thoughts; so I can’t let them ruin my life. I will not live in fear of them any more.
If you’re reading this and you’re feeling scared, alone or desperate, I would urge you to be compassionate. I love myself for who I am. You should too. I am the master of my own mind, and once I beat the anxiety, I know the harmful thoughts will reduce to the point I won’t react to them.
I have always thought that I worry more when I have nothing to worry about. I am prone to over analyse and overreact to everything. My husband tells me that all the time! In fact, it’s the only thing we ever argue about. So it has caused problems with my marriage as well as my friends, and my relationship with my children. It means I can’t let the twins go around to their friends’ houses for sleepovers or tea, just in case something bad happens. I need to start living and allowing them to live as well.
So what next? I know I have OCD and I know why I have it. But most important of all, I know how I can start to overcome it. My recovery starts now.
If anyone reading this relates to my story, please get help. Please don’t be ashamed. Please don’t be scared. Please don’t ever think you’re weak.
You’re strong because you’re living with this every day. There’s help out there for us all and we can all get better in time.
Don’t let the bully win!
Love to you all.