Alternative title: Because having your Anxiety turn you into a distraught mess at 3:30am over the fact you can’t complete the ritual of checking the front door anymore due to being too overwhelmed and exhausted to count to 3 is definitely a far cry from what most people assume OCD is.
My name is Ruebi … And I am a ritualistic checker. I check in 3’s (usually 3 lots of 3); I check windows, doors, ovens, hair straighteners, plugs and a myriad of other things … Heaven forbid I neglect to check (or, far more likely, my brain convinces me that I have forgotten to check when I have) as I will drive home from work to do so! No I’m not joking, or if fail to complete the counting part of it (if I get disturbed on either side of the 3 or a multiple of it) I will have a meltdown.
Don’t ask me why it is the number 3 because I have no idea, it holds no special meaning to me … Evidently it holds some sort of meaning to my brain (but my brain is not very forthcoming with that secret). My therapist believes my OCD is rooted in a need to keep people safe, as though it is my responsibility to keep people safe … As though by not checking a door or a window for example that everyone and everything I love will all be ripped away from me … Leaving me with the knowledge that I caused it, because I didn’t check, because I was negligent.
A small seed of doubt suddenly becomes all consuming.
Within minutes of “I think I’ve forgotten to lock the car” my brain has hit high speed and is screaming that the car is going to be stolen and that the thief may end up killing someone and it will all be my fault.
I know that sounds silly.
I know that even if I check the car, there is still a possibility of it being stolen.
I know that if the car is stolen and someone is hurt as a result, that ultimately the thief would be the one responsible.
I know all this … They’re all rational ways of thinking about this.
But, here’s the kicker, OCD isn’t rational … Even the act of neutralising the intrusive/obsessional thoughts can itself become a checking ritual. Instead of physically checking the door handle to ensure it is locked, you replay the memory of it over and over and over (and yes, you then face the “are you sure this is a memory from today?” doubts that sneak their way in).
OCD isn’t about “liking a clean house” … It’s about the control and fear an intrusive thought can cause, the Anxiety of not completing a ritual, a compulsion – be it cleaning, or checking (this can be overt or covert), or hoarding, or neutralising thoughts …
It can be crying in the bathroom at work because your brain is positive something terrible will happen because you didn’t (although it’s more likely that you did) check the toaster wasn’t plugged in … Despite not even using the toaster that day.
It’s feeling as though you have no control in an environment you constantly feel the need to control.
As you can imagine … It is exhausting. Mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting.
My name is Ruebi … And I am a ritualistic checker.
PS – During the initial Cognitive Behavioural Therapy session I was also informed that I’m showing symptoms of Body Dysmorphia and it’s something we’re working on … Right now I don’t feel strong enough to blog about this. I will in time. But right now I’m still getting my head around the implications of it … And how difficult the journey with my Mental Health is becoming.