LHB Blog

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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

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).

 

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“Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength- carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength” – Corrie ten Boom ❤️  This is the corridor I walk down for my therapy sessions … And with each step Anxiety gains more and more control.

 

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.

R x

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.

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16 Comments

  1. Ruebi, This is such a great awareness post…one, I imagine, you found difficult to share. Thank you for writing so clearly, and honestly about OCD. I relate to the counting, except my number is 4, and multiples of 4.

    “Are you sure this is a memory from today.”… OMG, YES! – I ask myself this question at the least once a day (and always at night when going over Littlie’s safety-gate-check)… and it is this that will usually have me up and checking again. I often say little rhymes out loud to reinforce, after the memory-doubt-check. i.e: Tick tock, 11 O’clock, Friday-Friday, gate is locked’. Then repeat it out loud to hubs when i get back to the bedroom, so that from then on he can confirm. o_O

    • Ruebi

      I wonder why our brains pick certain numbers? The 3 doesn’t mean anything to me on a personal level but my brain just can’t seem to function without me checking that number of times.

      And oh my word, isn’t the whole “are you sure this is a memory from today” thing soooo frustrating! It’s like I can’t even trust myself to lock a car door, even though I know it’s locked, I can see it’s locked (the handle moves inside so you can watch it lock through the window) but nope, it can’t be locked because I’m not sure if I just checked it 2 seconds ago or 2 days ago because my brain is questioning itself – Even though I can bloody see it’s locked! Gah!

      I don’t have the rhymes but I do totally understand the reinforcement side of them … I sing “Baby, did you forget to take your meds?” in the mornings (it’s part of a Placebo song) to remind me to take my medication!

  2. Oh Ruebi. Thank you for such an honest and insightful post. I’m so sorry to hear of your struggles but pleased you are receiving the help you need.
    I have OCD too and I am currently so exhausted by it. I’d do anything to be free of it.
    Best of luck with it all x #PoCoLo

    • Ruebi

      Hi Rebecca, thank you for stopping by! And I totally understand the exhaustion and wanting to be free of it … It’s hard to explain to people how tiring it is just getting to work in the morning because of all the checks and rituals that have to take place for me to get there! Even when I think I’m making progress I get the overwhelming Anxiety that forces me to check and I then feel right back at stage one …

      Just takes time and patience I guess.

      Hope you’re doing well x

  3. Thank you for sharing your difficulties with us. The therapy doors would scare me too, I’ve never been struck on confined spaces. Thankfully, where I had to go, they left the doors open from the rooms which were not in use. It always helped passing a visual thing to take your mind off what you worry about. Well, it worked for me! Meanwhile although I have never considered being OCD always been worried about locking the doors, but don’t like being locked in. I always wonder why I try to buy things in pairs, (in case I can’t get another one, you should always have a spare), or why I eat everything split equally on each side of my mouth. I am still wondering about these things as I write this?

    • Ruebi

      Hi India, a lot of my OCD relates to a feeling of safety and security … Not specifically mine, but for those I care about (and sometimes people in general!). It’s down to my sense of responsibility and the need to protect them. Which in itself doesn’t sound like a problem, everyone has a desire to protect the people they love … But my brain interprets everything as a threat and then creates a spiraling amount of consequences that could happen if I don’t complete a ritual.

      I’m not sure when it all started as I’ve been checking things for as long as I can remember. It feels ingrained in me.

  4. Thank you for sharing something as deep and personal as this. Such an honest post that would make you think. #pocolo

    • Ruebi

      Thank you Merlinda! As long as it gets people talking then the post did what it was intended for 🙂 x

  5. Firstly, I have to say love the alernative title you always do. Always very amusing.

    This cannot have been easy to write or share with the world, but it’s a superb awareness post that could help many. So thank you for your bravery and courage.

    Hope today is a good day. xx

    • Ruebi

      Awwww thank you Henrietta! I’m thrilled you like the alternative titles … I have to create them as WordPress would probably freak out if I tried to use them as actual titles 🙂 xx

  6. Thank you for posting this. It’s really helpful to me for understanding OCD better.

    I struggle with anxiety and it’s just not easy to explain to people, especially because I am outgoing and I enjoy public speaking… They don’t understand that I can also get a panic attack out of the blue, perhaps while trying on a tight dress, and it’s all I can do not to rip my way out of it like the Hulk!

    Anyway, thanks again for sharing!

    ~Tui, dropping by from the Weekend Blog Share

    • Ruebi

      Awww Tui ((hugs)) I can totally relate! Anxiety is such a difficult thing to explain as to many it is a perfectly natural reaction, they don’t experience it when it suddenly becomes irrational and all-consuming so have no way of truly relating to it. Especially when it seems so at odds to the personality they see. I love the Hulk as an analogy, I have a post somewhere about how I use him to explain it to people … That said, I just love the Hulk! Huge fan of the green dude! 🙂 xx

  7. Hi Ruebi, sharing your issues can’t be easy, but it certainly helps to raise awareness. Most of us at soem point will have had that ‘uhoh, I forgotten…’ feeling, but it can’t be anything compared to what you go through.

    It takes a brave person to share their story and I hope your therapy helps.

    xx

    • Ruebi

      The other day I found myself staring at the car door for 15 minutes trying to work out if I did indeed lock it (I could see that I’d locked it) or if I should just go ahead and check it (the brain was telling me to check it) … 15 whole minutes, in the rain, because I didn’t trust myself. In the end I walked away, telling myself all the logical reasons it would be ok and ended up having to deal with the Anxiety fall out instead. Therapy is so hard!

      Hopefully the post will make OCD more relate-able for those who have it and for those who don’t.

      Thank you for stopping by Debbie and thank you for your support xx

  8. Oh Ruebi you’re so brave for sharing such personal issues and helping raise awareness. I really do hope that your therapy is helping. Wishing you all the best. xx
    Thanks for linking to #PoCoLo

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