OCD and Me

I Am Not Alone

I am not alone.
Something is in my room with me.
The house is fast asleep.
The lights are all off.
I am in my bed trying to dream, but I cannot.
I am not alone.
I am afraid.
I do not want to get out of bed.
It might get me.
I know something is in my room.
I can feel it.
I must turn on the light to see, but I am too scared.
My lamp is by my bed, but I am too afraid to hit the switch.
If I do, then I will see it.
I will see the frightful thing that is with me in my room.
I am not alone.
I cannot take it anymore.
I have to turn on the light.
I have to see what is with me in my room.
I take a deep breath and gather up the courage.
I am shaking as I reach over to find the switch.
The light goes on.
I look all around.
Aside from myself, the room is empty.
I see nothing, but I am still afraid.
I am still shaking with fear.
I now know the truth.
I was right all along.
I am not alone.
I am forever haunted by my thoughts.
I am always fearful of what I think is there.
My thoughts are forever with me.
I am not alone.
I will never be alone.

This was a piece that I wrote years ago when everything first started for me. As I’ve said before, in the beginning I noticed that something was wrong, but did not know what was the cause. I’m not really sure what was causing me to write this specific piece, though. It may have been the bipolar. Or, it may have been the anxiety that I did not even realize I had back then. But, due to the fact that it deals with the issue of thoughts, I think that it was more a result of my OCD, also known as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

OCD is a difficult thing to describe. Everyone probably has some touch of it considering the busy and fast-paced world in which we live. But, sometimes OCD doesn’t just touch a person. In my case, OCD took hold of me as a child and hasn’t released its bear hug since.

What Is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

Before I continue, let me give you a brief explanation of what OCD really is. If you would like to learn more, there’s a link on the right hand side of my blog that contains great information. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is basically what its name says. It’s about obsessions and compulsions, and it’s common for someone with bipolar to also be diagnosed with OCD (the same goes for anxiety). To make it clear though, having OCD does not mean you are bipolar, it’s just that if you’re bipolar, it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for you to also be an obsessive-compulsive. Everyone obsesses about things in life, as well as feels compelled to do various actions. However, with OCD, those obsessions and compulsions begin to take a toll on the mind and body, and interfere in daily life.

As with bipolar and anxiety, OCD affects people with it in different ways, but the foundation symptoms are the same. Thoughts and repetitive behavior are at the center of my OCD.

The Tormenting Thoughts

I was a young child when the tormenting thoughts began showing up. I began envisioning bad things happening to my loved ones and myself. The thoughts would play like a movie in my head, and I couldn’t stop them. I remember when I was around eight-years-old and I was sitting on the lunch benches afterschool. I was waiting for my dad who was in the car pickup line to come for me. I could see him in the near distance, about six or so cars down. Suddenly, the thought and image popped into my head and I couldn’t stop it. I suddenly saw, in my mind, a garbage truck coming with those big sharp tongs that grab hold of the dumpsters. The sharp arms came crashing down onto my dad’s truck, piercing into the roof and crushing it as it lowered. My dad was still inside and he was screaming in pain. I could see the agony on his face as his arms flailed around unable to stop what was happening. He was screaming and crying so much. And, then, in the blink of an eye it was over.

I was back where I was when the thought first began. My dad was still in his truck in line. No garbage truck was in sight, and everyone around me was going about life as normal. I had tears in my eyes. What just happened was so real. It wasn’t a dream. It wasn’t a nightmare. I was wide-awake, but lost in a dimension of my brain that I wish did not exist. It was my brain’s rated-R movie that didn’t care if I was just a child. It was traumatic to see my father just killed before my eyes, knowing that it was my brain that was creating it. I love my dad so much and it pains me to this day to remember that thought. I still remember every bit of it, and still cry when I think about it. I wish that I could erase it completely. Those are the thoughts that I still have to this day. Each and every day I work hard to push them away, but they’re always there. And, no matter how much time has passed, they cause the same amount of distress and anxiety as they did when they first entered my frame of thought.

Another more recent one that I remember is from a couple of years ago. I was watching the movie “The Happening”. The movie is about some invisible toxin that is killing people in a cruel way… making them themselves. There’s a scene where the group of people are all in a diner when they all decide that they need to leave to a safer location. Cars of people are speeding away as everyone rushes away from the building. That’s when my mind kicked in. I was watching the movie and then suddenly the TV and our den disappeared. I was no longer home, but at that diner with my mom. I’m standing there, when a group of people grabs me and pushes me into one of the cars. I’m screaming at them not to take me without my mom, that they need to take her too, but they say to leave her. I’m screaming and crying and my mom is calling out to me. She’s calling my name. She’s standing there with a walker (she was recovering from surgery in real life at this time) and she’s waving at me with a look on her face that was begging me not to leave her. I couldn’t get away though. I was in the car as they drove away and my mom was left behind. She was just standing there all alone in an empty parking lot, and had a look of so much sadness and fear. She was all alone and I just left her. I shouldn’t have left her, but I couldn’t get away.

Suddenly, I was back in the den, in uncontrollable tears. I was crying – just as I am as I write this – as if it really happened. I was stuck in this movie in my head and I couldn’t get out of it. It doesn’t let me. The thought has to complete. If I try to get out of it, it pulls me in more strongly. It’s like an itch that has to be satisfied, except it never feels good after it’s scratched. For thoughts that get me to that point, I will usually end up lying down and just staying there until I stop crying and get my strength again.

These thoughts come at all times. They have come while watching TV, sitting at the computer, in the shower, in the middle of a conversation with someone, while driving, or even in the middle of therapy (probably the only good place). They yank me out of this world, and throw me into the one created in my mind. It’s been like that since childhood. I become fixated on them too and will replay them over and over until a new one enters my mind and takes its place. My mom says she knows when my mind is going. She can see it in my eyes. They become vacant, and as she speaks to me I do not respond. I can’t respond because I cannot hear her. I’m somewhere else. She doesn’t know the thoughts though. I won’t tell her about the thoughts. She worries about me enough.

The Compulsions

When it comes to the repetitive actions though, she notices those. She’s seen those since childhood. Everyone has, but I’m not sure if they even realize it. Which is fine with me, because I’ve never wanted people to notice. I have many compulsions, some that have been with me since childhood and others have formed in more recent years. Here are just a few of the ones that have become serious distractions in my life, due to how much they interfere with my daily life.

My mom calling me – This one has been happening for years. I hear my mom calling my name all of the time, but she rarely really is. I will go running into the part of the house where I know she is, and I will ask her if she’s calling me. She’ll always respond the same way, “No, but it’s probably your guardian angel again.” I don’t know about that, though. I think it’s more just my worries that have turned into obsessions, and therefore, the compulsion to run to her anytime I hear what I think is her voice. I can’t just leave it alone because what if it really is her calling?

Checking their breathing – This one is a more recent compulsion that has developed in the last couple of years. I don’t tend to sleep right ever, and so at night I’m often up when the rest of the house is fast asleep. Every night when I pass by mom and dad’s bedroom, I have to stand by their door. I cannot leave their bedroom until I hear each one of them take a breath. Once I hear them breathe, then I can go back into the den or my bedroom, until the next time I have to walk by again. And, I must do that before I finally do lie down for the night too. I will not allow myself to go to sleep until I hear each of them take a breath. At times, I’ve stood there for ten minutes waiting until I can hear it.

The counting – 1, 2, 3, 4… 1, 2, 3, 4… 1, 2, 3, 4… 1, 2, 3, 4… I’m not sure why, but the number four has always been my number for my OCD. I often have to do things in fours. People usually don’t notice this due to the fact that the counting happens in my head and I try hard to keep it that way. It’s embarrassing and I try my best not to allow others in on my numerical ritual. As a kid, it was much more noticeable as I didn’t hide it as well back then. Turning on a light meant that it was going to go on and off four times before staying on. Praying meant that I had to say my bedtime prayers and mealtime grace four times before “God would truly accept it”. In my mind, my prayers weren’t good enough unless I said them four times. To this day, the number four and I are pretty close buddies.

Checking the gas – This one began when I was seven, after seeing the movie “Earthquake” with my dad. The movie was on TV one Saturday afternoon and after seeing it, I was immediately terrified of both fire and gas leaks. My mom couldn’t cook in front of me without me standing by the kitchen door in tears the entire time that the flame was turned on. That fear of the fire eventually ended, but the gas leak never did. In the movie there is a scene where a man comes outside during the earthquake and is smoking. Someone yells to him to turn off the gas and so the man goes back inside. Here’s a lesson boys and girls: lit cigarettes and a gas leak do not mix. The house suddenly explodes. From that day forward I have checked the gas repeatedly each and everyday. My saying as a kid every single time I left the house was, “Mom, don’t forget to check the gas.” And, when I would check the gas, I had to check each knob on the stove four times before I was absolutely positive that they were turned all the way off. I still do that, and I still remind my mom to check the gas. I don’t think that will ever stop.

Hand washing – In 2003, I came down with a horrible stomach flu. It got me down for an entire week, draining me of ten pounds (ok, that part wasn’t so bad). Well, when the virus left my body, it was replaced by a new compulsion… washing my hands all of the time. I pump the soap, wash it off, and then repeat that three more times. Germs became my worst enemy. To this day, I fear germs. If I touch something, then I can feel the germs crawling on my hand. It’s a sensation, almost like ants, that covers my fingers and any other part of my hands or body that touched the “dirty” object. I carry hand-sanitizer with me at all times and use it when I need it. And, what happens if you are sick around me? No offense, but I’ll Lisol spray the heck out of anything you touched after you leave. One of my cousins has always made me laugh when she has said that if you’re sick in her house then you’re going to be cold too. She opens every door and window even while the people are still sick, to get the germs out of the house. You go, Cuz! That’s my kind of thinking!

I’ll never forget when years back my sister, niece and I all went to a local smoothie place for something to drink. We all came back to the house and my sister had placed her drink down on the table next to mine. I went to grab my drink thinking I knew exactly which one it was. I took a good sip, and with the drink still in my mouth, my niece said, “Isn’t that my mom’s?” I’m not really sure what my face looked like, but it must not have been the greatest expression as my sister’s reaction to it was, “Man! Thanks a lot! I’m not carrying some disgusting disease.” It wasn’t her, but the germs that I imagined were crawling all over the straw, and were now in my mouth. But, yeah, I guess my facial expression didn’t convey that message too well.

Just Trying To Deal With It

Thanks to therapy I now realize that these lifelong rituals and distressing thoughts are a result of something that’s going on in my brain, and not my mind or spiritual heart. I’m not bad or evil, and I never have been. It’s just my brain that has decided to afflict me with this and make me feel evil for its doing. One of my medications has helped the symptoms to ease a bit, but they’re still there. I just have to continue trying to deal with them.

Since shortly after I was diagnosed in 2009, I have worn a ring on my right hand that I almost never take off. I wear it to remind me that Jesus is always with me. It has two small footprints on its front. And, the inside of the band is inscribed with the words, “It was then that I carried you.”

The piece with which I opened this post ended with the words, “I will never be alone.” However, those words had an ominous meaning years back when I first wrote them. Therefore, I will end this post with words that are much more comforting.

Footprints in the Sand

One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord.
Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand.
Sometimes there were two sets of footprints,
other times there was one only.
This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life,
when I was suffering from anguish,
sorrow or defeat,
I could see only one set of footprints,
so I said to the Lord,
“ You promised me Lord,
that if I followed you,
you would walk with me always.
But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life
there has only been one set of footprints in the sand.
Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?”
The Lord replied,
“ The years when you have seen only one set of footprints,
my child, is when I carried you.”

-Mary Stevenson-


4 thoughts on “OCD and Me

  1. I have a totally different set of obsessions and compulsions, but I can still relate to all of this. I’ve also dealt with OCD since I was little. It causes so much anguish…

    Thanks for the message of hope.

  2. OCD definitely causes anguish. It can be painful in ways that non-OCD people cannot understand. I’m so sorry you have to suffer from it too. I am glad that my post could give you hope, though. Take care!

  3. Pingback: The Boogeyman « My Bipolar Bubble

  4. Pingback: Is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Evil? « My Bipolar Bubble

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