Hypodermic needles were my first fear. The doctor’s office became home to my nightmares. Sharp objects—knives, spears, and swords—became my first obsession. My first compulsion was to hold a sharp object against my chin—GI Joe’s scuba knife, a Fort Apache spear, or Galahad’s tiny sword—grit my teeth, and count.
When I was 13, I needed a booster shot. In the weeks before it happened, I developed a new obsession: glass. I collected sharp pieces of glass from the roads and sidewalks. I collected rusted bottle caps. I collected sharp stones. It had never occurred to me before, but what if a sliver of glass gets caught in a car tire, gradually sinks deeper and deeper into the tread, and finally causes a blowout on the freeway? If I didn’t keep filling my coat pockets with the dirty little “hazards” I plucked from the ground, someone might die in a car accident.
When I was 19, I rolled out of a moving car and ran as fast and as far as I could. It probably saved my life. If it hadn’t been for the two black eyes, the gravel embedded in my back, and the two painful head wounds beneath my bloody hair, I would not have recalled anything but a chilling scream. I desperately wanted to remember more. I wanted to remember more when I panicked without reason and pulled my car to the side of the road, when I turned and chased the images that lurked along the dark edges of my brain, when I told the story of how I’d rolled out of a car and mysteriously wakened entangled in an electric fence.
I am learning to trust I have the ability to deal with the worries and ‘what if’s’ if they became true.
I have OCD. Contamination OCD.
It has taken me many years to write those words without feeling crippling shame or performing a humorous apology. I have embraced the fear and vulnerability and I have found strength and power.
Today I feel healthy: managing my thoughts and doing the work to succeed in recovery. I have dug deep and swam into the dark pockets of my psyche to understand the reasons my OCD manifested. I know the theory of how to heal, so, emotionally I continue to carve a new path of newly created thought patterns. Patterns of understanding and truth and self-care. Patterns that will serve the self of today not the lost and fragile girl of the past.
Trauma and grief I believe are the cause of this dance with OCD.
I have not had any more or any less of these two emotions or experiences than the next person. I have experienced things in my life however that caused me pain and I did not know where to put the hurt that these moments created so I suffocated my grief and my shock and it became fear.
People are fragile and they break. Hearts can hold so much but there needs to be an outlet and everyone’s outlet is different and specific to them. OCD became my friend and my enemy. My protector and my abuser.
My OCD was born with the sudden death of my beloved mother.
It was fed and nurtured by a stint in a U.S jail and a horrific deportation experience, reckless drunken behaviour, leading to regret, guilt, doubt and shame and the need for there to be consequences. My OCD, in part, caused the shocking breakdown of my marriage and took nourishment from it.
In episode 43 of The OCD Stories podcast I interviewed Dr Becky Beaton. Becky is the Founder and Director of The Anxiety & Stress Management Institute. Becky is also a co-founder of OCD Georgia, which is an affiliate of the IOCDF. She was also a psychologist on the US TV show Hoarding for 60 episodes.
I talked with Becky about many topics including hoarding, therapies for hoarding, how trauma affects OCD, dealing with anxiety around flying, getting motivated for therapy, the impact of stress on OCD, the importance of sleep, why conscious breathing is important, mindfulness and how to get started with it, medication, nutrition and exercise. Enjoy.
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