My fear of something bad happening to mum was ever present, so the rituals around that had to continue. Never feeling clean enough was also an on-going problem.
As well as that, new problems and new intrusive thoughts presented themselves.
‘Contamination’ took on a whole new meaning.
I had taken three years to complete my A-levels, not two, because I had a spell in hospital during that time.
I made it to Uni, that was the main thing. An important goal for me.
I remember my first day – I was completely wired on the journey there; hardly able to connect with the real world. My OCD was rocketing sky-high. But it wasn’t going to win this time. ‘I want this so much’, I thought. ‘I will somehow get the better of this demon OCD’.
A few weeks in, and OCD manifested in a whole new way. To cut a long, torturous story short, the new intrusive thoughts rampaging in my brain went like this…‘The pavement I walked on wasn’t clean… so my shoes must also not be clean. I have come back to my room in Halls and have now ‘contaminated’ my bedroom floor. My bag has touched that floor so the books in the bag must also be contaminated. So, I must not touch them. I can’t touch my books and files so I can’t complete my assignments. And, quite aside from the work I need to do, I’m going to struggle to even get off this bed where I am sitting right now to go to the bathroom or the kitchen, because everywhere I go, I face a contamination problem.
Shut down. Mental paralysis. Nowhere to escape to.
Nowhere to go where I can be free of this Demon.
After just one term, I had to call it a day.
A year later I tried Uni again. I wanted that degree so much.
This time I enrolled at a University close to home.
Before long, intrusive thoughts increasingly interrupted my study.
Sitting in front of the computer screen, working on assignments, I could get stuck on one page for an entire day. ‘Did I read that carefully enough? Did I get all the information? I know – I will read it one final time. This will definitely be the last time’. So many ‘last times’.
Over and over and over again.
Halfway through my second year I had to call it a day. Plans for a degree thwarted. Again. I felt such a failure.
After a few torturous months I was able to take on part-time waitressing work.
The intensity of the OCD fluctuated. Some days the intrusive thoughts were so relentless that I was completely shut off from the outside world. Some days they weren’t as bad. I have no idea why the ‘good days‘ happened; I was just grateful they did. It just felt like my head was in a better place.
(It is difficult to explain this; I haven’t yet found a therapist who gets it. Perhaps a neuroscientist would-?).
Some time later I began a full-time job in an office. I was able to continue there for four years. My days were still blighted by OCD but – relative to the bad old days, I was ‘managing’. The laundry basket filled up every night when I got home (my house keys and my purse had to go in the wash too); I was very reluctant to take a handbag to work because everything got dirty during the day, and I couldn’t risk contaminating the house where Mum lives when I got home. That was the reason I couldn’t get shopping in my lunch break – it would have been a helpful thing to do, but I would have to touch the food to put it in a bag, and then the shopping bag would have to hang around the office all afternoon…all in all, too risky in terms of contaminating Mum.
Still, all this was relatively ‘manageable’.
Until the problem that had been at the centre of it all, all the way through, escaped its cage. Everything I had been able to keep in check began rampaging all over again.
At work it had become increasingly hard to concentrate. You know how Ads pop up, when searching for something online? Ads about health issues, killer diseases, people dying leapt out at me. I tried so hard to shut out the associated fears and intrusive thoughts because I knew I could get derailed big time. But they kept coming.
Alerts about important health issues that I must not forget to tell mum about when I got home. The fear of something bad happening is even greater now because, well, Mum is nearly twenty years older than she was when all this began. Another reason why I must do everything in my power
to stop bad things happening to mum.
It had come full circle.
Once again, everything else had to take second place.
Nothing else mattered so long as I did everything in my power
to stop bad things happening to mum.