Physically, our bodies break for various reasons be it illness, disease or trauma and thankfully, the majority of causes can be dealt with and managed or cured. Friends, family and colleagues rally round when a diagnosis of physical illness is made or an accident happens. Many, not all, of these same family, friends and colleagues aren't so keen to offer support when a mental health diagnosis is made. I brought 'shame' on my family after being admitted to a psychiatric unit and my Mum visited me once in the three months I was there. That shame and guilt transferred over to me and those feelings are still hard to deal with even now, years later.
I have been given a diagnosis of Obsessive Phobic Anxiety and OCD and with both there are such a myriad of symptoms. As a child, who didn't avoid the cracks in the pavements or walk under ladders for fear of some deadly retribution? I've smiled at the tale of the man who can't leave his house without touching the light switch 200 times or his family will die but kept it to myself that I, like that man, must do similar rituals…….in case my family die too. Why make myself a laughing stock? That's what I used to think….now I no longer care who knows nor what they think. If they want to cross the road to avoid me or not sit next to me on the bus…..sod them….more seat for me!
My OCD also brings the terror, a strong word but very apt, of contamination by substances, illness or disease. It dips and peaks over periods of hours, days or weeks. One day I may inadvertently touch a flower and be able to sit, not without a rising sense of panic, and avoid rushing to scrub my hands over and over in case something dangerous has invaded my pores and is already starting to cause me harm. A different time of day, a different substance perhaps and I'm at the sink within seconds with soap, antibacterial wash and bleach at the ready. I won't try any food that I've never eaten, eat at a house or a restaurant where I can't see the food being prepared just in case there is some ingredient that I could be allergic to in the food.
I suffer with asthma but am only able to use a particular brand of inhaler as I have convinced myself that any other brand will not work and I could die. I'm unable to take any medicines that I've never been prescribed before and even struggle with those I know I've had in the past. It probably takes me about an hour to take a simple Paracetamol as I must check the packet over and over and then check the tablet over and over to ensure that I did take it out of that packet and it is definitely, definitely, definitely a Paracetamol.
I'm obsessive about my heart. I am so in tune with it that I know it's rate and rhythm without even feeling my pulse. Not pleasant when suffering palpitations on a daily basis. I'm convinced I must have numerous heart problems and pounce on articles relating to this, sometimes with a victorious shout of 'I knew it…..that's what I've got'……this is followed by upset and panic and then a voice of reason steps in, usually coming from my partner, my daughter, or my Stepmum and I calm down, storing that self diagnosis away to be wheeled out in the future at some point, with an accompanying 'I told you so!'
I'm struggling with my obsessive thoughts at the moment, having become agoraphobic over the last few months. I'm lucky that I have got a fabulous support network although there are days when I feel very alone. I know I'll get better, I'll never be cured but I will start to live again and not just exist. For now I'll sit outside, happy that the sun is shining and the birds are singing…..oh wait….that means there will be poisonous flowers blooming in the garden and wasps and bees lining up to sting and kill me….perhaps I'm safer indoors after all!