When I was 10 years old I used to say a prayer every single night before bed. The exact same prayer and if I messed it up, I had to repeat it until it “felt right” and if I didn’t get it right, then I would assume something bad would happen to me and my family. This was my first indication that something was going on but I didn’t know what it was until I was 16 years old after seeing a Psychiatrist who then confirmed that I had OCD & Generalized Anxiety. My rituals and obsessions have since changed from prayer and superstition to other things but it was still a bad feeling to think something bad would happen to your family if you didn’t do something right.
I felt anxiety at every turn as a child. Whenever my mother was leaving to go somewhere, whether it was the grocery store or just to another room – I felt like I needed to be close to make sure we were both okay. I needed constant reassurance that I was okay, that we were okay and that we were going to be okay in the future. My mother was my crutch as a child and she understood my anxiety. She knew what to say and what to do to calm my anxiety but a few hours later, my anxiety was back and I needed reassurance again.
Yay for the anxiety and OCD cycle.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a common mental illness affecting over 40 million people and if you’re one of them, you know how consuming it can be – if you are a mother with OCD, the gears sometimes shift onto new obsessions, fears and compulsive behaviors. “The National Institute of Mental Health defines OCD as a “common, chronic, and long-lasting” disorder that compels a person to perform an action repeatedly as a response to anxiety and obsessive thoughts. One-third of people experience symptoms in childhood, with the majority realizing their OCD by age 19. While therapy can help subdue some behaviors, there is no cure for OCD — which means there are more moms than you probably think who are trying hard to quell their OCD behaviors (not always with success) while juggling a newborn, toddler, and the family dog.”
I can relate to other moms who have OCD and other random people who have OCD although not everyones obsessions/compulsions are the same. For example, I constantly wash my hands because of the fear of germs whereas someone else with OCD couldn’t care less about hand washing and their compulsion are counting.
When I was younger my obsessions and rituals were different from how they were when I was in high school, throughout my 20’s and now as a mom. Most of my OCD is mental. I like to explain it like this – Imagine thinking of your child getting sick (all moms worry about their child getting sick) but with OCD it’s different. Once I get the worry of my daughters getting sick, I then think about worst case scenario and what would happen if that worst case scenario happened, how I would feel? what I would do? then I trigger a panic attack and then worry “what if this happens?” It’s like my brain is a hamster wheel – That is the best way I can explain it. Once I get a thought, it doesn’t go away. It just keeps stirring in my brain making me anxious because the thought of “what if” is too much to not think about. I also have Generalized Anxiety which is everyday worries but with OCD my everyday worries are nonstop. OCD & GAD =
I will be honest and say that since becoming a mom, my anxiety and OCD has actually gotten SOOOO much better than it was prior to becoming a mother. My thoughts have changed on what I worry about now, but overall it’s a lot better.
So anyways, I wanted to share what its like for me to be a mom with OCD and what goes through my head. Hopefully some people can relate and maybe my article will help someone who doesn’t realize they have the disorder.
1. I FEAR THE WORST WILL ALWAYS HAPPEN
When I was pregnant, I knew the chances of my girls surviving weren’t high and I remember texting my friend Jen (who also has OCD and twins) and saying “I just feel like they aren’t going to make it, so I’m trying not to be excited about being pregnant because if I get excited and something bad happens, it will literally tear me apart, whereas if I prepare myself it won’t hurt as bad’.” I just had the feeling that something bad was going to happen to my babies. I knew there was a chance but I just feared it to the point that I was afraid to be excited about being pregnant. (Which was something we tried for, for many years.)
2. I GET REALLY WORRIED WHEN MY CHILDREN TOUCH THINGS
This is something that I have gotten better about but I’ve always had a thing about germs and shaking people’s hands. The minute I had my babies and realized a lot of other people think nothing of touching your children– I felt a lot of anxiety and feared my babies would get sick. I remember one day where I was at the mall and these little old ladies came up to my carriage and touched my daughters heads and hands — I imagined all of the things that these ladies had touched and hadn’t washed their hands after going to the bathroom. Seriously, that’s all I could think about. I can get so lost in these thoughts that I can’t stop thinking about it until I wash their hands and baby wipe their heads. (Yes, I baby wiped their heads after this). I do make sure the girls wash their hands but after the first year of being a mom, I have become more relaxed about my germ phobias with them.
3. LOCKS, LIGHTS, KNOBS
This was an obsession before but it is something that intensified when I became a mother. Yes, normal people worry about “did I lock the door” but someone with OCD won’t stop thinking about it until they turn their car around to go home and make sure the door is locked even though deep down they know they locked it. I especially worry about the doors being locked when I am home with the girls and my husband is at work. I check the door a few times to make sure its locked and I even lock our bedroom door at night and nap time because I fear someone breaking in or the girls accidentally getting out of our home. This puts my anxiety into overdrive to where I just have to “make sure” locks, lights and stoves are locked and secure.
4. THE THOUGHT OF LOSING MY GIRLS
Now this thought isn’t just “losing” my girls in a park. It is “losing” them..Like really losing them. Even writing this makes me anxious and want to cry because it is something that I obsess about and try to prevent. Anytime they are sick, I assume it’s going to be something incurable and then I make myself panic at even thinking of something bad like that. My girls are my life and it’s hard to explain this thought process but this is my most feared thought. I know it is very unlikely to ever happen but the “what if” gets me every time. My thoughts just go on and on. I remember one of my daughters was sick right before their 2nd birthday and we brought her in to get checked and they did a flu test and she came back positive. I literally balled my eyes out and was worried she would die. I heard so many stories about the flu and death that it literally ripped my heart out when I heard she had it… turned out it was a false positive but that’s beside the point. My ocd turns a cough into a collapsed lung or a fever into seizures. It is something that sounds silly but that is how my thoughts turn something small into the worst case scenarios that probably won’t ever happen.
Thankfully through all of this, my husband has been a huge support and he even read up on ways to calm someone when they are panicking, how to ease anxiety and OCD when we first started dating. He is seriously the best! He understood everything I was going through when it was hard and embarrassing to say. Nowadays, everyone talks about their mental health and it’s no longer a stigma. I am usually private about my life but felt comfortable enough to share this and hopefully it will help someone. 🙂