This next guest post by Brittany, of “A Southern Celiac” speaks volumes about an issue close to my heart, OCD. Her story is on of those where the patient isn’t showing the normal signs of the condition so she can’t possibly have it (been there done that a few times).
I hope you enjoy Brittany’s story as much as I did!
OCD? Who, Me?
By Brittany, “A Southern Celiac”
I don’t remember how old I was when I started checking the locks. Six, maybe. Seven, tops.
Every night. More than once.
When I was older, maybe ten, I was convinced my dad would die on the way to work if I didn’t see him every morning before he left. I was not a morning person, but I was always wide awake at five or six a.m., waiting for him to come tell me goodbye.
I’ve been open with my journey with anxiety during pregnancy and beyond here on the blog.
But what happens when your anxiety gets a different name?
“I’m afraid the baby is going to die if I don’t watch her breathe,” I told my husband.
I was tired. I had dark circles. I had lay awake watching the baby sleep for hours.
“You need to rest. You need to talk to your psychiatrist,” he said.
My mom was a little perturbed by my behaviors, as well. Once I tried to bond casually: “don’t you hate when you’re holding a knife and you think about how you could accidentally stab yourself and then you have to put the knife down?”
My mom didn’t have those thoughts, and couldn’t relate.
It was sleep that brought me to talk to my psychiatrist, in the end. I wasn’t getting any rest between making sure the doors were locked, making sure the baby and my husband and the dog were breathing, and making sure the house wasn’t on fire.
There was a resident in the office the day I decided to own up to my anxieties. My psychiatrist made sure I consented to the resident’s presence, expecting a normal postpartum visit.
I took a deep breath, sat down, and spilled out every anxiety and ritual that I had been performing since early childhood. I watched myself wring my hands, describing how terrified I was of— well, just about everything.
When I looked up, my psychiatrist had only one thing to say: “I think you have obsessive compulsive disorder.”
When I walked out of the psychiatrist appointment, I told my mom and husband.
“She said I have OCD.”
Neither was surprised.
“Yeah, uh, we thought so.”
Traditionally, treatment for OCD would be CBT and SSRIs. However, I am not a great candidate for SSRIs, so we had to look into other options. Currently, we’re trying a combination of NAC (n-acetylcysteine), a third generation antidepressant, and therapy. Although it’s too soon to know if this combination will be helpful for me, it’s been life-changing for many patients.
Although it’s obvious in retrospect that I had OCD, I never thought anything was out of the ordinary until my obsessive thoughts and compulsions were brought to my attention.
It was partially stereotypes of obsessive compulsive disorder that hid my disorder from me. I don’t obsess over hand-washing or germs, and I am not a neat freak by any means. I can’t color-coordinate an outfit, let alone my whole closet. Although these behaviors are sometimes symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder, OCD can manifest in many other ways.
For me, it’s an obsession with “checking” everything repeatedly to make sure no harm will accidentally come to a loved one. Locks, heaters, the stove, faucets…if there’s any way my brain can contemplate something causing harm, then you could safely bet that I check on it at least 6-10 times a day. When you add all of these “checks” together, then throw in the time I actually spend worrying about things, it adds up to a lot of time.
I’ll be writing a post later explaining my experiences with n-acetylcysteine, the first treatment I’m trying for OCD.
Until then, I’ll just be here, checking the locks. Just in case.