I haven’t written about my OCD a lot because, until last September, I didn’t even officially know I had OCD. That’s because, as my psychiatrist put it: “It’s hard to tell where one of your anxiety disorders end and the others begin.” However, once I finally got diagnosed, so many things made sense – one of them being this next (poorly illustrated!) story I’m about to tell you.
Last week, I had approximately one million doctor’s appointments. Because my doctor and all the specialists I am currently seeing are still located in my old city (where my parent’s live – an hour away from our new city), it’s easiest for us to just stay with them for a few days while I get my appointments done.
On Tuesdays, Jefferson (my husband) goes into work for a loooong day. So, naturally, I want to make sure he has a good lunch! But, we aren’t at home – so I quickly pack him whatever I can find in my parent’s pantry. This was before grocery shop day, so it was slim pickings.
Anyway, I eventually find this health-packed four nut muesli cereal. I mix it with a few other things and BAM! Trail mix. I pack it all away in a nice little lunch bag and send my husband off to work.
About 10 minutes after my husband leaves for work, I’m sitting at the kitchen table, and stare at the four nut muesli box.
As I’m staring at the box, that’s when I saw the fine print – “With Brazil Nuts.” And my brain basically exploded.
What I learned from my psychiatrist is that OCD is not only about being clean, or wanting things a certain way, or hoarding items – I already logically knew that, because I’ve studied a lot about anxiety. But I didn’t realize that thoughts about the safety of others (and myself) fell into the category of OCD.
You see, when I saw that the cereal I packed in Jefferson’s lunch contained brazil nuts, I began to panic.
Has Jefferson ever eaten brazil nuts before? What if he was allergic to them and just didn’t know? Jefferson doesn’t worry about things like I do – so if he did have an allergic reaction, would he just blow it off? and then it would be too late? He also gets to the church earlier than anyone else…so what if he ate it for breakfast, while he was alone, and no one was there to help him?
If he died, it would be MY fault.
He also wanted to go get pizza that day for lunch instead, because he didn’t want me to worry about making him a lunch. I said no. I wanted to budget better. I would make him that lunch. If I had just said ‘yes’ to the pizza, would he be okay? Or, what if I said ‘yes’ to the pizza and then he got into a car accident on the way to the pizza place and died?
Then, it would be MY fault.
Basically, my OCD tells me that if anything bad happens to someone I love, it’s my fault – it’s because I asked them to do something, or didn’t ask them. It’s because I packed a certain lunch – or didn’t pack the lunch.
It’s about control. Control I obviously do not have – but I feel like I do. And yes, this is, unfortunately, a completely true story. My husband is extremely patient with me, as I send rambly, obsessive texts.
So, why did I choose to share this story? First, because I think it’s kind of funny (see “I Called The Cops on my Grandma” for a more hilarious story of my anxiety gone wrong). How ridiculous is it that I panicked for over an hour because of…cereal?!
But I also chose to share this because I don’t know how many people actually understand what OCD looks like. Yes, it can look like obsessive hand washing, or compulsive organization or cleaning.
But it can also look like this. Like thinking you have literally sentenced your husband to death – and no matter what you do, YOU will be the reason why he dies.
According to the International OCD Foundation, one of the most common obsessions is: “Fear of being responsible for something terrible happening (examples: fire, burglary)”
And that’s what I have. The fear that I will be responsible for something terrible happening to those that I love.
And it SUCKS!
But at least now I can recognize it, as it’s just another thing I need to work to overcome. And I guess I get a few (after-the-fact) funny stories out of it too.