Why My Harm OCD Made Me Afraid of My Own Children
Editor’s note: If you struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. To find help visit International OCD Foundation’s website.
Here is my soul poured onto a page.
I am writing this for the millions of people struggling with this mental illness. For the many, many people who have this exact same theme and thoughts, who are too fearful to speak up. You are stronger than you know and you are not alone.
I am sick of being dictated to by obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). I am sick of being too afraid to move, breathe or function because of OCD. I am sick of not knowing who I am because of OCD. I am fed up of doubting everything because of OCD. I am sick of losing time because of OCD and I am sick of not speaking up because OCD tells me to stay quiet.
These are some of the thoughts I battle because of OCD.
“Don’t say that because you will be judged. Don’t say that because no one will understand. If you say that thought out loud, you are admitting it’s true. If you speak up it’s because you believe it. If you talk about how you are feeling it will make it worse. If you speak up the fear will feel even more real; there’s a threat so stay quiet, you are alone, there is no one else going through this. You must be evil, you must be a monster. No one has this problem, what kind of person thinks and feels like this?
What if you want it to be true? What if you become this awful person? What if you’ve lost the ‘old you’ forever and this is who you are becoming? What if you feel like this forever? What if therapy doesn’t work for you? What if this isn’t treatable? What if this isn’t OCD? What if I am a horrible person? What if I can’t ever get past this? What if I stop having morals? Why me? Why is this happening? What went wrong? Why won’t it back off? Just stop and leave me alone! No one will understand, I will be judged, I will be misunderstood. What if people become afraid of me? What if no one trusts me? What if people think I’m a threat? Your past history of never hurting anyone doesn’t matter. What if I go back to how unwell I was at Christmas? Maybe it would be easier if I wasn’t here. Maybe that’s an option if this doesn’t get better; I will die before hurting anyone. What if I go onto medications but they don’t help like last time? What if I am going “crazy?” Why is my brain doing this to me? Who am I? Why is this the theme OCD picked? Why can’t I go back to worrying I might stab someone? That felt so much less scary compared to this. Why has it picked on something so ‘disgusting?’
Why do I have bad days? I must be so weak. Why can’t I get out of this? Why can’t I believe my own mind when I tell myself I am a good person? Why am I doubting everything? Why does everything make me feel uncomfortable? I must be being punished. Does God hate me? Do I believe in God? What do I believe? Do I know who I am? I must prove or disprove these thoughts. What do I even like? Can red still be my favorite color? It’s the color of blood, so that must mean I like blood. What kind of person likes to look at blood? The footstool is red so does that mean I’m a bad person for looking at it?
Who am I? Am I straight? What if I am gay? What if my marriage is a lie? What if I am a lie? What if I am in denial about everything? What if I am a monster? Why did I bring that person up that day? Why did I talk about him? What if I am like him? What if there’s a link? He seemed so normal but wasn’t, so what if I am like that? What if I don’t know if I am like that? Who am I? Why won’t this stop?”
That man was a local convicted pedophile. My hands shake as I write this. I mentioned him at Christmas — five weeks after having my fourth baby and already struggling with harm OCD — while talking to the crisis team about the harm OCD and a BBC drama we had recently watched before the harm OCD began. I said, “I’m disturbed by the drama I watched, how easy it was for this man to be stood, watching his wife sleeping, then just jumping on her and strangling her to death. He went from being so normal to not, and that terrifies me; how anyone could just snap? That’s why the harm thought bothers me, I keep thinking back to that drama and how easy it looked for him to snap. Like that man we knew. He seemed so normal and then he wasn’t, he’s now a convicted pedophile.”
And that was it; that was the moment the life-destroying thought popped into my head. “What if I was a pedophile?”
That one thought brought my world as I knew it crashing into a million pieces, cutting my soul as it broke. That one thought broke my heart and took time I will never get back. I was a statue, sat rotting. I stopped eating, drinking, sleeping and how my heart didn’t stop I don’t know because it felt like it was going to explode. I hoped it would because then I could die without having to take my own life. The compulsions spiraled. I did everything possible to get as far away from my own thoughts as I could because I was terrified to my core. I sat in the bathroom, contemplating ending my life. I have never ever felt like that before. I never thought I would be a person to even get close to that edge, yet there I was, stood right up close to it, looking over into the darkness.
I’ve taken a moment because the tears keep flowing as I think back.
I thought I would never recover from that moment. I was questioning my own character, my own morals, my own soul. I felt like I had lost everything I was. I couldn’t go near my own children or look at them. Not even photographs. It was painful being in my own home because everything reminded me of them. I couldn’t watch anything to do with children or be near anything that reminded me of children. Everything was ruined. I hit rock bottom.
I have tried to avoid writing this. I have tried to write things in a way I can try and convince people that I am really a good person and no threat to anyone. I have torn my head apart trying to think how I could possibly word this to make it sound more understandable. I didn’t even understand it myself. Truth is, I have a recognized mental illness. Truth is, OCD theme and thoughts like it is so common that there are literature and workbooks with separate sections on just this theme. This is my OCD theme. Sexual OCD. This is what my OCD latched onto because it was the easiest target for it. I grew up in the church, strong in my morals, babysitting countless times over the years for family and friends, working in a nursery before having my own children. I grew up being told, “You’re so good with children, you will make a great mother. You are so kind and patient, you are so good at your job, you are a wonderful mother.” I knew growing up that my sole purpose was to have children of my own, to raise strong independent children who would go out into the world and make it a better place. And OCD decided it would take that security and knowledge in myself and rip it apart without mercy. How I have begged for mercy.
I didn’t ask for this to happen. I have been in pain — physical, emotional and mental pain, pain that has made me question living. The fear of sharing this truth in detail has been causing panic attacks and stress I can’t even measure. But today I have had enough. I have had enough of being beaten down by the doubt OCD causes to stay quiet anymore. I am sick of the stigma. I am sick of the fear of judgment — judgments I am guilty of making before having these thoughts. If someone said this to me before … you know what? I would have questioned it, thinking “but are you then? How do you know you aren’t? Surely you would know if you were or weren’t?”
I understand that hearing such disturbing thoughts may be difficult. It’s ugly. I fear being judged by my friends, family and the entire world. I feel guilty and shameful every day. I feel awful every day. I beat myself up every day, looking for proof one way or another. I know the difference between an OCD fear and an actual pedophile (even the word fills me with panic). I know I have this theme because it goes so against my morals and is not linked to my being. I am learning to recover. I am learning to accept thoughts are thoughts, they mean nothing and they are not connected to me. I am learning to let them pass, then carry on with my day. I have learned more in the last three months than I think I learned in three years at college. I have learned that this is treatable. I have learned this is nothing to do with who I am. I have learned this will take time and there will be falls on the way — that has a very literal meaning to me, as I am currently typing this with a broken ankle. I have learned these thoughts are not me, they are OCD. This has affected the most important part of my life — the part that completes me, the part I love unconditionally and would die to protect. It’s affected my relationship with my children and I have made big steps in regaining my confidence again.
I promised I would help advocate for OCD — that I would become a warrior fighting against everything OCD throws at me, and everything society throws at it too. I hope by finally, after all this time, sharing the absolute deepest fears in me, that I have kept that promise, and this will give you the strength to fight as well.
Follow this journey on The Real Housewife of OCD
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.
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