Let’s get something straight – right at the beginning – before any words are put down on paper on this subject so close to my heart and mind. OCD is an extraordinary mental illness which terrifies and debilitates very ordinary, average, nice people who deserve better.
I am a pretty bright Northern woman from a working class family with a kind heart, incisive mind and pleasant countenance. There is no mark of Cain on my person, I have never been in prison, “the cells” or even the back of a police car for stealing sherbet dips or flying saucers from the penny tray, (people in my ballpark age group will remember the penny tray
with affection). To my friends, my peers, the man behind the checkout at Marks and Spencer I am just Martha the woman who is gentle and loving, good at her job, polite and friendly. To my dear husband of three years I am, like a million other lucky wives, beautiful, sexy, funny, the list goes on. To my amazing son I am a dear friend and someone he will shop with and have tea and cakes with – in public places. This has not always been so – but he is now twenty three and has finally shed his teenage skin.
I am healthy, apart from osteoarthritis in one knee, late onset asthma and the daily grind of the menopause and its many manifestations. I live in a rather nice house, have two cats who are sparring partners but individually delightful to know. I can articulate clearly, confidently and assertively my needs and opinions. I have rather lovely green eyes of which I have always been proud.
There is, however, one very large and particularly unpleasant fly in the ointment of my life. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (Intrusive Thoughts). I give it the weight of its full title as it is a burden I have carried now for forty years and it is a heavy, unforgiving load.
Over time this illness has made me believe I am a violent person, a murderous person, a deviant person, a cruel person. OCD thoughts are accusatory and frightening. They appear and reappear with startling frequency both at expected and unexpected moments. They have made me doubt my love as a mother, wife, daughter and friend. They have reduced my natural clarity of thought to a complete shambles and chaos with one evil word and made me think that the world might be improved with me out of the picture.
For thirty years I did not know I suffered from OCD. I spent large chunks of my life trying to convince myself that I was not and could not be the monster I believed I might be.
Those of you who have been diagnosed with this strand of OCD will find these words too familiar. They will look in the mirror and say out loud “But I am OK, I am a nice person. People love me. I love them. I must be OK” A moment later they will forget their reflection and have to look again, and again. I hope that what I have to share helps them on their journey to health.
Those of you who are unaware of this sickening condition and have no real knowledge of it will likely be shocked when you read this account of my journey through the dark and overgrown wilderness that is OCD.
It is my dearest wish that those of you who have OCD but don’t yet know that this is the case will, as if by magic, read and re-read paragraphs believing, with increasing conviction, that you are not “mad, bad or sad”, that you have an affliction (I do not use the word lightly, it conveys the aggressive nature of this chronic illness). I am certain that if God had added OCD to Job’s other problems he would indeed have “cursed God and died”.
People with OCD are disadvantaged, they lack power and self-esteem because they have been robbed of the capacity to know who they truly are. This has been my experience. I want to tell you about it to encourage you that things can change, life can become sweeter, that in time you can see and feel and hear the unique, special and worthy person you really are.
By Martha Jane Middow
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