Healthy Living

I'm A Mom With OCD And This Is What It's Like

It started one day when I was in the second grade; I had come home from school and went to jump on my bed, which was what I normally did, except something stopped me. I thought to myself, “My clothes have been on dirty school chairs, cafeteria benches, and the yucky bus seats. I don’t want to bring that into my bed!” And so started my journey with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

Every night, I forced myself into a bath before I could touch my own, clean bed. Absolutely nothing was allowed on my bed from the outside; only my stuffed animals, and toys had bed privileges. If family came over, and daringly entered my room, bedding would have to be changed if they even came close to it.

It didn’t stop there. As I got older, more things became “clean” items that only I was allowed to touch: toys, clothes, basically anything that was mine. My sister-in-law, at the time, brought me to a high-end mall to purchase new clothes for me. She insisted I wash all the new clothes before I wear them. “You don’t know who tried on the clothes before you. That’s disgusting.” She said. From then on, and even today, I refuse to wear anything straight from a store without it being washed, even if it’s packaged (like underwear.)

As a teenager, this obsession with touching and cleanliness became bothersome. I’d buy a pack of cookies from the cafeteria store, and if they fell out of my hands, even unopened, I’d leave it on the floor, or toss them; they were no longer okay for me to eat.

All of my friends knew not to touch my stuff. It was a big joke, “Don’t touch it. Liza won’t use it!” It was fine to me. The more of my friends that knew, the less I’d have to explain, but I know that some took it as insulting. It really had nothing to do with who you were; my OCD is not prejudice, it hates everyone equally.

“It really had nothing to do with who you were; my OCD is not prejudice, it hates everyone equally.”

When I met my husband, things changed, both for the better and for the worse. He was the only one I allowed in my bed, and he was allowed to touch my stuff. My OCD didn’t apply to him.

However, other things became more complicated: I refused to touch anything metal, including but not limited to, utensils, jewelry, etc. It got to the point where I had to ask waiters to bring me a plastic fork for my pasta; our apartment was filled with dollar store plastic utensils, and plates. I used (and still do) a credit card for all purchases because I was no longer able to touch money, including change (metal.)

After I got married, I wanted a baby. It never occurred to me how drastically my life would change, and how my OCD would need to be addressed. As a pregnant woman, your body is no longer your own. Doctors and nurses take liberty with touching, poking, and prodding. Then when you actually have the baby, everyone wants to touch it.

Anyone who wore too much perfume, or had constant colds aggravated my OCD. Onesies needed to be changed and the baby would need a wipe down. I can say that only lasted a short while. Anyone who’s a parent know their child dictates the first year of life; poop, vomit, or an accidental fountain of pee if you’re not quick enough with the diaper taught me that I had to allow for these incidents and not let my OCD affect my parenting.

I was officially diagnosed when my son was two and a half years old; with medication, and therapy, it’s gotten better but I am nowhere near cured.

“I love my son, and I’m so thankful for him. Not only has he taught me to be a better human, but he’s helped me realize my illness.”

The cable guy recently came to our house to install a box in our bedroom; he sprawled his entire tool kit on our bed, and I, without shame, can admit that I cried. My husband, fully understanding of my illness, quickly changed the bedding after the cable guy left. CRISIS AVERTED! But not everything in life is as easy as switching comforters out.

I’m still unable to carry cash, so when I go to a store, or a doctor, my husband puts the money in an envelope for me to carry. I still eat with plastic utensils, which proves difficult with food like sautéed broccoli. I still require a clean bed, and with no washer or dryer in our apartment, the cost of laundry and dry cleaning sometimes goes above our budget.

I love my son, and I’m so thankful for him. Not only has he taught me to be a better human, but he’s helped me realize my illness, and caused me to really assess how to live with it, without it dominating my life, like it had been for years.

I know I’ll never be cured, and it’s likely that more quirks could appear as I age, but that’s a part of who I am, and that’s okay with me.