Following high school, I was married at age eighteen and gave birth to my oldest daughter, Nikki, the following spring. Not only was I given the gift of a beautiful baby girl, but attached to her was the fear of losing her. My OCD, which had been manageable, returned and was worse than ever before. If the thought of losing my mom wasn’t bad enough, the very thought of losing my child was something I could not bear. The obsessions and compulsions were once again all consuming. My head was once again filled with negative, intrusive thoughts. I was obeying all the demands and fulfilling them like a faithful employee with my rituals. As I had my second daughter, Kelly, my son, Mark, and my third daughter, Jodi, the thoughts and rituals also multiplied. I was busy all the time, bowing down to everyone’s demands, trying to be the perfect mom, the perfect wife, the perfect daughter, friend, sister, employee, and volunteer. But, most important, I was the perfect slave to my OCD.
If my babies became contaminated (this could be by me imagining that I saw a person or item that I thought was contaminated or it could mean driving down a street that reeked of bad memories from my past), I would bathe them and change their clothes; whatever needed to be done to insure they were free of all death germs. When they were toddlers and we returned home from a walk, shopping, or a visit, I would have the four of them sit on the steps outside the bathroom and wait their turn for a bath. This way they would not run around and infect my whole house with the germs I felt they were carrying from outside. This could save me an entire evening of cleaning. I would take my bath first, so I was clean to wash them up. I would always make it fun, by playing games like “I Spy” while they waited their turn. They became quite used to this ritual and really never complained. I always felt really bad that they were being pulled into my craziness, but it was all I knew. As soon as they were bathed and in their clean clothes or pajamas, I would take all the dirty clothes down and put them right in the washing machine. Then, I would return to the bath tub to wash the germs off myself from touching the dirty clothes.
I rarely carried a diaper bag when leaving home, simply because if it became contaminated, it would be very difficult to clean the items it contained. Instead, I just took a bottle or two, diapers, and wipes. When we returned home, I would throw the dirty bottles in the bathtub to clean off the germs. Then later I would rewash them in the sink and sterilize the nipples and rings. By doing this, I would avoid getting myself contaminated by the germs on the bottles after I was clean and my kitchen sink would not be contaminated, either. If I had any diapers or wipes left, they were contaminated, and I would toss them out. I literally was throwing away money.
Clothes were something I could wash, but items made of non-washable materials like a leather purse, I sometimes had to throw away; unsalvageable. Items made of materials such as plastic, I might be able to wash and convince myself they were free of germs, but there was never a guarantee. The only chemical I thought really sanitized my hands was jewelry cleaner, an ammonia based liquid, used to soak your soiled jewelry in. I poured this onto my hands, scrubbed a little, and followed with soap and water. There is no doubt in my mind why my hands were always dry and sore—I was pouring a chemical on them twenty to thirty times each day. I convinced the neighborhood jeweler that I had allergies and I used it for cleaning my house so he would sell me undiluted cleaner by the gallon. Otherwise, it was not unusual for me to go through a four ounce container, the size you could purchase at the store, almost every day. The gallon, which made a large amount, would last me for about a month and it proved to be less expensive.
I felt very guilty when I would not allow my children to play with certain children who may have known or been related to contaminated people. I could not let them go to certain friends’ houses if they lived in areas where contaminants lived or if they had to pass a restricted area, which was anywhere that had any relation or tie to The Guy. I always had an excuse, but to this day I feel horrible about it.
It was easier for me to control where my children were and who they were with when they were young, but as they grew up and made friends, I lost more control. I always had to know where their new friends lived, so it was not in an area that I considered contaminated, or who their friends were related to, so it wasn’t a contaminated family. Remember, these restricted areas and people were only bad in my irrational mind, but my irrational mind held me hostage and put limitations on my children’s lives as well. This brought great guilt upon me, feeling my disorder was affecting everyone around me.
I always felt so sad that I didn’t take my children outside to play a lot when they were little, but in my defense, if I would be outside playing with them and I thought I saw a contaminated person or item, each of them, as well as me, would have to bathe and change clothes. It always made me feel very guilty and I felt like I was denying them of childhood fun. I thought I was a bad mom. My husband was good about taking them out when he got home from work, but I couldn’t go out without risking the chance of taking another bath. I would many times wait until evening to venture out and just take a bath when I returned since it was close to bedtime. I felt like a prisoner, unable to come and go as I pleased.
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