Once my OCD began, cemeteries, funeral homes, and any other location associated with death, were the most horrible places for me to be near and especially at. I immediately had thoughts of loved ones dying and I also became “dirty” with death germs. When I would drive past cemeteries I would have to close my eyes and hold my breath (which wasn’t dangerous when I was a passenger, but when I was a driver it could be a little scary, especially if it was a long cemetery). The reason I held my breath was so I did not breathe in the death germs. I was forced to take a bath when I returned home, so the death germs were not in my house, and then I would have to wash my contaminated clothes. This, in turn, meant another bath since I touched the contaminated clothes. Bringing death germs into my home was so frightening and I was sure they would get on, at this point one of my children. I completely avoided driving past cemeteries at all cost and only attended funerals I had to, such as immediate family. There were times I would have liked to pay my respects when someone died, but a card in the mail would many times have to suffice, to save myself the torture.
When I had to go to a wake at a funeral home or to a burial, you might as well pull out my fingernails one at a time, because it would be less painful. I have actually thrown out perfectly good clothes because of what I will call “death contamination,” since I knew I would never be able to wear them again.
Following a visitation at a funeral home I would have to shower, wash clothes, shower, clean every part of my house that I touched, and shower again. I usually had to wash the clothes many times to make them feel clean for when I tried to wear them again. They still would harbor a slight feeling of being unclean and my mind never forgets these things. Ten years later I would remember where it was worn and what had contaminated it.
It was very difficult when my husband and children would go to funerals. I insisted they shower as well when we returned home. My husband would shower just to keep the peace and my children had no choice, at least when they were little. As my children grew older and I did not want to reveal why I needed them to shower, they did not always agree to my plea. If they did not, I was cleaning my entire house for a couple of days, until I felt all the germs were out of my house.
I never visited the graves of my brother Jerry or my dad after they died. I felt it would be too much hassle, but it again left me feeling like a terrible person, never going to pay my respects. I would tell everyone how silly it was to go talk to a dead body at a cemetery when I could talk to their spirit anywhere. There were times when my mom would want me to go with her to plant flowers on Jerry and dad’s graves, but I always had an excuse not to go. This made me feel so awful! I know she would have liked to go, and I kept her away with my issues. Once she actually didn’t get to attend a good friend’s funeral because of me. There was no one available to take her and I lied to her, saying I was busy, also. The real reason was because it was being held at the most contaminated cemetery (where The Guy was buried) for me to go to, so she missed the funeral. I felt awful for her, but I had to protect my well-being. I would have rather died than go.
Many years later, while in treatment, I visited the cemetery where my dad and Jerry were laid to rest and was so sad to see how lonely and neglected their grave sites were. How could I have not visited them before this? I actually wiped the hardened bird droppings and the spattered dirt from rain off their markers, read letters to both of them, planted flowers, and returned to the treatment center and showered. Going to the cemetery was something I never thought possible. I did get a bad migraine from all the stress, but this was a major step in my eventual recovery.
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