This is a guest post from Wobble, a special friend I met through OCD-UK. Wobble mainly experienced relationship obsessions, something I’ve never written about on the blog. Here she shares her story.
« Every day I feel incredible guilt over everything I think about you. I feel guilty because I don’t think you’re the most handsome man I have ever seen, over the fact that I look at some pictures of you and think ‘ugh’. You don’t excite me like I thought someone I loved would do. I don’t yearn to be in your company. Quite often I am not pleased to see you and wish you would go away. I spend loads of time looking at you when you are here, trying to see if I get any pang of wanting, of passion. When I don’t I feel even worse and start having panic attacks ».
« I am lost for words, don’t know what to say to explain how I feel. But I can’t get over this guilty feeling inside. It’s tearing me up. I think if I ended this relationship that maybe just maybe I would have a tremendous feeling of relief – if nothing else, I know that it would mean you could get on with your life, even though I realise it would hurt you a lot initially. I try to be honest with you as much as possible, but the hurt in your eyes when I say some of things I feel, just tears me up. But I can’t keep these things inside me because they tear me up. Is this really what you want? For me to criticize you if you don’t look attractive to me one day? For me to tell you you look horrible? What kind of person would I be to carry on letting you let me do this to you??? A selfish one, that is for sure and I think I need to leave because of this ».
Wow, the above are extracts of unsent letters I wrote to my partner while in the throws of relationship-OCD. There were many! This is the first time I have opened them in many years, and I have to say I wasn’t expecting them to give me such an emotional response and I’m now sitting here trying not to cry. But at the same time I guess they make me realise how far I have come.
I have always been a big ‘romantic’ and easily infatuated. There were many pop stars, and ‘real’ people, that I cried over as a young girl – I guess it many ways that is quite normal, but looking back I do think some of these obsessions were a little over the top. As a teenager I used to get major crushes, spend time daydreaming about boys, and imagine a rosy romantic life with them…you know, just like in hollywood films, coz’ that’s what love is, right ? I loved the thrill of the chase, but the moment one of my crushes showed an interest in me, all those ‘ideals’ I had about romance were shattered. Those lovely gushing feelings I had just kind of dissipated and I would feel anxious….so I figured it couldn’t really be love and I would end the relationship.
This pattern continued in my university years. I met a guy who was lovely, and he thought I was lovely. But as soon as we became an ‘item’ the anxiety started and I ended up finishing the relationship. The same happened a few years later – met a lovely guy, he loved me, I was pretty infatuated with him. The moment we started ‘going out’ my brain would start picking apart his physical features – he was too skinny, too ginger, too nice etc. – and I spent the six months of our relationship an anxious mess until the relationship was ended by him, and then I was devastated.
My early twenties after Uni were pretty uneventful. I started working and had a lot of fun. Moved out of home and finally found some independence. Didn’t have any relationships and I was very happy and not anxious ! Then I met Dave at work – he did nothing for me when I first saw him – there was no bolt of lightening, my knees didn’t go wobbly, I didn’t have butterflies in my stomach. He was just an ordinary guy and pretty goofy looking quite frankly. But he was nice, caring, polite and intelligent. For months we didn’t actually know each other, but then through work projects our paths crossed more and more. We shared a similar sense of humour and I enjoyed talking to him and spending time with him, in a way I hadn’t before with other guys. But at the same time I felt quite anxious by the attention – I mean he wasn’t the dream man hollywood films said I might meet ! And that to me felt wrong. But I carried on and we ‘pursued’ each other for a while. Fast forward a couple of months and we were an item. The anxiety pretty much started right away – in the beginning it was niggling doubts which I did my best to push away, and most of the time I successfully did so, and I would even go so far as to say I was pretty happy. He moved in with me….a few years later we bought another house together. Everything was ok. I always had ‘doubts’ – most of them centred around his physical appearance, his dress sense, his crooked teeth, the age gap, what other people thought of him,whether other people thought he was good enough for me…the list goes on. But I carried on regardless and when I wasn’t having these thoughts I was happy.
Then in 2005 we went on holiday. The last day he proposed to me completely out the blue. I said ‘yes’….and then ‘Bam !’ something triggered in my head and life would never be the same again. For a couple of months after everything was great. A newly engaged lady, showing off the ring, blah blah blah. We booked the wedding in the South Pacific, and I even bought a dress.
And then I started going through an extremely challenging time at my work – emotional bullying, for want of a better word, by another colleague. She made my life hell – she had been doing so for a few years to be honest, but for some reason she ramped up her attacks on me. Simulatenously, the thoughts in my head started spiralling out of control. All of a sudden the thought of getting married wasn’t quite as exciting. Another colleague in another of our offices, who was also due to get married, mentioned that she felt very scared about walking down the aisle. The girls in my office said that wasn’t a good sign and that obviously she didn’t love him….it was an accident waiting to happen. At that moment my mind went into complete panic mode because I HAD BEEN HAVING EXACTLY THE SAME THOUGHTS ! Oh my God, that means I didn’t love Dave ! From that point onwards I was a mess. My body was in a permanent state of anxiety, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep. I ended up in my GP surgery who diagnosed me with depression and handed me a prescription for some SSRIs. I wasn’t offered anything else – I was just packed on my way.
But things didn’t get better, they got worse. I could no longer function and I was signed off sick from work and I never went back. I just thought I was depressed – weirdly I didn’t associate any of the symptoms (blurry vision, weakness, insomnia, panic, palpitations, sickness, diarrhea) with anxiety, because the doctor had just told me I was depressed. The SSRIs made me worse, much worse, but my GP still increased my dose.
The next couple of years, were just awful to be honest. My life was spent ‘googling’ relationships, the meaning of love, what is ugly, do we have sex enough, do I love him, am I a lesbian…. I could hours a day doing this. When Dave came home from work I would spend the evening questioning him on our relationship, whether he felt I loved him, whether it was ok to not like how he looked sometimes, did I look ugly to him sometimes (I wanted him to say yes to cancel out the awful thoughts I had about it). My questioning was endless, and even my poor mum had to endure it on her days ‘caring’ for me. The more questions I asked, the more came into my head, the more I had to google. Additionally I spent hours researching other people’s relationships, even celebrities I’m sad to say. In the real world I would examine the relationships of people I knew – their relationships looked perfect, just how I felt relationships should be. All of a sudden every other man became attractive to me, adding fuel to the fire – I obviously didn’t love Dave. Consequently our wedding was cancelled because I felt I couldn’t go through with it. That day I broke Dave’s heart although he stayed with me.
Eventually I asked my GP if I could have some counselling (note, I wasn’t offered it!) – I was given the standard six sessions with the practice counsellor. I walked in to my first session, I sat down, there were a few moments silence and then she asked me ‘How’s your sex life?’. I have no idea why she asked me this, but it wasn’t the best introduction to counselling for me. The next six sessions were spent with her analysing my childhood – she concluded that my parents hadn’t done a good job (even if they had), that I had been surpressed and that I should have had sex more in my early twenties to experience life more. She also concluded that I was actually only ‘fond’ of Dave and nothing more. She even suggested I would be better off without him. Hmmmm, I thought counsellors were meant to be impartial. Needless to say my first experience of psychological support was not the best.
I had some more counselling a year later with someone different. This was completely the opposite. The counsellor sat there and said very little…..she just nodded her head occasionally. Another waste of my time.
So life carried on….I got another job, managed to stick it out for two years despite spending most days on the verge of a breakdown – I was a manager of ten people yet I instead of managing them I spent my time analysing them and their lives, thinking they were better than me. At one point I even convinced myself I fancied one of them, and spent many an hour crying in the toilets by these terrible thoughts I was having. I would even confess them to Dave when I got home EVERY night. I left one day because the thoughts in my head just never left me alone and I was unable to concentrate and do my job.
Not long after, my incessant googling,which occupied every spare moment I had, led me to a few websites about OCD. Stuck in a Doorway, OCD Action, OCD-UK. All of a sudden I found people suffering the same thoughts as me. This was when my life started to change for the better. I subsequently got a job at a mental health charity and for the first time ever I found myself with understanding and supportive colleagues/friends. Unfortunately a spanner was thrown in the works not long after when my mum died suddenly of a heart attack, aged just 63. I was devastated – my one and only friend in life was suddenly gone.
But my mum’s death made me realise that I hadn’t been living for the previous few years – I had just been existing. Spurred on by wanting to change this, I sought out a psychologist who specialised in OCD. I paid for the sessions with the small amount of money my mum had left me. I felt, if nothing else, she would be happy I was doing something to try and sort myself out. So I embarked on sessions of CBT and for the first time I saw light at the end of the tunnel.
I also started seeking more and more help through the various OCD forums on the internet. I chatted to people suffering the same thoughts as me, learned of strategies for overcoming them. For the first time I didn’t feel alone anymore. I made two very special friends too; both of them are still there for me to this day and I can’t imagine my life without them. I honestly believe that this friendship and support enabled me to get where I am today.
Through this combination of CBT and friendship my life slowly started to get better. I learnt strategies for dealing with the OCD, and started to realise that most of my thoughts were completely irrational, that probably most people in relationships had exactly the same thoughts as me. The only difference was they just laughed them off, whereas I was trying to solve them, work out their true meaning and trying to neutralise them.
Through a very slow process I did finally ‘get better’. I am not saying I never have these thoughts any more, but by no means do they control me. I have started living again, laughing again, and accepting myself for who I am – A little bit nutty, but also extremely caring and compassionate. My life has changed in so many ways. Sadly I lost my dad to cancer in 2011, which was another very difficult time for me, but I do feel that his passing has spurred me on even more to make the most of my life. In January 2013 Dave and I threw caution to the wind (yes, little ‘ole me!!) and moved to France. I have lived here ever since, and I can honestly say that I finally feel at peace with those turbulent years. Life still has its ups and downs, I still haven’t plucked up the courage to walk down the aisle, but I am relaxed and happy. And you can be too -you just need to start believing it. Am I in love with Dave? Who knows, but I am happy to accept the uncertainty and figure life has a way of working itself out if it needs to!