Monday, June 9, 2014
To tell or not to tell....that is the question!
I have really been struggling a lot with whether or not to tell certain people about my OCD. Currently my only family that knows are my husband and daughter. I have not told my parents, sister, other relatives or friends about this. My husbands family also does not know (at least that is what he tells me). I suppose a lot of it is because I'm ashamed of the behavior. Also I just don't feel like a lot of people understand OCD, and I worry in some ways it might make it worse to "let the cat out of the bag". Of course living with my husband made it necessary to tell him. It got to the point where it was pretty obvious something was wrong and I told him I had OCD about 2 1/2 years ago. I did not have OCD when we got married in 2001, but it started developing about 2 years after we got married and has slowly gotten worse through the years. A lot of the initial behaviors were things where no one would ever know and I kept it to myself for a LONG time. I would classify myself as mild-moderate at the time I told him which was December 2011. At the present time, I would now classify myself as severe, almost borderline extreme. Also a lot of my obsessions currently revolve around feeling like my husband is contaminated, so it has been very difficult for our marriage and obviously very difficult to hide. Ironically our marriage troubles and stress is kind of what triggered my OCD, so it feels like a vicious cycle. Anyway...I'm rambling. I tend to do that in my posts, don't I? Even though my husband knows I have OCD, he does not know a lot about my particular symptoms. It's become something I've been very good at hiding through the years, but it's becoming increasingly harder to do that. He made the comment about a week ago that things seem worse....and I thought to myself...."if only you knew how bad they really are". He is not someone that I feel emotionally comfortable with right now, so it's very hard to talk about my OCD with him. I continue to hide most behaviors from him, although some are very obvious--namely when I'm avoiding him or acting like I'm scared to death of him. Avoidance has become one of my biggest compulsions when dealing with the contamination issues, and I've started avoiding my family (parents, sister and relatives). I don't want to go to social gatherings because I can't deal with people touching me and I'm not going to eat there and I don't want to hug anyone....so I just stay home. Then my family things I'm being rude or just don't want to come, which has probably created a lot of hard feelings and resentment. We've had several get-togethers lately with my family and I've avoided all of them, even things like my grandma's 85th birthday party and Easter, simply because I couldn't stand the thought of hugging my relatives or sitting down on their couches. That is so sad, but so true. My daughter turned 11 a couple of weeks ago and for the first time ever, I did not plan a birthday party with our families over. Too many people to keep track of. I didn't want people using the bathroom that I use or sitting on our couches or touching things around the house, because I wouldn't be able to see what was going on. My parents ended up bringing over her birthday gift last week, and I suggested they bring their dog over to meet our puppy...just so I had an excuse that we would all be outside. I didn't want people in here again or sitting on our furniture. Then my dad came over and gave my daughter a big hug and I felt mortified, and put all her clothes aside, and I later threw them away. We went to a wedding this weekend and I felt horribly contaminated after that. My father in law (who concerns me at about the same level as my husband because they both have the same hobbies of farming and machine restoration) touched my clothes and my daughters dress just trying to say hello and be friendly, and I had to hug a few people there. I wouldn't even wear my seatbelt home from the wedding because I didn't want to contaminate it with my now contaminated clothes. I didn't go to the reception because I just needed to get home and "decontaminate myself" as quickly as possible. This meant removing all clothes worn there, and I know I won't wear them again. I threw my dress and my daughters dress aside and will get rid of those. I went outside and cleaned off my seat in the car twice with soapy water to remove any contamination from the clothes after hugging people and sitting in the pew at church....I feel so horrible saying that, but this is true, and this is where I'm at. Everything just feels contaminated to me when I am out in public. I had several appointments for my daughter and I last week and I bought special inexpensive outfits for us that we would wear to those appointments and then I knew I wouldn't wear them again afterward. We visited the dentist for the first time in a year (that is a whole other blog post to write about soon and why I have avoided that for so long). They always wipe down the chair with chemical wipes between patients. I knew this ahead of time, and so this was the main purpose for buying different clothes. I didn't want chemicals on my clothes and I knew I wouldn't want to wear them again. So we went to the dentist in those clothes and I bought special little pads (like someone who has incontinence might put down on their bed) to put down on the seat, so that the now contaminated clothes wouldn't ruin the seats in my car. The day after that I had my own doctors appointment with a family doctor (to check my hypothyroidism). I of course can't stand the thought of sitting in waiting rooms and doctors office chairs, so I wore the contaminated clothing there again so I didn't have to ruin my regular clothes. Same issue again when my daughter went to the orthodonist later that week. I had her wear the same pants she wore to the dentist. Now that week is past us and all of those clothes are being disposed of. Thank goodness that week is over....that was very stressful for me. Once we were in the "diirty clothes" for the day, we remained in those until we showered at night. We never sat on the "safe couch" in the living room in order to not contaminate that. Once we showered and put on clean clothes, then we were clean and we could sit on our normal couch. I also hate how I draw my daughter into these compulsions too. Just a little background information for ya--I also like to keep this stuff for my own documentation purposes. So anyway.....back to my original question in the title of this post...."to tell or not to tell, that is the question!" Sometimes I wonder how things would be if I chose to tell people. If I tell my parents I have OCD, then it may make more sense. There is an explanation for why I can not eat at peoples gatherings and why I don't come to stuff. What concerns me is that since my mom and her family (her mom and sisters) are very close, I'm not sure if she would be able to keep this from her family if I asked her to do that. I definitely am not ready for my grandparents and extended family to know about this, maybe not ever. I think I haven't eaten as so many family gatherings by now, that it doesn't even phase my family anymore....they probably think its odd, but don't push it anymore, and frankly just don't expect my family to show up for meals at family gatherings. One of the main reasons I continue to avoid is because I don't want to hug people and I don't want to sit on their couches or kitchen chairs, because I question the cleanliness of their clothes and their furniture and my mind just keeps ruminating about everything that could have happened (ex. my relatives have dogs...who knows if they've peed on the couches. I saw my aunt clean up dog pee on one of her couches once. Darn OCD makes you remember everything!!!!) I could probably go to a function, but I know I would end up throwing clothes away, and I HATE DOING THAT!!!!!! I really do. My niece's birthday is in August and she will be 4. My sister has a knack for taking her around to everyone after she opens her gifts and telling her to give people kisses and hugs. I don't want a kiss and hug. I feel so horribly awful saying that, but I don't. I want to celebrate my nieces's birthday. I want to see my family. I do NOT want a hug and kiss from my niece, and so that is probably what will keep me from going to the celebration. I feel like a horrible aunt saying that. Feels good to have this outlet on my blog where I can get it out though. That is another instance where I feel like maybe if my family knew that I had OCD and didn't want to be touched by people, that I could still take part in celebrations, but at least my parents and sister would know that I don't want to be touched....so my sister could just not bring her niece over to me or "force" her to give me a hug afterward. That still doesn't solve the problem of my grandparents and aunts or cousins hugging me. I just don't want to be touched!!!! Also if my in-laws were aware of my OCD, then maybe they would realize I don't need a hug or a pat on the arm to say hello either. Am I sounding totally rude yet or what??!!!??? The bottom line is I just don't know if I want people to know yet. But when I don't tell them, I know I come off as being extremely rude or avoidant and I don't want to create further tension with my family or my husbands family for that matter. People just don't get the whole OCD thing. They really have no idea where our thought processes are capable of going, and how it mentally tortures us through even the most mundane of activities. Most people would have no idea where our brains can go on simple thought and how we can be taken from Point A to Point B and all of the possible things that could happen in between. How we give into what the OCD tells us, in order to be free of the thought. My husband doesn't even get this yet and he has known about it for 2 1/2 years, so how are my parents and sister going to understand, when they don't even live with me and can't see my "OCD in action" everyday. I'm just curious for all of you out there.....who all knows in your life, and how did you make the decision to tell them? Are you glad that you told people or do you regret it? Do most people try to understand or do they now treat you differently? That is what I am struggling with right now. Do I keep it a secret or do I tell?