Saturday, August 28, 2010

I'd Rather Have Worms

I am glad to be back in the blogosphere. It has been a busy time here with adjusting to the "back to school" routine. I also had to deal with ex-husband nastiness. It was emotionally consuming.

Shana recently posted about the lengths people will go to survive. It brought me back to my early days of OCD recovery. My daughter just celebrated her eighth birthday. After her birth I was catapulted into an escalation of OCD that reached psychotic proportions. That doesn't generally happen with OCD. Although we may feel crazy, we generally don't completely lose touch with reality. But in the post-partum period, anything is possible.

Losing my facilities was an unimaginable ordeal. One month after the birth, I was ready to end my life in order to relieve the suffering. I didn't want to leave my children, who I knew needed me. So I asked to be brought to a local ER. I was so weak and distressed that I could hardly walk. But I made my way to the window, and told the receptionist that I have post-partum depression and I need help. I am pretty sure I looked awful. I was up-triaged and they took me right in, without making me wait in the busy waiting room.

Asking that woman at the window for help was my first surrender -- an expression of hope. I had no idea what would come next. I spent 7 days as an inpatient on a locked psychiatric ward. I received tremendous compassion. I got my label (You have OCD) and started to learn about my illness. When I was well enough to read, my doctor handed me a Y-BOCS with a list of all the varieties of obsessions. In that moment, my whole life made sense. I had been dealing with OCD for 28 years, thinking it was "just me". This was the start of my healing. In the end, being that ill was a blessing. The extreme disease I experienced motivated me to take my recovery with the utmost seriousness.

Exposure and response prevention is painful and just plain hard. But, for me, it has been the key to my recovery. Sometimes it is hard to know how far to take an exposure. I remember being fearful of eating spaghetti, because I had the notion that the sauce was dangerous. I remember thinking, "I am going to eat this, even it if it kills me." I did, and as usual, nothing happened.

I tackled my handwashing early on. I made the decision that while doctoring I would wash once before and once after each patient. This is the standard. No re-washing, because they still "seemed germy." However, when I was not at work, I decided to stop washing my hands under all circumstances (except when dealing with my children's food and bottles). It may seem a little extreme, but it took the guess work out. I knew that I could "catch something." But, I felt an urgent need to get well and be able to be a good mother. I had been so impaired that I was willing do anything to survive and beat the OCD.

I didn't die. But I did catch pinworms. It took about a month for those critters to take up residence in my lower GI tract. I called my doctor, got a prescription, and got rid of it with a pill. I started washing my hands after using the restroom and before eating. Once. No re-washing. By that time the obsession was extinguished 99%. I could wash normally without worrying. Was it worth it? Definitely! OCD or pinworms. That's easy. I'd rather have worms.


  1. I am so impressed by your determination to challenge your OCD and overcome it. I always AMAZED when I hear about people like you who manage to limit or go without hand-washing to extinguish their contamination concerns. Yes, it may seem extreme, but it sounds like it works. I really admire the motivation and urgent desire you had to overcome your struggles for yourself and your children. It's definitely inspiring!

  2. I just can't believe you could have OCD about germs and continue to be a doctor at all! That is amazing. :)
    Congrats on the successes and thanks for writing this inspiring post.

  3. Thank you for sharing part of your story about getting help and discovering a name for what you struggled with. OCD threatens dire consequences and you were able to recognize that losing your ability to have a life was the worst consequence of doing what the OCD demands.