OCD & Relationships

By OCDUKYA Charlotte

OCD can have a truly detrimental effect on relationships with family and friends. It can sometimes be difficult for those close to you to truly understand the debilitating mental anguish that someone suffering from OCD goes through on a daily basis. The constant asking for reassurance, the hundreds of daily “what ifs” and the carrying out of rituals can seem bizarre to those who have never experienced OCD. Not to mention how unwelcome thoughts often attach themselves onto those who you love, creating anxiety about going near them. This can lead to feelings of confusion from family and friends who struggle to comprehend what is wrong.

On many occasions, OCD has made me flee in situations where someone is unwell. In early 2019, we were out shopping in a city near to where I live, and my sister suddenly threw up. I was so terrified that I ran away panicking and crying. My parents spent around 20 minutes searching for me and my sister who was unwell apologised for being sick. When my parents found me, they were extremely angry because they could not understand why I had run off.  I also refused to get in the car with my sister. When we got home, I repeatedly cleaned myself and everything in the house multiple times, as I felt that everything was still contaminated. My hands became raw and bled. I screamed and shouted that I could not cope over and over again, and my Dad considered calling for an ambulance. I hate the fact that I can seem selfish and uncaring when someone I care about is unwell. These days, my family understands my behaviour, but it can still cause upset when OCD asserts itself in this way.

There have also been occasions when my friends have felt ill with either a cold or a stomach bug and I have completely isolated myself from them. I have spent many lunch times alone because OCD has made me too afraid to go near them, therefore, putting a strain on valued friendships and my ability to socialise in a 'normal' way.

Contamination OCD makes me struggle to eat food prepared by others, especially if it's chicken. This is something that I have been working on as an exposure and I think it is gradually improving. Last week, I ate a small amount of chicken cooked by my Aunt and Uncle while socially distanced in their garden. I felt anxious but managed to eat it. In the past, I would not have been able to do this. Often, I have been in awkward situations with my family, where they have kindly cooked for us and I have picked at the food or simply not eaten it, due to the fear that it could be contaminated. I worry that they might think that I do not like their food and therefore, hurt their feelings.

OCD also ruined a family holiday. In the summer of 2019, we stayed in a beautiful cottage in Wales. Again, my sister was sick, probably due to spending too much time out in the sun. I completely panicked and repeatedly cleaned everything in the house. I shouted that I could not cope over and over again. I refused to sleep in the same room with my sister for the remainder of the holiday and reacted angrily when she attempted any close social interaction. This was despite the fact that the bed was incredibly comfy, and she had recovered after a night's sleep. The holiday was supposed to be a time for everyone to relax. Instead, everyone was stressed.

I do not mean to damage relationships with those that I love, and I try so hard just to get through every day, including the experience of exposures which I can find truly terrifying, even if they might seem trivial to others. I do this because I do not want to be mentally unwell. I want to truly enjoy gatherings with family and friends, I want to be able to hug you without feeling anxious. I want to care for those who are unwell, instead of running away due to the fear that I will get contaminated, and I want to be able to eat out while feeling relaxed. OCD bullies me and always seems to be there, controlling my life and attempting to destroy my relationships with family and friends. But I am determined to keep making steps to overcome this disorder. My parents and family have noticed the progress I have made, even though it is slow-going at times and I still have bad days and bad moments.

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