Amy’s guest post is the 35th post in the segment on my blog, called “The Reality Of…” which gives others the ability to share their story and raise awareness of the disabilities, illnesses, impairments and invisible illnesses that they have.
My name is Amy and I live in Wiltshire, UK. I suffer with Anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
Let’s start with the OCD. Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental illness where the sufferer frequently experiences obsessive thoughts and feels the need to carry out compulsive behaviours. The number one obsessive thought I experience is around getting ill. When it comes to compulsions, the main thing I do is hand washing.
At the time when my OCD was at its worst, I would wash my hands around 50 times a day. Another compulsion I would often carry out is avoidance. If someone I know is ill, I will not be going to their house for a good couple of weeks, if not more. My OCD isn’t just about contamination though.
Other compulsions I experience are around safety and doing bad things. This is usually counteracted by checking behaviours, such as checking the front door is locked and checking that candles are blown out, the oven is off, and so on.
When it comes to ‘bad things,’ I used to obsess over harming people. The main one was when I was driving. There was a time when I would turn around and drive past children and cyclists to make sure that I hadn’t killed anyone. That was mainly when I was alone, but if there was someone in the car with me, I would spend the rest of the day asking them “I didn’t knock that child over, did I?” It was exhausting.
The most common compulsion I still do to this day, is ‘touch wood.’ We all know that saying, and for me I use it numerous times throughout the day. It’ll be ‘touch wood, I won’t catch that cold,’ or ‘touch wood, I didn’t hit that cyclist.’ Sometimes, it will literally be ‘touch wood, everything will be fine.’ When there’s no wood to touch, I tap my head.
As for the anxiety, to put it simply, I worry about EVERYTHING. That’s not an exaggeration. I can’t look forward to anything without the fear that something bad will happen (usually that someone will get ill), my mind always goes to the worst possible consequence, and I can never relax. It more often than not makes me irritable, and at the end of a particular episode, I’m often exhausted. The other thing? It REALLY upsets my stomach.
That leads me on to the IBS. I’ve had IBS since I was quite young, and the main symptom I experience is nausea. Not ideal when one of your main fears is illness. Over the years the symptoms I get have actually evolved. Since the last year or so, things have gotten worse on the IBS front, and I’m currently undergoing tests to find out if there’s anything else going on.
While I don’t want to go into too much detail, let’s just say, I can never be too far away from a toilet. Anxiety and IBS are a very cruel pairing. Anxiety has been known to make IBS worse, and if I have a particularly bad flare up of IBS, my anxiety soars through the roof.
How They Affect Me
I don’t know how often people notice my compulsions, but I often think that I must look crazy to passers by. I’ll be stood in public toilets washing my hands 5,6,7 times, I’ll be sat at my desk at work and I’ll be tapping my head several times because I’ve just had a horrible thought pop up. To me, they’re all necessary behaviours, but to an onlooker, I probably look crazy AF.
I’ll also admit that I’m incredibly annoying. My constant need for reassurance is something my husband and my mother have to deal with on a regular basis, and I feel for them. The thing is, I can’t just ask once either.
One of the most depressing things is that I cannot look forward to anything. No matter what it is, how amazing it is, I obsess over the fact that I’ll either be unwell for it, that it’ll get cancelled or something will go hideously wrong. It’s exhausting.
Not surprisingly, this line of thought means that I’m not the easiest person to be around. A lot of the time, if there’s a big thing coming up, I’m never excited. I’m just miserable. My wedding was a fine example.
When it comes to the IBS, it affects me in all sorts of fun ways. The main one? I’m constantly at fear that I will either throw up or poop myself (sorry, there’s just no nicer way to say that). For me, travelling and eating out are stressful AF, and because of it, these days I really struggle to enjoy food in general, let alone when it comes to eating out
Learning To Adapt
I spend a hell of a lot of money on hand sanitiser. Not just any hand sanitiser. It has to be anti-viral. I’ve slowly started to realise what things can trigger my IBS too, so eating out is slightly easier in that I know what foods to avoid. Over the years, I’ve also recognised what an ‘anxious’ stomach is like, as opposed to a genuine funny tummy. The main thing, however, is that I started on medication a few years ago, and that’s made the biggest difference.
For the sake of taking a tiny little pill every day, I can live a fairly normal life. I still have OCD, but thanks to 100mg of Sertraline, it’s much less severe. I experienced severe OCD symptoms since I was around 18 or so, but I never actually got a diagnosis until I was 24. Getting a diagnosis was the turning point, because the knowledge that I genuinely had mental health disorder gave me the reassurance that I wasn’t just making it up. Something was actually wrong with me.
Changing As A Person
Now that I take medication, I feel much more stable. I still have bad periods where my OCD is worse, just like when my IBS flares up, but compared to how I was a few years ago, it’s much less frequent. Since having 6 months of high intensity CBT, I feel as though I’m better equipped to deal with not only my mental health issues, but also my IBS. Thanks to CBT, I’m able to recognise what are OCD thoughts, and I feel as though (on a good day) I’m able to challenge them and act accordingly. I like to think of myself as ‘in recovery’ – I’m not completely cured, but I’m better.
My Favourite Superhero
I’m not sure if it counts, but I would go for Jessica Jones. I know she would be the first to say that she’s not a superhero, but IMO, she totally is. She’s 100% badass, she doesn’t take crap from people, she does right by her clients, and she keeps herself to herself!
Thanks Amy for sharing your story wth my readers and me!