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Maybe We Are

Is the universe trying to tell me something?

Escrito por Anonymous

Maybe We Are

01 Anonymous would always check to see if she did everything correctly at work and frequently called her husband to know he was safe.

02 The anxiety was manageable until she had an intrusive thought about leaving her husband. She tried searching for an answer in songs and different treatments, but her intrusive thoughts persisted.

03 After seeking care at an outpatient facility and then opening up to her therapist, she was referred to someone who told her about OCD.

“You can’t always get what you want…but you just might find you get what you need.” -The Rolling Stones

As a nurse, your job is to never have an error. In the medical community, certain errors are actually called “never events.” I took my responsibility in the operating room very seriously, as one should. I checked and rechecked my charting to be sure all my t’s were crossed and i’s were dotted. My bosses loved it — I could be counted on for never forgetting a detail. 

As time went on, I began to notice that my checking behaviors were getting more frequent and felt more urgent. I couldn’t wait for the patient to get out of the operating room so I could check the record again to be sure they didn’t have an allergy I may have overlooked. I was filled with questions like, “Did I double check the birthdate correctly?” or “Were we operating on the correct patient?” 

At first, I thought it was just pressure from my boss and overall stress that was making me so anxious. Then, I began to worry about my husband. I always had to say “drive safe” before he left the house to ensure he wouldn’t get hurt. I would ask him to text me when he got to work so I could make sure he was okay. Sometimes, I imagined him getting into an accident and would call him in a panic until he picked up. 

Dr. Phillipson Talks Science, Symptoms & Treatment of OCD

One day, after a particularly stressful weekend, I went to meditate. I laid my hands on my abdomen and began to breathe with the music. I was sinking into a deeper relaxation when a thought, with tremendous ferocity, came to my mind.

“GET OUT!” 

This sent me into a panic.

What had just happened? Get out of what? I scanned my mind for possibilities. Was it my marriage? I knew my husband and I had work to do, but I loved him tremendously. Was my spiritual source telling me to leave my husband with this thought? Was I on the wrong path to my purpose and being told in no-uncertain terms to leave my marriage? I needed to clear my head, so I grabbed my jacket and went for a walk. 

As I walked around outside, it felt like I was being chased by the intrusive thought. The fear became overwhelming and I couldn’t bear it any longer. When I got home, I asked my husband, “How do you know we are meant to be together?” He responded, “Well, I don’t know for certain, but I love you and want to be your husband. That’s all I need.” I felt better for less than a second then asked, “But how do you know for sure?” He looked at me quizzically and said, “I know I love you.” 

After that conversation, I spent the rest of the day searching my body and mind for proof that I truly loved my husband. I played out scenarios in my head to see how they made me feel, never finding any relief. I went to work the next day having slept for only two hours. Then I heard a song come on the radio at a coworker’s desk about a couple in love and started questioning the music. “Did the lyrics to this song resonate with me? Is it how I feel about my husband?” I listened to the next songs with the same questions. 

When I came home, I began interrogating my husband again. Maybe we just needed some space? No, that didn’t seem right. What would it feel like if I left him? No answer came to me. I was caught between two opposing thoughts with none of my intuition left to guide me. I slept for another two hours that night, asking the universe to please guide me through this hell. 

The next day, I greeted the sunrise as a shadow of my former self. I was frantic, terrified and inconsolable. I took a leave from work and sought the help of a therapist. The same song that had played on the radio the day before was repeating in my head, over and over. 

At first I was told, “Everyone gets songs stuck in their head. It’s nothing to worry about.” Then, came the blank stares, unsure of how to respond when I told them it had been weeks, a month, two months. It could be the last song I heard on the radio or a specific song that had meaning to me. I would check the lyrics to each of them trying to find an answer to my questions. The songs were there 24 hours a day, every day. I thought I was going crazy. The 6 months that followed, I lost 30 pounds, half my hair and all my hope. 

I saw shaman’s and energy workers, read tarot cards, went to acupuncture, and practiced Reiki obsessively to try to find the answer to my most persistent question: Was I following my spiritual path, and did that path include my husband? Each opinion, reading, and reflection was fodder for my mind to pass doubt on. I went to traditional therapists who all said I had been over-stressed and that I needed to take some time away and rest. 

I greeted the sunrise as a shadow of my former self.

I sought care at an outpatient psychiatric facility who told me I had major depressive disorder and anxiety. When I would explain it felt so much bigger than that I was told that everyone feels that way when dealing with a mental health crisis. I went to a six-week program to learn Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. I studied each day with fierce determination and figured there had to be a way out. When the intrusive thoughts persisted, I felt like a failure. I must not be doing the program correctly if I wasn’t yielding results. I questioned each therapist and counselor about relationship counseling and what a healthy marriage was supposed to look like. I was sleeping for no more than four hours each night. It felt like the universe was punishing me.

Then, came the day I will never forget. On September 26th, 2019, I braved a yoga class when a young girl passed by the window. A thought suddenly came to me, “What if I am a pedophile and that is why I am being punished?” At that point, any remaining shred of myself felt like it was obliterated. I was not worth being on this earth if I was having this thought. I began to check to see if I had ever thought I was a pedophile before. I couldn’t remember, which must mean one thing: I was one. I went to bed that night thinking of how I could end my life so I could make sure I never hurt a child. 

I went to my therapist the next day and confessed that I thought I needed to be locked up, fully expecting her to call the police. It felt like my heart was being crushed with each word I spoke. She asked a lot of questions, trying to suss out where this was coming from. I told her I was checking my body to be sure I didn’t have any feelings that were a sign of me being a monster, but I couldn’t tell. She looked up at me and said, “I think I may know someone who can help you.” 

A week later, I was in the office of the woman who saved my life. When Susan Haverty told me about obsessive compulsive disorder, I fell into a crumpled ball — not out of sadness, but from a place of gratitude. She explained themes like pedophile OCD, relationship OCD, and my lesser known musical OCD. She shared that OCD is ego dystonic, meaning it takes values the sufferer holds most dear and places uncertainty around them. She told me she knew things would get better with hard work and time, and it was the first time I felt I wasn’t alone.

However, I still needed some convincing that I wasn’t a monster. I didn't know at the time that accepting the uncertainty would ultimately set me free. I spent the better part of a year pushing myself to eat, shower, and move. My walks around the block felt like marathons and a bowl of oatmeal felt like a feast.

Susan introduced me to exposure and response prevention. I did “ERP-lite” until I was stabilized on medication. We took small steps with ERP until I was doing exposures every day for hours; working on each theme carefully and methodically. I forced myself to bear the horrible pain of each exposure, never fully convinced my obsessions didn’t have some truth to them. I worked tirelessly through each theme, having lapses of severe depression, and anxiety spikes that lasted weeks. 

But we also kept track of my progress. What was I able to do now that I couldn’t do last month? I could sit with my husband on the couch without checking, I could sleep more than six hours with medication, I could start working part-time, I could sleep in the same bed with my husband, I could sleep without medication, I went back to nursing. Slowly but surely, I gained my life back, and I had real hope for the future. 

There are times I am grateful for my OCD. It has shown me that I don’t need to be “normal” to love myself and the experiences I have survived. It has given me compassion for those dealing with any mental health struggle. It has created acceptance and curiosity. It has challenged my fears and given me a strength I hadn’t met yet.

Slowly but surely, I gained my life back, and I had real hope for the future

The musical OCD is still the stickiest. It is rare and there is little documentation on how to perform exposures, so I’ve been my own experiment and I try new exposures every day. I have made progress — the songs are softer, less intense, and sometimes disappear altogether. But I know I can live with them as companions and not be broken by them. This obsession has shown me how truly resilient our human spirits are.

I am dedicated to sharing my story so people can know: you can always find a way back home to yourself. It may take years, it may get worse before it gets better, but it will happen if you find the help you deserve and treat yourself with love and kindness. 

One day, my husband came home and sat at the table with me. He said, “I want you to know how amazingly brave I think you are.” I burst into tears. To this day, it is the kindest and most loving thing anyone has ever said to me. It wasn’t until almost two years later that I was able to accept that maybe my marriage isn’t the centerpiece of my spiritual path, and maybe we weren’t going to be together forever. 

But, maybe we were.

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Anonymous is 40-year-old RN living in Northern California with her husband. She is an OCD advocate, a Reiki practitioner, photographer and Star Baker.

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