"I've just been diagnosed with OCD - and I had absolutely no idea."


I do not wash my hands repeatedly. In fact, I should probably wash my hands more as I am one to get into a sandwich before washing my hands first. I do not press buttons repeatedly, or count things obsessively.

If my carrots are touching my meat then that doesn’t bother me. Hell, if my carrots are all across the plate then I don’t really care, it’ll all end up together as it mixes in my belly. Plus, my house definitely does not look like those houses on the TV shows about hoarders, even though whenever I watch those shows I always think their hallways like tunnels look like fun to play in.

So, imagine my surprise when a few weeks ago my psychologist introduced the notion that I had OCD. I was there to see her because my anxiety was beginning to spike again. Anxiety is something that I have struggled with since I can remember thanks to growing up in a violent household.

Watch: Mia Freedman talks about how she deals with her anxiety. (Post continues after video.)

But I feel like it isn’t the type of anxiety we most often hear about in the public. I rarely have panic attacks, but instead live in constant fear that I am in harm’s way, unbeknownst to most the people in my life. I repeat the same pattern – things are fine, then suddenly I start getting a bit antsy, then I start picturing bad things happening, then before I know it every day I think of different ways I’m going to die.


I always tell myself that I am fine and I can handle it, but then I get to the stage where it’s 3am and I am awake, crying, believing I’m going to get stabbed, in my apartment, by a robber, while my apartment in engulfed in flames because I left my hair straighteners on and the stress of it all causes me to have a heart attack. Then during my autopsy they find that I actually had a brain tumour the size of a soccer ball too. You get the picture.

“I get to the stage where it’s 3am and I am awake, crying, believing I’m going to get stabbed.”

I’ve never been a big fan of seeing a counsellor. Although I like the idea, whenever I’ve been in the past I’ve always left feeling incredibly underwhelmed. ‘Try to rationalise with the anxious thought’ has never worked for me.

Trust me, I can find you a million and one reasons why my bad thoughts can come true and I’m prepared to argue until death about it. During my peaks of anxiety I tried to rationalise while my mind screams ‘BUT WHAT IF YOUR ARTERIES ARE CLOGGED AND THIS ISN’T PANIC ATTACK? HOW DO YOU KNOW??!!!!’ So, one night as I was placing my boots by my bedroom window (so I could quickly pull them on to jump out the window in case of a fire), I realised I needed help again.

“I realised I needed help again.” Image via iStock.

So, back to the doctors I went, and off to a new psychologist. She wanted to know my routine. I told her it was nothing special. She asked how many times I checked the front door to see if it was locked. Just at night, I told her. She wanted to know how many times. A few, I said. But that’s normal. Everyone does that. Same with the main building door downstairs that has to be manually locked. If anything, I was doing everyone in the apartment block a favour.

She kept pushing, and wanted to know every detail of my nighttime routine, including my thoughts. I didn’t think much of it, and to be honest I sat there with an air of arrogance as I already knew these sessions wouldn’t help me. She then told me for the next week I was to lock my apartment door, mindfully, and then I was only allowed to go back and look at it once. Not touch. ‘Sure thing,’ I shrugged, a bit baffled, and we moved on.

“She kept pushing, and wanted to know every detail of my nighttime routine, including my thoughts.” Image via iStock.

Which is why it surprised me that within 30 seconds my eyes filled up with tears and suddenly I was crying like a baby. I didn’t even know why I was crying, and it took me a while to realise that the thought of this terrified me. Going back to check the front door of wherever I lived is something I have always done. So much so, that I never thought twice about it.


She went to to explain that I had OCD which was fueling my anxiety, as I was constantly preparing for a danger that wasn’t imminent. She told me I was not to give in to the anxiety by going and checking, but ride the anxious wave, trusting it will end and each night my anxiety would lessen. But whatever happened, I was not allowed to go back to the door.

The following week I had some of the longest, most spectacular panic attacks of my life. It was pretty terrifying. I think I cried for 4 days straight. I had to take 2 days off work because my tears wouldn’t stop. But somehow I found the strength to not go back to check the door more than I was allowed. To my surprise she was right, by the time the week was over my anxiety around the door was calmer.

sad woman
“I had to ride the anxious wave, trusting it will end and each night my anxiety would lessen.” Image via iStock.

But that was not the end of it. Each week she adds in a new rule, no checking any plugs, no checking the apartment block door, and the hardest one, no going through my escape plan of jumping out of windows. It was up until this one that I had no idea that a repetitive thought could be a symptom of OCD.

I could stop myself physically touching something, but how do I stop going through a plan I have routinely gone over every night since a child? A plan I have always gone over because it was something I needed as a child, and I believe it would keep me safe?

I don’t yet have an answer to that one, and I am still challenged by it every night. But now, instead of indulging in my complex plan of how to get out of every window of my 3rd store apartment I try and take comfort in the words that my psychologist taught me to say – ‘thank you, little girl, for trying to protect me, but I don’t need you anymore. I am safe now.’

The author of this post is known to Mamamia but has chosen to remain anonymous.