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Contamination OCD – My Story

Contamination OCD - My Story

If you’ve read my other blogs on OCD you will know that I suffer from Contamination OCD. I had no idea that this was something I was suffering from I just thought I was a strange, weird and horrible person and mother!

Where It Started

I’m pretty certain I can pinpoint where my OCD actually started based on my contamination fears and obsessions.

I was around 5 years old when I got nits. The nit nurse (or nitty Nora as we called her) had been into school checking our heads for lice. There must have been an outbreak at school and I was petrified of Nora. A few days later when I got home from school my mam was checking through my hair and I had them … lice!

Head Lice

My mother tipped my head upside down over some white paper and started combing through my long thick hair. I could see lice jumping and falling and I had never felt so disgusted in my life. The next step was to treat my hair but for me, that wasn’t enough. I could feel them even when they were gone and the whole inside of my body and my head was itchy.

So … I got my hair all shaved off!

Contamination OCD – My Story

So It Began

Growing up I was totally unaware of any issues, but looking back it makes sense. I was constantly putting clothes in the wash, even if I’d only had them on for a couple of seconds. I bathed and showered constantly and I didn’t like touching other people or things. One thing I never did was let anyone’s hair come near my hair so I didn’t do hugs and cuddles.

Living with my Grandma in my later teens she used to get upset with me constantly bathing and washing clothes. She would tell all of her friends how strange she found it but I thought it must be a generational thing.

Early Adulthood

I moved out and got my own flat when I was 16 years old so from then on I could clean, wash and change as much as I wanted to. There was no one to complain about how much water I was using or how often there were clothes on the washing line. It was perfect!

When I got together with my boyfriend (now husband) I think he just thought I was meticulous at first.

Then We Had A Baby

Having a baby changed everything for me. From the moment they were born, I needed to bathe them. Unfortunately, I needed a C Section so this wasn’t possible until day 3. Luckily I could top and tail them until then and dress them in the new baby grows we had bought.

Bathing

Out of the hospital, I found myself bathing my baby at least once a day but sometimes more. I used the excuse that I was getting into a routine and that the water would help them sleep, but that wasn’t really true. I couldn’t bear the thought of the germs that could be lingering on my baby from the dirty nappies and baby sick.

Housework

My housework increased dramatically too. I had always been very particular about housework but now with a baby in the house, I needed to clean even more. Babies had no immune system and I couldn’t risk my baby getting poorly from germs.

Contamination OCD – My Story

My Second Child

When I had my second child things became even worse. I had a private room this time so as soon as I was left alone I found the baby bath and bathed my newborn baby. Once clean the stress of any germs he may be carrying reduced dramatically.

Back at home I was then bathing my toddler constantly and trying to keep them germ-free whilst also trying to keep the new baby and the house germ free. It was exhausting and people tried to help but nobody cleaned like me and I didn’t trust them to do it.

Contamination OCD As A Mother

I felt like an awful mother because of some of the things my OCD made me do but I still didn’t realise it was an issue. As my children grew they would go to school. I still bathed them every evening. They had fresh clothes on every day and fresh pyjamas every night. I let them sleep in my bed with me but only if they had been in the bath and were in their fresh pyjamas. Say they were to touch the bedding with their grubby little hands I would strip and wash the bedding and then shower myself too.

Things I remember Doing Because Of OCD

As a parent here are some of the things I can remember doing that made me feel like an awful parent.

  • Constantly checking for nits
  • Keeping their hair short or even shaved to avoid nits
  • Using nit shampoo products & lice treatment when not needed
  • Leaving a family day out because I thought they had nits (it was just flies in the summer)
  • Not hugging my children unless they were clean
  • Not letting my children drink out of my cup or bottle when they were thirsty (I did always buy them a drink though)
  • Not letting my children use my hairbrush
  • Ad hoc worming my children & family because I’d heard worms were going round school
  • Keeping them off school for the slightest ailment
  • Not letting them make a mess with their toys
  • Reduced quality time because I was always washing & cleaning
  • Throwing away anything that another child wore of ours (especially hats)
  • Needing to clean their hands with antibacterial gel before I held their hands
  • Not going to certain places or certain people’s houses
  • Throwing things away and replacing them because I couldn’t clean them

I am sure there are many more examples of how my OCD manifested during this period but those are the things that I can remember right now.

Therapy

Having OCD was an incidental finding for me. I was in therapy doing Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for PTSD when I finally found out I was suffering from OCD. Some of the other OCD behaviours (that weren’t related to being a parent) came up and the therapist mentioned them. I couldn’t believe I’d never realised before but it all made sense. With the help of the therapist and an increase in SSRI’s, I managed to work on my OCD.

I Still Have OCD

I still have OCD but I’m managing it much better. There will be and have been triggers that knock me out of sync but now that I am aware of the reason behind what I’m doing I am able to help myself much quicker now. And because my family know I have OCD they can accept the things that I do and the rituals that I follow.

If you need help with OCD it is really important to see a doctor. I never did because I thought I was strange, weird and an awful mother but that is not true. OCD is a mental health condition and in the UK over 1 million people suffer from it.

For help & support, you can visit OCDUK here