True story of coping with OCD in the covid era. Written for the March Lighthouse Contest
|About a year ago, I began experiencing symptoms that felt like the flu. I saw stories on the news about people catching covid-19. Could I have it? What if I gave it to someone who wouldn't recover, like one of the many elderly people at my church? My OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) brain got stuck on the idea and I worried about it every day.
I decided to talk to my mom, since she's a retired nurse. "It's probably just allergies," she told me. My doctor echoed the same idea. I tried to get over the fear, but it remained stuck in my mind. I tried whatever I could think of to get rid of it, including playing my keyboard. I even tried taking anxiety medicine. Those things helped temporarily, but my brain remained stuck in gear.
The symptoms continued for months, including body aches. In November, my mom changed course. "You should get a covid test," she told me after I informed her of the aches. "Also, you should stay home from church until you get the results."
"I'm scared!" I told her.
"Read Psalm 91," she told me.
Later, I opened the Bible she gave me and turned to Psalm 91, reading verses 5 through 10:
"5 You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, 6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. 7 A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. 8 You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.
9 If you say, 'The Lord is my refuge,' and you make the Most High your dwelling, 10 no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent."
It felt as though the psalmist's words doused the fire in my brain, at least for the moment.
Thanksgiving came, and since I was still having symptoms, I opted not to join my family for the holiday. I called my mom, saying, "I am not feeling well. I think I should stay home." I wiped tears from my eyes at the thought of not seeing my family and my brother's beautiful new house.
My mom reassured me. "We will miss you, but you're doing the right thing by staying home."
I called up my close friend. "I won't get to see my family this Thanksgiving, and I have to get a covid test. I am devastated and scared," I told her.
"I'm coming to check on you," I heard through the phone.
"You don't have to do that," I told her. "I don't want you to have to quarantine if I test positive."
"I am coming anyway. We will be there in about a half hour." She hung up, and she and her mom arrived when they said they would. We visited, and I played my keyboard for them. About an hour later, they began to head out. "Thank you," I told them. "I feel a lot better now."
"I'm glad. We love you," she said, and gave me a big hug.
"I love you too," I said, and they departed.
A few days later, I headed to Urgent Care for my test. There were a lot of people and only one employee giving the tests. After a nearly five hour wait, they called me back. A doctor came in with the words," You're all done."
"What about the test?" I asked her.
"You will get the results in three to five days," she said.
"What about getting the test?" I asked.
"Oh! You haven't had it yet? I thought it was done already. I'll be right back." She returned in a couple minutes, covered in PPE and holding a stick like a Q-tip. She gently stuck it up my nose, wiggled it a little, then did the other nostril before dismissing me for real.
A couple days later, I got a phone call. "Your results came back negative," said the lady over the phone.
A wave of relief came over me. "Thank you, God!" I prayed. I immediately called my mom with the good news.
Despite the negative test, I continued to worry that I would get someone sick . What if it was a false negative?
My mom said to me on the way to church, "It's just allergies. What will it take to convince you you don't have it?"
About a month later, I was still not feeling well, so I got another test. It also came back negative, allowing me to spend a nice Christmas with my family. Now, every time I start to worry, I remind myself that I have had two tests, two doctors and a nurse say I don't have it.
I am feeling much better now. The problem with OCD is that it's repetitive. As soon as you douse the flames, they come right back again, over and over. That's what makes it so difficult to experience. I have found that distraction is an effective tool. I like to distract my brain by learning to read piano music. My brain can't worry and read music at the same time. Talking about my worries with my friend or my parents helps, too. If I really need to, I can take an anxiety pill. I also try to think calming thoughts (which can be quite hard). I also have a "God box" where I can write what is bothering me on a piece of paper and put it in the box, knowing God will take care of it. That is also soothing.
I hope that if anyone else with OCD reads this, that it can help them, and break the stigma.