It’s (Maybe Not) All My Fault: OCD in Motherhood

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I was working on a project when my phone rang. I looked down and gasped. It was my daughter’s teacher. Without even picking up, I instantly thought, “Whatever this is, whatever happened, it’s all my fault.”

Every time I drop my daughter off at school, we have our usual farewell. I tell her I love her so much, more than anything, and she accepts my sentiments with a kiss, using the same words and motions each time. Then, I’m on my way while she happily begins playing with her friends, not knowing any different. I take a deep breath — just as any parent does, I’m sure — as I walk away from my whole world under someone else’s care, which is always nerve-wracking.

I realize this is nothing out of the ordinary; however, my reasoning — besides the unconditional love I have for my daughter — is that I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, better known as OCD. 

Our seemingly favorite farewell is actually a routine for me, trying to reassure myself of my daughter’s safety until she’s back in my arms and when my daughter’s teacher called, I quickly realized we had not done our usual goodbye routine. This is why I believed her accident was, in fact, all my fault, even though I was nowhere near the scene. 

When I was very young, before we even knew my diagnosis, I recall taking so many sips of a beverage at a restaurant or touching various items in a gift shop on vacation to “ensure the safety and well-being” of various loved ones. (Here is an article that discusses this further.)

As a full-grown adult who has since received mental health help, I realize how ridiculous that all sounds, but as a child who wanted nothing more than a sense of control in a world that was seemingly constantly out-of-sorts, I was grasping for any chance at making sense of it all.

Nowadays, I still battle my OCD daily, but as I mentioned, I have some tools to use that I didn’t have back in the day. For example, when I spoke with my daughter’s teacher after I caught my breath, I realized that this was just a coincidental accident. She’s a toddler on a playground… the logical side of my brain can say, “Yeah, that may happen sometimes.” It really had nothing to do with the fact that we did not do our standard goodbye exchange.

Fortunately, she ended up being unharmed, just a little shaken up, but I soon came to realize that my initial reaction was nothing more than my OCD doing some of its best sneaky work. Believe it or not, OCD is not always about being neat and tidy (yeah, I’m sure some people would be shocked to hear I, of all people, have OCD because of this misrepresentation.)

That’s one thing about OCD: it can be all about control, no different than when I was a little kid. And, as we all know, parenthood leaves us vulnerable in so many ways. The lack of control I have over the endless possibilities in this life is enough to leave me in tears some days; one look at social media or the news emotionally crumbles me with anxiety. I seek any possibility of keeping the peace and avoiding any hurt. However, while my OCD may see this as an opportunity to weasel its way into my mind, I realize it’s just another test, another chapter in my ability to have faith and hope that things will all work out in the end — whatever those may be.

I know my OCD, as stubborn, annoying, and relentless as it can be sometimes, comes from a place of love. I know I love my daughter more than anything, and I want her to know that at all times. I know I love my daughter so much that I would do whatever it takes to keep her safe, happy, and healthy at any cost. I know I love my daughter in ways my brain cannot fully comprehend most days. 

I also know, though, that she deserves a mother who is free from the mental jungle gym inside her head. She deserves a mother who problem-solves rather than gambles on routines to keep life in order as best as anyone in this chaotic world can. She deserves a mother who is present, guilt-free, and happy.

So, with that being said, for now, I will accept my OCD diagnosis because it is part of who I currently am, yet I will not stop working on improving it. In times when my (for lack of a better term) illogical brain takes over, I will strive to let my logical one take the wheel more and more. 

Because I love my daughter, and that’s what she deserves. I’m starting to think that I deserve it, too.

(Check here to learn more about another Indianapolis Mom’s experience with OCD.)

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