Diana Wilson suffered with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) for 26 years. She now works for OCD UK and shares her story of how she finally overcame the disorder.
“My earliest memory of the illness was probably when I was about eight years old. The symptoms then were a fear of stepping on the pavement cracks. I don’t know why this was, but it made me feel physically uncomfortable if I did it.
That was one ritual; another ritual, which was a compulsion, was the fear that if I didn’t say my prayers so respectfully and sincerely my mother might be killed in a car accident. I took on this huge responsibility as a child for another person’s life.
A lot of people know about the hand washing and the checking of things, but many people are unaware that OCD can also take a rather sinister angle, where you can have a fear that you may harm, very violently, your own children.
When I had my fourth child I used to have intrusive thoughts when I went to bed that I would go to the children’s bedrooms and in my sleep, take out their dressing gown cords and strangle each one. This was horrendous to go through, because I didn’t know whether I was going to do it or not.
People with OCD are not dangerous and they do not harm, but I was permanently exhausted.
That was the obsession: the compulsion was to try to relieve some of the pain and terror that I was going through because of the thoughts. I would get out of bed, find their dressing gowns, take the cords out of the dressing gowns and tie them into as many knots as possible, thinking I won’t actually be able to put the cords around their necks.
Then I’d go back to bed, but I still couldn’t sleep. So I would get out of bed again, get the cords, put them in a bag, seal the bag, and put the bag in a high cupboard. This would give a little bit of relief, but it was still terrifying.
After I saw my doctor I saw a consultant psychiatrist. I was put on antidepressants, which helped me enormously. Medication gave me the strength to sleep and eat well so that I could then have cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which is a psychological treatment that deals with the here and now. I was able to put my heart and soul into my own recovery.
I often used to ask myself what was wrong with my memory and why I couldn't remember whether the gas has been turned off, because I would have checked 13 times and I only checked 10 seconds ago. In fact, people with OCD have a perfectly accurate memory, but what we don’t have is a confident memory. This is where CBT can come in and help restore that."
Watch Diana talk about how she deals with her OCD on the NHS Choices website.