‘Many people are unaware that OCD can take a sinister angle’

Diana Wilson had obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) for 26 years. Now working for OCD-UK, she shares her story here about how she finally overcame the disorder.

“My earliest memory of the illness was when I was about eight years old. The symptoms were a fear of stepping on the pavement cracks. I don’t know why, 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 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 sinister angle, where you have a fear that you may harm your own children very violently.

“When I had my fourth child I had intrusive thoughts at bedtime that I would go to the children’s bedrooms 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 came from those 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, so that I wouldn’t be able to put the cords around their necks.

“Then I’d go back to bed, but I still couldn’t sleep. 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 relief, but it was still terrifying.

“After I saw my GP, 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 I could then have cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which is a psychological treatment that deals with the present. 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, even though I’d checked it 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. CBT can help to restore that.”

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