HIV, Oral Cancer and Hell
Hello again everyone, hope you had a nice Christmas 🎄. It’s been a while and December has actually been a pretty rough time OCD wise.
In the month of December I was knocked to the floor twice (literally) due to pure exhaustion of the brain. For some reason when the OCD becomes severe I feel the need to lie on the carpet and stare out of the window. Must be the “freeze” response from our good old friend the amygdala.
I have had to regroup and book in some more sessions for ERP/CBT in the new year. The price of the therapist I see (who is a great guy) has raised his prices which isn’t ideal, but I have the privilege of having family support. I like to think I would be there for them in return. Actually I know I would.
There have been two main obsessions I have dealt with and one minor one. The first was HIV contamination from the environment – toilet paper mainly, its been a bit sh1t (see what I did there). I’m actually celebrating my 13th anniversary with this one and definitely feel like I’m deserving an honorary doctorate for knowledge about HIV epidemiology by now. Apparently the CDC describe my research as “out there”.
The second is oral cancer 😛 which I’ve had on and off for a few years during short periods of time. I’ve written about having an obsession about testicular cancer before, which was a LOT worse as I didn’t know it was OCD at the time. This one is usually triggered if I get some kind of swelling or pain in my mouth. This time however, I became “spiked” when someone with suspected oral cancer shared some of their food with me, using their own fork to pass it to me.
I’m well known for finishing other people’s food, my Dad calls me the human hoover. I feel weird sharing food and drink at the best of times but I force myself to do it because I know that if I give OCD an inch it takes a mile. I also know that cancer is not contagious, and neither is HIV via casual contact such as sharing utensils. So no matter what I brain tells me I have to try to focus on the “wise mind”. Most importantly regardless of my illness I would never want someone to feel stigmatised unjustifiably.
But avoidance or otherwise, OCD is insatiable, and the more you give it, the more it wants. It’s like inflating an infinitely sized balloon, with each compulsion adding more and more oxygen until the obsession carries you away like that old chap in that kids movie I can’t remember the name of.
On the day in question (the spike) I was very tired mentally from work, and I had gone to the gym early morning and was tired physically. A perfect storm for obsessions to become sticky. OCD pounced on me like that raptor in the first Jurassic Park movie (“clever girl”). Over the next week or so I meticulously researched all corners of the internet trying to reassure myself that cancer couldn’t be caught. I’ve actually learnt a lot in the process, especially about contagious cancer amongst Tasmanian Devils. There is also the rare possibility of transmission from mother to fetus, and to people who receive organ transplants. There was also one strange case where a surgeon accidentally cut himself with a scalpel and cancerous cells grew in his hand. Clearly I will be some other rare isolated case says the OCD.
Anyway, surprise surprise nothing could reassure me. I regrouped, used some ERP and sat with the uncertainty. I actually had a lovely Christmas Eve, Day and Boxing Day. I was so proud of myself that I could be so present with the children.
The third obsession has been around religion again, but fortunately this one I have managed to keep in check for the most part. As OCD makes me think I could die from either AIDS or cancer, or both, I then start to ruminate about death, the afterlife and the “unpardonable sin” again.
In sum: the OCD tells me I might die very soon and end up in hell where the suffering will continue.
Today I bit myself accidentally under my tongue and now have a swelling. OCD tells me its cancer and wants immediate relief. I have a dentist appointment in early January and I’ll sit with the uncertainty in the mean time without getting it checked until then.
Thanks for reading; I hope to start giving more regular updates now.
Still active on Twitter @OCDphilosophy, so might see you there :).