In my experience I have had a lot of struggles with my bipolar and one of the hardest has been realizing that there are conditions that are often found together with it. OCD is one of them. And for me it is one of the most difficult and, at times, scary. Not everyone with bipolar also has OCD but there is a correlation between them. There are different ways this manifests in each person but I’m going to focus on mine. Bear in mind this may be a difficult read for someone with OCD so trigger warning for that, FYI.
Anyway, I had a great opportunity come up. My wife had asked me to come visit her on a Saturday workday, which was a nice treat. We rarely see one another during the week and since she now also works weekends it has made our time together even more important. So, with that in mind I made arrangements to drive into town and see her. I had been boiling eggs so I turned those off and ran them under cool water like Martha Stewart says to do (’cause you know I’m all about the housekeeping!). I then made sure I was presentable and headed out.
Now at this point is where it gets interesting. I was on my way to meet my wife when I started worrying about whether or not I’d actually turned off the stove. Bear in mind I have forgotten to unplug heating blankets, heating pads, left burners on before…but this time it was different. This time I wasn’t home to be sure and double- triple- quadruple-check that it was off. No one else was there to catch it for me either. This time I was away and the house was empty. These factors came together to trigger an immediate and (for me) scary OCD episode.
I panicked. I was literally driving down the road unable to think of anything else. Debating if I should turn around. Remembering my body memory of turning it off I also knew I couldn’t trust my own recollection. I kept trying to remind myself I was responsible, of course I would have turned it off. I told myself that I had been being extra cautious just because of incidences like the ones I listed above. That it would be fine and I had taken care of it.
It didn’t matter. Nothing I could think in my mind was enough to stop the wave of panic in my brain. Nothing.
I fell apart at the seams at the very thought that I hadn’t turned off that burner. That thought, well that was scary. I realized that until I could be SURE about the stove I was going to be stuck. So I pulled over. My pulse was going full speed, my ears were fuzzy sounding, and my head was full of racing thoughts surrounding all the potential risks of the situation.
Once it got to the point that I started to cry over the fear I called my ex-husband and asked him to go over and check the burner (he has a key) which he did and confirmed to me it was off. It was such a huge relief! I had in fact been responsible and turned it off and my memory was correct. In this case, everything worked out and for that I was enormously grateful. Angry with my bipolar and OCD but grateful just the same.
In the end, my OCD is just that. Mine. Everyone’s is different but in my case it is made even worse by my memory problems and frustrates me beyond words. This lack of confidence in my own recall is caused directly by my bipolar and some of the medications I’ve had to take over the years. My memory is so scarily inconsistent that I can only rarely be certain of anything. Mostly sure, yeah, but very infrequently am I ever absolutely so. I want my certainty back and to have it yanked out from under me is agonizing.