I had been reading a book on women's friendships, and combined with the scary things I had just seen, my OCD went into overdrive trying to figure out if it was safe to be in a relationship with a man, whether I was making a mistake, showing extremely poor judgement. As my anniversary approached, the obsessing intensified, and permeated all my thoughts and feelings. Was I putting myself in danger? Was I stupid? Was I wrong? Would this man betray me or hurt me?
It's hard enough to have these questions as a 20 year old, in any context, but in the context of OCD, I felt crazy. My first date with this man was to hear a feminist folksinger. I had never met anyone who listened to me like this man did, and took my thoughts seriously. He was compassionate. But my OCD wanted absolute certainty that he wouldn't become a monster. My best guess would've been that no, this was unlikely, but the OCD whittled away at this knowledge, kept demanding I figure things out.
Maybe you should be with a woman? That would be safer. If you stay with this man, you are betraying your gender. Are you sure you feel something for him? Keep checking on this. Any sensations? You are so tense when he touches you, obviously this is a sign that you need to be with a woman. So many horrible things have been done to women by men. You'll become part of that. You will be in collusion and contaminated. What if you stay with him, but you are actually a lesbian and you will lose any chance of happiness?So, there I sat on the floor, on my anniversary barely able to speak, crying, and my love thought I was breaking up with him. This was the essence of OCD--I didn't want to break up with him. I just wanted the anxiety and intrusive thoughts and endless exhausting dialogues in my head to go away, and to know for sure I wasn't making a mistake.
There's a lot this 20 year old didn't know. She didn't know she had OCD. She knew she was anxious, but assumed that was a sign of her own defectiveness. She didn't know that OCD attacks what we hold dearest, what cuts right to the core of our identity and self. She didn't know that if you constantly check to see if you are feeling anything, you will mostly feel anxiety and fear. She didn't know that some things are incomprehensible, like the violent acts done to some women by some men.
I'm glad that somehow I made the decision to stay with the man who is now my husband. That took a lot of courage, since it meant trusting my own judgment and living with the whole host of anxiety-provoking questions, with no support for dealing with my OCD.