The Husband doesn’t know I’m writing this. And it wasn’t what I planned for my next blog post. But I had an overwhelming urge to write something about him and how he supports me. He has to put up with a lot living with me. It’s not easy living with someone who has OCD, someone who questions every little thing – and questions you about every little thing. This was brought home to me recently…
But in order to understand how he supports me, you really need to know what goes on in my head and how that manifests itself in my behaviour. Scary stuff. If you dare, I will take you on a journey into my mind…I’m not sure I dare.
My most recent issue has been raw chicken. I can’t stand the stuff. I won’t touch it. I struggle touching the packaged raw chicken in the supermarket, never mind cooking with the stuff at home. Don’t get me wrong – I love chicken. I love roast chicken (my favourite Sunday dinner, with my Mum’s stuffing). I love chicken and crisps, a fantastic kid (and adult!) friendly meal my mother-in-law makes. I love chicken curry. I love chicken stir fry…you get the idea. I just really struggle with chicken in its raw, salmonella-y, campylobacter-y state. Because I one had really bad food poisoning I put down to a dodgy chicken and cashew nut dish from a takeaway. And I never want to have food poisoning again. So I avoid chicken where I can.
So far, so logical – believe me, this is as logical as I get, and I know it’s not very logical. Because – get this – I understand I am being completely irrational. I understand that simply touching raw chicken and then washing my hands thoroughly will negate the whole issue. But the thought of the bacteria on the chicken spreading worms its way in to my brain and I can’t let it go. I imagine the bacteria spreading from the packet, all over the fridge – so we have a separate raw meat drawer in the fridge. I imagine it spreading from the open packet and chopping board, to the counters and anything else lying on them. In my head, the washing of hands after touching raw chicken only serves to contaminate the tap and soap dispenser with bacteria. And don’t get me started on using dish clothes or tea towels after this process – they go straight in a 60 degree wash if used, but my preference is for kitchen roll. Which means I go through tonnes of the stuff, a fact which makes me and Planet Earth sad. Any utensils or cooking equipment which has come anywhere near the raw chicken has to go straight in the dishwasher. And the counters and taps, and anything in their vicinity, need thoroughly cleaned as soon as possible.
Why do I insist on all of this? Because I’m scared of getting ill. I was horribly ill with food poisoning for over a week, and it took a lot longer to feel like myself again once the initial unpleasantness had subsided. I wasn’t in a very good place at the time, living far from home, and for the most part having to look after myself. It was scary and lonely. And I don’t want to ever have to go through it again. Couple this with the fact my Dad had terrible food poisoning that saw him lose a lot of weight over several weeks, whilst having to undergo hospital tests in case of something more sinister, and my irrational fears are bolstered. It is even more irrational when you consider my Dad got food poisoning after being careless cooking raw chicken at a barbecue – he tasted the marinade on the raw chicken. True story.
I’m still scared of getting ill though. I’m terrified of being ill and not being able to look after The Munchkin. Of not being able to comfort him and be there for him as his mum should. I can’t even bear the thought of passing it on to him. The thought of him having to go through the nastiness of a bout of food poisoning makes me upset. I start to catastrophise, imagining he will be taken in to hospital and that he will become dehydrated and lose lots of weight. I think if that happens, they won’t let me feed him, and he’ll have to stay in hospital to be tube fed. Then I get scared there could be complications. Maybe I won’t be allowed to visit, as I’ll be ill too. And what then if The Husband also has it? My wee boy would be alone. And ill and upset. And I wouldn’t be there. Of course, I know he wouldn’t be properly alone, and we have loving family around us who would make sure of that, but the thought of not being able to be there makes me physically hurt.
Of course, I regularly take the catastrophic thinking to its natural conclusion. That being, what if I killed my son or husband through some unfortunate chain of events linked to the food poisoning, some unforeseen complications. Even writing this, I know how ridiculous it is. But that is my ultimate fear. I am terrified I, in some way, will cause the deaths of my nearest and dearest by not ensuring I do my best to keep them safe. And my best sometimes happens to be going overboard on the handling of raw chicken. I kid you not. But it also manifests itself in my other obsessive thoughts and compulsions. It is, essentially, the thing which scares me most and underpins my all my control and anxiety issues.
The most mind-blowing bit about all this, is I’m not even the one who is doing the cooking. It’s my husband who handles this whole process, and it is him who ensures all my steps outlined above are followed. But can I trust that he has done it all without questioning him on the various aspects numerous times? I think you know the answer.
So back to the recent event which caused me to take stock of my husband and how much he puts up with. He was making a chicken stir fry for tea. I went out for a run and he made a start to it whilst looking after The Munchkin too. He makes it entertaining for him by taking him in to the kitchen in his high chair and explaining what he is doing. I’m hoping this gives The Munchkin a positive relationship with food and cooking. He plays music and makes him laugh. He’s already many steps ahead of me in this regard – I find it hard to be practical and look after The Munchkin at the same time, simply because my OCD makes me take ten times as long to do household tasks. I can entertain him OR I can cook (and even then, I don’t often do that, and hardly ever cook chicken). I don’t successfully do both. My husband does, and on a regular basis.
When I got home, The Husband was shirtless. I didn’t even notice – I don’t know what this says about me/us – but he tried to explain, “I managed to get chicken on my t-shirt!”. Raw chicken. One of my trigger points. So when he nonchalantly tries to explain why he’s half naked in the kitchen, and it happens to be because he accidentally touched his t shirt with raw chicken on his hands, I freak. “Why would you tell me that?!?!”, I shout. I am not calm, and all I can think is the chicken has got everywhere and could be on The Munchkin. I take The Munchkin out of the kitchen and try to chill out – it doesn’t happen. My husband is at a loss, as he had been trying to placate me by stripping off the offending article, and had already cleaned everywhere else. But he’d left the chicken t-shirt on the floor so I can’t go in the kitchen until it’s in the washing machine (which was mid-cycle).
And this left me thinking – he shouldn’t have to live with this. No-one should. And yet he calmly deals with it all. I know he’s not always happy about it, and definitely doesn’t understand it, but he puts up with it. He puts up with me, and my crazy, irrational thoughts and behaviours. He doesn’t just put up with things though. He loves me because of them. My husband regularly tells me my empathetic nature is part of the reason he loves me. And it is this, often vastly magnified, state of empathy which drives a lot of my obsessive thoughts. But he says this is what makes him love me even more, because I care so much. It takes one hell of a man to put it like that.
And so my husband deserves praise. All the praise. Because he helps me everyday to be a better mum to The Munchkin. He helps me challenge myself and he reminds me that I’m not my OCD, that I’m more than that diagnosis. He encourages me and he makes me laugh. And when I look at him bossing fatherhood, it makes me want to step up even more and crack this thing called motherhood. I know I have a long way to go with my OCD, and it will always need managed, but because of him I believe I can do it. Because of him, I want to make a roast chicken dinner. The roast chicken that The Munchkin requests as it’s his favourite Sunday dinner, because his mum makes it the best (stuffing, gravy and all – though I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to beat his Granny in that regard). Because of The Husband, I may even tackle raw chicken. Praise, indeed.