Why "71º & Sunny?"

I consider 71º to be the perfect temperature. Not too cold and not too hot. I also love perfect sunny days. The vast majority of days are not 71º & Sunny and yet, all days were created by God's hand and they are still gifts, even if they don't fit my ridiculous definition of perfection. My struggle with OCD has at times imprisoned me in an impossible attempt to achieve perfection. I'm now learning to love all kinds of days that don't even come close to 71º & Sunny.

Please leave me a comment below. I really want to know what you are thinking!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Hit And Run OCD

One of my major obsessions is something that is known as "Hit and Run OCD." It is the sense that you have struck someone while driving your car. I only have to hit the slightest bump in the road and I'm convinced that I've killed some poor pedestrian and that he or she is just lying there and left to die. The anxiety is even worse if I've had some type of difficulty while driving.

For example, one night a few years ago I was driving out of my college campus and headed home for the night. While I was stopped at a stop sign, a young man to the right of my vehicle motioned to someone else on the left side of my vehicle. I looked out my left window only to see another young man standing right next to my car! I was shocked because I had not seen him standing there, and would not have seen him if the other person had not motioned to him. The two of them continued talking and walked off together. I was absolutely horrified and felt positive that I hit the young man to my left. I started to drive away, but the anxiety became too agonizing so I turned around and parked in the nearby parking lot so I could examine the "scene of the crime." I did not see a body lying in the road, but at this point my OCD was so strong that I did not even believe my own eyes. I did the only thing I knew to do. I sat in that parking lot for 15 or 20 minutes, just waiting for the police and/or an ambulance to show up. They never came, of course, because I had not hit anyone.

This specific obsession has tormented me off and on for a few decades. I try to reduce the anxiety caused by the obsession through an assortment of compulsions. In particular, I will either drive back to the scene, or I will ask my husband to do so; I might check my rear view mirror compulsively to make sure all pedestrians are still standing and walking safely; I might check my car for damage when I get home; or I will check all the local online news to see if there are any reported hit and run accidents. The big problem with driving back to the scene is that I often feel as if I've caused more accidents while driving back. Then I have to drive back around again to double check my newly caused accident. I might at that point feel that I've caused another accident, and I must drive back again to check this as well. It can turn into a horrible whirlpool of sickening anxiety that sucks you down until you are so mentally overwrought and exhausted that you have no choice but to give up and go home.

I have been trying to fight this (with some success) for a few years. I'm joining Ann in her 30 OCD challenge. I will try very hard to drive and not look in my rear view mirror compulsively, or to drive back, or to check my car for damage, or to check the online news. This will be really good Exposure and Response Prevention. I think I can do it.

18 comments:

  1. I can only imagine how horrible this obsession is for you, and I know it is a common one in those with OCD. Good for you for tackling it. I am cheering you on!

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    1. Thanks Janet. I'll take all the cheering I can get!

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  2. Oh, Sunny, this is so familiar. I will never get over being amazed at how similar OCD experiences can be among people who have never met each other. This is a horrible obsession, and I can relate so well. I have driven up and down streets looking for any harm I might have done. I've listened to the news for any word of a hit and run. I've cried and cursed and hit my hands against the steering wheel in utter frustration.

    You describe the feelings so well: "a horrible whirlpool of sickening anxiety that sucks you down until you are so mentally overwrought and exhausted . . ."

    I've had some trouble with this obsession lately, but not really bad. I'm cheering you on too. It's a brave thing to take the 30 day OCD challenge. You can do it, and I'll be glad to listen if you need extra encouragement!

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  3. Once again Tina, you are tremendously encouraging! Thank you! I've pounded on my steering wheel in frustration too. I also continue to be shocked at the similarity between OCD patients and our symptoms. But every time I realize that, it reminds me that this is just confirmation that it is an illness doing this and not me.

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    1. That is a really good way of looking at it. It seems like common sense but I hadn't considered that angle before. It brings me a bit of relief.

      P.S. I found you from Dr. Seay's blogpost about hit and run OCD. Very admirable that you post so openly about it.

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    2. Welcome, "Anonymous!" Glad you found me. Dr. Seay's blog is EXCELLENT. I had the privilege of meeting him at the OC Foundation Conference last month. He is as nice in person as he seems on his blog.

      What I have found, over and over again, his how incredibly similar a lot of our fears are, so I figure if someone is searching around the internet and finds that someone else is just like them, well it's hopefully comforting. I know it has been to me to find that others think the way I do.

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    3. By the way, I want to say thanks! I had a little Hit and Ru OCD incident today and I was going to go online compulsively and check to make sure I didn't cause an accident. However, your comment reminded me that I really have to keep fighting. Thank you. : )

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  4. Wow Sunny and Tina. I too have had this problem though it has not plagued me too terribly. Meaning, after I compulsively check my rear view mirror and return to the "scene," to check and make sure no one is lying there, I can put it behind me.
    This has often struck me as one of the more bizarre OCD things. I remember back before I knew this was an OCD thing, I would think I was going crazy and be ready to go to the psych ward! It was so comforting to me the first time I read this was an OCD thing and I was not alone. It only happens to me anymore when I'm already anxious and the stars are aligned just so. It isn't one of my regular OCD things but it does happen infrequently to me. I am still daily amazed at how similar all our experiences with OCD are. I don't feel alone anymore.

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    1. Hi Elizabeth. You are definitely not alone. I used to think I was going insane too, until one day about 16 years ago I read online that it was a common OCD thing and I was completely stunned.

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  5. I do/ did this too! One day i saw an Oprah show about ocd and that was on it. So i knew then that i had some ocd 'tendencies'. It was a relief to know i wasn't the only one doing this. My meds helped me with this one. I don't have so many urges as i used to. Or maybe it's that i usually just look out the rear view mirror and if i don't see anything lying in the road, i keep going. When in real doubt,(like it's dark out) i look out my rearview mirror and see what the OTHER CARS are doing. I figure if i ran over someone, the other cars would stop and try to help out. But if i see the other cars just following me along, then i CAN'T have done anything. Other people wouldn't just run over a guy laying in the street! So that's how i get out of making myself turn around and check. I have done my share of it, tho.

    Not too long ago, i thot i ran a stop sign as i was driving down a non-busy road. So then ocd started asking 'what if' you hit someone while missing the stop sign? Now you are in big trouble, karin. So i did the 'correct' thing and turned back up the street to check if there even was a stop sign at that corner (there wasn't), not to mention a body lying in the road (there wasn't). So my non-obedience to ocd is not perfect. But better than it used to be.

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    1. Oh, wow, Karin, you just reminded me of another compulsion that I do too. I also check to see what the other cars behind me are doing too! I assume the same thing, if they are driving like normal, then I guess I didn't hit anyone or cause any type of accident. OK, this is getting downright spooky! ha ha It's funny you mention meds helping this obsession, because that is also true for me. Once my meds kicked in, this obsession definitely got better (though it didn't disappear), although I seem to be swinging back towards have more trouble with it again, hence why I'm doing the challenge.

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    2. I think the same thing about cars behind me! Feeling such validation from relating to all of these posts online makes me wish there was a support group about this specific issue in my city, but alas, there is not.

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    3. It's funny - we all use a lot of similar "tricks" to get us through the anxiety, don't we?

      I'm sorry you don't have a support group near you. It has been very helpful to me in my recovery. In fact, my next post is going to be all about that.

      Hopefully, we can become a sort of online support group for each other.

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  6. I should also tell you that the vehicle I drive is a suv (ford escape). There would still be some damage if I hit someone they only had minor injuries, right?

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    1. Hello again, KMA!

      So . . . it is a really strong rule of mine to not offer reassurance. Not because I don't want to, believe me, I DO. But, I just know how bad it is for OCD sufferers in the long run. So let me ask you a question. Do you think there would be some damage if you hit someone and they only had minor injuries? I have another question. Where is the proof that you hit someone? And it has to be proof that is good enough to stand up in a court of law. It can't be just a feeling.

      I will reassure you with this though. If your thought starts with, "What if . . .", there is an excellent chance that thought is OCD. Like, "What if I hit someone with my car?" I think if you hit someone, you would know it without a doubt. You wouldn't be left wondering.

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  7. Hi everyone my name is Michael and I live in hove Sussex UK. im 72yrs old and have had OCD. most of my adult life the worst one being the Hit and Run OCD. I haven't driven for years and still it plagues me even when someone else is driving I think they have hit somebody and its all my fault, it happened only today id been the the hospital for a cortozone injection in my Ankle which has osteo arthuritis and my friend picked me up, nearly home we had to drive past a park and my worst fear lots of children with their parents trying to cross the road my dreaded OCD. clicked in immediately and even though id just had the injection and should have rested I had to walk back and check after my friend dropped me off, I asked the ice cream lady who sells from a Van opposite the park and just kept looking up and down the road but nothing and yet still im sitting here tonight doubting and I wasn't even driving only a passenger. I often resort to phoning the police to check sometimes more than once its a living nightmare of guilt for something that I know hasn't really happened or has it will I ever know. OCD. this has been happening to me for 50yrs ive had every kind of theraphy and loads of medication but still this happenens to me on a daily basis, checking when people are crossing the road yes it even plagues me when im walking sometimes a journey that should take 15mins. can take me 2 hours just to get home im totally exhausted and drained living in this OCD. world. I don't mean to depress anyone but only to tell my story. Ill pray for you all. and give up im old now but many of you are so young try to fight it, im just to tired. kind regards Michael.

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    1. Hi Michael. Welcome!

      Oh I can only imagine how tired you are of all this. OCD is so absolutely draining and exhausting. Please, PLEASE don't give up. It doesn't matter if you are 95 years old, don't give up! It's NEVER, EVER, EVER too late to get better. I believe that with all my heart. I know you said you tried all kinds of therapy. Did you try CBT/ERP? With a therapist that REALLY knew what they were doing? That can make a very large difference in how effective the therapy is. Frankly, there are therapists who claim to know how to treat anxiety disorders, but they really don't.

      I remember when my OCD was at it's worst, I would feel responsible too, even if someone else was driving. Ugh it was awful! I'm sorry you went through that today. I know how terrible it can be.

      Michael, have you read any really good treatment books on OCD? They may give you some ideas on how to do some ERPs on your own.

      I'm really glad you visited my blog and shared a little bit of your story. And you are not depressing anyone. Sharing and learning from each other is the whole point, and I'm grateful that you were brave and did that. Please visit again. I would like to hear more from you.

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    2. I just prayed for you, Michael. God bless.

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