The world is ending, but I can save my family if I wash my hands another time 

I have been a sufferer of obsessive-compulsive disorder for years. So far, the internet has done a  fairly good job explaining that OCD is a serious mental disorder, not a set of organized pencils nor a neat closet, so let us not get into that. In basic terms, a person with OCD suffers from reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) that lead to behaviors (compulsions) that are done and repeated in order to remove the obsessions or reduce their intensity. Both can take numerous forms, but this is my story.
It started at the beginning of 2011, during a rough time for my family. A wash or two of hands, obsessively setting things in place before doing anything that requires dedication and focus, and repeating every other thing a few times over didn’t sound like a massive problem. The fact that the other side of my family is subtly paranoid about seemingly meaningless things made it all somehow alright, expected, that a bit of me will be off, not quite right, but only insignificantly so.

Let me first mention that I am Muslim, and Islam is a religion that values cleanliness. Before performing prayer, a simple act of washing is to be performed. But what if that simple task became never-ending hysteria of water wasting? It is completely against Islamic virtue to waste, be it water or not. I’ve always been aware of that, but back then it did not seem like an obsession that I was doubting that water had reached every nanometer of my hands. It was only me noticing things, maybe a little to intricately. It is all right to be a bit wasteful, I thought. I deserved the punishment of being wasteful since I had noticed things no one else did.

A few months later, being physically restrained from sinks became a necessity. Long had passed before I made anything clear by asking for help. During that period, the disorder advanced into a complex series of washing and washing again, counting, avoiding spots on the ground that I stepped on unwashed, fighting the urge to wash once more and then submitting to it.  I was aware that it was irrational but still was ignorant, then, to the nature of the problem: that it is an illness.

But I still remember the exact moment that forced me to ask for help. The triggers, which are too dreadful that I am still unable to mention them, had started a few days before.

“I am tired.”

And I truly was, from something as simple as a two-minute act of ablution to take an hour five times a day, from never feeling stable, from spending hours upon hours putting things in place.

But my acting through the prior months was convincing, apparently, because the person who helped me had not even suspected that whatever was happening was happening.

During psychotherapy, it became clearer that I wasn’t cursed with a superhuman ability to notice. To me, it was liberating to know that something I’d struggled against while dismissing was a disorder; something that could be diagnosed and treated, something that happens to others as well.

Reading about the symptoms shocked me. I learned that the obsessions, excruciatingly violent and “taboo” thoughts had accompanied me (on-and-off) since I was young, perhaps six or seven years old, an entire ten years before the compulsions appeared. That the thoughts could not have been my responsibility, and that other people too frantically count on their cracking fingers to ignore the threats of their brains of divine punishment, paved the way to recovery. As for the religious aspect, I just kept in mind that religion is not meant to make life difficult and that divine punishment will not befall people for merely stepping on a particular, unclean tile.

Finally, the disorder still looms and lingers. I am now aware that my brain is playing tricks, as I occasionally was then. But now, I can defy all of my compulsions.

On a good day.

31 thoughts on “The world is ending, but I can save my family if I wash my hands another time 

  1. I can really empathise with this – for me, it was light switches. I couldn’t just switch them off; I had to switch them on and off five times, or bad things were going to happen. Thankfully beaten now; I’m glad that yours are too!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This was a beautiful read. And I can relate to an extent but at the same time I will never be able to fully relate since what you went through is unique and a part of you. All I can say is keep writing because this was just beautiful. You are beautiful.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I still struggling with my case of trichotillomania, but from a fighter to another you’re doing a great job. And thank you for being honest and open about something like this.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. An enlightening post , bravo maryam . You have come out with flying colours .your calibre and rational approach have helped you come out with flying colours.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Whoa. It’s a relief, to some degree, reading about struggles that mirror my own. My physical manifestations are not as brutal as yours, but the wash of unwanted thoughts are often completely overwhelming. Thanks for sharing, you’re not alone either.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I am bipolar rapid cycling. On a good day … I could save the world with both hands tied behind my back. On a bad day … I would be the one the world would want to be saved from. Thank God I am on my present meds. Thank God for sharing my weaknesses and strengths and faith through my blogging. Thank God that you are strong enough to share your weaknesses and strengths and faith as well. You will help someone else … that person may be me. Thank you for sharing, jan

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What a very brave of you to share it with, I believe you can handdle that 👍keep sharing so you can release.. All of us have our own insanity to laugh at, but only we can manage that.. just believe we have the power to control over it..

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I may never fully understand the extent of ocd on the human mind or there actions. Yes, I organize my closet with the clothes facing in the same direction while color coordinated. However, my everyday life tasks is a black sock among the white. Never will the understanding of such chaotic actions ease the sense of wonder when I watch those caught in the summit of the disease.


  9. I appreciate you sharing this. I recently went through counselling, not for OCD but other things and we don’t fully understand how our past experiences affect our actions today or at any time

    Liked by 1 person

  10. That’s so touching…thanku so much for sharing ur experience.. U know what even I can relate to ur post ….that was such inspiration ..kudos to u girl ..and thanks for liking my post means a lot ….


  11. Thank you for sharing this story. My mental health was spiralling during a rough patch in my life a year ago, and like you, had subtle signs that i didn’t understand. It can be really scary to feel out of control of your own mind. I hope that you are doing well and continuing to find strength in the ways that are best for you 🙂


  12. Are you on medication for it? Is it a constant (with fluctuations, if course)? Or does it only surface in times of high anxiety?

    The religious aspect is pretty common, apparently. Rituals provide an easy breeding ground for the disorder to grow.

    We’ve faced it from close family members and it really is a nightmare – particularly when it’s obsessive thoughts.

    If you haven’t already, look up Natasha Daniels. Her stuff is geared at kids, and parents of OCD and anxious kids, but the techniques and advice is pretty universal regardless of age.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello!

      I haven’t taken any medication for it. Its not constant anymore, but it used to be at its worst. Sometimes it reappears, but I can easily shut the obsessions off now with the thought that this is a sickness and Allah will not punish me for it.

      “Breeding ground” is an excellent way to put it. It really is a nightmare, so thank you for the reference! Someone I work with has a son who’s been showing signs, and she doesn’t seem aware of how big of a problem it will become later. I might share this with her.


      1. Alhamdullilah – that’s excellent.

        When you say you can shut the obsessions off easily, do you mean in religious rituals? Or overall general obsessions?


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