Dany Grimwood, 39, lives in Suffolk with his wife Kim and their 12-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter. obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) it was so bad that he could barely leave the house at one point. Eventually, through therapy, she learned new ways to manage her thought process. Words: Anna Moore
My childhood was very normal, I thought I was like any other boy, I loved football and playing with my friends. But, looking back, I did a lot of checks. They were doors, lights and windows. I had to turn the lights on and off an even number of times, had to make sure doors and windows were locked.
When I was 11, I was given house keys which I knew were very important. I always worried about losing them and was constantly checking that I had them with me.
Some of these compulsions continued into adulthood. I still have a problem with numbers. There is a clock on our oven and I felt something bad would happen if I didn’t wait until it was on an even number before leaving the kitchen. But it hasn’t taken up too much of my life. I just lived with it, didn’t think too much about it, and never told anyone. There is no mental illness in my family and if someone had told me I had OCD, I would never have believed it.
If someone had told me I had OCD, I would never have believed it.
Compulsions and rituals
It was around October 2021 that the compulsions really started to take hold. I don’t know the trigger. I was married at that point, our kids were 10 and 5 and we were in the process of moving house so this caused a lot of stress.
A large part of it was door and window control. In order to leave the house to pick up my children from school, I had to get ready and it would take 15 minutes to check that every window was closed.
We have a gas hob and if you had used it or even if you hadn’t you had to check that it was switched off so double check. If I saw the clock on the oven, I had to wait for an even number before I could go out, then when I finally got out, I’d lock the front door behind me, check, double check.
I often walked out so the anxiety of leaving it open would be so bad I had to go back and check again. I could finally walk away, then five minutes down the road, I’d turn the car around and walk back to the front door again.
It would take 15 minutes to check that every window was closed.
Obsessions that get out of control
In the car, if I was listening to a CD, I couldn’t stop or turn off the engine until the display, which shows how long the track is, was on an even number. If I was walking the dog, I would have to get to a certain point in an even number of steps. If I was unloading the dishwasher, I found myself rearranging things again and again until they were in place and perfectly aligned.
I work nights as a CNC operator, you manage machines, but really you should be able to walk away while they manage themselves. I always checked them over and over again. When I quit work, I’d lock the gate, come home, then start thinking, did I lock the gate? Work is only 10 minutes away so I’d go back to be sure.
OCD was my secret. I was ashamed. I went to bed broken and woke up broken.
All I could deal with even if it was hard. The worst parts were the intrusive thoughts that lurked behind them. I felt that if I didn’t do all these things something bad would happen to my family. If I didn’t check the doors and windows, someone would break in and kidnap my children or kill my wife.
You are carrying these compulsions all the time to protect them. In your head, even if it sounds crazy and doesn’t make sense, it keeps them safe.
Nobody knew. At one point, I looked online and read about OCD. Like many people, I thought OCD was about the need to wash hands, but the more I read, the more obvious it was that this was what I had.
A hidden fight
It was my secret. I was ashamed. I thought, if I keep it under wraps, I can carry on as I am, but I can’t explain how hard it was. I went to bed exhausted, woke up exhausted. Some days I didn’t want to get out of bed because I thought, “If I don’t get up, I don’t have to do any compulsions.”
I often cancel plans to see friends because I didn’t want to leave the house. I used to watch rugby and football regularly but stopped going.
One night I started crying and told my wife everything she had no idea but was very calm and supportive
Confide in my wife
In February 2022 I finally told my wife. I had been having a bad day feeling really anxious, with every compulsion, every light, every door, every gate. It was just building up ready to spill. I got home from work and my wife was still awake. I said, “We need to talk about something” and started crying. When I told her everything, she said she had no idea but she was calm, supportive. She said she was fine, it was something we could deal with. It immediately felt like a relief.
Every Monday for 12 weeks I had a therapy called ERP Exposure and Response Prevention. Was on Zoom and the therapist was so good. What I was saying seemed absurd, but he had already heard everything.
ERP is very, very difficult. It works by exposing yourself to those anxious feelings and not responding with your compulsions. So I had the therapist on my phone and he would ask me to walk out the front door, lock it and stand there for maybe two minutes, not touching the door. Then he would ask me to leave him and step away for a bit. The anxiety builds but then, at some point, it starts to subside a bit. Slowly, gradually, you walk a little further.
Deal with the problem
Another thing we did was take cutlery out of the drawer and throw it all over the countertop. You sit with the mess for a while and let the anxiety build which is huge because all I wanted to do was tidy everything up.
We did the same with the shoe rack. I made a huge pile of all the family shoes and sat with them for a while. Everything I would learn from the therapist on Monday, I would try to implement during the week, doing exposures and waiting for the anxiety to subside. Sometimes I could lock the front door, sit in the car for a minute, then walk away and it would be fine.
I also started doing talk therapy. At first I thought it wouldn’t be for me, but that helped a lot too. The birth of our son, our first child, was very traumatic. My wife was rushed to the theater and almost bled to death, she almost died. Being there, surrounded by doctors and nurses, thinking, what the hell is going on? it was something I had ignored for a long time.
Share my feelings
A few years later, my wife had a miscarriage which was something else that is never really talked about, especially if you are a man. Then we had our daughter and at five weeks old she had viral meningitis. You can’t do much about that, she had to fight it herself. You have to watch your five week old in the hospital lying there while you can’t help her.
My therapist asked me if I ever talked about any of this. I hadn’t. As a man, go ahead. I had to be strong for my wife, I had to be there for her. No one asks, how are you feeling? and it seems a bit selfish to expect that.
I did all these compulsions to protect people who mean everything to me
My therapist thought all of this might be related to my OCD. I was afraid that something bad would happen again. Every family has problems, life is never perfect but I just wanted everything to be right for them. I was doing all these checks, all these compulsions, to protect the people who mean everything to me.
A new vision of life
Things are much better now. On a good day, I’ll make it without doing any compulsions, it’s never 100%, but close enough. There are also bad days that start to creep in, especially when life is busy, but now I know how to deal with them. I would always go back for more exposure therapy if I felt the need.
I wonder if David Beckham’s documentary will show how debilitating OCD can be. Sounds to me like he wants a tidy house! But if it raises awareness and gets people talking, then that’s a good thing. I know how hard it is for men to be open about it. We had to look strong, like we could handle anything. Telling my wife and getting help was the best thing I’ve ever done.
Where to find help for OCD
As well as seeing your GP about a referral to NHS mental health services, for information, advice and support you can visit Ocduk.org, a charity that helps adults and children with OCD, run entirely by people with lived experience of the condition. You can also call their advice line on 01332 588112 Monday to Friday (usually 9am to 12pm).
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