10 March 2014


During the 11 days between my old boiler breaking down and the new one being installed, I lived in a state of such high anxiety that there were moments when I feared I'd break down myself.

I just couldn't bear the thought of having a stranger in my home for a day, with the associated disruption to my ordered environment.

Friends and colleagues were sympathetic, but mainly about the lack of central heating and hot water and the expense of the new boiler. Very few mentioned the installation itself.

Although the cost was painful, I'd gladly have paid five times the amount if the work could have somehow been done without any intrusion on my space.

As for the heating and hot water, for a crazy five minutes, in the middle of yet another sleepless night, I toyed with the idea of managing without a boiler. The portable heaters I had on loan were effective; I could buy my own. And the kettle was sufficient for washing up and filling the bathroom basin. There was the small question of bathing - I couldn't use my neighbours' showers forever - but I was sure I could work something out...

Image courtesy of idea go/
In the cold light of day, I realised what a ridiculous idea that was, but the fact I'd entertained it at all shows how desperate I felt.

The anxiety left me with a perpetually churning stomach and dry mouth. I was light-headed, unable to focus and too nauseated to eat: I lost 3lbs in weight in the first week alone.

The impact on my OCD was also significant, with old compulsions quickly renewing their hold on me. Some I'd given up only recently, while others hadn't troubled me for years. I felt myself sliding back to the lowest point in my life; a time when I couldn't leave my flat unless every last thing was in its rightful place.

I recognised, though, that this was an unavoidable slide. Compulsions shouldn't be a solution to anything, but sometimes they seem the lesser of two evils. On this occasion, either I caved into them, or I'd lose it completely.

Other events in the early part of February contributed to my fragile mental and emotional state: an operation I'd been expecting to have was declined, and a close colleague unexpectedly resigned and left days later, leaving our team shell-shocked and short-handed.

Life seemed to be just one piece of bad news after another. I became fearful of what might be next and clung onto my compulsions as the only thing I could be sure of. 

And all of that was before the boiler was even installed.


Anonymous said...

I'm sorry you've been having a rough time and hope you are already feeling a little better. Your comment about compulsions being the lesser of two evils at times is interesting. I've never heard that description before....gives me some things to think about. Thanks for sharing and I hope things calm down for you!

Tina Fariss Barbour said...

I'm so sorry that you're going through all this, Helen. I understand about not wanting someone in your flat for the boiler installation. I'm like that, too. I have trouble with strangers coming into the house. We recently had to get a new heat pump, and that's what I worried about the most.

And I understand about giving into the compulsions. Sometimes it seems that the brief relief from doing the compulsion seems better than the continued suffering.

Take care!

Helen Barbour said...

Thanks, ocdtalk - I decided that March was going to be better and am determined to view this month in a positive light, come what may! It started with an unexpected (small) cheque in the post, so I took that as a good sign...

I also have this week off work, so have an opportunity to regroup a little.

Helen Barbour said...

Thanks, Tina. I recall you writing about that work being done at your house and how you disliked things being out of place.

Unfortunately, February continued in the same vein, with my boyfriend suffering a broken collarbone in a cycle accident. Still, as he said, it could have been worse - he got thrown into the path of fast-moving cars, but somehow wasn't hit. I think I need to work harder on seeing the glass as half full, when something is troubling me - there is so often a positive to be taken even from a difficult situation.

Linda Lewis said...

The problems you face and the way you face them make me feel ashamed. I hope everything is fixed soon and that your moods lifts again. Take care of yourself. You're amazing.

Helen Barbour said...

Thanks for your kind words and support, Linda, but I'm not sure I merit the compliment at present - I don't think I've been facing things at all well lately!

Ambrose said...

I am sorry to hear of this stressful time for you. And to think it all started with something as simple as a boiler breakdown. My daughter struggles with anxiety. Hearing of other's struggles helps me to understand her better so thank you for sharing. I hope you fare better now and I wish you good luck.

Helen Barbour said...

Ambrose, thank you for your comments and support and I am glad that my posts are helpful to you.