14 April 2014

Lady Luck

Of all the crises that struck this February, the worst was my boyfriend, Pete, breaking his collarbone in a cycle accident.

Initially, he simply told me that he'd hit a pothole and been thrown off. A picture formed in my mind of his bike plunging into a hole and him flying over the handlebars and landing in the gutter.

I wasn't as upset as I might have been. That month's run of misfortune had habituated me to receiving bad news, so I was somehow unsurprised that Pete had had an accident.

When we met up a few days later, I was shaken to discover that he had actually been catapulted sideways into the middle of three lanes of heavy, fast-moving traffic, after his bike wheel had got wedged in a narrow pothole. The photos and video footage he'd taken of that section of road only emphasised the danger - the offending pothole is in the foreground of this shot. 
Photo: Peter Gettins

It seemed unbelievable that he hadn't been hit by a car and that I hadn't taken a phone call from a policeman rather than him. My mind raced with what might have been; I could hardly breathe.

Pete's injury was not the only thing that made this incident the worst to happen that month; it was all those 'what if' scenarios that it conjured up.

While talking about the accident again, a few weeks later, he admitted 'I never really thought about that aspect of it.'

And that's the difference between him and me - and most people with OCD. Sufferers dwell on what could have happened, or might happen. We can't cope with life's uncertainties and so seek ways to assert control and reduce our anxiety; in my case by ordering my environment. For others, this might lead to compulsions such as cleaning to avoid illness, or checking doors to prevent a burglary.

Life is, of course, full of stories of near misses. Every time a disaster happens, tales emerge of those whose good luck meant that they avoided injury or death. Such as a friend of mine, who found himself in the Tube train carriage next to the one that blew up at Edgware Road, in the London bombings of 7 July 2005.

We make thousands of apparently inconsequential decisions every day, never knowing which might be the one that turns our life around, for good or bad. If, for example, Pete had spent 2 seconds more - or less - playing with his cat before leaving home, perhaps he would have ended up in the path of a car. 

No amount of compulsions can ever mitigate against the possible consequences of every - often unthinking - decision we take. And any illusion of control a compulsion provides is precisely that.


Anonymous said...

Great post, and so true, Helen. The bottom line is we all have to live with uncertainty, and try our best to find healthy ways to do that!

Tina Fariss Barbour said...

Great insight here, Helen! We do try to exert our control with our compulsions, and it is such an illusion, isn't it? I'm better than I used to be at living with uncertainty, but it's not easy!

I'm glad Pete wasn't hurt worse. What a scary thing!

Helen Barbour said...

Thanks, ocdtalk - the only thing that is certain is that uncertainty is a very hard thing to accept, and not only for those of us with OCD!

Helen Barbour said...

Thanks, Tina. Pete is now back on his bike, so I'm trying not to think about what might happen. I sure as heck can't control those potholes!

Lisa Levine said...
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Lisa Levine said...
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Lisa Levine said...

Pete's recovery certainly was good news! Well, I totally understand where you're coming from with all that after-accident thinking. I was in a car accident a few years ago, and the same thoughts brushed my mind. Just stay strong and keep the positive thoughts flowing, Helen!

Lisa @ FloridaInjuryClaim.com

Helen Barbour said...

Thanks, Lisa. This kind of incident has a way of making you reflect on your own mortality!

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Kim Hunter said...
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Helen Barbour said...

Jay, Pete is now fully recovered and things are well with us, thank you. The pothole has, indeed, been repaired, and those responsible for the maintenance of the road have admitted liability for the accident, so Pete will be recompensed for his pain and inconvenience in due course, which is something, at least.