I am 41. I am a success at work and have lots of friends and a lovely husband. But ever since I was a small child I have had obessional fears. At school, I was terrified that my Mum wouldn’t come to collect me. Aged 5 I would cry all day, through fear that she’d be killed. By 9, I had developed a ritual of crossing my fingers and wearing a ‘special’ necklace, and reciting a mantra to make sure she’d turn up. (she always did- I had very loving parents.) Sometimes, I was afraid that they were not my real parents, but robots/replicants who had replaced the true ones. I made my Mum perform a litany of ‘special words’ to prove it was really her. At 16, I began to have panic attacks. They increasingly got worse, and by the time I went to Unversity I was having several a day. I drank and smoked excessively to distract myself, and couldn’t sleep till daylight because I was so scared of having a panic attack alone and in the dark.

I also developed a terror that someone would spike my drink or food with acid. I had friends who took drugs, and was petrified that they’d think it would be a joke to give it to be without me knowing. I would never, ever let anyone buy me a drink, and often suffered waves of panic when eating or drinking in public, in case the chef or barman had spiked my food or drink. There was never anything to suggest this could be the case. Aged 21, I married the first man who seemed to fall in love with me. He appeared safe, solid- someone who could protect me. As it transpired, he was an emotional coward and a compulsive liar. Over two years, my suspicions grew, and it finally all came apart when I refused to believe the lies (about money, work- he also stole from my family and alienated me from them) any more. He admitted everything- but we had a baby. I knew it would be wrong to deprive my son of a relationship with his dad, so he had regular access. But throughout most of his childhood, I was terrified that my son would be harmed, or abused, by his dad. Again, despite the lying, there was no evidence for physical or sexual violence. But I compulsively worried about it for years, despite my son appearing to have a very healthy, normal relationship with his dad (and a close relationship with me & other family members, so if anything had been amiss, he would have had plenty of people to support him and listen.) Now, my son is grown up- happy, healthy, successful and at university. And I have developed the fear that he has inherited his dad’s ‘darkness’ (again, no real evidence.) It’s as though I cannot believe he’s as normal as he is. Whenever I read about a terrible crime, I think “how do I know he wouldn’t do that?” It’s torture, and the guilt of thinking it is overwhelming. My husband tries to listen, and put my paranoia in perspective, but I’m too ashamed to tell anyone else. I hope I can overcome this fear that has dogged my life, that something terrible will happen that I can’t control. Ironically, when terrible things really have, I have coped well, and overcome the difficulties they’ve caused. It is such a relief that I’m not alone. I wish you all well, and I hope by sharing our fears, we can start to overcome the misery that our own minds inflict.