“I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.”
It took me nearly 10 years to be able to say that sentence out loud to anybody.
Now, some of you might be thinking, “yeah, I’m OCD about (something), too,” and you very well may be. For those of you who have not been diagnosed with OCD, I’m not quite sure that you understand, or at least not fully, what it is to have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
Allow me to share my story with you.
The general notion or stigma of what OCD is often includes repetitive hand-washing, worrying that a stove wasn’t turned off, or obsessing over the thought that your front door isn’t locked and constantly checking and double-checking to make sure that is actually is. And yes, this is OCD for some, and probably many diagnosed OCD patients.
The reality, though, for many, is that OCD goes far beyond washing hands and repeatedly checking stoves and locked doors.
My experience with OCD has had many facets over the last 22 years since my initial diagnosis. Some facets have come and gone, while others have remained constant. If I were to boil it down to the bare basics, my OCD has always been about two things:
- The way things feel, and
- The anxiety that I experience when things don’t feel “just right.”
Let me first talk about “just right” to clarify what I mean.
In the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, “just right” represents the middle ground, and Goldilocks wants everything that is “just right.” A bed that isn’t too big or too small, but somewhere in between. A chair that isn’t too soft or too firm, but somewhere in between. Porridge that isn’t too cold or too hot, but somewhere in between.
Like Goldilocks, my OCD tells me that everything has to feel “just right.” If only the definitions of “just right” were as straight forward as something being directly in the middle of a spectrum. Instead, there is often no rhyme or reason, no specific criteria my OCD has for feeling that something is “just right.” As much as the following phrase drives me crazy, the best way to truly describe it is simply, “it is what it is.”
“Just right” is such an ambiguous concept according to my OCD that it can be very hard for me to pinpoint a way to “correct” something that doesn’t feel right initially. It is very often a trial-and-error undertaking for me to figure out what it is my OCD wants of me, or how it wants me to do it.
Here’s an analogy:
Someone gives you a set of blocks and tells you to build a house. The task seems simple enough; we’ve all seen a house and know what a house looks like, even though there are many variations and styles of houses. So you build a house, something with 4 walls, a door, some windows and a roof, and in theory, this should be fine. The person comes back to you once you’ve finished, looks at what you’ve built, says, “That’s not right, fix it,” then leaves.
You think to yourself, well, maybe they wanted a bigger house. You have some blocks left over, so you build a bigger house. The person comes back and looks at what you’ve built. They say, “That’s still not right, fix it,” and they leave again.
So you think, alright, maybe they wanted a chimney. So you put a chimney on the house, but when the person comes back, they say the same thing, and leave.
This happens over and over and over again, twenty times. Twenty times you try to build the house that’s “just right,” and twenty times you fail, and twenty times you’re not quite sure why. Then, after the twenty-first try, the person comes back, looks at the reconstructed house you’ve built, and says, “That’s fine,” with no explanation as to why. No acknowledgment of the color of the façade you added on try #15, which hangs over the porch you added on try #14. No explanation at all. Just, “that’s fine.”
Now imagine that this scenario plays itself out all day long, just in different ways. After the house-building, you’re asked to build a car, then a bridge, then a fence, and so on. For each one, the process is the same:
“Do this,” (and you do it), “Fix it,” (and you fix it), “Fix it again” (and repeat).
This was my OCD in the beginning. I was 8 years old then. I’m now 30.
If this were a job résumé, I would have 22 years of experience working for a “boss” whose demands were unpredictable, irrational, and borderline non-negotiable. I’d be more than qualified for a position that offered more clarity, more logic, and more freedom.
Unfortunately, this is a dead-end job. There is no résumé, and there is no other position available at another company. This is where I am, and these are my circumstances.
As with any other dead-end job, though, I’ve done what most people do: I’ve found some of the loopholes that make the situation at least somewhat manageable. I’ve learned how to work within the system, and frankly, I’ve become quite good at it. But still, it’s exhausting.
In this blog, I will be sharing with you my experiences with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I do this not only because I want to (although I do want to), but because I feel that I need to.
I need to feel that I’m able to express myself, after spending the first 10 years with OCD in isolation.
I need to feel understood because for the longest time I’ve felt misunderstood by people who don’t have OCD themselves, even if they like to say “I’m so OCD about” whatever. You can have OCD tendencies, but to actually have OCD is quite different.
Possibly most importantly, I need to feel like my experiences haven’t been for nothing, and that in sharing them openly, I can reach people who are suffering from OCD and don’t feel understood by others, or are struggling to even understand it themselves.
I need to do this, because it just feels right.
© Copyright Whatismyhealth, December 18, 2016