I never really know how anything I write is going to turn out when I start writing it. I may have a goal in mind that I wind up sticking to, but there are times when the finished product is nothing like what I expected it to be at the beginning. Nevertheless, while there are some times it comes more easily than others, I do enjoy writing as a form of self-expression.
Growing up hiding my OCD from just about everybody, somewhere along the way I developed a sense that expressing myself was something that I shouldn’t do because people wouldn’t understand. To be fair, I don’t really remember myself ever being the most outgoing person to begin with. Even when I was very young, well before my diagnosis, I was pretty shy. After my diagnosis, though, I withdrew into myself almost completely.
Looking back now, I can’t exactly say that I would have wanted that much more attention drawn to me. I went through a tremendously awkward period, as I suppose most middle schoolers do, and even the little attention I got was probably more than I would have liked. Still, there was always a part of me that wanted to be able to express myself, though not so much in the way that I wanted to be the main focus of a group of people. More so, I wanted to connect with people by letting them in.
The ability to compartmentalize things is truly a skill, and while it comes naturally to some people, this was not the case for me. Many times the emotion and feeling attached to a particular situation can cloud my mindset, which often leads to some degree of social awkwardness on my part. To this day while I’ve gotten better at it, it’s still not something I’d say I’ve really mastered. Imagine what I must’ve been like as a kid.
At a time when I was overwhelmed by the task of dealing with this newfound mental health condition, I still recognized that I had positive qualities. I was active, artistic and creative, and these were things that I sensed were worth sharing with other people. I wanted people to show a genuine interest in me, to establish a mutual trust where we could be open with each other and talk about ourselves freely.
The trouble for me was compartmentalizing. Because I was making such an effort to keep my OCD private that it was extremely difficult to be open about everything else. The difference between those fiercely protecting one thing and letting my guard down about most other things was just too drastic for me to handle.
So I withdrew and became the quiet kid in my grade. Outside of a few friends, if people knew who I was it was usually only because they had a class with me, or because they joined in with others who picked on me. There really wasn’t much of a middle ground.
I’ve often found it challenging to make my articles positive. OCD can be a pretty heavy subject, and it comes with a lot of difficult experiences, memories, and stories. If I’m reminding myself why I write this series “Ob(C)esseD,” though, it’s not just to shed light on what an OCD patient struggles with for those who don’t have it. It’s also to show that if you’re like me and do have OCD, there are many ways in which your OCD it can be a blessing in disguise. And so while some of what I just shared may seem sad, there’s a lot of good that came from it.
With that in mind, I want to share with you what I feel are the 7 best things that OCD can highlight within us, based on my experiences:
Emotional Sensitivity (No, we’re NOT “unstable”)
This one can be a little bit tricky for us because our emotions and our OCD, while two different things, have a tendency to overlap at times (which basically means that our OCD intrudes on our real feelings by imposing feelings of anxiety). If our anxiety is too loud we may want to drown our feelings out entirely, but the truth is that our frustration stems from our desire to actually feel all of those other feelings. If we seem closed off at times, there’s a good chance that our minds are deeply entrenched in a battle between anxiety and our other emotions, and we’re not quite sure what to do with all of that.
This is when our coping mechanisms become extremely important, and when therapy may be a helpful vehicle for us to navigate through our various intense and scattered emotions. Regardless of whether or not we seek that type of treatment, once we are able to manage the anxiety, our true emotions are freer to kick in. The people who are patient enough to stick with us through that process will come to find that we’re extremely passionate people about the things that are most important to us- including those people. Even better, they’ll be rewarded with our immense gratitude for standing by us as we worked through our struggles.
Thoughtfulness (That thing they'll call “overthinking”)
Having OCD, we spend a great deal of time being stuck in our own heads. We think a lot, and sometimes to a fault. We will typically spend an incredible amount of time thinking about the infinite number of possibilities in which a situation may turn out. This can be a painstaking process and source of stress for us, but one thing I can say with confidence is that if nothing else, much of what we do will definitely be thought out.
Can I say that this always turns out well? No, not always. It’s impossible for any of us- OCD or otherwise- to know for sure how someone will react to anything we say, despite our best hunch, and in a fluid situation, we may not adjust quickly to an unforeseen reaction. But one thing is for certain, it would be difficult to accurately accuse us of being thoughtless, particularly in situations where we initiate the conversation or action. In these instances, there will be a great deal of thought that we’ve put into the things we do.
Protectiveness (All that checking and double checking)
One of the most common associations made with people with OCD is that we check things- the locks on the doors, the lights in a room we’ve left, or the burners on the stove. Yes, we may definitely do these things in excess, but there are other things we check on repeatedly, even if it’s just for our own reassurance.
At some point in our lives (for many, it’s college), most of our peers go through a phase in which the amount of time they spend partying may very well surpass the amount of time they spend sleeping. For those of us with OCD, chances are that a significant part of our anxiety revolves around these types of social situations. We may feel much more inclined to keep to ourselves, or simply not go to certain social functions at all.
That’s not to say we won’t let loose sometimes, because a lot of us will (though it may take a great deal of mental effort for us to get there). But more often than not, we’re likely to be the ones checking on our friends with texts, calls, or literally just being there with them. If you’re fortunate enough to have friends who haven’t needed you in this way, this may seem less significant. I promise you, though, that if and when the time comes where a friend parties a little too hard, you’ll be glad you were there to make sure they’re OK, and hopefully, so will they.
Attention to Detail (“You actually remembered that?!”)
In a lot of ways, OCD is like a microscope. It takes something that in reality is relatively small, and makes it appear 100 times bigger. And while this may make us worry about the most miniscule and irrelevant details, it can also give us great intuition, especially in relationships.
One of the most important things we can do for each other in a relationship is to pay attention. With OCD, what may seem like a “nothing” moment, to us holds greater significance. When those moments represent little milestones in a relationship, we tend not to forget them.
We’ll celebrate the monthly anniversaries with a small bouquet of flowers. We’ll remember the birthdays and the small conversations. We’ll keep in mind the favorite activities, foods and TV shows, and use them to inform little surprises. There are a lot of other details in life we may wish our OCD would allow us to ignore, but when we’re with the right person, paying attention to these little details will go a long, long way.
Creativity (That misunderstood “quirkiness”)
Creativity has several different meanings. Most often, the term refers to the artistic types- the writers, the painters, the dancers, actors, and musicians. But creativity can come in many other, less obvious forms as well. Having OCD, there are a lot of tasks that are relatively simple for someone without anxiety.
For us, when our intrusive thoughts, worry, and self-doubt come into play, a seemingly easy task can become exponentially more challenging. Yet, if it’s something we really want to accomplish, chances are we’ll find a way. That “way” may not always be the most conventional. Instead, the way we may go about accomplishing things will appear, to many people, like we’re “doing things the hard way.”
Personally, I love to edit music and video, but I don’t have the equipment or software that would make doing so easier. Instead, I’ve taught myself roundabout ways to work with these forms of media. I’ve pieced together many smalls snippets of sound, saved and converted layers to various formats just so I could combine them with each other. I know there’s an easier way to do it, but part of what keeps me engaged is putting together the puzzle to make it work.
OCD doesn’t often allow for simple solutions to these types of challenges, and many times, it sets up roadblocks for us. Ironically enough, though, it also doesn’t allow us to “let it go” because it makes us become fixated on those things. It may seem cruel, but a positive way to look at it is that it’s forcing us to be problem solvers, to use critical thinking and to get creative in unique ways. We’ll get the job done, it just may take us a little longer because we’re doing it in a different way than others might imagine it being done.
Perfectionism (Making things “Just Right”)
This is one of those things we hear about within the context of interviewing for a job. You know, when the interviewer asks you to identify your greatest strengths and weaknesses, and you- the sly dog that you are- slip in “weaknesses” that are really strengths. I can almost guarantee you that “perfectionist” is among the top 3 traits people list in these situations. And while for some people, this might be a stretch, for us, our OCD probably makes this quite true.
We worry so much about whether something has been done correctly that we are, in fact, kind of perfectionists. That’s not to say that this trait applies in all contexts. These contexts will vary based on who you are as an individual, and in other scenarios we may be much less particular. The fact of the matter is that whether it’s our classwork, our art, or some other creative craft, we go to great lengths to make sure it’s done the right way (and we’ll probably check, double check and triple check our work, too).
Planning (Having a specific vision and carrying it out)
The fear of the unknown is pretty common. For those with OCD, that fear is even more intensified for us. We like to know specifics, what’s going on, who’s going to be where, and when things need to happen. Without these guidelines, we lack structure and direction that we need to focus and not feel lost.
This lends itself quite well to planning. That’s not to say we’ll always take on that responsibility, but when we do, we tend to do it very well. The need for specifics, combined with attention to these details is an excellent combination of traits for planning an activity, party or event. We know how we want things to be, and will go to great lengths to deliver on our expectations, even if we have to do things ourselves (because we won’t always ask for help).
What can be even more interesting is the fact that with some of our social hang-ups, we don’t necessarily want to be the focus of whatever it is we plan. Many times, we’ll be more than happy just to be a fly on the wall at our own parties. But to see things running smoothly the way we envisioned them, and to see others enjoying what we’ve created is incredibly fulfilling, and is why we do what we do.
In the beginning for me, OCD was a burden, something I was hiding from the world out of fear that they wouldn’t understand. It’s taken a long time for me to get to this point, but I’m finally realizing that OCD is much more than the negativity I used to assign it. It has helped me intellectually by driving my desire to think and learn, socially by making me a caring and loyal brother, friend, boyfriend, and now fiancé, financially by making me calculated and cautious, and spiritually by guiding me towards my passion and purpose. It’s been a tool that has taught me how to be resilient and persistent, meticulous and hard-working, sensitive and compassionate, insightful and creative, thoughtful and articulate.
Yes, each of these things come with some potential drawbacks and I’d be lying if I told you otherwise. It will take an incredible amount of energy from us to overcome the incessant thoughts, doubts, worries, and angles we will see within many situations, and it will be exhausting at times. Still, the idea that nothing good comes without working for it rings true here.
Will OCD suck sometimes? Yes. Absolutely it will. But it’s a part of who we are. Let the anxiety exist within you and find ways to let it fuel you rather than bring you down. And trust me, there are times when it will bring you down. But through all the difficulty it may bring us, if we take the time to work through it and to understand it and to learn how to manage it, OCD can be quite a blessing in disguise.
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© Copyright Whatismyhealth, March 5th, 2017