Since I’ve opened up about my Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder two years ago, I felt I should only write about my diagnosis if I had something enlightening or educational to say about it. Something positive to mention about my journey. Something that inspires hope. I haven’t felt I was worthy enough sharing the darker sides of my OCD (namely the effect it has on me) and the fact that since my last article, I haven’t gotten any better. As my OCD takes a much tighter hold on me, though, I find the need to be honest—honest about my frustration and my pain, so you can be honest about yours. One of the most powerful things for me is the solace found in knowing you have allies when you feel lost and helpless—when you feel out of control.
Now more than ever, I feel hostage to my OCD and overshadowed by resurfaced compulsions. I have few moments where I can recognize the person that I used to be. These fleeting moments manifest themselves in belly laughs with my roommate, in solo jam sessions, and in walks with my dog. Sleep is no longer an escape, as I’m held awake by intrusive thoughts that eventually bleed into nightmares and jolt me back awake with a tight fist on my heart long before my alarms are due to wake me. Making plans with my friends or my sister is no longer therapeutic. When I’m with them, I have to bite back the urge to compulsively and selfishly tell them everything going on in my mind—over and over again—until something positive breeds from my words just as if they’re a prayer.
And I am so, so tired of it.
I am tired of not being able to get ready like other people. So badly do I wish I could just throw on clothes and brush my teeth without having to carve out an hour and half of my day for those two things alone. I’m tired of wanting to cancel plans because the idea of having to get ready and go through another ritualistic round of actions until they are done just right is about as appealing as sitting on an airplane with a wailing infant. I’m tired of this being misconstrued as me being flakey or disinterested in those that I care about.
I am tired of doing everything just right and still having something bad happen. The feeling of never being in control of myself or those around eats away at me and my days. I wish my self-worth wasn’t contingent on how I tie my hair up or how I read a line in a book. I wish I could shake the idea that the only reason why my friends stick around is because I count “5, 6, 7, 8, 9” three to five times as I drink water out of a glass—not because I truly have something to offer them. When I’m with them, I wish I wasn’t silenced by the fear of saying something wrong and that my lips didn’t carry constant traps for seeking reassurance.
I am tired of hearing people say they are “like so OCD” about something such as their space being neat. A statement like that makes me feel as though my daily battle isn’t serious or even real for that matter. The reality of being “like so OCD” is this: I brush my teeth for 10-15 minutes every morning because I’m haunted by the idea that someone I love may die or decide I’m not worth their time. I have to wash silverware once, twice, three times—meticulously flipping the fork or knife around so I get each side—or else I might jeopardize my reputation. I let my room turn into a mess because I don’t always know what compulsions may be hiding from me beneath my scattered books and how many times I’ll have to touch a t-shirt sleeve before it can be properly folded and put away. As understanding as I try to be, I doubt these people that claim they are “so OCD” feel a threatening, invisible hand guiding their actions and commanding their obedience. I doubt they have to tug on their window 5 times to make sure it’s locked, despite it not having been opened in the first place. I doubt they must avoid anything with the number two as they count repeated number sequences as they wash their hair. Abusing the phrase “I’m so OCD about that” regarding orderliness perpetuates the notion that having OCD means you’re simply a germaphobe and a neat-freak, when the reality of having OCD is much more than that.
Most importantly, though, I am tired of letting this disorder consume me. I am tired of it taking the beauty out of autumn days with all the ways that things could go wrong for me. I am tired of the ache in my back caused by hunching over the sink while I brush my teeth for long periods of time. I am tired of running out of spaces to store things because I hoard. I am tired of not being able to stop myself.
That’s why I write this—now without the expectation or concern that I’m being inspirational. I tell myself that I’m not inspiring enough to write because I’m still struggling. But, how do I expect myself to become better if I am only willing to share, to accept, certain aspects of my disorder? If I’m not willing to acknowledge the toll that having OCD takes on me? I’ve felt that I can only discuss OCD in the frame of how it works and manifests itself, because no one would want to hear about the actual toll it takes on someone. Perhaps, I felt guilty for letting my disorder take so much out of me.
Living with OCD involves a constant forfeiture of control in order to gain the impression that you have any at all. It’s self-inflicted pain in an attempt to draw your mind away from the relentless stream of “could have’s”, “should have’s”, and “what if’s”. So, I write this for catharsis. I write this as an attempt to regain some of the power that I’ve lost. I write this for all my friends and family members that have now become a part of the collateral damage to my ever-changing mood and hypersensitivity to crumbs on the counter. Most especially, I write this, too, for all that struggle along with me—for those that are tired of feeling out of control.
Image credit: World of Oddy
You may read all of Shana’s MHT guest posts here.