May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and so I am doing a series of posts about my own mental health, to help break the stigma of mental illness. Part 4 is about Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.
It’s not the kind where you wash your hands all the time. It’s not the neat-freak kind either. I mean, I kind of wish it was, but it’s not.
It’s the counting every step, obsessing over something tiny, having intense phobias kind.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is an anxiety disorder in which people have unwanted and repeated thoughts and feelings. This, combined with my previously touched on Trichotillomania, are two of the disorders that make up my Anxiety. Trich is actually connected to the OCD as both illustrate compulsive behaviors. So, it’s like OCD’s baby.
As with previous disorders I have discussed, many people claim to have OCD. Many people are lying. What they have are quirks: “I can’t go to bed without doing the dishes,” or “I always have to double check that I turned off the coffee pot.” That’s lovely, but how many times did you check it? Seven? Fifteen? Just the once? Cute. I’m pretty understanding, but I cannot suffer that crap. So, the stigma of OCD is tainted, because everyone walks around claiming they have it, and when I say something about having it, they assume I just have a few quirks, not an obsessive need to do something over and over, or an inability to stop thinking an unwanted thought.
I don’t remember how old I was when I started with the counting, but it was in my adolescence. I know that by seventeen I was sure that my thoughts were obsessive, and I have always known that my fears are mostly invalid. When I was twenty I was diagnosed with OCD, and it made all sorts of sense to me. When they put me on meds, I saw immediate improvements. For one thing, the bout of Trich I was suffering passed. I stopped counting everything: cars, steps, stoplights, houses. I overcame some silly fears, though I will say some are yet to be conquered (one day I hope to do a full load of dirty dishes. As of now the only dishes I wash are for other people’s children, and it is agonizing.) Some things I still work on, like said dishes and my fear of fireworks. They no longer leaves me paralyzed, but I still don’t like them.
The only time OCD was really a problem for me was 16-21, and that was because of obsession. Let’s use M as an example here. M loves Godzilla, hardcore. He doesn’t care what it is, if it features Godzilla, it’s right in his wheelhouse. He knows everything he can about Godzilla and keeps an eye out for new movies or memorabilia. This was my life, but with everything, every day. The world was my Godzilla, the people in my life my Mothras, and everything was Tokyo under fire.
After a while with therapy and meds, most things straightened out. I still count, but only my steps, and I have like 50 tricks to stop doing it in my emotional toolbox. I still can’t do those dishes, but I can clean the toilet, so some improvement is obvious. Mostly, I try to control my thoughts, so that I don’t hover on a topic for too long, and I find that nine times out of ten, I am in control of what I think. As with my other disorders, OCD is not who I am, just a fragment of my personality that needs to be ironed out.
So finally, if you, my reader, have any questions about life with OCD, please comment. It is important to me to connect with others who have suffered similar issues, as well as those who have questions and want answers. I am thankful to have had the chance to share my experiences with you, and I encourage you to share them with others. If you have read all of my Breaking the Stigma series, or just some of it, I thank you for taking the time to understand mental illness and help me break the stigma.