October 10-16th is OCD Awareness Week, so let’s talk about that.
I started showing symptoms during puberty, around 11 years old. I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 19, however, as child psychology was still a bit taboo in the 90s. It started with Trichotillomania.
For those unaware, Trich is a compulsive hair-pulling syndrome. I started pulling my hair out in 6th grade. At first, I didn’t realize I was doing it because I would fall into a sort of a trance, only to come out of it and discover hair everywhere. My doctor diagnosed me with alopecia, because she and many other medical professionals I encountered over the years had no idea what Trichotillomania even was.
When I realized I was the one doing it, I researched the crap out of it, as I tend to do when something makes me nervous or scared. Once I realized what I was dealing with, it took 8 more years and three psychologists before I found one who knew what I was talking about. I had another flareup when I was 19, so I marched my bandana-covered head into my doctor and said “Listen…this is what I have.” She agreed. She knew what I was talking about. It was instant relief.
And then she diagnosed me with obsessive compulsive disorder.
Trich is a definite red flag and true cousin to OCD, so there was little surprise. They asked me questions, such as do you ever have intrusive thoughts that you can’t control? Um…yes, doesn’t everybody?
I was never the neat-freak, handwashing kind of OCD, but my compulsions lie in Trich and my obsessions rest in my brain. It’s a truthful diagnosis, and also my best controlled one. I deal with my anxiety and depression all day every day, but my OCD is pretty well regulated. The only thing that still bothers me is the incessant counting…i used to count everything, but these days it’s mostly just my steps. Mark got me a Fitbit so that I can remind myself there’s no need to count because my watch is doing the work. It’s helpful…sometimes. Not all the time.
I don’t think much about my OCD because it is so well-controlled now. I do however take great offense when folks who have “quirks” claim they have OCD. Oh, you can’t go to sleep at night with dishes in the sink, so you don’t have to do them in the morning? How quaint. Sounds a lot more like a personal preference than something you have to do in order to keep you and your family alive, which is how an OCD brain can think. OCD is not quirks; it’s patterns of behavior that disrupt your life.
Alas, my life is not disrupted by it at the moment, which makes me happy. I do worry daily about another Trich relapse, though, and I am extremely particular about my hair since I lost so much of it in the past, and it is much thinner than it once was. However, I know now that should that happen, I can immediately call my doc and we can figure out a game plan. That wasn’t a luxury I felt I had in my early 20s. And even when I count my steps, I remind myself that my Fitbit is on the job, and try to use coping mechanisms to draw my attention away from the counting. I do the same with the intrusive thoughts. Truthfully, I am making progress daily. I hope others our there can say the same some day.
Here are a couple of links to resources about OCD: