I watched a video of people talking about having OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and how insulting it is for people to joke about being OCD when they aren’t. I’d like to say that I agree, because I understand what it’s like for people who don’t take illnesses seriously. However, I’m one of those people who joke about having OCD… but I actually have it. It’s not easy, it’s embarrassing, and often times I feel guilty about it. So, if I want to joke about my problems, so be it.
Which leads me to “How do you know they don’t have OCD?” It’s easy to judge people who don’t have it as bad as you do. Like every mental illness, it affects each person differently. Sure, there’s a set criteria for diagnosis, but there are varying degrees. People are different and they cope differently. Maybe you have it so bad that you wash your hands to the point of bleeding and have a spotless sterile house. I’m sorry for you and I’m thankful I don’t have it that bad yet. Hopefully I’ll never have it that bad. Is it a competition? Do I have to be that bad in order to be worthy of the disorder? It’s not a prize. Don’t judge me.
Last year or so, I began locking the door when we leave the apartment. I never used to do that before (this isn’t when the OCD started, just the start of a new symptom). Then, I started locking it before bed. Now I’ve started to lock it all the time, whether we’re home or not, or if it’s day or night. It’s a good thing to lock the door. Nothing wrong with that!
Our car doors lock automatically when the car is in drive. I know this. My husband scoffed at me for manually locking the car door, even though it was already locked. My husband has to mention it every time. Yes I know it’s already locked. Then why do I it? Because I felt like it. I feel stupid. I usually end up making exaggerated jokes about being mugged or play it off as doing it just to annoy him. The truth? There’s that thought in the back of my mind “what if it didn’t lock?” Now that the automatic locks are broken – yep, more guilt because I feel like it’s my fault – I find myself increasingly obsessing about him locking his door. I’ve asked him several times to lock his door, but he refuses. It’s been nagging at me more and more. I find myself thinking about being car jacked or robbed. We’re getting the automatic locks fixed soon. If we don’t, I can see this becoming an argument ending with me in tears. I recently admitted it to him that it was my OCD and I couldn’t help it. Maybe he’ll get off my case about it. I already feel ashamed of doing something so stupid, when I’m such an intelligent person.
I have routines. I do the same thing every morning and every night as my get-up and pre-bed routines. When someone gets in the way or stops me from doing it, I get very upset. To the point that when my husband jumps on the toilet as I’m fixing to go to bed, I pitch a hissy fit. We have two bathrooms and he’s only in there a few minutes. However, he knows that I go to the bathroom, in that specific bathroom, right before bed, and bed is at a specific time. I don’t want to use the other bathroom! I want to use my bathroom. Why can’t he use his bathroom? He says the other bathroom is not his bathroom, but it’s too late, I’ve already gotten it embedded in my mind as his bathroom. Is there a way to make it feel like mine? Would that fix this issue?
I don’t want to go to bed 5 minutes late, it disrupts my routine, I don’t fall asleep in the right cycle, I’ll be tired tomorrow and then I’ll have trouble with my anxiety all day, because it’s so much harder to deal with the anxiety when I’m tired. He always says a few minutes isn’t going to kill me. I know it’s just a few minutes and I know how stupid this is. I know and I feel stupid. He knows this is my routine and he makes me angry. We’ve gotten into big fights over him disrupting my routines. If I can’t complete my routine in the morning, I can’t go to work. If I can’t complete my bedtime routine, I can’t sleep. Fortunately, my husband is beginning to understand that OCD isn’t just matching colors and neatness. He’s been more conscious of my routine. I love him for that.
I’ve talked about how I deal with my anxiety. Unfortunately, these coping techniques and routines are what’s causing the OCD. Perhaps if I didn’t have this anxiety disorder, I wound’t be OCD. It’s a definite possibility. I don’t have a sterile home, although I do want one. I don’t spend every waking moment cleaning. When the house gets messy, it bothers me. It nags at me. At a certain point, I’ve obsessed so much that I can’t take it. I start cleaning. I know he’s still in bed, but I need to vacuum. This upsets my husband. Why couldn’t I wait until he got up? Because I need to do this now. We might get into a big fight over my inconsiderate behavior and I might feel guilty about it, but then again, the house needed to be cleaned. He’ll get over it and so will I.
On the other hand, I get really angry when he tries to stop me. No, it can’t be done later. We’ll eat breakfast when I’m done. We’ll go when I’m done. You can watch TV when I’m done. Once I’m on it, you better not get in my way. I’ve had downright temper tantrums and crying fits over the disruption. When I’m suffering, I will pick fights and cry my eyes out in outbursts of anxiety. Often times, when I’m feeling especially full of anxiety, my husband will clean up the apartment as a surprise and it’s like I’ve been cured! My anxiety just floats away.
At work, when I schedule and make arrangements and people get in the way and ruin my setup, I get so upset. I start to hate my job and dread going back to work. Sometimes, at work, I go on cleaning sprees and re-organize my office. I’m not always that clean. I get lazy. I don’t like doing dishes. Perhaps in that, I have a little gratitude that the OCD and anxiety keeps me from living in filth and squalor.
When it comes to laundry, I have been known to rewash an entire load if a dirty shirt touches even one item in the basket. If the cat sneaks into the bedroom and lays on a basket of clean clothes… yep, it’s re-washed. When my husband throws clothing onto the floor, if it’s even remotely dirty, I won’t let him put them back into the basket, or else we have to re-wash the whole basket. We started to keep our clothes in separate baskets to help alleviate the stress. He can be as filthy as he wants (even though I know it’s not that filthy). In my mind it’s disgusting, it’s tainted, and I know I’m being dramatic. I know! Okay? I know. I can’t help it. I dwell on the things that bother me. I obsess. It’s the Obsessive in OCD. So yes, while being a neat freak is the quintessential OCD, it’s not as black and white as you might think. It depends on the person and the severity of the issues at hand.
When there’s something important, I meticulously make plans. The more important the goal, the more upset I get when my plans are disrupted. If things don’t go as planned, everything falls apart, and the goal is not met. This is often very important and serious matters! Yes, I understand that things can go wrong and still be okay in the end. I still get extremely upset and can end up in a panic attack. What’s worse is that my husband and I end up in a screaming match because he’s usually the one who got in the way. My husband may seem insensitive to my condition or perhaps I seem like a nightmare to live with… it’s a little of both sometimes, but luckily we are also a very intelligent, compromising, supportive, and loving couple. The majority of our life together is filled with fun and happiness!
Some folks scratch themselves so bad they bleed. If my scalp is dry, I do scratch until I bleed. I use dry scalp shampoo regularly to solve that problem. Some people pick at their skin. Do nails count? I bite my nails and the skin on my fingers until I bleed. If I can’t bite them, I use clippers, needles, and other things to chip away at the nails. I’m trying really hard to stop, but it’s not going terribly well. I managed to let my toe nails grow in, but I’ve been struggling with the obsessive desire to cut them. There was a few times that I thought I was going to break, but I didn’t. Yay me!
Let’s talk about washing hands and using anything other than soap. This one has caused me a lot of frustration. I can’t stand the thought of putting things on my skin, except for soap. I refused to use sunblock, lotion, and hand sanitizer for a long time. I used to shower/bath three to four times a day. I used to wash my hands a lot more, usually after touching anything or anyone.
I stopped showering and bathing so much. A long time ago, my living conditions were pretty bad, so I was obsessive about showering. After living conditions improved, I naturally showered less often. Now it’s once during winter (when I wake up) and twice in the summer (when I wake up and before bed). The hand washing improved as well. Now I can actually pet my cats without having to wash my hands afterward. That just happened on it’s own. However, I had to work on my disdain for non-soap substances.
I would put lotion on my hands when they were dry, but then I’d wash it off. I tried using a sponge to put lotion on the top of my hands, and as long as it wasn’t on my fingers or palms, it was fine. I tried to use hand sanitizer but I still felt dirty. I tricked my brain by using the sanitizer with water, like you do with soap. After I got used to the smell and feel of it, I was able to use the sanitizer by itself. The smell of alcohol induced high anxiety because of hospital experiences. I’m handling the smell of alcohol infinitely better these days. I started to get over it when I started using alcohol wipes to clean my glasses obsessively, which has also improved. I can now use Copic Markers without any trouble! I also did some research to find the least oily sunblock that I could find and it helps. I still don’t like using sunblock all over my skin, but am no longer refusing to use it. I can manage to tolerate it for the beach! I am also even able to use lotion on my entire hand without washing it off! I started drinking a lot more water to help my body stay hydrated.
Most OCD people seem to obsess over germs. What’s weird is that I’m not thinking about germs. I’m thinking about how I feel. I feel dirty. I feel tainted by filth. I get these thoughts of disgust and wanting to be clean. It’s not the germs… but I’m certainly grossed out! I still have some trouble with these feelings. The thought of going camping causes me anxiety, but I love camping. I am going to have to bring plenty of wet wipes and sanitizer to help me cope with these stupid thoughts.
Despite how stupid and guilty I feel, I also feel proud of how well I manage it. I feel good that I’m not as bad as the people in those videos. I feel good that I’m actually accomplishing overcoming some of these issues. I am also very thankful that I have such a tolerant, forgiving, supportive, and loving husband who is not without his own mental baggage.