What It's Like Growing Up With Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
There’s more than one way to do things.
If a road is blocked, you take a different one. If a store is out of a flavor of ice cream, you pick another one.
If you can’t do something one way, you do it another. It seems like this would be one of the simpler concepts that the world has to offer.
I’m here to tell you that it is most certainly not.
For the longest time, I could only set the microwave to 90 seconds.
When I leave Grand Central, I only ever use one exit, even if another one might be faster. There are so many things I can only do one way, or things I do that are so unexplainably weird.
I probably sound rigid. I probably sound insane.
What I actually am is a young adult with OCD.
Obsessive compulsive disorder is perceived to be many different things, and that’s exactly the reality.
It can manifest itself in different ways within every affected person. There’s not one type of OCD to have.
It’s a different beast for every person who has it. We all have different compulsions.
A person with OCD has compulsions, and if he or she doesn’t follow through with these compulsions, he or she becomes convinced that something bad will happen.
In reality, he or she knows nothing will happen, but that’s what OCD makes people believe.
To live with OCD is to be constantly living in conflict, with yourself and the rest of the world.
Your mind wants things one way and the world wants them another. Striking the balance is a daily struggle.
OCD will persist and nag and chew at the insides of your brain until it gets its way. There’s no compromise with OCD; that’s just not the way it works.
For me, OCD fights its battles in many different forms.
Every time I enter my room at night, I have to open my closet and then close it again.
Even if I’m only leaving my room for a second, when I get back, the closet has to be reopened and then reclosed. It can’t stay open. It can’t go unchecked.
I cannot sleep if I came into my room and did not open and close my closet door. I simply cannot.
I can’t explain to you why I have to do this, I just have to. There’s no way around it.
I guess, at its core, I believe that if I don’t open my closet door and check inside, someone or something might be lurking inside. Obviously, I know this isn’t true.
I have logic and common sense living inside my head alongside this silly OCD of mine.
I know there’s no one in my closet. Just because I know that though doesn’t mean I can shake the feeling.
I still have to check. I always have to check.
When I’m eating small foods, like grapes, berries, candies or even french fries, I have to eat them in pairs. Each piece needs to have a buddy, or else I can’t eat it.
I can’t eat an odd number of these finger foods; it feels wrong. When I ask friends if I can have one of their fries, I actually mean I want two, or more accurately, I need two or none at all.
People will usually humor me, even if they don’t really get it.
There are some days when there are only five cherry tomatoes left and I eat them all anyway, even though that last one isn’t a part of a pair.
Some days, it doesn’t matter. Some days, the part of me that thinks it matters isn’t strong enough to fight me. Some days, I am stronger than my OCD.
And some days, I throw that last tomato away. Some days, I can’t always win.
That doesn’t necessarily mean I lose though; it’s a battle, but I’m not really sure that one side wins and the other loses.
OCD and I struggle against each other, but over time we’ve learned to coexist.
I’ve learned that trying to fight the urges OCD gives me isn’t always worth it. It takes energy and it produces anxiety and there just isn’t always time for that.
“I’m so OCD,” people say, when they want something to match or they need things to be clean, but they have no idea.
“I think I probably have OCD,” people say, but you would know. Trust me, you would know.
Of course, everyone has OCD tendencies. We are all a little neurotic. We want things a certain way because we like to be in control.
The difference is that with OCD, there is no choice. It’s not about wanting control; it’s about having to do something, no matter what. It has nothing to do with control because there is no control.
With OCD, you lose control. OCD tells you what you have to do.
Some days, I do feel out of control. I have to do this one thing before I can do anything else and it slows me down. It frustrates the hell out of me. It makes me crave control.
It makes me so Type A with everything else. It’s not who I want to be, but OCD isn’t going anywhere. OCD and I, we have to learn to work together.
OCD is annoying as hell. It’s not this awesome thing that makes you want to clean your room more often (sorry, moms). It’s controlling and it’s a pain.
I guess I’ve learned it’s out of my control. It’s stronger than me, but it’s not stronger than my ability to be accepting, and so I will accept you, OCD.
Even though you have control issues. Even though you have trouble playing nicely with others.
You’re a part of me, and even though some days I wish you would just leave me alone, I know you’re here to stay.
And so, I’ve come to accept you for who you are and how you’ve helped to make me the person I’ve become. Because of you, I will never, ever be late, to anything.
In fact, I am always early. Interesting things happen when you’re early to everything.
You meet new people and have fun conversations that you might not otherwise have had if you had been on time, or late. No one will ever, ever, call us late.
I notice the details because of you, OCD. Because you force me to focus on the tiniest things as a part of my compulsions, I also focus on the tiniest details in everything.
I notice things other people might not. I see the beauty in the smallest things. That’s not so bad; that’s something I like.
OCD is a struggle. OCD can be crippling, but if all of us who are affected hadn’t been born with it, who would we be?
We might be different. Not very different, but maybe a little, and even a little bit different would change who we are. We’re not perfect, and that’s fantastic.
OCD is often an assh*le. But it made us who we are today.
And of course, those of us with OCD are not alone. We’re never alone. Even if we feel like it, even if we feel like no one else understands, there are other people out there who have OCD, too.
Even if you haven’t met any of them yet, they are out there. I promise.
Actually, you have met them, or at least one of them: me. Hi, new friend, I have OCD, too. We’re never alone.