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Art by Dennis Ryan

A little under a year ago I was diagnosed with OCD.

Well, kinda.

I should preface this with a quick explanation of my very weird experience with healthcare and doctors. My entire life I have been treated by both Western and “Alternative” medicine. And I go to the doctor a lot. I’ve got a lot of allergies, asthma, and I just get sick all the damn time, and we didn’t really know why.

If you don’t know what Western or Alternative medicine is, here is a quick explanation: Western medicine is what most people think of when talking about healthcare—antibiotics, pills, surgeries, x-rays, etc. This is what you go to the hospital for. Alternative medicine on the other hand is more “natural.” No drugs, only sugar pills with plants and I honestly don’t know. Chiropractors and such. I can honestly say I don’t know if either of them work.

Anyways, for the past few months, my family and I had been going to see this physical neurologist (alternative), and basically this means he’s a guy who fixes your brain by working with your body, and it’s kind of hard to deny what he can do sometimes because there’s usually physical proof.

One day, he did these tests on me and he was asking me questions about myself. For a reason I can’t remember, my dad’s responses to one question was: “Bella has always been very anxious about time and schedules. If anything in her routine went wrong she would completely shut down. Like, when she was little, if she tripped on her way to school she would refuse to go after that, even if she wasn’t in any physical pain.”

And my doctor looked at him and said, almost casually, “That’s a form of OCD, you know,” and moved on. Hearing those words was so unbelievably gratifying for me, because I guess I’d always sort of known, but everyone said I was being silly.The next day my family was going on vacation, so I didn’t get to talk to my therapist about it for about a month. Then one day I was just sitting in my therapist’s office and I just said, “My doctor thinks I have OCD.” And the ball was rolling.

This is what I’ve learned since then:

OCD stands for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which a lot of people know, but very few knows what that really means. Obsessions are thoughts that repeat in your mind, and don’t have any real reason, and usually don’t go away. Compulsions are physical things you do that don’t always have a reason, and you can’t prevent yourself from doing them. Usually, compulsions are reactions to obsessions. An example of an obsession is worrying about a deadline. And I don’t mean normal worrying, I mean truly destructive anxiety about it. The kind of thoughts that literally make you feel like the world will actually, truly end if you do not get your task completed on time. Worry that you understand is irrational, but you continue to do anyways. Obsessions usually lead to excessive anxiety, and can exhaust you.

An example of a compulsion is needing to clean everything around you. This is what most people think of when they hear “OCD.” Not just worrying about germs, but literally being physically unable to grab on a doorknob without wiping it first. Like many compulsions, this stems from an obsession. In this case, the obsession is usually germs, or getting sick. Compulsions are often tedious, and just as exhausting as obsessions. Also, they can make you feel singled out, or annoying, depending on what your compulsions are. Compulsions are usually meant to appease, or distract you from your obsessive thoughts. Focusing on counting your fingers instead of thinking about whether or not you put the correct date on your english paper. Yes, this is a really thing. And yes, to people with OCD things like incorrect dates can feel like drowning. There are a LOT of stereotypes and stigmas surrounding OCD,  I’m not really going to talk about them, but understand that nothing I tell you about my OCD, or any of the examples I’ve given, represent everyone with OCD. This is true for all mental disorders, but especially for OCD because it is about each person’s individual obsessions and compulsions.

If you’re interested in hearing about my person experience with OCD read the OCD2.

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