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Art by Martha Lamont

Now I’m going to tell you a little bit about what OCD is like for me. I guess I’ll start with my obsessions, and if they have matching compulsions I’ll add those too.

My biggest obsession, one that has affected me the most, is schedules, routines, and deadlines. Basically, time. I’ll explain this in order.

Schedules refers to my plans for the day, or week. In my mind I create a mental image of exactly what I’m going to do. Sometimes I even write it down. I think of things like when I’m going to take a shower, how long is my homework going to take today? After dinner I’m going to draw until eight thirty, and I need to be in bed by nine.

That doesn’t sound so bad does it? Actually, it might sound like a normal  thing  to organize a schedule. Healthy even. But here’s where the word “disorder” comes into play. Say one day my parents didn’t want to cook, and decided to go out for dinner. Cool, right? Actually, my literal worst nightmare. The second I hear the words “we’re going out to dinner” I go into a full blown mental panic. At first, it’s just complete denial. No, we’re not going to dinner, it’s impossible, that’s not part of the plan. And then I hear “Put on your jacket” and suddenly I’m frantically trying to rearrange my entire schedule. I can’t stay up late, absolutely not, so I’ll have to go to bed as soon as we get home, which means my essay will have to carry over to tomorrow, which probably means I won’t finish my painting which means… and on and on and on.

And then I usually start actually, physically panicking. When that happens, I yell. I verbally bombard my father with excuses, so many fragile excuses. I have homework! Not due to tomorrow. I need to take a shower! But I already did. Because here’s the thing, never, not once, has going out to dinner actually affected my ability to complete things on time. Not once. But to me, it truly feels like the sky is falling. Sometimes, when I’m especially panicked, I’ll cry. And then I’ll have to pull myself together because my dad is more level-headed and still makes me go to dinner.

Wow I just realized this is going to be long, I hope you have fun.

Routines are a lot like schedules, except it refers to the things I do every day. For the longest time, I could not under any circumstances, go to bed later than nine o’clock. I would panic if if I thought I’d stayed up to late. Once, during daylight savings, I’d looked at my alarm clock, which was not updated, and it said it was 9:37. Yeah, I remember the exact time.

I literally felt my stomach fall out from depression me. It was just so wrong. I went to bed at nine. End of story. Even my mother was shocked (she was with me) because she knew I always went to bed at the same time. When I realized that my alarm clock just had the wrong time, I was so incredibly relieved.

This whole “bedtime” thing annoyed my parents sometimes. My dad likes to watch movies at night, and sometimes he would ask me to stay and watch them with him. I would always say no, or leave halfway through depending on when we started watching. My parents joked that I was the only teenager whose parents begged to stay up late watching TV. Obviously, the compulsion is going to bed at the same time.

Like I mentioned earlier, when my morning routine was disturbed as a kid, I would just shut down for the rest of the day. I just couldn’t stand my routine being messed up.

Deadlines. Okay, who doesn’t get stressed about deadlines? I can confidently say everyone has stressed over a deadline at some point in their lives. But for me, deadlines felt less like “turn in your essay a day late and get ten points off” and more like “if you don’t find the magic rock and kill a god by Tuesday the world will end.” Yes, my brain can be very dramatic. I don’t really feel like this needs any more explanation so I’ll move on.

Now for my minor obsessions. Actually, my first one also had to do with time, or rather, being on time. I hate being late. Like so much hate me no don’t be late please GAH. Yeah that sentence made no sense. But this is the way things are for people with OCD. IT just doesn’t make sense. Yeah, it’s good to be on time, but freaking out when you’re one minute late? That’s a little overkill.

Oh yeah, so that stereotype of OCD making people into neat freaks? Well I kind have that in my physical space, but then again my room in literally hell. However, I am a neat freak when it comes to my computer or online drives. Like my google drive? everything is in a folder. My folders folders have folders and they’re all color coded.

I’m going to tell you a story about that which happened quite recently. I was working with a team of people to develop a document, and we started by breaking it up into parts and writing our parts individually. Then, we reviewed the document and edited them together. We started with my document.

My blood sugar was low too so that probably didn’t help as I was suddenly exhausted.

Everybody was on my google doc. And we were talking about it, and someone else was typing on it. I’d set up everything in bullet points. Sub bullet points are my thing. The person typing was putting periods at the end of their bullets, and they weren’t even capitalizing the beginning of the statements!

I had to follow them around erasing every period and breaking up their paragraph chunks into my nice, neat sub bullets. Then they started adding bullets and leaving them blank. Omigod I literally felt like I was going to explode. And I could hear the irritation in my voice.

When that was over, I literally couldn’t talk I was so angry. Yeah, they really didn’t do anything wrong, but I was so upset. My heart was pounding and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. My vision actually blurred. Later, I realized that that experience had caused an anxiety attack, something that my OCD does sometimes.

And I felt terrible for hours. I woke up the next morning still thinking about it.

Also I really hate the color orange and it gives me a migraine but I don’t really think that counts as an obsession.

Let’s move on to compulsions. I have some pretty basic ones for the most part. Tugging my fingers, checking things multiples times, recounting is a big one, but they aren’t a major thing for me.

When I was little, I used to squeeze people. It was like I never got out of that two year old phase where you just grab everything. But it looked like this: I would squeeze people as hard as I possibly could when I hugged them. That’s find when you’re hugging an adult but my friends? I was usually the biggest to, and squeezing them actually hurt them.

In the first grade, I used to squeeze my friend’s pinky. I don’t know why, I just did. As hard as I could. All the time.

I grew out of that for the most part, but the compulsion is still there. I  learned to control it as it got weaker.

I also re-ask questions a lot. And I always think people are mad at me. So “are you mad at me?” Is repeated a lot. I re ask my parents things about our plans so much that it drives them crazy. But like the other compulsions, I learned to manage them.

For me, compulsions are easier to manage because I can figure out how to control my physical body, but the obsessions really rule my life.

Speaking of obsessions, I left one for last.

I am obsessed with my OCD.

What do you think this is? I’m not here to tell people that OCD isn’t what you think it is or something like that. I’m here because these thoughts are in my brain and I needed to have them out nice and organized.

I think about it all the time. Is this because of my ocd or because I’m human? I wonder if that person is ocd because they do this thing that's slightly neurotic?

I’ve buried it into my identity, which is probably not the greatest thing. There’s really nothing wrong with OCD as long as you can manage it, but I’ve made it into a thing that defines me. At least in my own mind.

I am not medicated. My OCD isn’t that severe and my parents don’t really like that kind of thing anyways.

I manage, I get tired, but it’s just the way it is for me.

This is not true for everyone. Some people really need the medication to live a normal life. Like most things, it’s just a spectrum. I think I’m somewhere in the middle, but If I had to say on a scale of 1-10 1 being mild and 10 being all consuming I’d be about a 4.

But you see, that’s the thing. I’m on the milder side, but this still affects me everyday. I just have to be patient, and surround myself with people who will be patient with me too.

Truly, if you know someone like me, or are someone like me, just be patient.

Okay, well, I’ve said my peace. I don’t know how to end this, that’ll bother me for a while, but whatever. Ciao.

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