For some who live with OCD, being open about it is as hard to navigate as living with it.
I follow Stigma Fighters and admire the courage of those who’ve “come out” before me and shared their stories. This is the first time I’ve gone public with this and in all honesty I’m feeling levels of increased anxiety and vulnerability with literally every letter I type.
A firm believer in the idea that the secret to happiness in life is love and respect, with self-love and self-respect being the necessary catalysts to ever hope to receive love and respect from others, I think it’s okay to finally be open about what I navigate each day and love and respect myself entirely without apology.
My specific mental issues revolve around OCD.
This phrase is sometimes used by people who are really particular about something, but for those of us with more involved conditions it’s a bit more to handle.
There are countless forms of OCD that can involve obsessions (symmetry, religious, sexual, etc.), fear of contaminations, causing harm to yourself or others, and other fears and/or obsessions. I read a wonderful book by Lee Baer called The Imp of the Mind that was an absolute game changer for me.
I did so at the recommendation of an incredible therapist who specializes in OCD. She’s given me exercises I do daily that have allowed me a different level of functionality in my everyday life.
My particular diagnosis deals with symmetry, counting, rituals, checking, repeating, ordering, arranging as well as fears about saying or doing things that are right or wrong.
To people without the condition, my issues can seem trivial.
Just don’t do it. But it’s not unlike being drunk, knowing that you’re drunk, and trying to be sober just by willing it to happen. And when an episode or circumstances occur that flare up my condition, I can reach levels of anxiety that are almost paralyzing and my responses are not unlike the responses of someone with autism.
I need to check everything I do (set alarm, lock a door, set a record button, etc.) three times.
I cannot place my items at the grocery in non-sym- metrical orders or out of categories and even rearrange the items of people in front of me or behind me.
I count two steps at a time up to ten and start over everywhere I go, and have for as long as I can remember. I’ve not stepped on a line or a crack in my entire life as far as I can recall.
My clothes all hang. All of them. And they all hang on a hanger that matches all other hangers in my possession. And they’re arranged by color and type. Some of these seem silly, and truthfully I do try to find humour in some of it when possible as it’s part of the healing process. I can lose an entire day in a state of paralysis if there’s too much “chaos” in my home or life.
The fear of saying/doing right or wrong causes me to be socially awkward at times. Never with any ill will intended or crossing my mind, I sometimes find myself saying or doing stupid things to ensure I don’t say or do stupid things… only to end up doing the very thing I try with all of my heart to prevent. In addition to complete shut-downs, this can also result in deep levels of depression, self-doubt and numbness.
I think it’s a generous gift that people like those on Stigma Fighters exist and are opening doors to awareness on subjects of mental illness. It’s a very difficult thing to go public with and it shouldn’t be. I think public awareness and understanding would greatly increase the opportunities for those with some form of mental illness to seek out support and live more fulfilling lives.
If anyone suffers from any of the symptoms I’ve listed above, I always have an ear to bend without judgment or conditions.
I encourage you to read the book Imp of the Mind, go through therapy and give yourself a chance to be who you want to be.
Again, I’m feeling incredibly vulnerable with this “share” but I truly hope it offers some level of community or hope or love for anyone who feels similar “feels” to what I’ve shared.
Photo: Aditya Doshi