Coming to Terms With My OCD Diagnosis and the Stigma Surrounding It
Editor’s note: If you struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. To find help visit International OCD Foundation’s website.
I’ve been dealing with a new diagnosis, which I really wasn’t prepared for. But after a lot of thought, I really wasn’t surprised either.
It’s confusing, but I’ll try to explain.
I’ve mentioned it maybe once or twice in passing, but I haven’t really said it, so I guess I will now. I found out that I have obsessive-compulsive disorder, more commonly referred to as OCD.
When I came home from my appointment, I was initially devastated. All I could think was, “Great. Yet another thing to add to the list.” When I told my husband I was visibly shaken and upset, but he didn’t seem phased at all. I was confused, but after a lot of thought, after truly thinking about some of my “bizarre” behaviors, I found this wasn’t surprising at all, and deep down I already knew.
My husband did too.
It’s hard to talk about this because so many people think of it as a joke, or a slang term to describe their organizational preferences. It isn’t. Do not refer to yourself as, “Being just a little OCD,” because that’s offensive and unfair to people like me. There are plenty of other words to use that more accurately describe your situation. OCD isn’t a joke. It isn’t preferring things in straight lines, because I certainly don’t. It is different for each individual who has it, and it is a mental illness, not something to share a meme about.
For me, a large part of it is being obsessed with cleanliness, which is common for those living with OCD. But what people don’t understand is that it isn’t a preference.
The people who have mocked me for cleaning my house so often, who have believed I was a show off because my house is usually so clean, don’t understand that if my house isn’t clean enough my skin crawls. I panic, and have panic attacks. That I will snap and scream, sob uncontrollably in a corner.
Not so funny, right?
Before my back issues, I spent an average of four to five hours a day cleaning. My OCD at its height kept me from spending time with my children because I couldn’t focus on anything else until I was finished. My husband is patient, because I will admit I am very difficult to live with for these reasons, as well as others.
My fear also manifests itself in statistics. I’m hyper aware of the fact that the most likely way my husband will die is on his drive to or from work. He texts me each morning and evening to let me know he has made it or is on his way home, because he knows I will panic if he doesn’t. If it takes extra time, if there is traffic, I have to force myself not to begin calling hospitals. I frequently imagine the deaths of my kids due to accidents, and I spend so much of my time gripped in unreasonable fear. I often wake up in the middle of the night to check, to make sure they are still breathing.
Sometimes it’s more than once.
This doesn’t just apply to my baby. It’s all of them, even my five-year-old.
On average I wash my hands 10-15 times while cooking. This is over the course of maybe half an hour, tops. And I know because I keep track.
I thought everyone counted and kept track of things the way I do. Turns out that isn’t so “normal.”
I even carried lists in my pockets as a child. I currently have 10 active lists on my phone. Notebooks full of lists too. Lists, lists, lists, because they help bring comfort to this brain that never stops running. I don’t sleep well. This is just some of it. If I made a list of all of my obsessive behaviors it would take you all day to read them, but I want people to understand that obsessive-compulsive disorder isn’t funny.
It can be debilitating.
When I had orthorexia I didn’t have a problem with excessive exercise, which is common for people with eating disorders. Know why? Because I was doing such heavy and demanding amounts of cleaning that I didn’t need additional exercise. That already was exercise. I cleaned to the point of exhaustion, with a deployed husband and small children.
Not funny. Nope.
All I ask is that you consider not sharing that meme you see about how funny OCD is. Or maybe even call out the person sharing it, explaining it’s a serious illness that isn’t a source of humor.
Because this isn’t funny for me. Not at all.
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Thinkstock photo via federicomarsicano