When OCD Makes You Believe It's Your Responsibility to Keep Everyone Safe


I was trying to go to sleep, quite literally counting sheep. Up to eight and hold my breath, then back down again, when my phone buzzed.

“Breaking news.”

To other people the accidents and attacks they hear about are sad, scary even.

To me they are like a death sentence.

What did I do this time?

How could I let this happen?

Images of limbs strewn over bloodied land, children screaming, guns blowing, buildings down, tearing families apart… all by my command.

For hours I hear the screaming, spill water on my hands and for a second believe it is their blood. I quietly sob into my pillow trying to repeat the mantra of affirmations I have been taught. “It can not be my fault.”

To me, this is OCD.

To me, OCD is war zones and helicopter crashes, children going missing and the word “guilty” repeating in my head.

OCD is doubting yourself and counting, counting everything, tapping incessantly, rhythmic breathing that soon morphs into hyperventilating.

It is screaming at your friends to leave you alone because you are so, so scared of hurting them.

It is locking yourself in your room because the less time you spend around your family, the less you have to worry that you are going to kill them.

That is what you are most afraid of, killing the people you love.

You see it so often, that sometimes lines become blurred and you aren’t sure what is real and what is not. You aren’t sure if you need to hand yourself in to the police or if it’s another one of OCD’s tricky games.

Almost every week I will hear at least one person refer to their quirks as “so OCD,” or hear someone saying, without any intention to offend, that they are “a little OCD.” The little ball of red inside my chest wants to scream. How can you be a disorder? What gives you the right to say that you are a “little” bit affected by the monster that seems to dictate every choice in my life?

But I take a deep breath, and I walk away.

None of them meant to upset me; nobody had malicious ideas about how they could get inside my head and make me feel so… invalidated.

I look up OCD and see organized bookshelves, matching colors and completed puzzles.

The reality is so far from this. It is your whole mind being the puzzle and the last piece always being missing, a voice always whispering that you lost the last piece, and now nobody will ever be able to find the answer, to live on, because of you.

We are not attention seeking. We are not making things up.

We are not “so OCD.”

We have families that we care about so strongly that we hurt ourselves at the mere thought that we could harm them.

We have friends despite the fact that the voice tells us to isolate ourselves to keep everyone safe.

We have jobs and go to school even when “breaking news” feels like it has broken us.

We have obsessive-compulsive disorder, and we care so much that it physically hurts not to complete the rituals we have been tricked into believing will keep everyone else safe.

We are strong. We are brave. We are fighting. We are trying despite the torture of OCD.

We are not our disorders.

Remember this next time someone says they are your illness.

You have OCD, but you are not OCD.

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