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What It's Like to Grow up with OCD

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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.

Sometimes I forget to smile, because I’m washing. Everything must be clean. Sometimes I forget to smile, because I have fear. Everything must be double-checked. Sometimes I forget to smile, because I have doubt. Everything must be perfect. Sometimes I forget to smile, because I am counting. Everything must be orderly. Sometimes I forget to smile, because I am arranging. Everything must be symmetrical. Sometimes I forget to smile, because I am hoarding. Everything must be kept.

Why is everything associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) negative? Can’t you gain knowledge or grow within your mental strains? Your family, your friends, your teachers — the world tells you that which is circulating in your brain must be stopped. This discomfort of your brain chemistry from people who surround you makes it harder for you to ever achieve a healthy state of mind. No comfort, no smile.

Brush your teeth in circular motions only. Touch your shoes after you try to kick them off nonchalantly. Flicker the light switch five times. Check under your bed five times. Flicker the light switch five times. Raise the volume to seven notches — not six, not eight. Don’t forget to smile. Avoid stepping on anything when climbing into bed. Oh, you messed up. Go back to the door, and start again. Avoid stepping on anything when climbing into bed. Make sure the tag is at the end of the bed. Don’t forget to smile. Walk into school, don’t step on any of the cracks in the sidewalk. Go to your seat, get out your pencil. Then put it back in your bag. Get it out. Back in. Get it out. Keep it out. Cross your right foot over your left foot. Never left on top. Never. Don’t forget to smile.

I discovered I had OCD my freshmen year of high school, when I first studied what OCD was. I thought back to my childhood and realized I had this disorder since elementary school. I didn’t admit it to myself until sophomore year of high school when I was medically diagnosed. I didn’t tell a soul outside of my family until junior year of high school. As I’m typing this right now, I am going slow because each time I spell a word wrong I delete the entire line, instead of just fixing the one letter that is incorrect. “L-e-t-t-r” it just happened. One second, let me erase that.

OK, I’m back.

Living with any type of mental illness can be terrifying, and for me, the most nightmare-enduring factor was the threat of someone finding out. When people did start finding out, they didn’t exactly welcome me with open arms. They treated me like there was something horribly wrong with me. They watched my every move, including when I wasn’t smiling. Oh, the concern they had for me when I wasn’t smiling! I was “the OCD girl.” With that as your title, it’s hard to achieve mental bliss. No bliss, no smile.

There are obscure, abstract thoughts constantly bouncing in my brain. When I’m trying to study; bouncing. When I’m at a party; bouncing. When I’m with family; bouncing. The bouncing of words, words that make no sense. Words that don’t belong in my brain. Words strung together by more nonsense words. While these words break out in combat with my brain, I have to manage to smile. And sometimes, I forget.

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 Thinkstock photo via Koldunov

Originally published: June 16, 2017
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